Tropical Cyclone Oli hit French Polynesia overnight, forcing hundreds of people to be evacuated and driving tourists into temporary shelters.
Authorities told residents to stay indoors and and roads were closed to all non-emergency traffic as winds of up to 200 kilometres per hour created waves as high as seven metres.
On the main island of Tahiti several hundred people living near the coast had to leave their homes, with several people slightly hurt but no reports of serious injury.
The French weather service is predicting Oli to increase in force as it moves south east at about 20 kilometres per hour towards the islands of Tubai and Mataura.
Winds are predicted to average 175 kilometres per hour, with gusts of up to 250 kilometres per hour.