Imbued with myth, Tahiti and her 13 fellow isles of the Society Island archipelago offer much more than just another tropical island paradise. After your eyes have adjusted to the electric blue water, delve into the unique sights, scents, flavours and experiences that have enticed people from Fletcher Christian to Marlon Brando.
1. Explore the sea life through the glass bottom floor of your overwater bungalow
Tahiti’s seamless integration of lagoon and land led naturally to the inspiration for the overwater bungalow – a Tahitian creation. One of few places in the world where you can gaze upon tropical fish through the floor of your bamboo, timber, coconut and palm constructed bungalow, or spot a reef shark from the verandah.
2. Express yourself with flowers
Divinely sweet, the scent of frangipani and tiare (the Tahitian gardenia and national symbol of French Polynesia) embraces you the moment you disembark Papeete’s Faaa International airport.
Featuring prominently in the culture, it’s hard not to be enamored by the flowers of Tahiti. Wreaths and garlands (leis) flourish as symbols of greeting. Local tane (men) and vahine (women) slip flowers behind their ears to indicate their availability (or not) for love. Join in the fun with your own garland or head wreath.
3. Dazzle your taste buds with juice tasting
The South Pacific’s equivalent of wine tasting is juice tasting. Offered at Moorea’s Juice Factory, the fruity rums and coconut and pineapple liquors add pizzazz to refreshing concoctions of pineapple, orange, passionfruit and banana juice. Served by energetic locals behind a casual bar, the juice is so fresh you can feel its blood pumping.
4. Stay overnight on a motu (coral islet)
Gain a deeper sense of Tahiti’s geographical isolation by staying overnight on a motu. At Villa Corallina on Motu Fareone (off the coast of Moorea), wake to the slow beat of island time, the boom of waves bashing the reef and vast tracts of the Pacific Ocean beneath an endless sky.
5. Explore the startling hinterland
Less known and explored than the lagoons, the hinterland of Tahiti and her isles surprises with secluded inland lakes, waterfalls, forested grottos, water lily gardens, ancient stone marae (communal sacred sites), vanilla and pineapple plantations, dairy farms and wild orange orchards. Horse-ride, quad bike, 4WD or stroll amongst Tahiti’s most uninhabited realms.
Forged from underwater volcanoes and largely inaccessible, Tahiti’s secret interior soars to 2,242 metres while the almost perpendicular emerald peaks of Moorea are amongst the most sheer and rugged in the world.
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6. Swim with reef sharks and stingrays
Protected from the ocean by reef, the lagoons of Tahiti are among the most serene, safe and captivating waters of the world. After a brief powerboat ride into the lagoon, swim or float alongside placid reef sharks and tame stingrays on a Shark and Ray Feeding Tour.
7. Discover the lagoonarium
Unique to the South Pacific, huge natural aquariums (in Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea) allow visitors to swim alongside the gentle creatures of the lagoon. Lagoonariums recreate the underwater world or cordon off a part of the lagoon.
8. Explore unique food experiences
Fresh and bountiful, Tahitian fish dishes - including mahi-mahi, tuna, groper and bonito - come with sublime coconut and vanilla sauces, such as the local specialty “poisson cru,” raw tuna marinated in lime and coconut juice. Reflecting the cultural composition of Tahiti, food here is a chilled fusion of French-Tahitian and Asian influences.
For a unique dining experience, take in the sunset over the lagoon at Le Lotus, Intercontinental Tahiti’s gourmet overwater bungalow restaurant.
At Le Marché (the municipal market of Papeete) the fruit – from the sunset coloured bananas to the oversized passionfruit - is bursting with colour and flavour. Those who like to try before they buy will enjoy jam tasting at Moorea Tropical Garden where jam flavours include pineapple, banana, vanilla and papaya.
9. Be massaged in the scents of Tahiti
Grown and manufactured on the islands, vanilla, coconut, frangipani and tiare perfume the locally produced body oils. Swathed in the scents of the islands, succumb to the slow spell of a masseuse’s hands. In Bora Bora your spa treatment room might look out on lily-ponds, mountains, lush tropical valleys or shining lagoon. Nirvana indeed.
10. Island hop the less known islands of Tahiti
Once you’ve explored Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, cruise or fly to Tahiti’s less known but equally spellbinding sister islands: from Huahine the garden island to Taha’a the vanilla island.
In Tahiti the next tempting adventure is only an island away.