French Polynesia is an overseas collectivity of France and its sole overseas
country. It comprises 121 geographically dispersed islands and
atolls stretching over more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) in the South
Pacific Ocean. European encounters began in 1521 when Portuguese explorer
Ferdinand Magellan sighted Puka-Puka in the Tuāmotu-Gambier Archipelago.
British explorer Samuel Wallis became the first European navigator to visit
Tahiti in 1767 and another British explorer James Cook arrived in 1769 (for
observing the transit of Venus). French Catholic missionaries
arrived on Tahiti in 1834. In 1842, Tahiti and Tahuata were declared a
French protectorate, to allow Catholic missionaries to work undisturbed. The
capital of Papeetē was founded in 1843. In 1880, France annexed Tahiti, changing
the status from that of a protectorate to that of a colony. In 1946,
Polynesians were granted French citizenship and the islands' status was changed
to an overseas territory; the islands' name was changed in 1957 to PolynÚsie
Franšaise (French Polynesia). In 1977, French Polynesia was granted
partial internal autonomy; in 1984, the autonomy was extended. French Polynesia
became a full overseas collectivity of France in 2003.
Getting there ...
We were just back from Katmai, Alaska
2 days ago (9/17) because I planned the Katmai trip more than 18 months ago due
to its lottery system. In early 2023, Woanyu reminded me that it will be
our 30th anniversary in mid-September this year, and she did not think Alaska
was a "romantic" place for this occasion. Therefore, I planned this trip
to visit Tahiti and Bora Bora, two of the most popular islands in French
Polynesia, as the celebration for our Pearl Anniversary.
We had an 8-hour direct flight from San Francisco at 1:30PM and arrived at
Papeete, Tahiti at about 7PM (local time). After a quick McDonald's dinner
and a long wait for our rental car at the airport, we went to the hotel (a
simple motel next to the airport) for our first night.
Day 2 (9/20) ...
Tahiti is the highest and largest island in French Polynesia. Formed of
two ancient volcanic cones, Tahiti is particularly striking because of its
dramatic silhouette, which rises 7,352 feet (2,241 meters) above sea level.
The northwestern portion is known as Tahiti Nui ("big Tahiti"), while the much
smaller southeastern portion is known as Tahiti Iti ("small Tahiti") or
- Faarumai Waterfalls
We started our visit to the northern part of
Tahiti Nui ("big Tahiti"). The three Faarumai Waterfalls (Les Trois
Cascades de Tefaarumai), located in the village of Tiarei, are accessed by a
short hike through the forest. The first is called Vaimahutu. If you walk
for another 20 minutes or so, you reach the second and third falls, called
Haamarere Iti and Haamarere Rahi, respectively. After just 5-min walk
in the forest, we realized we had left the insect repellent in the car...
- La Cascade de Pape'ana'ana
We continued our drive to the east side
of Tahiti Nui to La Cascade de Pape'ana'ana, a tiny waterfall but has
beautiful carvings in the surrounding rocks. It is right beside the
road (with a few parking spaces) with less a minute of walk to the
- North Shore
We retraced our way to drive back toward Papeete and
enjoyed the nice coastal views along the north shore of Tahiti Nui. We
saw a local harvest coconuts
right on a black sand beach.
- Pointe Venus
Pointe Venus is located at the northern tip of the
island of Tahiti. Its name was given to it following the landing of
James Cook aboard the Endeavor in anticipation of the observation of the
transit of Venus of 1769.
The transit of Venus of 1769 is the second transit of the planet of the
18th century. Like the previous transit of 1761, it gave rise to numerous
observations around the globe, in order to be able to measure with precision
the value of the astronomical unit, the distance between the Earth and the
- ╔glise Getesemane de Mahina
We stopped by this colorful pink church
not far from the Point Venus. There are many local churches with
bright colors and interesting architectures when we drove around the island.
Papeete is the capital city of French Polynesia. The
name Papeete (Papeʻete) means "water from a basket". After a
nice lunch at a French restaurant in the city, we walked to the nearby
Papeete Catholic Cathedral and Papeete Market for a simple/quick city tour.
- InterContinental Tahiti
Resort & Spa
It's time to check in our room at InterContinental
Tahiti Resort & Spa. It's a nice place to walk around and relax, and
to enjoy the sunset views with Moorea Island in the distance.
Day 3 (9/21) ...
- Plage de Vaiava
We started to drive to the southern part of Tahiti
Nui today. Plage de Vaiava, more commonly referred to as PK18, is a
large white sand beach located in Puna’auia. It is a hotspot for
watching sunsets, snorkeling in clear blue waters, and sunbathing in the
soft sand (if the weather is good).
- Plage du Taharuu
Plage du Taharuu is a striking black sand beach and
is home to the popular surf break, Papara. We saw quite a few people
surfing in the area.
