ABOUT TAHITI & HER ISLANDS
Tahiti. The word evokes visions of an island paradise. With 118 islands boasting high, rugged mountain peaks, coral reefs, turquoise-blue lagoons, white sand, palm-fringed beaches, and luxuriously intimate resorts, each island paradise has something for everyone. Bora Bora, Moorea, Huahine, Taha'a, Raiatea, Manihi, Tikehau, Rangiroa, Fakarava, The Marquesas, and the other exquisite Islands of Tahiti cover more than two million square miles of the South Pacific Ocean and is comprised of 118 islands and atolls spread over five great archipelagos.
Many islands are crowned with jagged peaks while others appear to barely float above the breaking waves. Spanning an area in the South Pacific as large as Western Europe, the total land mass of all the islands adds up to an area only slightly larger than the tiny state of Rhode Island.
Easier to travel to than you might imagine, Tahiti's Faa'a International Airport is under 8 hours by air from Los Angeles (LAX) airport, with daily nonstop flights. As far south of the equator as Hawaii is north, Tahiti is halfway between California and Australia, on the same side of the International Date Line as North America, and in the same time zone as Hawaii (only three hours behind California from March to October and two hours behind California from November to March).
Tahiti is the largest island in the Windward group of French Polynesia (an overseas country of the French Republic), located in the archipelago of the Society Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean It is the economic, cultural and political center of French Polynesia. The island was formed from volcanic activity and is high and mountainous with surrounding coral reefs The population is 183,645 inhabitants (2012 census), making it the most populous island of French Polynesia and accounting for 68.5% of its total population. Tahiti was formerly known as Otaheite.
The capital, Papeete, is located on the northwest coast with the only international airport in the region, Faa'a International Airport, situated 5 km (3.1 mi) from the town center. Tahiti was originally settled by Polynesians between 300 and 800 CE. They comprise about 70% of the island's population with the rest made up of Europeans, Chinese, and those of mixed heritage. The island was proclaimed a colony of France in 1880 although it was not until 1946 that the indigenous Tahitians were legally authorized to be French citizens. French is the only official language although the Tahitian language (Reo Maohi) is widely spoken. It was part of the Kingdom of Tahiti until its annexation by France in 1880. English is also widely spoken in the touristic areas, and at all hotels and most restaurants and boutiques.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What Is Tahiti?
Tahiti is the largest of the 118 islands and atolls that constitute what is officially known as French Polynesia. The island of Tahiti and the capital city of Papeete are located in the Society Islands, an archipelago that includes the high-rising islands of Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Taha'a, and Bora Bora. Other dramatic island groups are the Tuamotu Atolls with the slender coral wreaths of Rangiroa, Manihi, Tikehau, and Fakarava and the Marquesas - with the massive mountains on the islands of Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa.
Where Is Tahiti and How Long Does It Take to Get There?
The islands are located south of the equator, in the same time zone as Hawaii, and halfway between California and Australia. Papeete's Faa'a Airport (PPT) is under 8 hours by air from Los Angeles (LAX). From North America, nonstop flights depart LAX nearly every day on Air Tahiti Nui and Air France. Nonstop flights from Honolulu (HNL) to Papeete (PPT) are also available weekly on Hawaiian Airlines.
What Is the Time Difference?
The islands are just two hours behind Pacific Standard Time. During Daylight-Saving Time (March to late October) they are three hours behind. Time in the Marquesas is half an hour ahead of the rest of the islands.
Will I Need to Exchange Money?
Upon arrival most visitors exchange some money at the airport or at their hotels. Since most credit cards are readily accepted in all tourist areas, it is not necessary to exchange large amounts. The currency is the French Pacific Franc (XPF).
Will I Need a Passport/Visa?
For stays of up to 90 days, there are no visa requirements for citizens of the U.S. or Canada carrying a US or Canadian Passport. A foreigner with a residence card for the U.S. is not exempt from the above requirements and should consult the French Consulate based in the U.S. for information.
Is English Spoken?
