With four million square kilometres of exotic scenery, a rich culture and legendary hospitality, all preserved for your discovery … the islands of Tahiti are calling.
Officially known as French Polynesia, The Islands of Tahiti actually refers to many islands - 118 in total, spanning five archipelagos in the South Pacific Ocean: the Society Islands, the Tuamotu Islands, the Gambier Islands, the Marquesas Islands, and the Austral Islands.
Irrespective of which islands you choose to discover - from the most remote (Gambier Islands) to the more buzzing (Tahiti Island itself, the location of the international airport and capital of Pape'ete), you'll be enchanted by their pristine beauty, unique underwater worlds, and enchanting accommodation offerings. These range from international luxury resorts and charming bungalows - overwater as well as on the beach, to quaint pensions and lodges.
Whatever your style of travel, Tahiti is the eye-wateringly picturesque setting for adventures galore: whether you while away the hours in the crystal-clear water, explore on foot, simply laze poolside on one of Tahiti's black-sand beaches, formed from volcanic rock erosion, or visually drink in the classic white sand beaches. Expect countless 'is this for real?' moments - being spellbound as you soak in the beauty of your surroundings.
Rich natural landscape -© Myles McGuinness LR
Beauty in isolation in French Polynesia
Tahiti's biggest strength arguably lies in its isolation. Those in search of somewhere to slow down, embrace serenity and experience untamed nature mean its beautifully preserved surroundings draw 89,000 visitors annually. With so much on offer, it's wise to earmark enough time to enjoy a Tahitian adventure.
Inclusive and sustainable in French Polynesia
Renowned for their biodiversity, abundant marine life, and unspoiled waterways, the Islands of Tahiti are the ideal place to get back to nature while holidaying.
Appreciating that their country's natural gifts needed conserving, in 2002 Polynesians made their territory - 4 million km? - the world's largest marine sanctuary. As well as a natural showcase and popular tourist drawcard, the sanctuary helps protect vulnerable marine creatures such as whales, turtles, rays and various species of shark.
The time-honoured ancestral practice of placing temporary bans on harvesting or fishing selected marine or land species for their preservation and renewal is still practised today in the islands of Rapa and Maiao, and in the Teahupo'o district in Tahiti. In addition, French Polynesian President Édouard Fritch has committed to restrict fishing to traditional methods around 118 islands in à 500,000 sq km area by the end 2022.
An abundance of beauty in the reef -© Grégory Lecoeur LR
Further driving marine conservation, in 2030, another 500,000 sq km marine area in the southeast of Tahiti will be established. The Rahui Nui reserve, home to 21 species of sharks, 176 corals and 1,024 species of fish, will involve locals protecting the waterways, and special mooring areas to limit human impacts.
Acknowledging the importance of its stewardship, Tahiti wants to generate 75% of its electricity from renewables by 2030 and halve its emissions. Such efforts are exemplified in the new international cruise terminal in Pape'ete - scheduled for completion in March 2023, which will feature natural ventilation, rainwater harvesting and green terraces. The French Polynesian government has opted to attract only small or medium cruise ships.
Rich world underwater - © Grégory Lecoeur LR
Arriving in Tahiti, it's highly likely you'll receive a welcome pack with eco-friendly products (reusable drinking bottles, cloth bags, eco-friendly sunscreen). You'll notice the absence of single use plastic bags (now banned) and the ease within which you can select activities that minimise environmental impact. Simply look for the Blue Flag label, an environmental and tourism certification given to beaches, marinas and sustainable boating operators that are making waves when it comes to positive environmental management. Matira beach in Bora Bora and Taina marina in Tahiti are among those with the label.
Tahiti's UNESCO Biosphere Reserve- an area which fosters ecologically sustainable activities and promotes conservation - is made up of seven stunning coral atolls including Fakarava, home to rare species of birds, plants and crustaceans; and by 2023 the Marquesas and Austral Islands will also be designated a Biosphere Reserve.
Lagoons, reefs and aquariums in French Polynesia
Experience the exquisite natural beauty of tropical lagoons with their coral reefs and associated ecosystems. Explore the world of fish, whales, turtles, caves and sea vegetation. The UNESCO World Heritage listed reefs are considered be some of the most magnificent in the world with their array of colours, patterns and forms. To see and understand some of this magnificent marine life, The Aquarium des Lagons is an essential visit for all ages. You can even take a virtual visit from home via their website.
Tahiti Canoe Breakfast (photo- David Kirkland)
Alive, vibrant culture in French Polynesia
Getting your cultural fix is easy in Tahiti. Anchored in Polynesian daily life, the rich and thriving heritage features traditional singing and dancing, tattooing and basket weaving. Why not go along to the annual month-long festival, Heiva I Tahiti (hei meaning to assemble' and va meaning 'community places") in July, where you can dance to a bass drum beat, catch stone lifting and javelin throwing competitions, and watch canoe races. Later in the year, the largest canoe race in the region kicks off - the world-famous Hawaiki Nui Va'a, a 129 km course over three days. In October, the race departs Huahine Bay in the Leeward Islands, running towards Raiatea, Taha'a, and Bora Bora.
TAHITI waterfalls -© Grégoire Le Bacon LR
Things to do in Tahiti and its islands
Whether you're a landlubber or a water lover, there is a plethora of cultural and sporting activities to experience that are inclusive and sustainable.
View sea creatures from the comfort of a glass-bottom boat while many diving centres make exploring the exceptional marine environment easy. Aquaphiles are also set for seriously good snorkelling, jetskiing, sailing, swimming and whale watching. Perhaps surfing the iconic Teahupo'o wave (an Olympic destination in 2024) is on the wish list?
A biodiversity hotspot - © Grégoire Le Bacon LR
On land, be sure to visit Tahiti's first ecomuseum, Te Fare Natura. Voyager palm and seashell-shaped, its bio-inspired architecture is as fascinating as what's inside. Outdoors, hike the peaks of ancient mountains and trails abound (Ma'raa Caves, Lava Tube Loop, for example) as well as stunning waterfall walks - such as Faarumai which showcases three beautiful cascades.
For those with an appetite for culinary adventures, get set to be served up local favourites, and discover street food and markets, courtesy of Tahiti Food Tours. On the walking tour, try seasonal fruits, casse-croûte, fish dishes, pai, mape, and other delicious snacks from Tahitian, Chinese, and French cultures.
For a completely different perspective, view Tahiti's islands by plane, from a paraglider or head out in a hot air balloon (look up CocoBulle).
Stay a while in Tahiti and its islands
Guesthouses, overwater bungalows, cruises, or holiday rentals? Take your pick. Sustainability credentials? Look for accommodation with the 'Green Key' eco-label (Clef Verte). Pension de la Plage, Bora Bora Holiday's Lodge and NIU Shack have secured the label.
To sample how divine overwater bungalow life can be, look up The Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora and Conrad Bora Bora Nui. Going five-star? Your options include Intercontinental Tahiti Resort & Spa and Le Bora Bora by Pearl Resorts.
Slightly larger families or groups of friends will be well catered for by Tahiti Homes with their holiday homes. Contemplating a cruise? Look up the Aranui, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Windstar Cruise and numerous others.
So however you wish to spend your leisure time in The Islands of Tahiti - taking a private island tour, going four wheel driving, snorkelling a lagoon, swimming with whales, hiking to hidden waterfalls, or taking a sunset cruise perhaps - Tahiti promises something magical for everyone.
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