- Vaipahi Water Gardens
Situated along Tahiti Nui's southern coast in
Mataiea, the Vaipahi Gardens are a verdant paradise. There are more than 75
plant species from all over the world, exotic flowers, a waterfall, a lily
pond and streams that wind through the area.
at a famous local restaurant at
La Plage de Maui, we continued to the road end at Teahupoo in Tahiti Iti
("small Tahiti"). Teahupo’o is the most famous surf break in
French Polynesia and the location of the annual Billabong Pro Teahupo’o surf
competition. I have considered to book a
wave-watching boar tour, but I decided to abandon the idea :-(
- Grottes de Mara'a
When we started to head back toward the western
side of Tahiti island, it began to rain from time to time. When we got
to the Grottes de Mara'a, it had became a steady rain shower.
Surrounded by luxuriant vegetation, the site at Mara'a is composed of three
natural caves hollowed out of the rock. The biggest cave is called
and it is really impressive even an optical illusion gives the impression
that its arched ceiling stoops down at the edges, making it seem much
smaller than it actually is.
Day 4 (9/22) ...
The Bora Bora island is one of the most popular islands in French Polynesia.
The island’s name, the Tahitian spelling of which is Pora Pora, means “First
Born”. Bora Bora was formed over seven million years ago by a volcano.
The main island is surrounded by a lagoon and a barrier reef. In the center of
the island are the remnants of an extinct volcano, rising to two peaks, Mount
Pahia and Mount Otemanu; the highest point is at 727 m (2,385 ft). Today,
Bora Bora is a major international tourist destination, famous for its seaside
(and even offshore) luxury resorts.
Transportation to Bora Bora
We had a flight from Papeete to Bora Bora at
11:30AM. The flight was supposed to be a scenic 50-min journey.
However, the weather was poor and rainy and we could not see any view of the
island from the sky. We even had to circle around for about 10-15
minutes in the air before we could land at the Bora Bora Airport because of
the poor visibility.
The Bora Bora Airport is built on a "motu"
(the Polynesian word for island) located in a lagoon. A boat transfer is
necessary to get to anywhere else in Bora Bora. We were greeted by the
resort staff and escorted to the boat after we got our luggage.
- InterContinental Bora
Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort is one
of the most luxury Bora Bora resorts located at Motu Piti Aau. It has
one of best views (and best angle in my opinion) of Mount Otemanu of the
main island. We will stay at its Overwater Villa Otemanu View for the
next 2 nights. The villa measures 95 square meters (1,022 sq ft),
including a 30-square-metre (323 sq ft) terrace, and showcase wondrous views
of the lagoon and dramatic Mount Otemanu. Each villa’s spacious
living room features
a glass coffee table that gives way to the pristine waters and tropical fish
Day 5 (9/23) ...
- Morning at InterContinental Bora Bora Resort
- Afternoon at InterContinental Bora Bora Resort
I originally booked an
Aqua bike tour (an underwater scooter) which can offer a unique diving
experience to discover the marine life of the Bora Bora Lagoon for anyone
without any diving experience including non-swimmers! Unfortunately the
tour was canceled due to bad weather condition. Instead, we booked a
"Marine Romance" spa experience for
2 persons in an overwater
spa suite, which includes a glass of champagne for each of us while doing a
deep aromatherapy bath in
a big Jacuzzi, relaxing massage for 80 minutes, and free access to all spa
facility like steam baths, outdoor spas, and
cold water pool,
Day 6 (9/24) ...
- Morning at InterContinental Bora Bora Resort
It finally had some blue
sky. We got more photos around the beach and swimming pool.
The onsite Lagoonarium is a protected habitat and coral
nursery that is home to a thrilling array of marine creatures. We walked
into the lagoon and were surrounded by many fish immediately.
- Afternoon at InterContinental Bora Bora Resort
We checked out of our
villa before noon, and we were given a "day room" (a room with a bathroom
and a bench, but no bed) since I asked for a late check out till the
departure for our flight. We tried kayaking around the resort.
It's still a little bit windy and I did not feel comfortable to venture for
too far and too long on kayak. We also spent some more time in the
Lagoonarium to walk around the fish.
Going Home ...
When I got up early this morning, I checked our flight status and found the
Air Tahiti flight from Bora Bora back to Papeete Tahiti was scheduled to delay
for more than an hour (from 6PM to later than 7PM). It will put our
connecting flight back to US (departing at 9:10PM) very risky. However, I
could not find any earlier direct flights from Bora Bora to Tahiti (the only
available flight I could find would leave Bora Bora at 10:30AM with 3-island
hops and would take more than 7 hours to get to Tahiti). After consult
with the hotel staff, we found a new local airline
Air Moana (just made its inaugural flight in February 2023) which had a
perfect flight at 5PM. I was glad we made the flight change because we
later found our original Air Tahiti flight did not get to Papeete until almost
Although the weather was not so good for a few days in French
Polynesia this time (the local staff said it's very rare to have such kind of
rainy days in September...), it's still a good trip to relax in the paradise
especially for celebration our 30th anniversary!
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