For cruisers leaving the west coast of the Americas or Mexico, French Polynesia is almost always the first stop. We left Mexico at the end of March in 2018 and arrived in the Marquesas twenty-five days later. Our journey took us 3100 NM and crossed over the equator making us “shellbacks”.
When cruising French Polynesia remember it consists of 118 islands and atolls that spread across 2000 kilometers of the Pacific Ocean. It would literally take years to visit them all! We highly recommend that you purchase a few cruising books, visit as many websites as you can and choose wisely!
French Polynesia is divided into five groups of islands: the Society Islands, Tuamotus, Gambier Islands, Marquesas Islands, and the Austral Islands. Among its 118 islands and atolls, 67 are inhabited. We visited just 14 of the islands and atolls in the three months we had on our visa.
Customs & Immigration For French Polynesia
Of course flying your quarantine flag when entering the country is required and while not required, flying the French Polynesia courtesy flag is certainly recommended. It’s a sign of respect to the people of the country you are visiting.
Using an agent is something most cruisers do when heading to French Polynesia. We used Tahiti Crew but honestly wouldn’t recommend them. While they did fine with the paperwork on entry, they pretty much disappeared when we needed their services to get a generator imported. Assistance with importing and other things is supposedly a part of the $250 USD service fee we paid to them. We could not get any answers from them and were told they were just “too busy working on the Moorea PPJ Rally to help us.”
As a side note, we feel the same about Andy Turpin and the Pacific Puddle Jump Rally. We also tried to get their assistance but Any said he was just too busy to help. Guess once he got our $125 USD rally fee he didn’t care what happened. In our opinion the Pacific Voyagers are doing cruisers a much greater service and they do it for nothing!
If you do want to use an agent we’d highly recommend Yacht Services Nuka Hiva. Kevin and his wife are AMAZING! When Tahiti Crew refused to follow through and help we sought the assistance of Yacht Services Nuka Hiva and were overjoyed with their service. They went above and beyond to insure that everything went smoothly!
The main reason to use an agent is for the bond so you don’t have to purchase an outbound airline ticket. Of course the fact that they speak French and know all the rules is a bonus too but honestly after getting there we realized we could just as easily done it ourselves and saved the $250. All we’d have had to do is purchase a refundable outbound ticket and then cancel the flight once we were cleared in.
Due to Covid 19 and the constant changes to immigration procedures we will refer you to Customs & Immigration for procedures for French Polynesia. Here are a couple of helpful links for French Polynesia Immigration & Customs.
For more information on cruising French Polynesia, click on the photos below.
The Marquesas consists of 12 islands on the northeastern edge of French Polynesia. Most cruisers will stop here first after the long passage across the Pacific Ocean from North or South America.
With close to 80 atolls, the Tuamotus forms the largest chain of atolls in the world. The water here is crystal clear and spectacular! Don’t miss the Tuamotus!
The Society Islands are divided into the Leeward & Windward islands. In total they comprise of 14 islands. This is where you finally get to do some great provisioning.
We did not make it to the Gambiers or the Australs so we can’t give you any firsthand information about those places. There is lots of other information on the internet to provide you with what you’ll want to do and see in these areas. We just decided early on that we would only provide information on those places we have seen firsthand. This way we know the information we give you is 100% correct. Of course, these are the islands so lots of things change from time to time but we can assure you that our information is correct as of the time we were there.
Other Great Resources
Of course there area many great resources out there and tons of information for those planning to sail to French Polynesia but here are a couple of things we highly recommend.
There is one website in particular that is has tons of information. It’s Soggypaws.com. They have wonderful compendiums that you can download for French Polynesia and beyond. Be sure you download any and all that you think you’ll want because internet is going to get very hard to come by and when you do get it, it’s going to work at a snail’s pace. Some of their information might be a bit dated in areas but they are always happy when cruisers send them updates. We sent a few in and they updated them on the appropriate compendiums. Can’t image how much work it is to maintain their compendiums but as cruisers, we’re very grateful for their dedication to the cruising community.
We only took one printed book with us and while it’s a bit outdated in some respects, it does give you some great information on anchorages, coordinates etc… As you can see, ours got a lot of use.