French Polynesia (aka Tahiti)
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Leans heavily to Centric-Authentics, Mid-Authentics and, surprisingly, Venturesome types that want to unwind
Did You Know…?
- French Polynesia has no poisonous snakes or insects.
- Tattoo is a Polynesian word.
- Fresh baguettes are delivered to French Polynesia twice daily.
- Vanilla, a major crop here, is the only edible fruit in the orchid family.
- Polynesian languages belong to the same family as the indigenous Hawaiian language.
The quintessential islands in the sun
Vacations are for relaxing and escaping life’s daily stresses. This fits nicely with the ambience of French Polynesia, with its sunny skies, warm weather, beautiful beaches and water sports.
The location, in the South Pacific, and the Polynesian culture make this destination unique among island paradises. One has only to look at Paul Gauguin’s lush, sensual pictures to feel the pull of these islands.
Scores of islands, including Moorea and Bora Bora, comprise French Polynesia, but Tahiti — located in a Polynesian subgroup called the Society Islands — is the largest and the best known. It is common to apply the name Tahiti to numerous area islands. The tourism bureau is called Tahiti Tourisme and promotions for the island group include the tag line, “The Islands of Tahiti.”
The Tahitian islands deliver great scenic beauty and a tranquil lifestyle overlaid with French sophistication. However, they are quite far from their tourism markets, and some prospective visitors are reluctant to make the long trip. (The islands are in the same time zone as Hawaii, but a lot farther south.) In addition, life for tourists and residents is expensive. However, a faraway location protects the islands from being overly commercialized and spoiled by too much traffic.
Those at the middle of the personality scale, but with an adventurous streak, and the most venturesome of travelers like the islands because they can unwind and recharge their psychic batteries. They also appreciate the wild beauty of these volcanic islands, the exotic culture and the activities available in and around the ocean. Active visitors can swim and snorkel, race canoes and play tennis, squash and golf. Tahitian waters, with high concentrations of dolphins, sharks, whales and countless other marine life, are a diver’s dream.
In addition, clubs and resorts invite locals to join their evening fun, providing a chance for tourists to interact with the Polynesians.
History buffs want to see the land where the Bounty’s mutineers were marooned for awhile, where Paul Gauguin painted and which helped populate Hawaii. Papeete (the only city in the islands) is not very pretty, but it’s lively and fun.
Things to do for Venturers
- Try your hand at outrigger canoeing. Come to Huahine island for the world’s largest outrigger canoe race, Hawaiki Nui Va’a, in October.
- Commission a top tattooist to create your personal design, then have the tattoo applied.
- Go scuba diving. You’ll swim astonishingly close to the large marine animals. Choice sites include steep oceanic drop-offs and access to sunken ships. The waters of Rangiroa and Fakarava islands are considered the best of all.
- Go to Huahine island for surfing, considered a top choice because of the massive waves at Avamoa Pass.
- Windsurfing in these islands is for experts only; too much coral in the shallow waters presents a problem for beginners.
- Learn to husk a coconut and prepare the Tahitian poisson cru, which is fish marinated in coconut milk and lime juice.
Things to do for Centrics
- Pack your paints and brushes. Do a Paul Gauguin — and see what you come home with.
- Renew your marriage vows in these romantic islands. You can arrange a marriage ceremony here, too, but be aware, U.S. citizens cannot legally be married in French Polynesia.
- See the Marquesas and Tuamotu islands aboard the Aranui 3 freighter/passenger ship, a working cargo ship that provides a lifeline to the outside world for inhabitants of these islands. Passengers can explore each island on guided excursions visiting 17 ports on this 16-day voyage that begins in Papeete.
- Go sailing and deep-sea fishing at Raiatea and Taha’a, two of the Society Islands. Come to Taha’a in November for the Stone Fishing Tournament, referring to a fishing technique that involves beating the water with stones to frighten the fish onto the beach.
- Tour the distillery on Moorea and sample tropical fruit liqueurs.
- Horseback riding is a good way to see some of Tahiti (and other islands, too) or just to get a change from water sports.
Things to do for Authentics
- Stock up on monoi, a scented oil Polynesian women use to beautify their skin; it is made (with a secret recipe) from the oils of tree fruits and fragrances taken from the tiare flower.
- For a romantic getaway, stay in a thatched-roof bungalow on stilts over a lagoon, a place where breakfast is delivered to your room by outrigger canoe. Spend your beach time in secluded and private coves.
- Tour a vanilla plantation, then keep your nose peeled at mealtimes for the spice which locals use in just about anything.
- Visit a black pearl oyster farm on Manihi, Rangiroa or Taha’a island, then buy pearls to take home. The big market is Papeete’s Tahiti Pearl Market.
- Sign on for the Tahitian spa experience called taurumi, involving local oils and massage, all in an outdoor setting. The lotions are made on the spot just before treatments and contain flowers, local fruits, vanilla, mint and sandalwood.
- Enjoy a private or group picnic on one of the area’s motus (tiny islets in the lagoons). Your resort or cruise ship can arrange this. Your table could sit right in the warm, shallow waters near the beach.
For more information, consult Tahiti Tourisme at www.tahiti-tourisme.com and, to find a Certified Tahiti Specialist, use the Find a Tahiti Specialist feature on the home page.