Tahiti: The Gathering Place
Tahiti is the largest and most populated island, and is the starting point for all international travelers. International flights land at Faaa Airport in the capital city of Papeete. Upon arrival, visitors receive a typical Tahitian display of hospitality - a memorable welcome with fragrant Tiare flowers and Tahitian music.
Tahiti is a figure-eight shaped island with a larger part, known as Tahiti Nui (which means big) and a smaller part called Tahiti Iti (little). With lush green peaks reaching more than 7,300 feet, its scenery is dramatic. Cascading waterfalls and rippling pools in the jungle-like interior provide a striking contrast to the black and white sand beaches and turquoise lagoons of the islands perimeter.
A circle island tour (about 70 miles) is a great way to get acquainted with the island, including highlights at the Tahiti and Her Islands Museum, the Paul Gauguin Art Museum and Botanical Gardens and the Marae Arahurahu (an ancient Tahitian outdoor temple). In the center of town, Le Marché, the municipal market, is not to be missed. The first floor of this indoor market has an abundant supply of tropical fruits and vegetables and fresh fish from the lagoon. The second floor is dedicated to Tahitian art and crafts, and boasts the largest selection of colorful pareus (sarongs) anywhere.
Moorea: The Magical Island
Moorea was the inspiration for James Micheners mythical island of Bali Hai, and the locale for many motion pictures, including Mutiny on the Bounty and Love Affair. It is just 11 miles across the Sea of the Moon from Tahiti, but a world away. To fully appreciate the drama of this heart shaped island, it is best viewed from atop Belvedere lookout, which affords breathtaking views of Mooreas twin bays, Cooks and Opunohu. For those limited on time, its easy to take a 25-minute catamaran ride from Tahiti for a day trip. For many visitors, a couple of days exploring Mooreas treasures and meeting some of its 8,000 residents pass too quickly.
Moorea has bountiful harvests of pineapples, which can be seen growing on its slopes. Its possible to tour a distillery and sample exotic liqueurs from pineapple, mango, coconut, vanilla and other Tahitian staples.
Huahine: The Garden of Eden
Huahine is located 110 miles northwest of Tahiti and is just a short plane ride away. It is actually two islands, joined by a narrow isthmus and encircled by a barrier reef. The magic of Huahine is felt instantly upon arrival, and the proud people of this island do their best to make all visitors feel welcome. (The main town is called Maeva - which means welcome in Tahitian!) A 20-mile road winds through the island, passing through small villages and climbing high into the hills to offer spectacular views of the white sand beaches and brilliant turquoise lagoons.
Restored Tahitian maraes (temples) and centuries-old stone fish traps tell the story of an ancient culture whose proud descendants still reside in this magnificent paradise. Huahine is an agricultural island, rich with watermelons and cantaloupes. Vanilla, coffee and taro plantations are plentiful, as are groves of breadfruit, mango, banana, papaya and flowers. International surfing champions seek the massive waves at Avamoa Pass, and the worlds largest outrigger canoe race, the Hawaiki Nui Vaa, begins here each October. Huahine is sparsely populated and visitors will fall in love with the remote, unspoiled scenery and relaxed pace of this island.
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