Tahiti is an island paradise. There are a total of 118 islands and atolls that comprise the South Pacific country. Here are some of the most popular islands for visitors.
Tahiti, known as “The Queen of the Pacific,” is the largest and most populated island, and is the starting point for all international travelers. International flights land at Faa’a Airport in the capital city of Papeete. Upon arrival, visitors receive a typical Tahitian display of hospitality – a friendly welcome with fragrant Tiare flowers and Tahitian music. Tahiti is a figure-eight shaped island divided into a larger part, known as Tahiti Nui (“Big Tahiti”) and a smaller peninsula called Tahiti Iti (‘Little Tahiti”). With lush green peaks reaching more than 7,300 feet, its scenery is dramatic. Cascading waterfalls and rippling pools in the jungle-like interior provide a striking contrast to the black- and white-sand beaches and turquoise lagoons of the island’s perimeter.
Moorea, “The Magical Island,” was the inspiration for James Michener’s mythical island of Bali Hai, and has been the locale for many motion pictures, including Mutiny on the Bounty and Love Affair. It is just 11 miles across the Sea of the Moon from Tahiti, but seems a world away. Moorea makes for a wonderful day trip for Tahiti visitors – it’s just a 30-minute catamaran ride from Tahiti to the dock in Moorea. Moorea has bountiful harvests of pineapples, which can be seen growing on its slopes. One popular activity is to tour a local distillery and sample exotic liqueurs from pineapple, mango, coconut, vanilla and other Tahitian staples.
Huahine, nicknamed the “Garden of Eden,” is located 110 miles northwest of Tahiti and is just a short plane ride away on Air Tahiti, Tahiti’s inter-island carrier. Actually consisting of two islands joined by a bridge, the magic of Huahine can be felt instantly upon arrival, and the proud locals do their best to make all visitors feel welcome. A 20-mile road winds through the island, passing through small villages and climbing high into the hills for spectacular views of the white-sand beaches and brilliant turquoise lagoons. Restored Tahitian marae (temples) and centuries-old stone fish traps reflect the island’s ancient culture and proud descendants who still reside in this magnificent paradise. Huahine is an agricultural island, rich with watermelons and cantaloupes. Vanilla, coffee and taro plantations are plentiful, as are groves of breadfruit, mango, banana, papaya and flowers. International surfing champions seek the world-class waves at Avamoa Pass, and the world’s largest outrigger canoe race, the Hawaiki Nui Va’a, begins here each October. Huahine is sparsely populated, and visitors will fall in love with the remote, unspoiled scenery and relaxed pace of this island.
Raiatea and Taha’a, about 120 miles northwest of Tahiti, are two islands that are encircled by the same barrier reef. Raiatea, called “The Sacred Island,” may be the most revered island in all the South Pacific. Historically, kings from the neighboring islands would gather at Marae Taputapuatea for important ceremonies and negotiations. Re-enactments of these ceremonies on the restored marae help visitors discover the Tahitian culture. On the slopes of Mt. Temehani, visitors can discover the Tiare Apetahi, a rare flower that is found only on this particular mountain in Raiatea. Botanists have unsuccessfully tried to grow it elsewhere. Taha’a, just two miles north of Raiatea, offers a glimpse of the traditional, tranquil life of Tahitians. Taha’a is called “The Vanilla Island” for its many plantations of this sought-after spice, which sweetens the island air with its rich aroma.
Bora Bora, “The Romantic Island,” is often called the most beautiful island in the world. This tiny island – just 18 miles in circumference – is encircled by a protective necklace of coral. Lush mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for the indescribable turquoise, lapis and aquamarine of the sheltered lagoon. It’s no surprise that most of the island’s activities center around the spectacular lagoon. The popular shark-feeding excursion puts visitors in the water and within safe view of reef sharks as they’re being fed by guides. Additionally, visitors can enjoy the Lagoonarium, a marine exhibit in the lagoon where the adventurous can swim with sting rays, huge sea turtles and reef sharks.
Rangiroa, a one-hour flight from Tahiti, is the world’s second largest atoll. From the air it appears as a large pearl necklace gently placed on the water. Known as “The Infinite Lagoon,” Rangiroa’s coral ring creates a seemingly endless display of deep turquoise and lapis blue. Because there’s no island runoff, the visibility in the lagoon is over 150 feet and the temperature a constant 80 degrees. The famous Tiputa Pass, which provides an opening to the ocean, is rich with sea life. It’s known as one of the world’s greatest shark dives, and those who “shoot the pass” find themselves in the deep blue with literally scores of gray, black-tip, white-tip, lemon and nurse sharks. Non-divers can try some world-class snorkeling and see schools of dolphins that gather in the pass.
Manihi is a small atoll with less than 1,000 residents. Called “The Pearl Island,” this atoll was the site of the first pearl farm that helped pave the way for pearl farming throughout the Tuamotu atolls. The black-lipped oysters, found only in Tahiti, are cultivated for their prized black pearls. Visitors can enjoy lagoon activities while exploring the many black pearl farms for which the island is known.
Fakarava, “The Dream Island,” is the second largest atoll in Tahiti after Rangiroa. The delicate ecosystem supports especially rare flora and fauna, including the hunting kingfisher, the Tuamotu palm, and sea life such as squills and sea cicadas.
The Marquesas Islands, known as “The Mysterious Islands” are located about 930 miles northeast of Tahiti. About a 3.5-hour flight from the capital city of Papeete, the 12 islands (six inhabited, six unpopulated) offer some of Tahiti’s most dramatic scenery and authentic experiences. These islands have no lagoons and feature dense jungles with 1,100-foot-high waterfalls and sheer cliffs.
source: Tahiti Tourisme North America
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