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Society Islands: the prototype of the South Sea islands

The archipelago of the Society islands is the most important from the economic and demographic point of view of French Polynesia, it is divided into the Windward Islands (Îles du Vent) and Leeward Islands (Îles Sous-le-Vent). These islands are located at a latitude between 15 ° and 18 ° south of the equator and between 155 ° and 147 ° west longitude.

The islands that make up the archipelago of the Society islands are largely of volcanic origin with high mountains like in Tahiti, where the highest peak on Mount Orohena reaches 2,241 meters in height. In the archipelago, however, there are also some small atolls. The archipelago of the Society islands is the most touristic of French Polynesia, here are the famous mountainous islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea, known since the time of Cook’s travels as the islands of the South Seas and today the most important tourist destinations in French Polynesia.


The island of Tahiti (1,045 sq km; 178,133 inhabitants) is part of the Windward Islands. This is the largest and most important island of French Polynesia, where the capital Papeete is located. Less than 20 km north-west of Tahiti there is the Moorea island (134 sq km; 16,191 inhabitants). Three other islands are part of the Windward Islands: the islands of Mehetia (2.3 sq km; uninhabited), Maiao (9 sq km; 299 inhabitants) and the Tetiaroa atoll (6 sq km; 3 inhabitants).

The Leeward islands are located north-west of Tahiti and are formed by the island of Raiatea (170 sq km; 12,024 inhabitants) which shares the same lagoon with the nearby island of Tahaa (88 sq km; 5,003 inhabitants), and by the islands of Huahine (74 sq km; 5,999 inhabitants), Bora Bora (29 sq km; 8,927 inhabitants), Maupiti (11 sq km; 1,231 inhabitants), and the atolls of Tupai (11 sq km; uninhabited), Manuae (3,5 sq km; 15 inhabitants), Maupihaa or Mopelia (2.6 sq km; 15 inhabitants) and Motu One or Bellinghausen (3 sq km; uninhabited).

From the tourist point of view, the Society islands are the main destination for those visiting French Polynesia, here is the famous island of Bora Bora the jewel of Polynesia. Among the other islands besides Tahiti, which is an obligatory transit point for those arriving in French Polynesia, the islands of Bora Bora, Moorea, Huahine, Tahaa and Raiatea are very popular. A less touristy Polynesia can be found in the small island of Maupiti, the furthest from Tahiti, of the group, and considered a Bora Bora in miniature, but without the five-star hotels that characterize Bora Bora. The small Tetiaroa atoll, previously owned by the American actor Marlon Brando, is today a fabulous luxury hotel, “The Brando“.

  • Surface: 1,593 sq km
  • Population: 276,000 inhabitants


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