Photos of French Polynesia

Nightfall over an over-water bungalow in Bora Bora.

Introduction

Background

French Polynesia consists of five archipelagos -- the Austral Islands, the Gambier Islands, the Marquesas Islands, the Society Islands, and the Tuamotu Archipelago. The Marquesas were first settled around 200 B.C. and the Society Islands around A.D. 300. Raiatea in the Society Islands became a center for religion and culture. Exploration of the other islands emanated from Raiatea, and by 1000, there were small permanent settlements in all the island groups. Ferdinand MAGELLAN was the first European to see the islands of French Polynesia in 1520. In 1767, British explorer Samuel WALLIS was the first European to visit Tahiti, followed by French navigator Louis Antoine de BOUGAINVILLE in 1768 and British explorer James COOK in 1769. King POMARE I united Tahiti and surrounding islands into the Kingdom of Tahiti in 1788. Protestant missionaries arrived in 1797, and POMARE I’s successor converted in the 1810s, along with most Tahitians. In the 1830s, Queen POMARE IV refused to allow French Catholic missionaries to operate, leading France to declare a protectorate over Tahiti and fight the French-Tahitian War of the 1840s in an attempt to annex the islands. 

In 1880, King POMARE V ceded Tahiti and its possessions to France, changing its status into a colony. France then claimed the Gambier Islands and Tuamotu Archipelago and by 1901 had incorporated all five island groups into its establishments in Oceania. A Tahitian nationalist movement formed in 1940, leading France to grant French citizenship to the islanders in 1946 and change it to an overseas territory. In 1957, the islands’ name was changed to French Polynesia, and the following year, 64% of voters chose to stay part of France when they approved a new constitution. Uninhabited Mururoa Atoll was established as a French nuclear test site in 1962, and tests were conducted between 1966 and 1992 (underground beginning in 1975). France also conducted tests at Fangataufa Atoll, including its last nuclear test in 1996.

France granted French Polynesia partial internal autonomy in 1977 and expanded autonomy in 1984. French Polynesia was converted into an overseas collectivity in 2003 and renamed an overseas territory in 2004. Pro-independence politicians won a surprise majority in local elections that same year, but in subsequent elections, they have been relegated to a vocal minority. In 2013, French Polynesia was relisted on the UN List of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Oceania, five archipelagoes (Archipel des Tuamotu, Iles Gambier, Iles Marquises, Iles Tubuai, Society Islands) in the South Pacific Ocean about halfway between South America and Australia

Geographic coordinates

15 00 S, 140 00 W

Area

total: 4,167 sq km (118 islands and atolls; 67 are inhabited)

land: 3,827 sq km

water: 340 sq km

comparison ranking: total 174

Area - comparative

slightly less than one-third the size of Connecticut

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

2,525 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical, but moderate

Terrain

mixture of rugged high islands and low islands with reefs

Elevation

highest point: Mont Orohena 2,241 m

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

Natural resources

timber, fish, cobalt, hydropower

Land use

agricultural land: 12.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0.7% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 6.3% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 5.5% (2018 est.)

forest: 43.7% (2018 est.)

other: 43.8% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

10 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

the majority of the population lives in the Society Islands, one of five archipelagos that includes the most populous island - Tahiti - with approximately 70% of the nation's population

Natural hazards

occasional cyclonic storms in January

Geography - note

includes five archipelagoes: four volcanic (Iles Gambier, Iles Marquises, Iles Tubuai, Society Islands) and one coral (Archipel des Tuamotu); the Tuamotu Archipelago forms the largest group of atolls in the world - 78 in total, 48 inhabited; Makatea in the Tuamotu Archipelago is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Nauru

People and Society

Population

total: 303,540

male: 155,138

female: 148,402 (2024 est.)

comparison rankings: female 182; male 180; total 182

Nationality

noun: French Polynesian(s)

adjective: French Polynesian

Ethnic groups

Polynesian 78%, Chinese 12%, local French 6%, metropolitan French 4%

Languages

French (official) 73.5%, Tahitian 20.1%, Marquesan 2.6%, Austral languages 1.2%, Paumotu 1%, other 1.6% (2017 est.)

major-language sample(s):
The World Factbook, une source indispensable d'informations de base. (French)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.

French audio file:

Religions

Protestant 54%, Roman Catholic 30%, other 10%, no religion 6%

Age structure

0-14 years: 20.3% (male 31,659/female 30,006)

15-64 years: 68.7% (male 107,162/female 101,228)

65 years and over: 11% (2024 est.) (male 16,317/female 17,168)

2023 population pyramids:
2023 population pyramids

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 45.6

youth dependency ratio: 31.6

elderly dependency ratio: 14

potential support ratio: 7.1 (2021 est.)

