In Polynesia, players must save their tribe members from the dangers of the volcano by taking them to the islands that will give them the most points. At the same time, players must try to reach the objectives set by the tide cards, which will vary from one game to another. To succeed, players must collect resources in the form of fish and shells that will allow them to explore new sea routes, use the routes of other players, and sail from one island to another.
Polynesia is played in rounds, and each round is divided into two phases. In the action phase, each player has three turns in which they can perform one of three actions: sail, explore, or populate and fish. In the maintenance phase, the volcano activity is checked for activity, and each player can collect resources depending on the islands where they have tribe members.