As a travel consultant, I encourage my clients daily to not judge a book by its cover–or in my world, not to judge a destination until they have experienced it for themselves. I must admit, I did not practice what I preach on my recent visit to Tahiti and her islands. I expected the obvious—a serene beach vacation on a secluded island with white sands, clear blue water, and of course the legendary overwater bungalows with glass-bottomed floors.
However, I was not prepared for the fact that Tahiti and her islands would move me so deeply. Beyond the islands’ stunning beauty, the people and their immense pride in their heritage touched me to my core and have connected me to their home for all time.
So, what exactly about Tahiti and her islands is so special?
Let’s start with the beaches, and more specifically, the water. I personally have traveled to most of the world’s “Top 10 Most Beautiful Beaches,” including the soft white sands of Exuma in the Bahamas and Trunk Bay in St. John. After spending time on those two beaches in particular, I didn’t think anything else could compare. Was I ever mistaken!
It wasn’t Tahiti’s sand that did it for me—it was 100 percent the water. Tahiti and her islands are famous for the clear blue waters, coined by the Tourism Board as “50 Shades of Blue.” This tagline is not just a marketing gimmick…there are seemingly endless shades of blue all around the islands. To read online about this phenomenon and to actually see it with my own eyes were completely different. The 118 islands, atolls, and motus create a variety of ocean depths, resulting in an indescribable cerulean kaleidoscope. I couldn’t fully wrap my mind around the overwhelming beauty of these waters when I finally saw it in person.
The variety of geography that this destination offers also blew me away. Tahiti and her islands originated as oceanic volcanoes, and each is at a different stage in evolution as they are sinking into the Pacific while the coral reefs build up around them. Some islands, such as Tahiti itself, still have a mountain with lush forests and plentiful waterfalls. Others, such as Bora Bora, are motus…or coral islets that surround a lagoon. And still others, such as Rangiora, are atolls, which form when islands wear away, leaving circular coral reefs behind. Several islands have thick jungles, but many consist only of coral and sand…absolute heaven for a geography buff like me!
Because of the varied landscapes, Tahiti and her islands provide boundless activities, as well. From hiking the mountain on Tahiti to jet skiing in Bora Bora to snorkeling in Rangiora, there is much more to experience than simply plopping down on the white sands. Of course, relaxation is a top reason to visit this area, but travelers who miss out on the tremendous opportunities for outdoor activities are doing themselves a disservice.
The cuisine on these islands is as unique as its mix of French and Polynesian influences. On the streets of Papeete, Tahiti’s capital, you will pass dozens of mouth-watering coffee shops and bakeries teeming with scrumptious pastries. In the markets, you can find the sweetest pineapples you have ever tasted, along with other local fruits and vegetables. An array of fresh white local fish is at every restaurant you visit. My personal favorite local food was a fresh sweet coconut cream that was served as a side with almost every course. I am still craving this condiment that was common as béarnaise in Paris or ketchup in the United States.
Beyond the landscapes, activities and food, the Tahitian people are what affected me the most. It was refreshing to visit islands that were seemingly lost in time. The strong focus on authenticity was evident in everything from resort staff’s attire to their pride in their heritage. I left for home longing to be connected to my own heritage and to be able to genuinely exude pride in my country the same way that these genuine locals did.
Travel surprises me each and every time, which is why I love it so much. Every journey I take enables me to learn more about myself while getting to know the world. Traveling to Tahiti was a shock in that what I thought would be a perfunctory beach trip awakened my soul in ways that I never imagined.
Want to learn more about Tahiti and her islands? Schedule a consultation with Natalie to get started on your own Tahiti getaway.