GETTING THERE: UTA, Qantas and Air New Zealand fly from Los Angeles to Papeete; the current APEX round-trip fare is $929. From Papeete, Air Polynesie offers seven flights a week to Rangiroa; the fare is $165 round trip, but the baggage allowance is only 22 pounds and there's an additional charge of about 61 cents per pound.

WHERE TO STAY: French Polynesia's five archipelagos cover an area of ocean the size of Europe without Russia. Family accommodations -- which may vary from a room in a private home to a separate bungalow -- are available on the islands of Tahiti, Moorea, Maupiti, Bora Bora, Raiatea and Huahine in the Society Islands; Manihi and Rangiroa in the Tuamotu Archipelago; Rurutu in the Tubuai Islands; and Nuku Hiva and other islands in the Marquesas. Sometimes the adventurous traveler without reservations must seek them out.

A few addresses where I have stayed (contact in advance to be certain they are still accepting guests, but expect delays if you write): Maria Belais, Chez Teina, BP 51, Avatoru, Rangiroa, Tuamotu, Polynesie Franc,ais; phone 394 (home) or 392 (Maria's general store). Chez Fredo Doom, Vaitape, Bora Bora, Polynesie Franc,ais; phone 677031. Chez Mama Loulou, Maharepa, Moorea, Polynesie Francais; phone 61071.

For more information on family and other accommodations, contact the Tahiti Tourist Development Board, 2330 Westwood Blvd., Suite 200, Los Angeles, Calif. 90064, (213) 475-2012.