Median age

total: 35.3 years (2024 est.)

male: 35 years

female: 35.6 years

comparison ranking: total 98

Population growth rate

0.66% (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 133

Birth rate

13 births/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 134

Death rate

5.8 deaths/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 167

Net migration rate

-0.6 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 126

Population distribution

the majority of the population lives in the Society Islands, one of five archipelagos that includes the most populous island - Tahiti - with approximately 70% of the nation's population

Urbanization

urban population: 62.3% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 0.65% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Major urban areas - population

136,000 PAPEETE (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.95 male(s)/female

total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2024 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 4.3 deaths/1,000 live births (2024 est.)

male: 5.2 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 3.4 deaths/1,000 live births

comparison ranking: total 184

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 78.9 years (2024 est.)

male: 76.6 years

female: 81.3 years

comparison ranking: total population 69

Total fertility rate

1.79 children born/woman (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 143

Gross reproduction rate

0.87 (2024 est.)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 0% of population (2020 est.)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 97% of population

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 3% of population (2020 est.)

Literacy

total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA

Environment

Environment - current issues

sea level rise; extreme weather events (cyclones, storms, and tsunamis producing floods, landslides, erosion, and reef damage); droughts; fresh water scarcity

Climate

tropical, but moderate

Land use

agricultural land: 12.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0.7% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 6.3% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 5.5% (2018 est.)

forest: 43.7% (2018 est.)

other: 43.8% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 62.3% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 0.65% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Air pollutants

carbon dioxide emissions: 0.77 megatons (2016 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 147,000 tons (2013 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 57,330 tons (2013 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 39% (2013 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Overseas Lands of French Polynesia

conventional short form: French Polynesia

local long form: Pays d'outre-mer de la Polynesie Francaise

local short form: Polynesie Francaise

former: Establishments in Oceania, French Establishments in Oceania

etymology: the term "Polynesia" is an 18th-century construct composed of two Greek words, "poly" (many) and "nesoi" (islands), and refers to the more than 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean

Government type

parliamentary democracy (Assembly of French Polynesia); an overseas collectivity of France

Dependency status

overseas country of France; note - overseas territory of France from 1946-2003; overseas collectivity of France since 2003, though it is often referred to as an overseas country due to its degree of autonomy

Capital

name: Papeete (located on Tahiti)

geographic coordinates: 17 32 S, 149 34 W

time difference: UTC-10 (5 hours behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: the name means "water basket" and refers to the fact that the islanders originally used calabashes enclosed in baskets to fetch water at a spring in the area

Administrative divisions

5 administrative subdivisions (subdivisions administratives, singular - subdivision administrative): Iles Australes (Austral Islands), Iles du Vent (Windward Islands), Iles Marquises (Marquesas Islands), Iles Sous-le-Vent (Leeward Islands), Iles Tuamotu-Gambier; note - the Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands together make up the Society Islands (Iles de la Societe)

Independence

none (overseas land of France)

National holiday

Fete de la Federation, 14 July (1790); note - the local holiday is Internal Autonomy Day, 29 June (1880)

Constitution

history: 4 October 1958 (French Constitution)

amendments: French constitution amendment procedures apply

Legal system

the laws of France, where applicable, apply

Citizenship

see France

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Emmanuel MACRON (since 14 May 2017), represented by High Commissioner of the Republic Eric SPITZ (since 23 September 2022)

head of government: President of French Polynesia Moetai BROTHERSON (since 12 May 2023)

cabinet: Council of Ministers approved by the Assembly from a list of its members submitted by the president

elections/appointments: French president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); high commissioner appointed by the French president on the advice of the French Ministry of Interior; French Polynesia president indirectly elected by Assembly of French Polynesia for a 5-year term (no term limits)

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Assembly of French Polynesia or Assemblée de la Polynésie française (57 seats; elections held in 2 rounds; in the second round, 38 members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by a closed-list proportional representation vote; the party receiving the most votes gets an additional 19 seats; members serve 5-year terms; French Polynesia indirectly elects 2 senators to the French Senate via an electoral college by absolute majority vote for 6-year terms with one-half the membership renewed every 3 years and directly elects 3 deputies to the French National Assembly by absolute majority vote in 2 rounds if needed for 5-year terms

elections: Assembly of French Polynesia - last held on 16 and 30 April 2023 (next to be held in 2028)

French Senate - last held on 24 September 2023 (next to be held on 30 September 2026)

French National Assembly - last held in 2 rounds on 12 and 19 June 2022 (next to be held in 2027)

election results: Assembly of French Polynesia - percent of vote by party - People's Servant Party 66.7%; List of the People 26.3%, I Love Polynesia 5.3%, Rally of Mahoi People 1.8%; seats by party - People's Servant People 38; List of the People 15, I Love Polynesia 3, Rally of the Mahoi People 1, composition - men 29, women 28, percentage women 49.1%

French Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Popular Rally 1, People's Servant Party 1; composition - NA

French National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - People's Servant Party 3; composition - NA

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Court of Appeal or Cour d'Appel (composition NA); note - appeals beyond the French Polynesia Court of Appeal are heard by the Court of Cassation (in Paris)

judge selection and term of office: judges assigned from France normally for 3 years

subordinate courts: Court of the First Instance or Tribunal de Premiere Instance; Court of Administrative Law or Tribunal Administratif

Political parties and leaders

I Love Polynesia (A here la Porinetia) [Nicole SANQUER]
List of the People (Tapura Huiraatira) [Edouard FRITCH]
People's Servant Party (Tavini Huiraatira) [Oscar TEMARU]
Rally of the Maohi People (Amuitahiraʻa o te Nunaʻa Maohi)  [Gaston FLOSSE] (formerly known as Popular Rally (Tahoeraa Huiraatira))

International organization participation

ITUC (NGOs), PIF, SPC, UPU, WMO

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (overseas lands of France)

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (overseas lands of France)

Flag description

two red horizontal bands encase a wide white band in a 1:2:1 ratio; centered on the white band is a disk with a blue and white wave pattern depicting the sea on the lower half and a gold and white ray pattern depicting the sun on the upper half; a Polynesian canoe rides on the wave pattern; the canoe has a crew of five represented by five stars that symbolize the five island groups; red and white are traditional Polynesian colors

note: identical to the red-white-red flag of Tahiti, the largest and most populous of the islands in French Polynesia, but which has no emblem in the white band; the flag of France is used for official occasions

National symbol(s)

outrigger canoe, Tahitian gardenia (Gardenia taitensis) flower; national colors: red, white

National anthem

name: "Ia Ora 'O Tahiti Nui" (Long Live Tahiti Nui)

lyrics/music: Maeva BOUGES, Irmine TEHEI, Angele TEROROTUA, Johanna NOUVEAU, Patrick AMARU, Louis MAMATUI, and Jean-Pierre CELESTIN (the compositional group created both the lyrics and music)

note: adopted 1993; serves as a local anthem; as a territory of France, "La Marseillaise" is official (see France)

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 1 (cultural); note - excerpted from the France entry

selected World Heritage Site locales: Taputapuātea

Government - note

under certain acts of France, French Polynesia has acquired autonomy in all areas except those relating to police, monetary policy, tertiary education, immigration, and defense and foreign affairs; the duties of its president are fashioned after those of the French prime minister

Economy

Economic overview

small, territorial-island tourism-based economy; large French financing; lower EU import duties; Pacific Islands Forum member; fairly resilient from COVID-19; oil-dependent infrastructure

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$5.65 billion (2021 est.)
$5.52 billion (2020 est.)
$5.94 billion (2019 est.)

note: data are in 2015 dollars

comparison ranking: 174

Real GDP growth rate

4.47% (2022 est.)
2.09% (2021 est.)
-7.05% (2020 est.)

note: annual GDP % growth based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 94

Real GDP per capita

$18,600 (2021 est.)
$18,300 (2020 est.)
$19,800 (2019 est.)

note: data are in 2015 dollars

comparison ranking: 97

GDP (official exchange rate)

$5.815 billion (2022 est.)

note: data in current dollars at official exchange rate

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

0% (2015 est.)
0.3% (2014 est.)

comparison ranking: 7

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 2.5% (2009)

industry: 13% (2009)

services: 84.5% (2009)

comparison rankings: services 20; industry 193; agriculture 161

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 66.9% (2014 est.)

government consumption: 33.6% (2014 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 19.4% (2014 est.)

investment in inventories: 0.1% (2014 est.)

exports of goods and services: 17.5% (2014 est.)

imports of goods and services: -37.5% (2014 est.)

Agricultural products

coconuts, fruits, root vegetables, pineapples, eggs, cassava, sugarcane, tropical fruits, watermelons, tomatoes (2022)

note: top ten agricultural products based on tonnage

Industries

tourism, pearls, agricultural processing, handicrafts, phosphates

Industrial production growth rate

4.3% (2014 est.)

note: annual % change in industrial value added based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 71

Labor force

136,000 (2022 est.)

note: number of people ages 15 or older who are employed or seeking work

comparison ranking: 181

Unemployment rate

11.8% (2022 est.)
12.36% (2021 est.)
12.83% (2020 est.)

note: % of labor force seeking employment

comparison ranking: 177

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 38.9% (2021 est.)

male: 35.4%

female: 43.9%

comparison ranking: total 16

Remittances

10% of GDP (2022 est.)
9.46% of GDP (2021 est.)
10.04% of GDP (2020 est.)

note: personal transfers and compensation between resident and non-resident individuals/households/entities

Budget

revenues: $1.891 billion (2012)

expenditures: $1.833 billion (2011)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