French and Tahitian are the official languages, but English is spoken and understood in tourist areas. Brushing up on a few basic French phrases and learning Tahitian greetings are appreciated.
What About Tipping?
Tipping is not customary in Polynesian culture and is not expected. However, tipping is welcomed for exemplary service.
What Are the Seasons and Climate?
Cooled by gentle ocean breezes, the climate is ideal. Being tropical but moderate, the climate features sunny, pleasant days and an average yearly air and water temperature of 80∞F. Summer is from November through April, when the climate is slightly warmer and more humid. Winter is from May through October, when the the climate is slightly cooler and dryer.
What Should I Wear?
The climate and lifestyle on the islands call for casual and comfortable clothing. Pack loose-fitting, natural fabrics and plenty of shorts. Pareos and swimsuits can be worn during the daytime at the resorts, while casual shirts and walking shorts provide the most comfort during island explorations. For dinner, casual slacks and sport shirts are the best choice for men while cool sundresses are most appropriate for women.
What Are the Essentials to Bring?
Sunscreen, brimmed hats, sunglasses, swimsuits, reef-walking shoes, bug repellent, prescription medicine, and a camera with plenty of film.
Is the Water Safe to Drink?
Tap water is good in most hotels and restaurants. Bottled water is also available everywhere in stores, markets, and hotels
Do I Need Health Certifications?
No shots or certifications are required from North America. Regardless of the traveler's nationality, entry from an infected area of the world as defined by the World Health Organization requires certifications.
What Is the Voltage?
Hotels use either 110 or 220 volts, depending on the location. A converter/adapter is often required for appliances you bring, including computers.
How Do I Use the Telephone in Tahiti?
Direct dialing international calls is available in most hotels and phone booths. Phone cards are easily purchased in Tahiti. When calling from the U.S. to Tahiti, dial 011 and then the country code of 689 along with the local number. Your cell phone with U.S. service may not work in Tahiti depending on the type of phone you have and your service provider.
There are also rental options.
Do Rooms Have Air Conditioners?
Many do, particularly on the islands of Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora. Most bungalows are cooled by ceiling fans that draw in the fresh trade winds.
Do I Bargain When Shopping?
Bargaining and haggling over prices in markets and stores is not customary.
What Kind of Shopping Is There? What Souvenirs Should I Buy?
Among Tahiti's most popular products are black pearls, tiare and coconut soaps, monoi oil, vanilla beans, shell leis, wood carvings, woven hats and baskets, and the colorful hand dyed pareu fabric worn by the island natives. The Papeete public market is a favorite with visitors. Shops usually open about 7:30am and close at 5:30pm (Noon on Saturdays) but there is always a long lunch hour. Except in hotels, all shops are usually closed on Sundays.
How Do I Get Around?
The most inexpensive and common form of transportation is the public bus system. On Tahiti there are now two types of buses: the open-air trucks called Le Truck and the RTC large white coaches. Both operating frequently in Papeete and around the island. Le Truck also operates on most other islands. Taxis can be hired at most hotels, airports, and ferry terminals. For scenic tours around the islands, try escorted excursions by boat, 4x4 safari, bus, or helicopter.
What Activities Are There to Do?
Tahiti is the perfect place to do everything or nothing at all. Popular activities include 4x4 safaris, nature hikes, scuba diving, snorkeling, canoeing, sailing, jet skiing, wind-surfing, surfing, bike riding, tennis, golf on the island of Tahiti, horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, shopping, circle-island tours, helicopter tours, museums stops and archaeological tours.
Can I Rent a Car?
Rental cars are available at most airports for drivers over 21 years of age with a valid driver's license. Major credit cards are usually required for drivers under 25. Because of the small size of many islands, and the uniqueness of many circle island tours, you may find renting a car unnecessary.
Can I Charter a Boat?
If you are an experienced sailor, yacht and sailboat charters are available on most of the major islands for short- or long-term voyages. Some can come complete with a captain and crew. Fishing boats can also be chartered for deep-sea fishing for big species.
What Kind of Diving Can I Expect?
