101 Polynesian Tattoo Design Ideas For Girls and Boys

Tattoos are a huge part of Polynesian culture. Similar to the Maori tattoo, they are worn with great pride and really connect the wearer with their roots. For those with a Polynesian heritage, they can make a great first tattoo, or indeed part of all your other tattoos. These eye catching designs  ahead are some of the best.

Polynesian tattoos have become more popular than they have ever been in recent years due to such celebrities as “The Rock” showcasing them. So, with that in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to dedicate an entire list to some of the coolest and most eye catching Polynesian tattoos that we could find. We genuinely hope that you like this list and if you find a specific tattoo that stands out to you more than others, be sure to share i and bookmark the page. We don’t ever recommend copying a tattoo but these tattoos will definitely help serve as inspiration to you. Now, are you ready to get started? If so, scroll down and take a look at this list of 25 Eye Catching Polynesian Tattoos. You’ll love them!

You can find a variety of styles when looking for Polynesian tattoo designs as the islands known to make up the Polynesian area consists of islands south of Hawaii to New Zealand, and from Fiji to as far east as Easter Island. These beautiful works of art were created by both men and women for thousands of years in within these cultures and each told the story of the individual. While these amazing tattoos possess a rich history that has been passed down for thousands of years, they are still popular in today’s Polynesian cultures as well as in other areas around the world.

Distinct Patterns

You will notice that many of the designs that make up Polynesian tattoo designs consist of a variety of different patterns including swirls and herringbone designs.

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The layouts of each design today are typically chosen by what the individual wants their tattoo to look like, however, in the Polynesian culture, the designs were typically chosen by the tattoo masters or artist.

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Designs Today

As mentioned before, Polynesian designs told a story of the individual such as their status within the tribe as well as a variety of other things about the person. Today however some people still use these designs to tell a story about themselves or a passion that they possess.

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The size of ancient Polynesian tattoos used to carry a great deal of meaning as they indicated the strength of the individual. While today we have tattoo machines that do a great deal of the work in a reasonable amount of time, the Polynesian people used to use a comb made of boar’s teeth which were driven into the skin to create the designs. These designs would take days, if not months, to complete and even longer to heal.

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Placement of tattoos was everything to the ancient people of Polynesia and is a huge part of tattoos, in general, today. However, the largest difference between tattoos today and the people of Polynesia is that placement actually meant something.

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Taking Shape

Today we integrate patterns into the art we wear on our bodies in a variety of different ways such as the shark tattoo below. The patterns on the shark’s body connect strongly to the style found in islands of Polynesia and may have been chosen to pay homage to these islands or simply because it looks good.

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Rich History

Since Polynesian tattoos have such a rich history, those who have attempted to stick to the more traditional style designs will tell you that some of the oldest meanings and concepts have been lost over time.

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Modern Polynesian styled designs will generally possess other elements that you won’t find in traditional Polynesian tattoos including flowers as well as color.

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Keep in mind that if you choose to undergo a more traditional look to your Polynesian tattoo design, then remember that you have to commit to a large space of your body being tattooed. The people of ancient Polynesia tattooed huge sections of their body from the time that they hit puberty and beyond.

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You may notice that today Polynesian style tattoos take up a large portion of the sleeves in today’s tattoo world.

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Chest Pieces

While lines and swirls were traditionally common, it could be said that Chief’s tattoos were possibly more intricate. These pieces would take a great deal of time, though they weren’t as detailed as the tattoo below.

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Smaller Designs

Getting a smaller design today is relatively easy and can be sectioned off from your other tattoos through a border like an image below. However, the traditional tattoos would generally take up a great deal more space.

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You may notice that even in today’s tattoo industry and the popularity of Polynesian tattoos, most people obtain larger pieces. Something else that may be noticed if you inspect each picture of these tattoos with care that there are a wide variety of patterns that range from simple to incredibly complex.

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The image below may, at first glance, look a great deal like the many others we have gone through so far. However, the patterns take up most of this design where others have larger spaces blacked out within their work.

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Other possibilities include shaping the patterns into a design, unlike the previous shark tattoo which placed the designs onto the shark.

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Another noticeable similarity in the designs includes the use of triangles on the shoulders which encircle a patterned design.

