The Tahitian Islands at a Glance
The word evokes visions of an earthly paradise. Actually, there are 118 islands that encompass French Polynesia, better known as The Islands of Tahiti. These are some of the most popular and accessible islands for travellers.
Tahiti is the largest and most populated island and is the starting point for everyone. International flights land at Faa'a Airport in the capital city of Papeete. Upon arrival, visitors receive a typical Tahitian display of hospitality - a memorable welcome with fragrant tiare flowers and Tahitian music.
Tahiti is a figure-eight-shaped island with a larger part: Tahiti Nui (which means big) and Tahiti Iti (little). With lush green peaks reaching more than 7,300 feet, its scenery is dramatic. Cascading waterfalls and cool pools in the jungle-like interior provide a striking contrast to the black sand beaches and turquoise lagoons of the island's perimeter. A circle island tour (about 70 miles) is a great way to get acquainted, with highlights at the Tahiti and Her Islands Museum, the Paul Gauguin Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, and the Marae Arahurahu (an ancient Tahitian outdoor temple). In the center of town, the Marche is not to be missed. Abundant with tropical fruits and vegetables and fresh fish from the lagoon, this indoor market has an upstairs with Tahitian crafts and the largest selection of colourful pareus (sarongs) anywhere.
Moorea was the inspiration for James Michener's mythical island of Bali Hai, and the locale for many motion pictures, including Mutiny on the Bounty and Love Affair. It is just 11 miles across the Sea of the Moon from Tahiti, but a world away. To fully appreciate the drama of this heart-shaped island, it is best viewed from atop Belvedere lookout, which affords breathtaking views of Moorea's twin bays, Cooks, and Opunohu. For those limited on time, it's easy to take a 25-minute catamaran ride from Tahiti for a day trip.
For many, a couple of days exploring Moorea's treasures and meeting some of its 8,000 residents pass too quickly.
Huahine is located 110 miles northwest of Tahiti and is just a short plane ride away. It is actually two islands, joined by a narrow isthmus and encircled by a barrier reef.
The magic of Huahine is felt instantly upon arrival, and the proud people of this island do their best to make all visitors feel welcome. (The main town is called Maeva - which means welcome in Tahitian!) A 20-mile road winds through the island, passing through small villages, climbing high in the hills to offer spectacular views of the white sand beaches and brilliant turquoise lagoons.
International surfing champions seek the massive waves at Avamoa Pass, and the world's largest outrigger canoe race, the Hawaiki Nui Va'a, begins here each November. Huahine is sparsely populated and visitors will enjoy the remote, unspoiled scenery and relaxed pace of this island.
RAIATEA AND TAHAA
About 120 miles northwest of Tahiti, are two islands that are encircled by the same barrier reef.
Raiatea is the most sacred island in the South Pacific. Historically, kings from the neighbouring islands would gather at the marae (temple) Taputapuatea for important ceremonies and negotiations.
The Pacific breezes and calm lagoons are ideal year-round for sailing and deep-sea fishing. On the slopes of Mt. Temehani grows the Tiare Apetahi, a rare flower that is found only on this mountain on Raiatea. Botanists have unsuccessfully tried to grow it elsewhere.
Legend says that there was once a lovely Tahitian girl who fell in love with the son of a Tahitian king. She died of a broken heart because she could never marry him. The five delicate petals, all on one side of the blossom, represent her hand. Those who climb the mountain early in the morning will see the Tiare Apetahi open at dawn, with a slight crackling sound - the sound of her heart breaking.
Taha'a, just two miles north of Raiatea, offers a glimpse of the traditional, tranquil life of Tahitians. The 4,000 residents fish from the lagoon and raise livestock. There are no hotels, but some quaint pensions where visitors can stay with a family.
Taha'a is called the vanilla island, for its many plantations of this sought-after spice. The rich aroma of vanilla wafts across the breezes. Each November, this island comes alive with a Stone Fishing tournament. In the method of their ancestors, the villagers wade into the lagoon, beating the water with stones tied to ropes. The frenzy frightens the schools of fish, driving them ashore, where they are easily collected for a feast.
