Tahiti is to me a place so exotic that I never would have imagined I would step foot on the iconic black sand beaches. Made up of many islands, I soon discovered that the best way to experience Tahiti is to see and do as much as you can on your visit, as each island has its own unique offerings. To help you plan your own visit (which I highly recommend you do, this place is incredible), here’s a guide to the best islands to visit in Tahiti… you’re welcome!
First stop: Tahiti
International flights in to Tahiti arrive at Faa’a International Airport, a short drive from the main city of Papeete (pronounced: Papy – et – tay). As all of the flights land here first, I would suggest taking a short one or two night stopover to enjoy what the main island of Tahiti has to offer.
Arriving on a late flight from New Zealand, my first point of call was to check-in, sleep, and awake refreshed for a full day of adventuring by 4WD, way up in the mountains in search of waterfalls. I took this tour with Iaorana Tahiti Expeditions, which included local guides, a full day of sightseeing, lunch and discovering hidden waterfalls (something I would not have been able to do on my own!)
From Tahiti, the islands are plentiful and many travellers choose different combinations based on their personal interests, as I soon found that each island has its own attitude and way of life. My absolute favourite island of the trip was Moorea, just a 7 minute flight from Tahiti or a 30 minute ferry ride. While the ferry ride was much cheaper, you will need to factor in the price of a taxi to the terminal (thus I would recommend flying if you do not stay overnight in Tahiti; ferry if you do stay overnight in Tahiti, as you’ll need a taxi regardless of the transportation you choose).
This island is best for outdoor adventures, dramatic landscapes and authentic local culture (by which I mean there is much less build up/outside influence on this island). As soon as you approach Moorea by land or sea, you will immediately notice the shift in the way of life here. Unlike the accommodation areas of Tahiti, Moorea offers a much more laid back way of life… evident mostly in what you will soon come to learn as “island time”.
My favourite day in Moorea was filled with adventure – driving up in to the mountains and to pineapple farms on ATV’s (we call them four-wheelers in Australia). On this day we were meant to go horse-riding which would have also been really fun, but due to torrential rain we had limited options by way of activities. If you enjoy hikes I would strongly recommend spending at least a week here, as there is so much of this island to discover on foot – I definitely feel as if I only scratched the surface!
Many travellers coming to Tahiti only intend to visit Bora Bora, known for its’ overwater bungalows and luxury resorts. While Bora Bora is beautiful (crystal blue waters, incredible cuisine, loads of reefs to discover), it is still just one “side” to Tahiti. Whilst in Bora Bora we spent much of our time enjoying resort activities, however many of our options were significantly limited with torrential rains again during our entire stay (for which reason I would never suggest you visit in January!!!)
There are a number of luxury hotels in Bora Bora so you won’t struggle for choice. For a more local experience, we checked in to the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort, which offers a very Polynesian experience, although certain aspects were a real let down (the day time food was anything but local and cockroaches in the bungalows were a bit of a downer!) Alternative options are International brands such as the Four Seasons Bora Bora or St Regis Bora Bora… depending on your taste (and how badly you despise creepy crawlies!)
While there are still many more choices of islands to visit in French Polynesia (The Marquesas, Society Islands, Huahine to name a few), the last island I will mention in terms of top experiences is one that I myself missed out on, but having heard such great things from a group of friends who travelled there, I feel as if it cannot go without mention! This island is also packed with adventure like Moorea and is notoriously good for diving. Thus if you are someone who likes more of an active vacation, then this would be the perfect island to add to your trifecta (Moorea, Bora Bora, Rangiroa) of islands to visit away from the main island of Tahiti.
I flew to Tahiti with Air Tahiti Nui from Australia. While this did involve a transit in Auckland, it was a pretty seamless flight path and if you live in one of the major cities (unlike me from Tasmania!), then you will reach Tahiti within the same day you begin flying.
When to Go
As mentioned throughout this post, my visit to Tahiti was during rainy season in January. If you find yourself on a budget then you can certainly save some dollars by visiting at this time, however I would highly advise against it if you have sunshine and outdoor activities on your mind! While the whole trip was still amazing, continuous rain certainly put a dampener (pun intended) on the trip and reduced selection of activities. May-October is winter in Tahiti, meaning that with a tropical climate this is the best time to go!
Thanks to Tahiti Tourism for making my visit to Tahiti possible and so memorable!