Traveling to French Polynesia use to take months during the age of exploration and, now, just hours to fly to these islands of paradise. The western explorers sailed in their large sailing vessels while the Polynesians sailed with wooden canoes just following the stars in the sky. To put this in perspective, we complain about how long it takes to fly across the Pacific, just imaging paddling in a wooden canoe through this vast ocean without GPS or even a compass. They made Tahiti their home and eventually colonized Easter Island, the Hawaiian Islands and New Zealand. And, I’m personally grateful for their discoveries to such beautiful corners of the world.
Tahiti is the economic, cultural and political center of French Polynesia. It’s also the only island with an international airport. Most travelers are attracted by the over-the-water bungalows of Bora Bora or Moorea and if this is on your bucket list. Keep in mind most flights arrive late in the evening so at least a one night stay in Tahiti will be required before you catch the ferry to the other islands. Tahiti is paradise all in itself and I would suggest spending a few days here as well.
Visit Tahiti and you can’t help but feel the presence of “mana.” The life force and spirits that surrounds and connects all living things. Look beyond the incursion of the modern world and you’ll see a people who respect the flora and fauna of their environment. Thousands of years of dependence on the environment on this small island have left them respectful and eventually linked to the ecosystem.
The island is dotted with beautiful beaches along with the only black sand beaches in French Polynesia. If you decide to rent a car, drive to the east coast and you’ll see multiple black sand beaches along the highway. Pull over and sink your feet in the uniquely dark sand. Chances are, you’ll have the beach all to yourself since the east coast is less populated than the west.
Another spot not to miss along the eastern highway is the Vaimahutu Falls, just passed the Arahoho Blowhole. No hiking is necessary to get to the falls. It’s less than a five-minute walk from the parking lot. This beautiful waterfall will satisfy most waterfall chasers without having to endure the rough rode into the interior of Tahiti to see the multitude of waterfalls in the mountains.
Travelers can find accommodations in and around the city of Papeete, the only city in French Polynesia. All levels of accommodations are represented here but the over-the-water bungalows are limited in Tahiti. The InterContental Resort and Le Meridien Resort are the only hotels with such bungalows on Tahiti. The city of Papeete is not very large but traffic can be terrible here. The city wasn’t designed for automobiles and the growing population. So, the streets are narrow and not equipped for the growing number of vehicles.
The downtown area isn’t very large so walking the shopping district and the local market isn’t very hard. Although the official language of the archipelago is French, majority of the Tahitians do speak English so language isn’t a barrier.
Tahiti is definitely a destination in its own right before you transfer to Bora Bora and Moorea. The interior of the island will invoke your imagination and have you thinking you are in the Garden of Eden. And, the west coast is one virtually long lagoon that will reinforce Tahiti as a Paradise destination.