TAHITI: EVERY OTHER YEAR
French Polynesia (Tahiti) are my favorite islands in the world given my geography. I tell people who go to Hawaii every year to forget Hawaii--spend the extra grand and three hours flight time to go to Tahiti. I tell people skip Hawaii and go to Tahiti every other year--it is that special!
I have been to Hawaii four times and Tahiti twelve. It has amazing beaches, world class snorkeling and an epic dive destination!
Let’s face it--the Tahitian Islands are the most beautiful in the world. And like most magnificent destinations, the pictures just don’t do it justice.
But the reason I return again and again:
The stunning beauty of the islands and its people. Sure, I love to swim but I don’t dive (asthma) and I am a terrible snorkeler and hate those fins. I don’t go to Tahiti for the water but for the islands and its history. People like author Robert Louis Stevenson (California chapter), painter Paul Gauguin, and all around entrepreneurs the Bali Hai boys have all been caught by the pull of Tahiti. The people are perhaps the most warm, relaxed and friendly in the world. The water is a fantastic byproduct and what makes the people who they are.
I think for first timers it's best explored by cruise, for logistical purposes. You can get a feel for all the main islands in one trip without having to drag your luggage around and pack and unpack at each destination. All cruise options are great with my favorite being the Paul Gauguin. Luxury and Le Gauguines descendants of Paul Gauguin on board. Windstar, with overnights in port is also very cool! There's Oceania and perhaps the least well known but epic for the adventurer, the Aranui 5. There are other cruise options that stop by Tahiti on their way to someplace else.
Explore! You can circumnavigate Bora Bora in less than an hour by moped. You can circumnavigate Moorea in under four hours with a “dune buggy” type vehicle as well as Belvedere (the mountain overlook of Moorea). Get around Raiatea in two hours. You get the idea; it is easy to explore Tahiti by cruise ship with six to eight hours in port to tour the area. More than enough to whet your appetite for your return visit!
The resorts are also amazing: Intercontinental Moorea/Bora Bora, Four Seasons and St Regis Bora Bora plus my two favorites: The Brando and Le Taha’a a Relais & Chateaux. They are timeless and magical! Sometimes people just don’t leave their overwater bungalow (which I think was invented in Tahiti). The lure is hard to resist and exploration at least at St Regis and Four Seasons is an effort (which is by plan) but exploration should be required. You might just see Jimmy Buffett or Keith Richards hanging out at Bloody Mary’s or check out the WWII guns on Bora Bora. The Brando and Le Taha’a resorts are remote. For Le Taha’a you must fly to Raiatea, take a car, then a ferry, then a car again, just to get there, so focused exploration of the other islands is implied. Or what the heck you can also helicopter around the islands too!
Once you do the main Society Islands, come back to me for the Marquesas, the Tuamotus and the Australs. There is so much more to explore in French Polynesia!
Raiatea: the sacred Island. The island’s name means “faraway heaven” and “sky with soft light.” It features a number of maraes, the open-air sacred sites of the Tahitian Islands. In ancient Polynesian times Raiatea was the spiritual center of the Polynesian triangle. There are quite a few ruins on the island, the most famous being Taputapuatea Marae. There are also maraes all over the other islands that you can seek out.
Moorea: a favorite tour option. See the dolphins in Moorea and learn about these incredible animals from Dr Michael Poole, a Cal Berkley PHD grad that was helpless to the powers of French Polynesia. He has spent his life in the study of dolphins and his tour is something to behold.
Taha’a: The Vanilla Island. 80% of the vanilla produced in Tahiti is produced here. Visit a Vanilla plantation
Shopping: Black Pearls are rare, beautiful, and easy to buy in Tahiti. You could spend the whole vacation looking at black pearls. Tahitian Pareos (like a sarong) are also world class. Tahitian vanilla is a must too.