Bora Bora is called the most beautiful island in the world, and in many ways, it's hard to argue. This tiny island - just 18 miles in circumference - is encircled by a protective necklace of coral. Inside this lagoon, colours reach a spectrum of indescribable turquoise, lapis, and aquamarine. Breathtaking lush mountains provide a dramatic background.
Arriving by airplane provides a unique experience, landing on the airstrip that was built by U.S. troops during World War II. The runway is on a motu (small islet) and visitors must go by boat to the main island. It's no surprise that most of the island's activities center around the spectacular lagoon.
A shark feeding excursion allows visitors to be in the water with hungry reef sharks as they're being fed by guides. There's a lagoonarium, a marine exhibit in the lagoon where the adventurous can swim with stingrays, huge sea turtles, and reef sharks. For a half-day journey of exploration, nothing beats a jeep tour through the interior of this wondrous island. Bora Bora is what dreams are made of. It's home to world-class resorts and jet-setting celebrities who can become anonymous.
Tetiaroa, actually an atoll, was once the playground of Polynesian kings. Just 26 miles north of Tahiti, this makes an ideal day trip. It is the sanctuary for thousands of sea birds who lay their eggs on the white powdery sands of the beaches.
Twelve small motus (islets) enclose a protected lagoon with excellent snorkeling and diving. There is a small hotel with 7 rustic bungalows.
Rangiroa, a one-hour flight from Tahiti, is part of the Tuamotu Archipelago and is the world's second-largest atoll. From the air, it appears that a large pearl necklace was gently placed on the water. This ring of low land created an unbelievable lagoon of deep turquoise and lapis blue. Because there's no island runoff, the visibility in the lagoon is over 150 feet and a constant 80 degrees.
The famous Tiputa Pass, which provides an opening to the ocean, is rich with sea life. It's known as one of the world's greatest shark dives, and those who "shoot the pass" find themselves in the deep blue with literally hundreds of gray, black-tip, white-tip, lemon, and nurse sharks.
Non-divers can try some world-class snorkeling and see schools of dolphins that gather in the pass. For the true adventurer, a two-hour boat ride across the lagoon leads to the Kia Ora Sauvage, a luxurious way to rough it. There's no electricity at this remote property, but offers spectacular scenery and complete solitude.
Also in the Tuamotu Archipelago, this atoll only has 400 residents. Visitors come to enjoy the plentiful lagoon activities and explore the many black pearl farms. The black-lipped oysters, found only in French Polynesia, are cultivated for their prized black pearls.
The Marquesas is an island group about 930 miles northeast of Tahiti. Its six inhabited islands and six unpopulated islands offer some of the most dramatic scenery and true Polynesian experiences to be found.
These islands have no lagoons, but offer dense jungles with 1,100-foot-high waterfalls and sheer cliffs. There are only five flights a week from Tahiti - about a 3 1/2 hour journey - and some opt to arrive via the Aranui, a working cargo/copra ship that accommodates 100 passengers.
The Marquesas is where Herman Melville jumped ship, Paul Gauguin came to paint and retire and numerous authors attempted to convey the riches of this rugged paradise. The most populated islands of Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa offer lodging in small hotels and pensions.
Tahiti Travel Information
At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy-to-navigate travel information section dedicated to Tahiti.
Learn about the history and culture of Tahiti, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Tahiti's nature and wildlife, weather, and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Tahiti for yourself. Start exploring...book one of our Tahiti vacations today!
Extend Your Stay
Consider an additional stopover after or before your Tahiti vacation at one of Goway's other South Pacific destinations. You can choose from our selection of Australian vacations, New Zealand vacation packages, one of our Fiji resorts or perhaps take a Cook Island vacation.
Book your Tahiti vacation with Goway!
With a wide choice of Tahiti vacations and experiences, Goway’s Downunder wizards can offer you many ways to explore and enjoy the Islands of Tahiti. Relax with a romantic tropical island stay, enjoy a luxury cruise through turquoise blue waters, escape on an air-land getaway, and more. We want to be your first choice when next you go globetrotting to Tahiti.
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