Tahiti and Her Islands
Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora Islands in French Polynesia have some of the most beautiful beaches, clearest waters, and awesome scenery. Tahiti is known as a wonderful spot in the world for honeymoons and couple getaways and it is often overlooked as a destination for families. However what families don’t like swimming in crystal clear waters, cavorting with dolphins and stingrays. There is so much more to Tahiti and her islands than just meets your eye….Lets go and find out.
When you hear the words Tahiti, Bora Bora & Moorea lovely images come to mind – Crystal Clear Water – Beautiful over water accommodation are the first. However, there is much more to these islands and so much more to explore …… The islands of Tahiti are located in the South Pacific which cover a huge ocean surface which is pretty much the same size as Europe. However, dry land only represents 4000 square kilometres (2159 sq. naut. mi.) divided among 118 islands, separated into five archipelagos: the Marquesas to the north, the Society Islands and the Tuamotu in the centre, the Australs to the south and the Gambier to the southeast. Sprinkled like a handful stardust in space, The Islands of Tahiti are easily characterised by their isolation. Most islands are only sparsely populated and forty of them remain uninhabited to this day.
Good Reasons to Stay in Papeete
A lively culture
The largest and most lively of all the French Polynesian islands, Tahiti lives at the pace of culture, music and dance. Attend an enchanting Tahitian dance show called Ori Tahiti, or visit a contemporary art exhibition or an unusual play, a traditional or modern concert. Tahiti and especially Papeete, provide the opportunity to discover artistic expression of all kinds, both unique and creative.
An authentic experience
Tahiti is also famous for its hospitality and sweet relaxed atmosphere where any traveller will happily blend. Indeed, the spontaneous and sincere friendliness of the Tahitians is hard to match. Here, people smile all the time and often take the time to share a piece of advice, information or a story. Visitors will instantly feel comfortable living at the pace of island life.
A generous nature and activities of all kinds
Tahiti will unveil its beauty and can be explored in many different ways: black sand beaches on the East coast, white sand beaches on the West coast, diving, beginner’s and mythical surf spots, mountainous peaks within desert lush valleys or the historic site of Papeete’s colourful market.
Tahiti, The Queen Island
Also known as ‘Tāmure Island’ or the island of marinated raw fish & sweet fragrances, Tahiti is the heartbeat of French Polynesia. Not only is it the main port of call when arriving into Tahiti via Faa’a International Airport, it is also the main location for public services and the home to Papeete, the capital city. Papeete is a must-see: its harbor, gardens, boutiques, friendly food trucks, its colorful market, renowned handicraft and its ongoing cultural life.
From Paea to Papeno’o, Tahiti hosts beautiful sceneries, varied activities and unveil to travelers an impressive and surprising number of archeological sites. The mountainous inner part of the island is a green kingdom where waterfalls, lava tubes and sacred sites are neighboring. From dawn to dusk, the sunrays enlighten beaches and mountains allowing to spot, in the distance, the sharp peaks of mounts ‘Orohena and Aora’i. The Tahiti Peninsula is a world apart.
Take the time to explore it… From the fantastic Te Pari hike to the legendary Teahupo’o wave, every natural wonder is breathtaking.
Moorea, Island of Artists
Fast, regular access: Moorea is located 30 minutes by ferry boat from Papeete.
Be enthralled by the beauty of enchanting Moorea with its amazing sceneries and pleasant, relaxed atmosphere. This island gem is suited for any discovery whether you want to just relax or indulge in its unforgettable and privileged marine life. Its sweet pace of life and its timeless charm immediately appeals to the traveller.
Cut by a couple of majestic bays, Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay, the lush mountainous landscape contrast with the crystal clear blue lagoon. Bungalows of resorts and family pensions are scattered on beautiful white sand beaches, among flowered gardens or over the lagoon allowing you to discover the best of Moorea’s spirit.
Good Reasons to Stay in Moorea
A source of inspiration
Many artists live on the island of Moorea. Painters, carvers, jewelers and tatooists have settled down on this island and take their time to capture the island’s beauty and serenity and find the inspiration to create their art.
A specific Polynesian ambiance
Colourful, flowered and radiant, the island of Moorea is a pleasure for all senses. It is a constant luxury to stroll between gardens and white sand beaches, myriads of flowers and pineapple plantations, to watch fishermen on their outrigger canoe or to listen to the sound of the ‘ukulele sitting under a pūrau tree (Hibiscus tiliaceus). One will relish these magical moments and this unmatched world of enchantment.
A natural playground
The quiet waters of the lagoon and the annual trade winds (April-October) allow for many activities: outrigger canoe, paddle boarding, kite boarding, water skiing and even surfing around of some of the passes. Moorea is also a haven for divers who instantly fall in love with the varied coral reef eco-system and the colourful mix of marine life. While scuba diving or snorkelling you can encounter stingrays, sharks, marine turtles in a clear lagoon sparkling with different shades of blue. On the mountain side, the sharp landscape is overlooked by eight summits featuring a magnificent ancient volcanic crater which has now become a lush valley. It is the perfect area for hiking, horseback riding, quad biking or exploring on a 4WD.
