So we actually wrote this first section about Tahiti after the first few days in Polynesia. We’ve decided to put both of our two mini trips on the island together. We didn’t actually take too many photos the first few days, but our second visit makes up for it!
TAHITI TAKE ONE
First impression of Tahiti…….Where’s the sunshine!?
We arrived at night, in the rain and the heat hit us straight away! Humidity like Singapore – we already started sweating walking between the plane and the terminal! No bus, but that was expected, JM said we could hitch-hike to our guesthouse Marae Taata in Paea, on the west coast of Tahiti. Waterproofs on, we walked to the main road and tried to flag down a ride. 5 minutes later a lovely young couple picked us up and drove the 30 minutes to the bottom of the road where we were staying, 20 minutes further south than where they lived! The girl even rang the owner of the guesthouse who then met us at the bottom of the road with an umbrella and a car and drove us the whole 200m, just because it was raining and so we didn’t get wet. I like the Tahitians already!
Our guesthouse was perfect – run by Ari, and built with his own hands. The room was clean, tidy and the bed super comfortable. There was a hot shower and a spotless kitchen unlike in Rarotonga!! Mossie spray applied, we spent the rest of the evening chatting and started to put together a plan for the next 5 weeks.
On the morning of our first full day on the island we hitched a ride into Papeete with Ari because he was heading that way anyway. We investigated taking a boat to some of the surrounding islands instead of taking the expensive plane – no luck. Most boats were booked out for the rest of the year. We were told that unless you stand on the port side and plead with the captain the day you want to travel, there was no easy to take a boat other than the fast, daily boats across to Moorea. No problem, we just thought we’d try. We’ll take some flights instead. We visited Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia and Tahiti and found it to be a bustling, noisy, hot, cosmopolitan town, with a lot things going on. We organised ourselves and bought a sim-card, a tent, 2 x yoga mats (our accommodation for the rest of our in French Polynesia) and changed our remaining NZ$ into CFP. We visited the market and had a yummy lunch of lemon chicken, aubergine farcie and rice with a delicious local homemade citronnade (lemon water). We bought some fish and vegetables we hoped to eat daily in Tahiti, fresh swordfish, lemons, sweet potatoes, local coconut cream – Yum yum yum. When we bought the swordfish the fishmonger then gave us two enormous pieces of delicious tuna for free! I like the Tahitians even more!
Which island to visit first?
With heavy bags of incredible food, we decided to quickly attempted to book some flights to the outer-islands at the Air Tahiti offices in the centre of Papeete. The whole of French Polynesia is as big as Europe so a lot of islands to see and a lot of flights to take! There are 5/6 different flight passes incorporating the different groups of islands. We got the impression however, that the Air Tahiti woman didn’t really understand where we wanted to go and in what direction. We wanted to visit the Tuamotu Islands first (normally visited second) just because the weather was atrocious across the Society Islands (which you would normally visit first). She explained that we would needed to buy 2 passes in that case = expensive. A little apprehensive spending that much money, we decided to check the Air Tahiti office at the airport just to double check. If they were the same we’d just have to splash out more than expected.
We tried hitchhiking to the airport – easy. This time picked up by a lovely diving instructor who went out of his way to drop us off, so nice! At the Air Tahiti office we explained what we wanted; which islands, in which direction and in which order – no problem! We didn’t need two passes or spend as much as the first woman had quoted in town. In fact it came to 200 euros less!
All booked up – 9 islands and 10 flights in 5 weeks. Time for some adventures!
Our program in paradise = Tahiti, Tikehau, Fakarava, Rangiroa, Huahine, Raiatea, Bora Bora, Maupiti and Moorea
Hitchhiking with the friendliest people ever!
Exhausted from the humidity, running errands, and for me of course the first day in a while submerged in French, we slowly headed to the main road, in the rain, to try and get a ride home. 5 minutes later the girl who had changed our money at the bank picked us up. She lived 5 minutes from the airport and ended up driving us all the way to our guesthouse! Again because it was raining she didn’t want us to get wet. “Ca fait mal au Coeur!” she said if she left us in the rain. The traffic was horrendous and it took us 1 hour instead of 20 minutes. I still can’t get over it! Everyone is so kind!
Home, happy, with lots fresh fish, veg and fruits in our bags and soon to be in our bellies, we couldn’t have asked for a better start in Tahiti – well maybe some sunshine, but it was already way too hot!
We spent the rest of the rainy weekend chatting with other guests, organising accommodation on all the islands (our budget doesn’t stretch too far here!), chatting with our family at last and still organising all the photos from New Zealand! Oh and eating all the incredible fish, vegetables and fruits!!
