Planning our year in French Polynesia

French Poly Route Collage 6.jpg

Green Coconut Run’s 2017 plans

You might be wondering:  What’s the difference between all those islands in French Polynesia?  And where exactly is the Green Coconut Run going next year??

Overview Schedule

January – boatwork in mainland Ecuador
February & March – Galapagos
April – passage to South Pacific
May – Gambier Islands
June – eastern Tuamotos and Marquesas
July – Marquesas
August & September – western Tuamotos
October – Tahiti & Moorea
November & December – Huahine, Raiatea, Bora-Bora, and Maupiti
What about the distances and specific ports we’ll visit?
See our Rough Schedule, or if you’re a co-op member, the Crew List with specific details on who’s coming, when.
To explain our route to our crew, we presented a slideshow at crew mate Ben’s house in Santa Barbara..
Watch the slideshow recording about next year’s voyage:

More Discussion on the Islands

Our crew mates Nate & Sherry asked me, “What’s the difference between Marquesas and Society Islands?” What about those little specks, the Tuamotos, and that place we’ve never heard of, Gambier?  For crew members joining us along the route, we share some of our findings below.  Mind you, this is just based on what I’ve reading and hearing about, so take it with a grain of salt.
Top 10 highlights in French Polynesia – a conventional traveler approach

Marquesas have mountainous terrain without barrier coral reef surrounding the islands.  © Ben Thouard / Sea&Co : Nuku Hiva


….doesn’t have the calmest waters, or the best snorkeling. It is described more in terms of raw power: a super rich culture and expansive beauty.  So many have raved about its aesthetic (Melville, Gaugin, Robert Louis Stevens, Thor Heyerdahl); I particularly like the image “losing one’s virginity to a new type of beauty”. Artistic license of course 😉  But it does appear to be like the wild west of Polynesia, e.g.  Hawaii in the 1800s, except with cruising boats and some visitors. Marquesas isn’t well known for water viz, or perfect anchorages, but it does have exciting scuba diving (big rays, big fish).
Read More:
Magnificent Marquesas – Sailboat cruiser’s view
Top 10 things to do in Marquesas – a conventional traveler approach

Society Islands have barrier coral reef, passes, inside lagoons, and mountainous terrain. Shown here the island of Huahine.

Society islands

…the crystal lagoons and epic mountains of the Societies take the prize for the “dreamiest of locations”. They undoubtedly have smoother water and better snorkeling. However, they are more built up, more westernized, with hotels, and reportedly can be hit-or-miss with regard to seeing lots of animals (coral reefs are more depleted) but maybe that’s relative… I’m sure it’s stinking gorgeous, especially as one moves away from the population centers.
Read More:
Highlights of Societies – Sailboat cruiser’s view
10 Days in French Polynesia – a conventional traveler approach

Tuamotos are radically different… low-lying atolls of sand and palm trees with a protected lagoon inside.


…”100 feet to infinity” is how the visibility is described in the Tuamotos. The atolls are very low; they are sunken volcanos with a very thin strip of sandy land circling a lagoon. The action happens nears the reef passes: waves and diving is best, but navigating the passes can be treacherous due to extreme currents. Rangiroa and Fakarava are the largest atolls (around 30 miles wide!) and most popular places to visit.
Read More:
Top things to do in Rangiroa and Fakarava – a conventional traveler approach
Atoll Cruising 101 – Sailboat cruiser’s view
Looking for Surf in Tuamotos – a Patron only post about our surf research.
Mangareva aerial view.JPG

Gambier islands are an intriguing mix of the other parts of French Polynesia… including lagoons, barrier coral reefs, and in certain parts, atolls or exposed ocean.


…the most remote corner of French Polynesia is the Gambier islands, which have a huge variety of landscapes in a small region: small mountains, placid lagoons, low atolls, and exposed seas. Hard to reach, not often visited, but considered by many cruisers their favorite destination.
Photo Gallery:

One thought on “Planning our year in French Polynesia

  1. Some of our crew visiting us in Marquesas were wondering if they could also visit Tuamotos on their own? Here’s what I found out:

    Check out this link for Multi island fares:
    By airplane, doesn’t look like you can stop in Tuamotos on the way to/from Marquesas. But, they offer a pass to let you visit multiple islands ($450 gets you from Tahiti to 3 atolls in Tuamotos plus Moorea)

    Another approach is to take the Aranui passenger/freight ship ( which could be pretty cool… Need to check on the pricing, they have a US number: 1-800-972-7268. From a cursory glance of the 2017 Schedule (, it seems to imply that they’d be in Hiva Oa on Aug 25th (“Day 8”) then Nuku Hiva on August 27th (“Day 10”) then arrive in Rangiroa by August 29th (“Day 12”). If you could get on the Aranui in Hiva Oa and sail to Rangiroa, and jump off there to spend 2 days before flying to Tahiti, would be epic. Again, need to check those date assumptions.

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