1.2% (of GDP) (2012)

comparison ranking: 28

Taxes and other revenues

39.4% (of GDP) (2012)

comparison ranking: 13

Current account balance

$411.963 million (2016 est.)
$291.182 million (2015 est.)
$264.32 million (2014 est.)

note: balance of payments - net trade and primary/secondary income in current dollars

comparison ranking: 54

Exports

$162 million (2021 est.)
$94.4 million (2020 est.)
$184 million (2019 est.)

note: balance of payments - exports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 208

Exports - partners

France 18%, US 18%, Hong Kong 18%, Japan 13%, Netherlands 9% (2022)

note: top five export partners based on percentage share of exports

Exports - commodities

pearls, fish, aircraft parts, coconut oil, electrical power accessories (2022)

note: top five export commodities based on value in dollars

Imports

$1.66 billion (2021 est.)
$1.75 billion (2020 est.)
$2.24 billion (2019 est.)

note: balance of payments - imports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 181

Imports - partners

France 30%, China 13%, US 9%, South Korea 6%, NZ 6% (2022)

note: top five import partners based on percentage share of imports

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, cars, packaged medicine, beef, plastic products (2022)

note: top five import commodities based on value in dollars

Exchange rates

Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique francs (XPF) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
113.474 (2022 est.)
100.88 (2021 est.)
104.711 (2020 est.)
106.589 (2019 est.)
101.047 (2018 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 272,000 kW (2020 est.)

consumption: 639.7 million kWh (2019 est.)

exports: 0 kWh (2019 est.)

imports: 0 kWh (2019 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 41 million kWh (2019 est.)

comparison rankings: installed generating capacity 164; transmission/distribution losses 41; imports 152; exports 140; consumption 166

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 66.5% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

nuclear: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

solar: 6.1% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

wind: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

hydroelectricity: 27.4% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

tide and wave: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

geothermal: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

biomass and waste: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

Coal

production: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

consumption: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

exports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

imports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

proven reserves: 0 metric tons (2019 est.)

Petroleum

total petroleum production: 0 bbl/day (2021 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 6,700 bbl/day (2019 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate exports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate imports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil estimated reserves: 0 barrels (2021 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 203

Refined petroleum products - exports

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 136

Refined petroleum products - imports

6,785 bbl/day (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 160

Natural gas

production: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

consumption: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

exports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

imports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

proven reserves: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

1.03 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from coal and metallurgical coke: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 1.03 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from consumed natural gas: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: total emissions 172

Energy consumption per capita

0 Btu/person (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: 204

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 139,000 (2022 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 45 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 128

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 328,000 (2022 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 107 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 178

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: French Polynesia has one of the most advanced telecoms infrastructures in the Pacific Islands region; the remoteness of the territory with its scattering of 130 islands and atolls has made connectivity vital for its inhabitants; the first submarine cable was deployed in 2010 and since then additional cables have been connected to the islands, vastly improving French Polynesia’s international connectivity; an additional domestic submarine cable, the Natitua Sud, will connect more remote islands by the end of 2022; French Polynesia is also a hub for satellite communications in the region; a considerable number of consumers access FttP-based services; with the first data center in French Polynesia on the cards, the quality and price of broadband services is expected to improve as content will be able to be cached locally, reducing costs for consumers; for 2022, fixed broadband subscriptions reached an estimated 22%; about 43% of the territory’s mobile connections are on 3G networks, while LTE accounts for 12%; by 2025, LTE is expected to account for more than half of all connections; it is also estimated that 77% of mobile subscribers will have smart phones by 2025 (2022)

domestic: fixed-line subscriptions nearly 36 per 100 persons and mobile-cellular density is roughly 106 per 100 persons (2021)

international: country code - 689; landing points for the NATITUA, Manatua, and Honotua submarine cables to other French Polynesian Islands, Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and US; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) (2019)

Broadcast media

French public overseas broadcaster Reseau Outre-Mer provides 2 TV channels and 1 radio station; 1 government-owned TV station; a small number of privately owned radio stations (2019)

Internet users

total: 218,100 (2021 est.)

percent of population: 72.7% (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total 180

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 64,000 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 23 (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 138

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2 (2020) (registered in France)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 19 (registered in France)

Airports

54 (2024)

comparison ranking: 84

Roadways

total: 2,590 km

paved: 1,735 km

unpaved: 855 km (1999)

comparison ranking: total 170

Merchant marine

total: 24 (2023)

by type: general cargo 14

comparison ranking: total 145

Ports

total ports: 6 (2024)

large: 0

medium: 0

small: 1

very small: 5

ports with oil terminals: 1

key ports: Atuona, Baie Taiohae, Papeete, Port Rikitea, Uturoa, Vaitape

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of France; France maintains forces (about 900 troops) in French Polynesia