TAHITI TAKE 2
Tahiti is the biggest of the French Polynesian Islands so we decided to splash out and rent a scooter for our last remaining days on the island. We’d arranged for the scooter to be dropped off at the ferry terminal so it was there when we arrived from Moorea.
The next challenge was to fit the two of us and all our bags (40kilos) on a small scooter, drive through Papeete smack bang in the middle of rush hour, get onto the motorway and then pass through the second biggest town on the island Fa’aa, before eventually reaching our B&B (Approx. 20km from Papeete) fun, fun, fun! I drove with one bag between my legs on the floor, and JM behind with the other big backpack and our two day packs. It worked okish and if they can drive a scooter with 6 people on in Asia, we can do it with the two of us and a few bags. Easy!
With the skies clear, we stopped at Plage Publique PK18 to watch the sunset over Moorea! It was stunning. It was such a beautiful evening everyone was out and about, swimming, SUPing, yummy picnics everywhere and incredible music. After all the weeks of rain the locals were definitely making the most of the fine weather!
We spent our last 3 nights at Marae Taata Pension again, the same place we’d stayed the first few nights in Polynesia. No tent, a proper mattress, a fan and hot water! 5 star!
The following day we went to check out the University of Polynesia and for JM to show me where he’d studied for 3 months almost 10 years ago. Apparently it hadn’t changed a bit! We saw his accommodation, his engineering block and all the surroundings! Such a beautiful spot to be studying!!
We decided to then check out Papeete properly for an hour or so. As we said earlier it’s actual not that bad for a port city. People seem to hate it. There’s traffic and pollution but the vibe is nice. We wandered around, found JM a tattoo engraved Tahitian pearl to be picked up later in the day, (I’ve got mine already!) we visited a few different markets and then got on the scooter and continued clockwise round to Venus Point – Named from where Captain James Cook observed the transit of the planet Venus in 1769.
The beach was beautiful with black sand and some of the clearest waters. No waves, no coral, no rocks = Perfect for swimming – At last!
After a little picnic on the beach we continued round to the sand break surf beaches and onto Arahoho Blowhole. It was a little bizarre because it was listed as a ‘thing to see’ on the island but there was just a tiny hole which we almost missed! It’s not really worth going just for the blow hole; luckily we’d stopped off at lots of places beforehand. We also attempted a recommendation from Ari to head up the Valley of Papenoo, along a road running parallel to the river.
Unfortunately the road was waterlogged and was also the main route for lots of enormous trucks going to and from the local aggregate plant. It could potentially be an amazing drive but not that day.
We soon turned around and headed back anticlockwise to find the main kitesurfing spot on the island, just east of Venus Point, between Pointe Hitimahana and Motu Martin. It was a beautiful spot! There was a grass area to pump up, launch and land the kites, a shower in the middle of it to clean equipment and yourself and a new kite school/kite rental/kite shop called ‘Da Spot‘ had just opened, owned by the super friendly Yanick and his lovely wife. They made it easy for strangers like us to hire some kit and get in the water asap. The rental was a third of the price of the Cook Islands and we didn’t need to pay for an assessment either! They trusted our faces obviously! With it being late in the day we decided to come back the next morning when the wind was forecast to be stronger and we were a little more energetic.
We returned to pick up JMs pearl in Papeete, had a nice cold happy hour beer each and then we went in search of the local Heiva rehearsals. We’d be told by friends and locals it was worth checking out because we weren’t going to be on the island for the real thing. We found it pretty easily from the very basic directions from locals. 60+ dancers and a band of 20+ musicians in a huge carpark made it pretty obviously too. There were people of all ages, gender, shapes and sizes and it was wonderful seeing them having an incredible time! We stayed for an hour or so and were exhausted just watching them!! We left them still rehearsing incredibly hard and headed home.
Jean-Max’s dream day
Our plan for the next day was pretty much JMs perfect day. Kitesurfing all morning and then checking out the waves at Teahupo’o in the afternoon.
So back on the scooter, past Papeete and Venus Point again, we arrived at Da Spot! The wind was blowing, the sun shining, and only a couple of people on the water. We ended up renting an Airush Lithium 10m kite and it was pretty darn good. We decided to rent for 2 hours and switch back and forth.
We had so many things to still see and do on the island; otherwise we could have stayed there all day! Exhausted, windswept, but happy, we left and drove clockwise all the way round and down the east coast of Tahiti Nui then down the west coast of Tahiti Iti to reach Teahupo’o. It was hard work. The east coast was stunning, zero traffic, friendly locals and just a nice alternative to the busy, crazy west coast of the island.
