by Sarah J.F. Braley | February 01, 2011

Part of the Society Islands, Tahiti is the largest of 118 islands and atolls that make up French Polynesia. The average air and water temperature year-round is 80 F.

Halfway between California and Australia, Tahiti is an eight-hour flight from Los Angeles. Both Air France and Air Tahiti Nui offer direct service from Los Angeles International Airport. Air Tahiti Nui also provides service between more than 30 of the islands, including Bora Bora, Gambier, Moorea, Rangiroa and Ua Pou.

The islands are in the same time zone as Hawaii, two hours behind Pacific Standard Time (three hours during Daylight Saving Time as they do not spring ahead or fall back).

Tahiti hotels The most enticing properties offer bungalows built over the turquoise waters and suites with ocean views.

Renovations were completed in December at Le Méridien Tahiti, where the 12 over-water bungalows and 138 garden- and lagoon-view rooms have been redone. The lobby now features check-in stations, computers for guest use and a new concierge desk. The hotel's La Plantation restaurant and Astrolabe bar also have been updated, as has the 6,000-square-foot Matisse Ballroom.

The 265-room InterContinental Tahiti Resort, with 32 bungalows on the water, recently was awarded a coveted Green Globe certification in recognition of its continuing efforts to be environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

Other luxurious options among Tahiti's 40 hotels include the 121-room Manava Suite Resort Tahiti, the 157-room Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti and the 216-room Sofitel Tahiti Maeva Beach Resort.

Bora Bora hotels The 99-room Le Méridien Bora Bora reopened on Jan. 22 following a three-month closure for a propertywide renovation to the tune of approximately $12 million. The interiors of the 10 beach and 82 over-water bungalows were renovated, the resort's bar and three restaurants were refurbished and an ecological center with a turtle-feeding deck was built, allowing guests to interact with sea turtles and hawksbills.

Island hopping To see some of the other 117 islands, the 513-foot Paul Gauguin cruise ship calls at ports such as the Aitutaki Atoll in the Cook Islands; a number of tropical outposts in the Marquesas; and Bora Bora and Moorea in the Society Islands. Guests can windsurf, kayak and water-ski off the back of the ship.

Haumana Cruises offers a range of three-, four- and seven-day itineraries around the islands, while the Aranui 3, a combination passenger/cargo vessel, runs 14-day excursions from Tahiti to the Marquesas.