Kayak: Your bucket list of things to do in French Polynesia
1. Stay in the luxurious overwater bungalows
Bora Bora resorts grace the covers of glossy travel brochures across the world.
Thatch-roofed, overwater bungalows decorate the ocean, from the Conrad Bora Bora Nui to the Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island. However, you’ll find that most islands offer the experience, for a little slice of your own island paradise. Suites at the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa, for example, have glass-floor viewing panels so you can watch fish zip by, even when you’re inside.
2. Visit Tahiti for the fun water sports
When it’s time for action after lazing on frangipani-scented beaches, Tahiti travel brings the thrills. Try stand up paddle boarding on the serene surface of lagoons, get your blood pumping on a jet ski tour, experience tandem underwater aquabikes or keep your fitness up with waterskiing.
For something a little more relaxing, boating is the perfect way to discover The Islands of Tahiti, whether you take a catamaran around the islands or luxuriate on a sunset cruise.
3. Get some snorkelling and diving done
Spot manta rays gliding on the ocean floor, explore vibrant coral gardens, admire reef sharks and search for giant turtles, when you delve into Tahiti’s natural aquarium. The ocean is at the heart of Tahitian life, so it’s little wonder this is one of the best places in the world, to snorkel and dive.
You can jump from the beach into turquoise lagoons filled with colourful fish, or head out on a dive tour to see tiger sharks, dolphins and majestic whales.
4. Get Tahitian dance lessons
Trips to The Islands of Tahiti aren’t complete without watching hip-swaying, Polynesian dance shows, with multi-coloured flowers, conch shells and drum beats lulling you into a trance. Why not take it a step further, and take a Tahitian dance lesson? Learn how to sway your own hips with the basics of rhythm and traditional moves. Don’t forget to take an insta-worthy shot in your Polynesian pareo (sarong), once you’ve mastered how to wear it.
5. Experience Moorea on a 4×4 safari tour
Shaped roughly like a heart from above, the island of Moorea is a geographical wonder. It’s accessible by ferry or plane from Papeete and, once there, the best way to explore is on a 4×4 safari. As you bounce around the island in a jeep, you’ll see dramatic volcanic peaks, fertile hillsides and views over Opunohu and Cooks Bay. Many tours also stop at pineapple and vanilla plantations, for a taste of tropical produce.
6. Faaroa River excursions, Raiatea
Winding its way through lush rainforest, the Faaroa River is a highlight of Raiatea. An island rich in legends, temples and natural beauty, a kayak excursion brings you up-close and personal with wild hibiscus trees, dramatic river walls and beautiful bird species. Along the way, tour guides give you fascinating insight into the island’s ancient myths and history.
7. Go shopping at Papeete market
Air Tahiti Nui’s flights to Tahiti arrive in the capital, Papeete. Though most travellers are eager to speed off to the islands, a visit to the Papeete Market is a must, for a taste of local life. When you get there really early in the morning, you also stand a chance of buying the freshest fish, the most succulent fruits and the tastiest vegetables you’ve never heard of. Stop in at the end of your trip too, to pick up souvenirs like sarongs, carvings, baskets and Monoi oil.
8. Make an appointment at one of Tahiti’s relaxing spas
Nothing says ‘romantic spa experience’, like open-air bungalows, lagoon views and flower baths for two. A Tahitian spa tantalises all the senses and you’ll find luxurious establishments across the islands. Taurumi is the traditional Polynesian massage and it traces the energy lines in the body via pressure with the hands and elbows. You’ll also get to enjoy the moisturising and therapeutic properties of Tahitian Monoi oil.
9. Watch a Tahitian Fire Dance performance
Not to be missed are the spectacular fire dance performances at many resorts all around Tahiti and Bora Bora. The dance of fire is practiced by many civilizations around the world and one that is deeply rooted in Polynesian culture. In the past, the fire dance was executed by adepts as messages addressed to the gods – referring to a request or giving thanks. According to other ancient ma’ohi beliefs, the fire dance also gave nature to be fertile and abundant during harvest seasons. Finally, this dance was used again to showcase their battle prowess and serve as intimidation during wars between tribes of the Pacific region. Many hotels around Tahiti and Bora Bora offer this show over dinner or on the beach.
10. Eat Traditional Tahitian Food
The flavours of Tahiti are fresh and tropical, with hints of vanilla, ginger and coconut. Eating fresh seafood on the beach is one of life’s greatest delights and you’ll find tuna, mahi-mahi, barracuda and grouper in abundance. Sunday feasts revolve around a hima’a, with fish, lobster, suckling pig, breadfruit and more, cooked over hot rocks in the ground. However, it’s all about the national dish, poisson cru, which is raw fish marinated with lime juice and soaked in coconut milk, with lime, cucumbers, tomatoes, and scallions, ready to melt in your mouth.
If you need an excuse to extend your stay in Tahiti (as we all do), here are more ideas.