We arrived in Teahupo’o and there was absolutely nothing except a sign and a fake wave to take a photo with.
‘The wave’ itself is offshore on the reef break. To get up close and personal you’d need to either swim to it, paddle, or take a boat. The first two ideas were out the window. It was too late in the day to start swimming out there.
Instead we spoke to a funny guy called Jimmy near the carpark who had a boat and offered to take us out. The waves were apparently average but better than nothing and the best they’d had in a long time.
We paid 30 euros for 40 mins and when we got out the back the waves were a lot bigger than expected. Our 40 minutes then turned into 1 hour and the surfers were enjoying being photographed and having a very ‘small’ audience. Bonus! One of the best things about this surf spot which you don’t see on TV is the incredible back drop of Tahiti and its mountains from the water – Beautiful.
The sun was low in the sky and the moment just magic!! The wave itself was powerful, maybe only 3m high rather than the famous 12m but it didn’t matter. It was clean, beautiful, the water crystal clear and the surfers were having a great time.
We sat on the boat at the end of the wave and we loved every second of the hour on the boat. The photos speak for themselves!
Back on land we got going as soon as possible. We had a long way to go to get back to our B&B. I drove because JMs eyes were burnt from the kitesurfing so we slowly motored up the west coast of Tahiti as the sun began to set. We saw more of stunning Tahiti and completed a full loop of the island that day. I think we did a good job making the most of the scooter and visiting as much as possible the last few days. We still had most of the next day before our 11:45pm flight. We kept an eye out on the way home for spots to visit the next morning and eventually made it home just after dark.
Our final day in French Polynesia and Tahiti – So sad!!! We packed our bags first thing to make the most of the rest of the day. We’d left 75% of our ‘stuff’ at Ari’s for the last 5 weeks and lived with only 2 shorts and 3 t-shirts. Life was so easy that way and we didn’t need anything else! Now we had to pack everything 40kilos in total!!!! Pfffff.
Back on the road we headed anticlockwise as far as Papara stopping on the way at the some local caves and checking out some of the smaller beaches.
Papara beach however, was a stunner. Gorgeous ‘hot’ black sand, beautiful beach break waves and the Pacific Ocean as a back drop.
It was great watching the 50+ local amateur surfers and bodyboarders making the most of the waves. They were all enjoying themselves and some were pretty damn good. Not bad for a Saturday morning. We stayed for an hour or so before it got too hot, there was almost zero shade on the beach.
A quick lunch back at the B&B and we were off to see Plage Publique PK19 during the day. The same beach we saw the amazing sunset on the first night back on Tahiti. We stayed as long as we could before we had to drop off the scooter back near the airport! Unfortunately our flight wasn’t for another 8 hours and they wouldn’t allow us to drop it somewhere closer to our B&B. Booooo. So we arrived at the rental place, dropped the scooter off with no real issues, (other than we were meant to present them with a fuel receipt to show we’d just filled it up – We didn’t so we had to go to a petrol station put a tiny bit of fuel in and then show the receipt! Pffffffff) then attempted to hitchhike 15 odd kilometres back to PK19 beach/B&B on a Saturday evening. We smiled, put our thumbs up and within 5 minutes a lovely couple picked us up. Amazingly they drove out of their way to drop us off at the beach. They lived 30 minutes before the beach not far from the airport – Unbelievable kindness. Thank you, thank you! We only had a 2km walk home so we set out in its direction and just stuck out our thumbs just in case someone might take us. Guess what…. It worked, a lady in a super duper Mercedes 4×4 stopped for us. She was so friendly and even took us to our door rather than just dropping us off on the main road like we suggested. From the time we left our scooter near the airport, to opening the door of the B&B, it took us a total of approximately 40 minutes. Unbelievable.
Thank you to everyone who made our trip so special!
Polynesian friendliness will be my biggest memory from the islands. I’ve never met such warm, kind, generous and open people in my life. The islands themselves were amazing – Their beauty in particular, the diving and the traditions. 5 weeks was the perfect amount of time. Our only change would have been less days in Moorea and more time in Tahiti.
The weather was really bad for 10 days or so which really does affect everything about Polynesia, particularly when camping! But these things happen, we’ll just have to come back and visit Huahine, Raiatea and Tahaa again.
Our favourite islands without a doubt were Maupiti, Fakarava and Tahiti. Look past all the congestion in and around Papette, go discover the east of the island and Tahiti Iti and it’s an incredible place. Fakarava, just read our post! And finally Maupiti is just that little island of paradise that we’ll always remember!!
Our travels are passing far too quickly which is freaking us out a lot! BUT a new adventure is about to start! Mexico and Central America.