The islands of Tahiti offer world-class diving and are famous among divers for the large marine life, drift dives, warm and pristine waters, and uncrowded dive sites. The clear lagoons, coral gardens, underwater passes, and oceanic drop-offs all create an abundant aqua-culture with infinite sea life.
Can I Learn to Dive in Tahiti?
If you have at least one week, you can enroll in a complete certification course or take a shorter resort course at many of the resorts and from the cruise ships. If you are already a PADI, NAUI, or SSI member, your certification is recognized.
Tahiti Overwater Bungalows:
What is an Overwater Bungalow?
Overwater bungalows are, as the name implies, stand alone bungalows positioned over the water. Usually, over-water bungalows are located close to shore, allowing for easy access to the main resort building, its beaches and amenities. The bungalows are linked to the mainland via long plank walkways. The bungalows themselves are hoisted above the water on sturdy pillars and sit on large platforms.
Often times, they contain a glass coffee table or floor so you can look at the water and its sea life below. Bora Bora Le Meridien has the largest glass viewing panels on their bungalow floors.
In many resorts, the overwater bungalows are clustered closely together, largely because if they separate the bungalows by too much, the walk back to shore from the outer bungalows becomes far . The restaurants, spa, pool, etc. will generally be on shore, and also for most excursions you'll be picked up at a common, central dock--not at your particular bungalow. Some of the new larger resorts in Bora Bora such as Four Seasons, Intercontinental Thalasso and St. Regis provide golf carts for their guests to be picked up on demand for the longer walks to the outer pontoon bungalows. These bungalows are sought after for their privacy and stunning unobstructed views.
History of Overwater Bungalows
Over water bungalows first appeared in French Polynesia, on the island of Moorea, during the 1960s.
Three Californian men known as the Bali Hai Boys extended their resort, Club Bali Hai Moorea, into the reef-protected lagoon and created the first over water bungalows, called Bali Hai. The idea soon spread to elsewhere in Tahiti and the South Pacific, eventually expanding to Maldives and later, the Caribbean, during the 1980s.
Although the overwater bungalows may look rustic from the outside, their comforts are anything but! Luxury offerings in over water bungalows can include satellite and plasma screen TV, a CD/DVD player, air-conditioning, security safe, private balcony, minibar, and, of course, the million-dollar view!
In French Polynesia (the proper name for Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, etc.), many resorts invite their overwater bungalow guests to experience canoe breakfasts - a full selection of morning delights delivered via canoe by native Polynesians in traditional dress.
Some resorts have mostly just white sand under the bungalows, which means about all you'll find are sting rays and perhaps spotted eagle rays. Looks beautiful from the photos, but if you have visions of snorkeling with the fish right from your bungalow, look for resorts like the Hilton Moorea or Hilton Boa Bora which have many coral heads right there to attract the fish.
How safe are Overwater Bungalows?
Over water bungalows are very safe. Because they are anchored deep into the sand by sturdy pillars, they cannot float away.
As with any water sport, snorkeling from your bungalow is not without its risks. However, overwater bungalows are typically located in shallow lagoons. Of course parents with very young children should use caution.
Shark spottings are common in Tahiti and her islands, however, they are usually found in deeper water. Around over water bungalows, you are much more likely to see small, colorful reef fish. Small sting rays and spotted eagle rays (2 to 3 feet across) are also common in the flat sandy shallow areas. Black tip reef sharks are commonly seen and do not pose a threat to swimmers and snorkelers.
The InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana and the Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island resorts are both very near an amazing coral garden, which you can swim to pretty easily from your bungalows.
Tahiti Overwater Bungalows by Location:
French Polynesia - Bora Bora
Under a one hour flight from the island of Tahiti or Moorea, the island of Bora Bora, with a lagoon resembling an artist's palette of blues and greens, is love at first sight. Romantics from around the world have laid claim to this island where the castle-like Mount Otemanu pierces the sky. Lush tropical slopes and valleys blossom with hibiscus, while palm-covered motu circle the illuminated lagoon like a delicate necklace. Perfect white-sand beaches give way to emerald waters where colored fish animate the coral gardens as they greet the giant manta rays. This could be easily be described as the center of the romantic universe, where luxury resorts and spas dot the island with overwater bungalows, thatched roof villas, and fabled ambience.
