by Lydia Schrandt for USA TODAY 10Best

Escape to tropical Tahiti on this virtual tour

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Tahiti, a series of 118 islands in the South Pacific, is known for its white sand beaches, overwater bungalows and spectacular sunsets.

Eight summits tower above Moorea, an island popular with adventure travelers for its hiking, horseback riding and four-wheeling opportunities.

The relaxed Fakarava Atoll, the second largest in French Polynesia, is a land of white and pink sand, coconut palms and legendary snorkeling.

Visit a fruit market on one of the islands to sample coconuts, dozens of varieties of bananas, breadfruit, watermelon, pineapples, mangoes, grapefruit and limes.

Raiatea was the point from which Polynesians set off on outriggers to explore the Pacific. The green-blanketed island is the spiritual center of Polynesia.

The tradition of fire knife dancing originated in Samoa, when it was part of a ritual celebration during wartime. These days, the fire knife dance is typically practiced during shows and competitions.

The island of Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia. Much of the island’s population lives near the coast; the pristine interior is dominated by green peaks and waterfall-filled valleys.

The island of Tahiti features some of the world’s most spectacular black sand beaches, including Plage de Taharuu and Lafayette Beach.

Music and dance hold a prominent position in Tahitian culture. While similar to Hawaiian hula at first glance, Tahitian dance is typically very athletic, with fast, energetic hip movements.

Much of the culture of Tahiti centers around the sea, and that includes the jewelry. Artists have plenty of materials to work with as the islands produce some 9.7 tons of pearls each year.

Ahe, one of the lesser known atolls in the Tuamotu Islands, is a favorite spot for vacationing Tahitians. Activity on the atoll centers on the lagoon, a popular spot for scuba diving and snorkeling.

The Tiki, a form of sculpture believed to be endowed with spiritual force, originated in the Marquesas Islands, with the first known examples dating back to the 13th century.

Surfers looking to catch a wave have more than 30 surfing spots to choose from in French Polynesia, including three world-famous breaks (Teahupo’o, Taapuna and Maraa).

The warm waters of Tahiti teem with life, attracting divers and snorkelers from around the globe. Visibility often reaches 100 feet, and the waters provide a habitat to more than 1,000 species of fish.

White sand beaches, overwater bungalows and stellar sunsets make Bora Bora the stuff of honeymoon legends. This quiet island is where you’ll find some of the most luxurious resorts and exclusive retreats.

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