This week on the Travel Bags radio show, we recap Annita’s dream adventure to Tahiti, French Polynesian Island in the South Pacific. There’s something mystical about the islands of French Polynesia. It often leaves travelers who witness its beauty firsthand at a loss for words. Beyond the sparkling blue shoreline lies volcanic mountains, hiking trails, archaeological sites and so much more.
There are 118 islands and atolls in French Polynesia divided into five groups: the Society Islands, the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Gambier Islands, Marquesas Islands and Austral Islands. Here we take a closer look at some of the top destinations in the area and what to do when you visit.
Located in the Society Islands, Tahiti is home to the French Polynesian capital of Papeete and also more than half of the population in the island collective. Well known for its bungalows built on stilts over water, it is a top destination for tourists. They can enjoy peace and relaxation at one of the many resorts on the island, such as the Intercontinental Tahiti Resort & Spa we blogged about recently. There are several excellent opportunities for enjoying the island’s natural beauty and taking in the views of its surrounding islands too. From guided walking tours to water excursions, Tahiti is an ideal destination to begin your own South Pacific adventure.
Considered the heart of French Polynesia, Moorea is famous for its volcanic peaks, lush greenery, and pristine beaches. It’s located only ten nautical miles from Tahiti and can be visited by ferry or plane daily. Some of the most popular activities on the island are snorkeling and diving, but visitors can also take in the local culture by driving along the coast roads and immersing themselves in the small communities along the way. Everyone who visits should prioritize taking in a dance performance. Dance is a significant part of French Polynesian culture as it not only brings communities together, but it also tells stories, represents the history and pays homage to ancestors.
Those looking for a quieter island can find tranquility in Taha’a, another Society Island. It is known for its flower shape and often regarded for its well-preserved landscape that provides a peaceful backdrop. As visitors to the island stroll around, they might notice the smell of vanilla wafting through the air. There are many vanilla farms on the island as farming, raising livestock and fishing are the leading industries. Visitors can sample the vanilla grown on these farms and learn more about the delicate process of producing this spice.
Commonly referred to as a “little jewel,” Bora Bora is a popular vacation spot and has plenty to offer visitors with its wide barrier reef and luxurious resorts. It’s a perfect spot for destination weddings and other celebrations. In Polynesian culture, it is said that Bora Bora was the first island to rise from the sea and was once called “the firstborn.” The island also has its ties with US history as well. During World War II, American troops were dispatched to the island to run a supply base for materials on their way to the Solomon Islands. Visitors who want to explore this historic, world-famous island can go on guided hikes, Jeep excursions or even helicopter tours.
The largest and most populous of the Cook Islands is known for its mountainous landscape interspersed with picturesque lagoons and a reef that extends far past the shoreline. Naturally, the lagoons and reef provide opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving. There are also deep sea fishing charters, tours of underground caves and exciting nightlife. Te Vara Nui Village is a great place to watch traditional performances of dance, music, flame-throwing and more.
Once the home of Polynesian royalty, today the island of Huahine still contains several important archaeological sites such as sacred temples and ancient stone fish traps. It is a point of pride for many locals to preserve their history and luckily for visitors, there are guided tours available for all kinds of expeditions. They can explore excavated temples or hike the hilly landscape to find ceremonial monuments along the way. There is also a unique way to experience the modern Polynesian culture. Every October the outrigger canoe race, Hawaiki Nui Va’a, starts at Huahine.
This small but stunning island is said to have perhaps the most beautiful lagoons in all of the South Pacific. It is a popular destination for snorkeling, but visitors can also rent canoes and kayaks to coast across the surface. There are 15 islets all across the lagoon also waiting to be explored. For those looking to relax, boat tours of the lagoon are available too. In addition to it being a favorite spot for snorkelers and all those who love spending a day in the water, Aitutaki has its connection to the famous story of the Mutiny on the Bounty. Captain William Bligh became the first European to find the island just days before the mutiny. But Aitutaki’s storied history didn’t begin there. Visitors to the island can learn all about the story of One Foot Island about how one father’s cleverness saved his son’s life.
Give a listen to our show about Tahiti and our interview with Tahiti Tourism U.S.A. Director, Kristin Kemper
Annita and Olivia chat – All about Tahiti and Annita’s visit
Annita shares her experience visiting the Cook and Society Islands
A conversation with Kristin Carlton Kemper with Tahiti Tourism U.S.A.