A Ticket to Paradise: French Polynesia

Country Guides — By on September 26, 2011 at 11:30 pm

By Katy Logan
Special to the Lost Girls

French Polynesia: a paradise for lovers, and surfer dudes and dudettes alike.  This mysterious destination that inspired the canvases of Paul Gauguin lies amongst the infamous islands of the South Pacific and stretches a grand distance about the size of continental Europe. The ideal spot to be in love, fall in love, or simply find some solo serenity away from it all, Polynesia will awe you with its beauty and island culture.  Embrace the Aita pea pea as they say—no worries—and escape to this beloved getaway.

Best of Islands

Bora Bora is sort of the Paris of French Polynesia. Known as the island of the rich and famous and igniting visions of blue lagoons and over-water bungalows, it persists as a dream destination for honeymooners around the world. The thousands of shades of blue that paint the picture perfect lagoons of Bora Bora make a stop on this island worth a visit alone. Prices are far from cheap, and you’ll not find yourself venturing far from the resort often, but if you have the funds and you’re in love, let Bora be your romantic mecca.

Moorea is the closest island in vicinity to the island of Tahiti—which serves as the final destination for international airline carriers. While Tahiti is a beautiful island in its own right, many tourists find it difficult to maneuver and tend to venture to the more notorious outer islands of French Polynesia (which I would suggest). Moorea, a larger island, with one road encircling the volcanic center (you can throw out the GPS), offers beaches and views that surely challenge those of Bora Bora in beauty, and a bit more of a chance to walk into town for a bite to eat or shopping. Diehard hikers will love to explore the island’s jungle-like interior in between beach sessions, and find that Moorea is really the people’s island with a little bit for everyone—the bonus is that it’s a short, cheap ferry ride from Tahiti.

I went to Huahine in search of its underlying femininity responsible for its namesake. In Tahitian, the language native to the Society Islands of French Polynesia, the word “huahine” refers to the intimate femininity of the woman. The mountainous landscape outlines the curvy outline of a female body that’s sexiness can be easily peered from the white sand beaches that stretch alongside the blue lagoon.  Huahine falls short of a luxury brand name like Bora Bora and houses no big name international resorts like its neighbors, but if this is a draw rather than a turnoff, Huahine might just be the island for you. As with all the islands of French Polynesia, the beaches do not fall short of majestic with sand like flour and a palate of blue that hypnotizes. However, it is the culture that remains nearly untouched on the island of Huahine that makes it unique. If you’re going to cry about a mosquito bite or whine about limited hot water, then the inhabitants won’t want you there anyway—the people of Huahine believe in the preservation of their culture, the environment, and the innate spirit of the island, and will welcome visitors like family if you are willing to comply.

Best of Activities

The motu picnic is a fantastic way to stray from the resort on most islands and enjoy a variety of island activities from water sports, to traditional food, to gorgeous scenery. Our fantastic guide Patrick picked us up by boat and whisked us away to our first stop, the middle of the ocean. Here we dangled on the outriggers with our snorkels and fins as we apprehensively watched the sharks swarm around a food offering Patrick tossed out in front of us.  Rest assured these sharks are not interested in humans! Stop numbers two and three offered sting ray feeding and snorkeling, the former surprisingly less frightening after my rendezvous with the sharks.  The grand finale included sipping champagne on a private motu with the smell of a traditional Tahitian feast being prepared all around me. Don’t be a fool, tell your new friends at the hotel that you would like to go on a motu picnic!

About those ATVs… Driving an ATV up a steep, windy road on Moorea—let me tell you, you have to put some oomph into steering these bad boys! Rent one or better yet, get a guide to drive you through the agricultural school fields who can point out interesting facts about the tropical fruits and vegetables being grown. Taste a star fruit, see some great views, and explore the jungle like interior terrain of Moorea that makes it unique some from other beach destinations.

Way before the LA food truck revolution, Polynesians practiced ritual food truck dinners or les roulottes (rooo-lot). Although some of the outer islands have various Roulottes of their own, the biggest display is in Place Vaiete close to the ferry docks in Papeete. With around 10 trucks serving a range of foods from Italian to crepes to steak frites to traditional Tahitian Poisson Cru a Lait Coco (raw ahi with coconut milk and lime), the food is local and delish—and the prices are some of the most affordable you’ll find. Eating out on the big square with the warm air and beautiful port in front of you, a night at the Roulotte is worth it for the experience alone.