Idyllic Islands: A Globetrotter’s Paradise – Tahiti

Tahiti – a name and destination that evokes visions of blue lagoons, verdant mountain peaks and white sand, palm fringed beaches – has long been seducing honeymooners, romantics, adventurers, and vacationers looking for an escape beyond the ordinary.

The islands of Tahiti are much easier to travel to than often imagined, and closer than many think. The Tahiti Faa’a airport is just eight hours by air from Los Angeles. With daily, nonstop flights with Tahiti’s national carrier, Air Tahiti Nui, Tahiti is located halfway between California and Australia, on the same side of the International Date Line as North America and in the same time zone as Hawaii.

Covering a vast area of the South Pacific – about the same size as Western Europe – Tahiti, officially known as French Polynesia, is comprised of 118 islands and atolls broken up into five distinct archipelagos. Receiving as many tourists in an entire year as Hawaii does in just 12 days, the islands throughout Tahiti remain authentic and pristine. The majority of Tahiti’s tourists generally visit the islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. Some venture off to the lesser-known islands of Huahine, Taha’a, Raiatea, and to the Tuamotu Atolls.

All trips begin on the island of Tahiti, the largest island throughout the country, whose mountainous interior is adorned with deep valleys, clear streams, and high waterfalls, all bathed in the green iridescence of Mother Nature’s light. The coastal lands, edged with a rugged coastline, are home to fields of tropical flowers and most of the island’s population.
Many visitors then venture to the island of Moorea, which is just 11 miles across the “Sea of the Moon” from Tahiti. To fully appreciate the dramatic appearance of this heart-shaped island, we recommend driving to Belvedere Lookout, which affords breathtaking views of Moorea’s twin bays, Cook’s and Opunohu.

Traditional outrigger canoe at Manihi, home to Tahiti’s first black pearl farm

Bora Bora, “The Romantic Island,” is just 18 miles in circumference, and is encircled by a protective necklace of coral. Lush mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for the turquoise, lapis and aquamarine of the sheltered lagoon. Arriving by air is 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 travel by boat to reach the main island. Most of the island’s activities focus on the spectacular lagoon. The popular shark-feeding excursion puts visitors in the water and within safe view of reef sharks as they’re being fed by guides. Additionally, visitors can enjoy the Lagoonarium, a marine exhibit in the lagoon where the adventurous can swim with sting rays, 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.

Off The Beaten Path
For those looking to go beyond the islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, a great choice is the island of Huahine, nicknamed the “Garden of Eden.” This island is just a short plane ride away on Air Tahiti from Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea or Bora Bora. The magic of Huahine can be felt instantly upon arrival, and the proud locals do their best to make all visitors feel welcome. A twenty-mile road winds through the island, passing through small villages and climbing high into the hills for spectacular views of the white-sand beaches and brilliant turquoise lagoons. Restored Tahitian marae (temples) and centuries-old stone fish traps reflect the island’s ancient culture and proud descendants who still reside in this magnificent paradise. Huahine is sparsely populated, and visitors fall in love with the remote, unspoiled scenery and relaxed pace of this island.

Other island options include Raiatea and Taha’a, two islands that are encircled by the same barrier reef. Raiatea, called “The Sacred Island,” may be the most revered island in all of the South Pacific. Historically, kings from the neighbouring islands would gather at Marae Taputapuatea for important ceremonies and negotiations. Re-enactments of these ceremonies on the restored marae help visitors discover the Tahitian culture. Raiatea has the only navigable river in the islands, the Fa’aroa, and popular excursions include exploring its cool, green waters in an outrigger canoe.

On the slopes of Mt. Temehani, visitors can discover the Tiare Apetahi, a rare flower that is found only on this particular mountain in Raiatea. Legend says that there was once a lovely Tahitian girl who fell in love with the son of a Tahitian king, but died of a broken heart, because she could never marry him. The five delicate petals of the flower 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. Taha’a is called “The Vanilla Island” for its many plantations of this sought-after spice, which sweetens the island air with its rich aroma.

The Tuamotu Atolls, known as “Tahiti’s Strand of Pearls,” is the largest of the Polynesian archipelagos. They are located northeast of Tahiti and include 76 islands and atolls spread over more than 7500 square miles. Four of these islands – Rangiroa, Manihi, Tikehau and Fakarava offer a host of lodging options and exciting activities, including world-class scuba diving, horseback riding, shark feeding and deep-sea fishing.

Tahiti can be an idyllic stop-over en route to Downunder. (It can be combined with Chile and Easter Island)

Tahiti is a feature destination for Goway’s IslandsEscapes “World’s Most Idyllic Islands” where we have several ideas for you to consider. Let us help you escape to one of the most romantic and exotic destinations on earth.

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Globetrotting Editor
Globetrotting Editor
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