It’s true. You do need to go via Auckland first, but we think it’s worth it to stop in French Polynesia on the way to the USA with Air Tahiti Nui. Papeete is the main city on the island of Tahiti, gateway to more than a hundred sun-kissed drops in the ocean – perfect if you’ve got time on your side – and an intriguing taste of France in a tropical paradise.
Visit the Gauguin Museum, enjoy the local seafood cooked with Gallic flair, and spend some time outdoors. Even better, head over the isthmus at Taravao on the other side of the island to get to Tahiti Iti (literally Little Tahiti). There you’ll find traditional Polynesian villages, amazing waterfalls and sea caves, and excellent hiking. Oh, and it’s also home to one of the world’s most famous surf breaks, Teahupoo, although you should only brave it if you’re better than average on a board.