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Men and Women

While it may seem as though men dominate the majority of those obtaining Polynesian styled tattoos, women love them too. Even the ancient Polynesian women would receive these tattoos for certain reasons including having their hands tattooed to serve Kava at ceremonies.

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While we do see many men obtaining these designs on their arms and shoulders, you may notice that women choose different areas for their tattoo placement.

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This particular design is far more traditional as it is said that the traditional Polynesian designs also included a ship symbolizing the journey taken by others across the ocean to other lands.

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But you will notice that most men will simply choose a design that snakes around and down the arm accenting the muscles.

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Others choose to incorporate more tribal styled images into their tattoos providing a small break in the patterns that they chose.

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Women still choose shoulder tattoos as well, however, the placement is much different. For example, this image shows the design going upwards from the shoulder to behind the ear.

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The patterns are chosen by women also seem to have a far lighter effect than that of the men’s designs as they don’t possess as much blacked out space but rather white space to form the designs.

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Another example of how placement differs between men and women includes more women possessing these designs on their sides and hips as well as their legs and shoulders.

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Other Modern Additions

Other more modern additions to these designs include letters which weren’t used in traditional designs as the patterns were supposed to tell the story without the use of the written language.

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Another modern addition to these tattoos is the use of markings which differ slightly to the more traditional markings. It is said that the older Polynesian tattoos possessed more straight lines, though the amount of shading used in the traditional designs in comparison to what is seen today can be a major addition.

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More Ornate

If you are looking to get a Polynesian styled tattoo but are interested in more ornate designs, then perhaps something like this chest piece is right for you. The lines and design still pay homage to the Polynesians while possessing a far more ornate design than what we have seen so far.

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Another way you can get a more ornate looking design is to add in shading as well as other colors to help soften and add more decoration to your design.

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However when it comes to the darker designs, adding in swirls can also take some of the harshnesses away from the overall look of your completed design.

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You may even want to consider limiting the size of your design as to allow for more details to be added as you go through the process of choosing your design and layout.

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Even adding in other artistic aspects that may compliment the Polynesian culture such as the sun or moon figure can make your design appear more decorative.

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Although it may be easily agreed that women tend to have the most ornate designs with the addition of flowers and curving the designs to fit their figure.

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Even more blocky designs seem more decorative when appropriately placed on the body as seen in the tattoo below as it stretches down the back.

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Weave patterns along with the use of lines can also add more to your Polynesian design that can create a more intricate feel.

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Another thing to keep in mind is that not all of the empty space needs to be filled with color to look ornate as blank space can provide a lot of personality to your chosen designs.

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The placement of your Polynesian inspired designs is limitless as you can shape the design to fit where you want it, such as the space between the shoulder blades.

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You will find that the shoulder and bicep are a popular placement choice for both men and women alike, some even add color to their designs.

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Calves and tops of the feet can offer an amazing looking spot since you can show it off as well as hide it when you want with ease.

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Behind the ear is another wonderful place for smaller designs even though it isn’t frequently chosen.

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Designs that cross from the shoulder onto the chest are also incredibly popular and usually offer other elements to the design allowing more personalization.

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Even the thigh to the feet, or in this case the top of the calf, can be chosen for these beautifully decorated tattoos.

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You will find that some choose to add other design elements to their tattoos including shapes, gods, and even animals, or at least the inspiration of the animal. The tattoo below, for example, seems to have been inspired by a seashell due to the swirl and patterns used.


The jagged fan shape used in this design appears to have been inspired by that of a palm furan or other type of plant.

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And while some elements aren’t as obvious, some of the simple shapes and lines suggest the inspiration of water or waves.

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This shoulder design has both shapes that seem to be inspired by waves while the sun shape resides in the center of the design.

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The swirling effect of this design could also be linked to water or that of the tangled vines found on these islands.

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When choosing your design your choices are only limited by your imagination. If you want traditional designs like the image below then that should be your choice.

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You could also choose a darker design with the faces of ancient gods hidden within the patterns like this design.

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Perhaps your tastes revolve around more linear designs where there are fewer curves than that of other design options.

polynesian tattoo designs0511Some even choose more animal-like designs such as sea turtles surrounded by the traditional patterns.