Simply said, Bora Bora is the most beautiful island in the world.
Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa
InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa
Le Maitai Polynesia
Le Meridien Bora Bora
Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach
Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island
St. Regis Bora Bora
French Polynesia - Moorea
A few minutes from the island of Tahiti by plane, and only thirty minutes by high-speed catamaran, Moorea soars magically out of the ocean in an explosion of green velvet - what you would imagine a South Seas island to be.
A wide, shallow lagoon surrounds the island's vertical mountains where poetic threads of waterfalls tumble down fern-softened cliffs. Peaceful meadows flanked by pinnacles of green will fill your senses and renew your belief in the majesty of nature. Pastel-painted houses surrounded by gardens of hibiscus and birds of paradise, circle the island in a fantasy of happy, yet simple villages.
A favorite among repeat visitors who all agree: The beauty of Moorea is unforgettable...
Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa
InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa
Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa
Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort
Club Bali Hai Moorea
French Polynesia - Raiatea and Tahaa
Raiatea, meaning "faraway heaven" and "sky with soft light", was first named Havai'i after the homeland of the ancient Polynesians and is the most sacred island in the South Pacific.
This, the second largest Tahitian isle, was the center of religion and culture over 1000 years ago and still lends enchantment to ancient legends told to this day. The green-carpeted mountains include the celebrated Mt. Temehani, a sort of Polynesian Mt. Olympus.
Taha'a, with the rich aroma of vanilla lingering heavily in the air, offers a glimpse of the traditional, tranquil life of the Tahitians. The flower-shaped island's simple beauty is charmed by soft mountain shapes and surrounded by tiny motu with bright sand beaches. In the fertile valleys cutting within the island, local farmers grow watermelon, vanilla, and copra.
Hawaiki Nui Hotel
Le Taha'a Island Resort & Spa
French Polynesia - Tahiti
Tahiti, the largest island throughout the country, towering over the ocean like a proud and royal Queen is appropriately crowned by a circle of majestic peaks.
The mountainous interior is adorned with deep valleys, clear streams, and high waterfalls, all bathed in green iridescence of Mother Nature's light. The coastal lands, edged with a rugged coastline, are home to fields of tropical flowers and most of the island's population.
Papeete, meaning the " water basket, " was once a gathering place where Tahitians came to fill their calabashes with fresh waters. Now the invigorating capital city and gateway of the country, boasts world-class resorts, spas, fine dining and unique restaurants, nightclubs, vibrant markets, pearl shops, and boutiques.
Tahiti... Just the word...The world's definition of paradise.
InterContinental Tahiti Resort
Sofitel Tahiti Ia Ora Beach Resort
French Polynesia - Tuamotu Atolls
Rangiroa, a string of coral encircling a luminous turquoise and jade-green lagoon, is one of the world's greatest dive destinations.
From the air, the atoll - the second largest in the world - seems to be a giant pearl necklace laid upon the water. Here is a world where 240 tiny islets, or motu, each no more than three feet in elevation, lay upon the ocean for more than 110 miles completely encircling an infinitely deep lagoon.
Manihi, lost in the vastness of the South Pacific, conjures up castaway dreams of a tropical isle.
Far from the modern world, the crystal-clear lagoon was once filled with mother-of-pearl and is the site of Tahiti's first black pearl farm. Today, Manihi is still the leading supplier for the Tahitian cultured pearl industry.
Tikehau, a graceful oval crown of white and pink-sand beaches, can only be described as a picture postcard.
Considered to be one of the most beautiful atolls in Polynesia, the fragrance of the air is matched only by the abundance of life in the bright-blue water. The friendly people, their homes awash with gardens, invite you to share and explore their world beyond imagination.
Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa
Manihi Pearl Beach Resort
Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort