|The Lesser Known Islands of Tahiti|
As far as tropical islands go, nearly everyone has heard of Tahiti. With its idyllic beaches, welcoming locals and astounding views, Tahiti is at the top of many vacation wish lists. Spread over 1.5 million square miles, the islands of Tahiti offer 118 separate islands and atolls. From the well-known islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora to the lesser known Manihi and Fakarava, what makes Tahiti so perfect and unique is its variety.
Tahiti extends over such a large area that it took explorers many years to discover and chart all 118 islands and atolls. But today, visiting several islands on one vacation is easy and convenient. Many start their vacation on Tahiti, Bora Bora or Moorea. It is these islands that afford visitors quintessential tropical paradise and their stylish resorts offer the famous overwater bungalows. Onshore, visitors find a colorful array of diversions: surfing, boating and other water sports; shopping at open-air markets and boutiques; fine dining, spas and nightlife. But once you venture off of these three mainstays, Tahiti becomes even more special.
Huahine, nicknamed the “Garden of Eden,” is the perfect place to experience Tahiti’s ancient culture, with artfully restored Marae (temples) and the world’s largest outrigger race, October’s Hawaiki Nui Va’a. As an agricultural island, Huahine is sparsely populated. Vanilla, coffee and taro plantations are plentiful and visitors will fall in love with the remote, unspoiled scenery and the relaxed pace of this island.
A short plane ride from Tahiti, the pair of islands Raiatea and Taha’a, encircled by a colorful barrier reef, is where ancient kings gathered for their most important ceremonies, which today are re-enacted for visitors. Raiatea is also home to the rare tropical flower Tiare Apetahi, which, despite the efforts of botanists the world over, only grows on the slopes of Mt. Temehani on Raiatea.
The Tuamotu Atolls, made up of 76 islands and atolls, include Rangiroa, a ring-shaped coral island whose perfect conditions make it one of the world’s greatest shark and dolphin dives. Nearby Tikehau’s pink-sand beaches are also known for great dives, showcasing everything from barracuda to sea turtles. And Fakarava’s natural beauty is so rare and diverse that it will soon become a protected nature reserve. It is also home to one of Tahiti’s first Catholic churches, constructed of an unlikely building material: coral.
Perhaps the most remote of Tahiti’s islands are the Marquesas, where some of the country’s most dramatic scenery is found. There are no lagoons here. Rather, these 12 islands are home to dense jungles teeming with wildlife and dotted with immense waterfalls—some as tall as 1,100 feet—that tumble over gorgeous sheer rock cliffs. The Marquesas’ incomparable beauty has been well-known for over 150 years: Herman Melville ended the cruise that inspired Moby Dick here; and Paul Gauguin, after drawing inspiration for his greatest masterpieces from other Tahitian islands, retired to the Marquesas in the late 1890s.
In the Islands of Tahiti, there is truly something for everyone, and in a place that gets fewer visitors in a year than Hawaii does in a week, you are guaranteed a relaxed atmosphere and a pace that allows you to do whatever you like whenever you like.