Where would you rather be – enduring our chilly mornings, rainy days and grey skies, or lazing in the sun, white sand and blue waters of a Pacific paradise with irresistible French food and style?
When you and your loved one have to choose between hiding under the duvet or lying on a beach, the “très exotique” option wins every time – especially when Air New Zealand can land you on the beach with only a five-hour flight from Auckland.
Two cultures collide on the Islands of Tahiti (also known as French Polynesia). Turquoise waters and Pasifika heritage blend effortlessly with French culture and cuisine to make the 118 islands a haven for water lovers, foodies and explorers – or anyone who just wants to chill.
Tahiti can mean the last word in luxury or an affordable-yet-stylish Pacific escape in one of the most spectacular and diverse environments on earth. Your holiday can be tropical adventure or blissful relaxation.
Stay in overwater bungalows, snorkel with the local wildlife, swim with sharks, shop for cultured pearls, take a cruise or enjoy an island picnic.
Pick your paradise. On idyllic Moorea, eco-friendly Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa is nestled beneath mountains which melt into a crystal lagoon. Stylish bungalows and overwater units are decorated in Polynesian style. Moorea Lagoon Spa offers a range of treatments and the resort boasts the only overwater eatery in French Polynesia.
Conrad Bora Bora Nui is located on a private island: Motu To’opua, where guests laze on the private stretch of soft white sand or relax in spectacular overwater villas, six restaurants and bars, or the hilltop Hine Spa. Do try the ultimate indulgence: a private champagne picnic on the beach prepared by resort chefs.
A true gem
One of the Pacific’s best-kept secrets, Tikehau is a crown of coral islets that form a 26km lagoon. The name means “peaceful landing”: words perfectly translated into the Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort, nestled in a wild coconut grove on a pink sand beach. Choose from 24 suites and overwater bungalows and 13 beach bungalows; chill in the bar and restaurant in the “fare pote” (communal house) by the infinity pool.
You’re never far from an amazing underwater experience in one of the world’s top snorkelling and diving destinations. Tahiti’s warm waters, with an average temperature of 27°C and 30m visibility, teem with more than 1,000 species of marine life – from flirty clownfish to more than 20 species of sharks and the humpback whales, which arrive between July and November.
You’ll only have to walk into the warm, still waters of a lagoon off a sandy beach to snorkel among coral beds. Moorea’s Coral Gardens, Bora Bora, Taha’a and Raiatea islands are famed for their beautiful reefs and volcanic mountains, while Rangiroa is the world’s second-largest coral atoll, so large that a smaller lagoon has formed inside it. Rangiroa’s Blue Lagoon is the perfect day trip.
For divers, Moorea and Bora Bora offer perfect sites (and lessons) for beginners, as well as spectacular deep ravines for those seeking a challenge. Advanced surfers head for big-wave reef breaks like the world-famous Teahupo’o; grommets will find plenty of easy beach breaks.
Sound too energetic for your tastes? Catch a ride in a traditional outrigger canoe, kick back on a sunset cruise, paddle a kayak or hire a jetski.
Relax & recharge
With their special blend of French and Pasifika culture, two worlds collide in a delicious way in the islands. In Papeete, you’ll see Tahitians cycling past with baguettes, buttery croissants, deli meats and a couple of cheeses in their baskets. French-style eating is part of the islands’ culture, but it has become entwined with Polynesia’s breadfruit, coconut, bananas, taro, sweet potato, papaya, pineapple, fish and pork.
You’ll find exceptional French Polynesian cuisine at Sofitel Moorea’s K Restaurant, which is aiming to win Tahiti’s first Michelin star – as well as L’Auberg’in, Le Coco’s and L’o à la Bouche.
Traditional dishes are delicious as well as readily available. Look for poisson cru, raw fish marinated in lime juice and served with finely chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumber and coconut cream. The best fast food is casse-croûte, a meat and salad sandwich in a crusty baguette. At village feasts, don’t go past suckling pig roasted over an open fire or in an Ahi ma’a earth oven.
Every evening, the waterfront of Papeete becomes a festival of flavours as food trucks (les roulottes) serve street food to the sounds of live music. Meanwhile, the municipal market is a fun place to browse for fresh food, flowers and souvenirs.
Head to the Robert Wan Pearl Museum, across the road from Paofai Gardens waterfront park, to admire, learn about and perhaps buy the renowned cultured pearls.
Blog & Image Copyright: MiNDFOOD Magazine (September 2019 Edition) & Tahiti Tourisme