Swim with dolphins at the Moorea Dolphin Center
The Moorea Dolphin Center is located within the Intercontinental Moorea Resort and Spa, and is a fabulous opportunity for families (from the age of 3) and enthusiasts to meet dolphins in an environmental and educational way. Some programs even allow you to swim with them, always in small groups. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to approach these fascinating marine mammals safely.
Good Reasons to Stay in Bora Bora
An over-water paradise
A stunning lagoon
A stunning lagoon
Bora Bora is a volcano set on one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world, declining infinite shades of blue, from the clearest to the deepest. The huge motu of white sand beaches lined with coconut trees circle the emerald lagoon populated with a myriad of fish and corals of amazing colors. The harmony of the scenery is perfect.
A multitude of activities
A lagoon means underwater world: in Bora Bora, it is beautiful. The lagoon hosts manta rays, sharks, Napoleon wrasses which will welcome you while scuba diving, helmet diving, glass-bottom boat… There are many opportunities to explore the lagoon, the motu and the ocean (fishing, cruises, jet ski, kite boarding, paddle boarding, outrigger canoe ride…) but also on land (4WD rides, hiking, helicopter ride…).
Bora Boara, The First Born
High-end resorts, built in a unique environment, to discover the Tahitian art of living in perfect comfort conditions (villas and private pools over the lagoon, private beaches…). Numerous « a la carte » services are available (custom tours, Spa…). Friendly middle-range hotels and more traditional family pensions (guest houses) are located on the motu or on the main island.
Bora Bora (Pora Pora or Pōpora) the name sounds like a promise, the promise of an Earth paradise discovery, which these islands are often associated with. It is fair to say the shape of the island and its lagoon are of a surreal beauty and fascinate visitors thanks to its mythical attraction.
Famous Hollywood stars, dreamers and lovers choose mythical Bora Bora as their romantic destination of choice thanks to its enchanting scenery, its lush vegetation, relaxed ambience and also for the natural discretion of the locals.
Raiatea, The Sacred Island
A 45 minute flight from Papeete will take you to Raiatea, the second largest economic area of Tahiti and her Islands. It is also a major nautical base for numerous sailboats and charter companies. A 3km channel separates Raiatea from its sister Taha’a both lying in the same lagoon.
The scenery of Raiatea is dramatic: mountains, a few summits over 1000m of elevation, and coastline. The island doesn’t shelter many beaches but get in a canoe or boat to reach idyllic coral gardens on the nearby motu, relaxing in the shade of coconut trees.
Scuba diving is popular and the shipwreck of the Norby is worth exploring at a maximum depth of 29m. Go on a hike and discover the age-old Polynesian culture.
Good Reasons to Stay on Raiatea
Raiatea also shelters the only navigable river in French Polynesia. Go on an unusual outrigger canoe ride in the heart of a dense tropical forest of pūrau, bamboos and māpē (inocarpus fagiferus). Legend says that the river would have been the departure point of all Polynesian migrations to Hawai’i and New Zealand.
A sailing paradise
Raiatea is the top yachting location in Tahiti and her Islands. Most charter companies and marinas have chosen to settle around Raiatea. The island hosts a large number of moorings, bays (deep and calm) in a pristine and amazing environment (volcano craters, waterfalls). The sailing conditions are excellent. It is a pleasure cruising to the other peaceful Leeward Islands, all as beautiful inside or outside the lagoon.
A unique natural heritage
Raiatea is an incredible natural source of interest for scientists and nature lovers due to rare endemic flora and fauna species. Mount Temehani shelters the tiare ‘apetahi (and about 30 other endemic plants), a flower which is unique in the world. It has become the symbol for Raiatea. This half-circle white and delicate flower only blooms at dawn. Temehani is also the home of lots of endemic animal species, such as the unique Polynesian cicada but also colonies of Tahitian petrels, a protected bird species.
When to go?
The months from January to May are an ideal time to visit Cuba, when the temperatures are warm, the country is uncrowded by tourists and there is no threat of hurricanes, which can visit the coasts from June to November.
Cuban peso (CUP) is the local currency. Credit cards and travellers’ cheques are not widely accepted and ATMs are few and far between, so Tim recommends you take euros. You can also use British pounds or Canadian dollars, but US dollars can incur a 10 per cent exchange fee.
Even though English is spoken and understood in most hotels, restaurants, and shops, learning a few Tahitian words and phrases is encouraged and appreciated. It can also be helpful, but not mandatory, to brush up on a few basic French phrases as French and Tahitian are the official languages and both are commonly used.
Visas and passports
No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days for New Zealand citizens.
Tipping in French Polynesia isn’t a standard practice as it isn’t typically part of the culture. Hotels and restaurants may include a service charge in the final bill, especially in Tahiti and its islands, so tipping isn’t required or expected.
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