Travels

Tahiti by Land and Water | Sample the delicious food and drinks of Tahiti

Enjoy Tahiti both ways with Windstar Cruises’ Dreams of Tahiti. The special package includes round-trip air to Papeete, Tahiti from Los Angeles and one-night pre-cruise and one-night post-cruise accommodations at the Intercontinental Tahiti Resort.

The cruise itself on the four-masted sail Wind Spirit holds only 148 guests and sails for seven days among the gorgeous Tahitian islands. The package is priced starting at $4,552 per guest based on double occupancy and includes meals and water sports as well.

Cruising Tahiti is breathtaking

When sighted for the first time from the deck of a cruise ship the raw beauty of Tahiti is breathtaking. No wonder artist Paul Gauguin and writer Robert Louis Stevenson were captivated, while James Michener found inspiration for the mythical island of Bali Hai in his Tales of the South Pacific.

The jagged hills, swaying palms, rampant Bougainvillea, waxy white jasmine and fragrant vanilla plants, all add to the French allure of these remote tropical islands.

Yet, my standout Tahitian memory centres on a glass-topped table in an over-the-water bungalow at a 5-star resort. I looked down through glass floor tiles to the sea where mesmerizing fish explored the colourful coral reefs. It was my David Attenborough moment and one I will always cherish.

Tahiti’s overwater bungalows

Over-the-water bungalows helped put Tahiti on the tourist map and Tahiti Tourism is now celebrating the 50th anniversary of the advent of this quirky accommodation on stilts over the islands’ blue lagoons.

Tahiti was the first destination in the world to take this accommodation into uncharted waters in 1967 when overwater bungalows were built off the islands of Raiatea and Moorea by the Bali Hai Boys – Americans Don “Muk” McCullum, Jay Carlisle and the late Hugh Kelley – who travelled there after being swept away by James Michener’s take on the South Pacific.

Fifty years on, around 900 overwater bungalows are spread across eight of Tahiti’s 118 islands. Some have palatial suites, private terraces and pools, hammocks and those in-room glass floors – fondly called “Tahiti TV”.

Hotel Bora Bora, the first hotel on that island – it reopens as an Aman Resort in coming years – added its overwater suites in 1970. Now 11 Bora Bora resorts from the St Regis to the Four Seasons and the Sofitel offer this luxe accommodation, which has made the island a romantic playground for honeymooners and celebrities.

Surrounded by such luxury, many travellers opt to go no further than their resort for a tantalizing taste of Tahiti.

The Tahitian Experience

Nonetheless, the islands have much more to offer from a rich Polynesian culture to some of the world’s finest snorkel and dive sites amid coral gardens alive with marine life. Cruising is an increasingly popular way to explore the islands, with the cruise ship Paul Gauguin (pgcruises.com) and the cargo/passenger vessel Aranui (aranui.com) offering year-round itineraries to the Society Islands, Tuamotus, and the Marquesas archipelago.

Windstar Cruises (windstarcruises.com), Oceania Cruises (oceaniacruises.com), Silversea (silversea.com), Regent Seven Seas (rssc.com), Princess Cruises, (princess.com) and Royal Caribbean (royalcaribbean.com) also offer itineraries that take in some of these islands. A longer voyage is a repositioning cruise, when a ship heads from a summer in Alaska to a summer in Australasia, with the Hawaiian islands usually included in the itinerary. Bora Bora’s blue lagoon, Papeete’s picturesque harbour, the black pearls on Huahine, the tropical wine on Rangiroa and traditional Polynesian tattoo techniques are also very much part of the Tahitian experience.

What are active things to do in Bora Bora?

Although Bora Bora is defined by its gorgeous lagoon, it’s also home to several mountains that provide a stunning green backdrop to your beach vacation. You can take half a day or a full day to explore the interior of Bora Bora with Goway. On the 4WD and Snorkelling Combo tour, you start your day off with a 4WD drive around the island. You visit the village of Vaitape, stop off at lookouts with beautiful views of the lagoon, and even see the old American military bunkers left over from World War II. In the afternoon, you head on a snorkelling journey through the famous lagoon.

A half-day variation of this tour is the Jet Ski and ATV Combo trip. It starts with a Jet Ski ride across the lagoon. You then board your very own ATV. After growing accustomed with driving, you’ll drive up Povai Hill to explore the military bunkers and reach the summit, where you’ll enjoy incredible views over the island. It’s then back down the hill and up another mountain to reach a lookout with views of Mt. Otemanu and Povai Hill.

What are the best things to do in Moorea, Tahiti?

Head on an island safari

Moorea, the sister island to Tahiti, is among the most lush and beautiful in French Polynesia. The Aito Four Wheel Drive Safari tour is a great way to explore the inland. This half-day tour takes you through the volcanic centre of the island. Visit vanilla, pineapple, and banana plantations at the Lycee Agricole (agricultural school), stop at Belvedere Lookout for views over Cook Bay, and end at the Magic Mountain.

Join a Polynesian feast

Nothing compares with the hospitality of the Polynesians. With the Tiki Village Show and Dinner, you head to the Tiki Village, which recreates a traditional Polynesian village near the lagoon of Haapiti, complete with thatched roof huts and fire pits and ovens. You’ll see demonstrations of mat weaving and tiki carving before enjoying a feast of Polynesian dishes like roast pig and breadfruit cooked in a traditional ground oven. The evening ends with a show of music, storytelling, and, most excitingly, fire dancing.