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Here is another example of a design consisting of a deity along with many other smaller images.

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Tiki gods are also chosen and stacked on top of one another forming a totem pole styled design.

polynesian tattoo designs0541Designs that are largely interconnected can also look wonderful in places such as the forearm or calf.

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Or rather than encircling your entire leg or arm, simply choose a section of the area that you want your design.

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Another option you could consider is simply using the patterns of Polynesian designs to background another tattoo such as these flowers.

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You may even find designs that consist of mostly lines that are unfilled that you may prefer over some of the others.

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Even bolder looking lines are possible when choosing a design for yourself.

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Simply keep in mind that blank spaces can create a far more complete looking design than filling it in with black.

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Designs can consist of or look like anything, even a feather.

polynesian tattoo designs0621The outlines can even take on any shape such as the swirls where the line work possesses a design.

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Other Amazing Ideas

Other amazing ideas include sea creatures like the stingray or sea turtle created from the patterns.

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Polynesian deities can also be created within the design through lines and patterns to decorate the design further.

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Maybe an octopus made of the patterns fits you far better and will help create the swirls that the designs are best known.

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You may even want to include a ship or something special into your design to make it more your own.

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Flower-like shapes are also found in some designs without actually being created on top of the patterns like we have seen before.

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The designs you choose should show who you are and your passions for the world around you as well as fit where you want it.

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You could also consider the more simplistic designs that are mildly larger than others.

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Even some of the full body designs are rich with a variety of elements that look amazing within the design.

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Choose what makes you happy, even if it is a manta ray along your spine, and just be yourself.

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Polynesian Back Tattoo

This back tattoo is almost a perfect example of a good Polynesian tattoo. If there’s a better example out there then we certainly haven’t seen it. This tattoo is also proof that tattoos like this don’t always have to be on your arm. Take a look and see what you think.


Bold Polynesian Tattoo

This tattoo was done in a very dark, black ink that we absolutely love. It may need some re-touching over the years but it’ll definitely be worth the extra work. Whoever got this tattoo has to be very proud of it and we don’t blame them one bit. It totally rocks!


Polynesian Tattoo Sleeve

This is one cool tattoo sleeve and is another great example of what a Polynesian tattoo should look like. If you’ve ever considered getting a full tattoo sleeve then this very well may be the tattoo for you. This is one of those tattoos that is definitely worth sharing!

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Side Tattoo

This particular tattoo was done on the side and while mostly women get tattoos like this, we also think that some men will be inspired by this tattoo as well. Don’t be afraid though. Tattoos on the side/hip area don’t hurt nowhere near as bad as you may think they do.

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Polynesian Neck Tattoo

This neck tattoo is simple but sweet. It’s also proof that you don’t have to go all out when it comes to getting a Polynesian tattoo. Sometimes the most simple of things work the best and we’d definitely be proud to rock out this tattoo. What do you think about it?


Polynesian Foot Tattoo

This foot tattoo may look painful but we’re sure that it was more than worth it. It’s one of those tattoos that will turn heads everywhere and something that you’ll definitely want to show off during the Summer season in a pair of flip flops while on your favorite beach.


Back Tattoo

This back tattoo totally blew our minds when we saw it. Not only does it look great but it conveys a very powerful message. If you’re a fan of back tattoos or you’ve always wanted one, this one should serve as some good inspiration. What do you think? It’s cool, right?


Polynesian Chest Tattoo

Are you a fan of chest tattoos? Are you interested in something Polynesian? If you answered “yes” to both of those questions then we think that we have the perfect tattoo for you. Not only is this a beautiful tattoo but the artist behind it is equally as amazing.


Face Tattoo

For those of you out there that are a little more extreme, this Polynesian face tattoo is sure to impress everyone around you (or at least get their attention). If you’re a die hard tattoo fanatic and want a cool face tattoo, this one may give you some very good ideas.


So, what did you think of this list? Were these some jaw dropping Polynesian tattoos or what? We certainly like to think so. If you don’t agree, be sure to let us know. If you liked this list, let us know as well! We absolutely love to hear from all of our readers and make it a priority to take all things into consideration (whether good or bad). Before you go, make sure you check out some of our other lists where you’ll find even more cool tattoos!


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