Beachcombing for Culture on a Vacation in The Islands of Tahiti

People & Culture

Bronwyn Learning About Black Pearls in Huahine, Tahiti (French Polynesia)

A great Islands of Tahiti vacation is so much more than just flying to a beautiful island and checking into an overwater bungalow (though that’s a good start).

Even though The Islands of Tahiti has become synonymous with “tropical paradise,” it’s a little different from what many travellers expect. First of all, “Tahiti” isn’t just Tahiti. It’s French Polynesia, and it stretches over an incredible 118 islands, spread over 1200 miles of the South Pacific. Tahiti proper is home to the bulk of the population, so it’s an ideal place to soak up Tahitian culture…and there’s lots to explore!

“I can’t imagine not seeking (cultural) experiences when you go on a trip,” says Bronwyn Hodge, Product Manager for Goway’s Idyllic Islands range. Bronwyn maintains that culture is the reason why we travel, demonstrating the attitude that’s seen her dubbed a Modern Day Explorer by USTOA.

Related Article:
Diving into Tahiti through the eyes of a Travel Expert

The Islands of Tahiti hold a special place in Bronwyn’s heart, since they combine the best opportunities of a tropical beach holiday with immersion in an ancient and complex culture. In fact, archaeological sites on the island of Huahine are thought to date back to 700AD. That even pre-dates the giant moai, or “heads” of Easter Island, off the coast of Chile… which makes sense, since Easter Island’s inhabitants (along with New Zealand’s Maori and many others) can trace their heritage back to French Polynesia. Huahine is also known as the “Garden Island,” owing to its spectacular variety of flowers.

An Ancient Stone Carving in the Rainforest of Moorea, Tahiti (French Polynesia)
An ancient stone carving in the rainforest of Moorea

Plant life on The Islands of Tahiti is crucial, not just to their respective eco-systems, but to the character of each individual island. Taha’a, for instance, is known as “the Vanilla Island,” thanks to its ever-present scent of… you guessed it. Tahitian vanilla is highly sought after throughout the world, being considered among the most fragrant. A vanilla bean can take up to five years to mature, and harvesting the crop requires serious dedication. Once you understand the process, it’s no wonder that vanilla is the world’s second most expensive spice after saffron.

Aerial View of the Island of Tahaa, Tahiti (French Polynesia)
Aerial view of the island of Tahaa

Of course, the supply is plentiful in The Islands of Tahiti, bringing some unique qualities to the local cuisine. Remember, you’re in French Polynesia, so you know good food is going to be taken seriously here at every level. You don’t need to go far to experience these flavours. Many of the resorts on each island employ top level chefs eager to bring their own creative flair to your table. But those on a budget needn’t miss out. Pull up a plastic stool at Les Roulottes in Papeete, and choose from the food trucks that descend on the port each night to cook up everything from seafood, to pizza, to fresh crepes, to Chinese, and beyond. At around US$12-15 for a tuna steak meal with sides (for example), eating well on vacation in paradise can be as affordable as it is delicious. If you want to drink like a local, order a cold Hinano beer to go with your meal.

If you’d prefer a slightly more upscale vacation, The Islands of Tahiti offer no shortage of luxury options to enchant you. The overwater bungalow has been a fixture of The Islands of Tahiti for years, but it’s just one of the special types of accommodation available in Bora Bora, Moorea, or any of the other popular honeymoon islands. For something really unique that takes you out on the lagoon, try staying aboard a catamaran, snorkelling (or diving, if you’re qualified) right off the deck on the islands’ most spectacular reefs. It’s the ultimate in secluded island accommodation, but if you’d like the ultimate in secluded island dining to go with it, enjoy a motu picnic. Take a seat at your table on the shores of a small island in the lagoon, resting your feet in the warm, shallow waters while you dine.

Motu Picnic at Hilton Bora Bora, Tahiti (French Polynesia)
Motu picnic at Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort

No vacation is complete without a unique souvenir, and an Islands of Tahiti vacation is no exception. Black pearls are a popular choice. The black pearls here are so fine, they’ve become an integral part of Tahitian culture, to the point every local is said to have one, somewhere. The pearls are used in a wide range of crafts, but if jewelry’s not your thing, you can pick up another Tahitian staple, a pareo. Again, every local on the island of Tahiti supposedly has one of these high quality sarongs, which are made with painstaking care by local craftspeople who devote decades to their art.

While an Islands of Tahiti vacation has plenty to offer those in search of a stress-free beach escape in a gorgeous setting, it’s the cultural discoveries that make these islands shine. Check in, unwind, explore, and come away with more of Polynesia’s story.

Start by flying with Air Tahiti Nui. With daily non-stop flights to The Islands of Tahiti from Los Angeles, Air Tahiti Nui and its airline partners also make it seamless when departing from other North American gateways.

Related Article:
Diving into Tahiti through the eyes of a Travel Expert

Check out Bronwyn’s video, Culture on The Islands of Tahiti:

Tahiti LogoAir Tahiti Logo