French Polynesia

Posted by Tammy Murphy

February 17, 2016 at 6:00 PM


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WARNING:  You will be tempted to stay forever  . . .   
 
It's no surprise that when you mention French Polynesia visions of paradise dance in your head. Close your eyes, and go with me . . . South Seas Isles, romantic sunset sea, giant turquoise waves breaking onto the colorful reefs, tranquil lagoons of warm, bright-emerald waters and white coral-sand beaches.  Tahiti seduces not only honeymooners, romantics,  but also adventurers looking overwaterbungalow_tahiti.jpgto escape busy lives.  Disconnect from screens and connect with nature. 
 
The islands, which include Bora Bora, Tahiti and Moorea, are still largely quiet and move at a slow pace outside Papeete, Tahiti's busy capital city. The lagoons of French Polynesia are still amazing shades of blue or green; the mountains still rise dramatically above the sea.  The surprise might be . . . Tahiti's Faa'a Airport is under 8 hours by air from Los Angeles airport, with daily nonstop flights.  Tahiti is halfway between California and Australia.
 
  

Overwater Bungalows - Enjoy the drama and comfort and dreamy experience of the world's perfect hotel room while sleeping above soothing lagoons.

Cruising - Sail within the legendary South Pacific aboard luxurious cruise ships or super yachts that travel between Tahiti's most beautiful islands.

Sightseeing - Most visitors go to French Polynesia to play in its crystal clear lagoons, but don 't miss the islands themselves, a sightseeing extravaganza. The mountainous Society group, where Bora Bora and Moorea are two of the world's most beautiful islands. Tahiti, Huahine and Raiatea aren't far behind. Many islands are crowned with jagged peaks while others appear to barely float above the breaking waves.  Regardless of the islands, their magical beauty often appears on postcards and travel posters as well as movie and TV screens.

Recreation - Scuba diving and snorkeling are the most popular recreational activities in French Polynesia, with well-established dive shops on all the main islands. Many of the scuba operators also will take nondivers out for snorkeling upon request. On Tahiti and Moorea July-October, there are many whale-watching tours available, and dolphin tours are available year-round.

Numerous opportunities for surfing exist in the Society Islands, usually on the north shores of the islands October-March and the south shores April-September. Tahiti's beach breaks are more suitable for beginners than the more distant reef pass breaks there and on Moorea and Huahine.

On Tahiti and Moorea, serious hiking trails travel up into the mountainous interiors. All the islands other than Tahiti offer excellent coastal walks. Some resort areas offer horseback riding, and Tahiti and Moorea have 18-hole golf courses. The yacht charter companies of Tahiti and Raiatea allow those with sufficient funds to enjoy sailing.

Sights - French Polynesia also has a variety of man-made sights highlighting its unique history and its tropical flora and fauna.

Ancient sites near the village of Maeva on Huahine Nui; Taputapuatea Marae on Raiatea, one of ancient Polynesia's most sacred sites; black pearls and scuba diving on Rangiroa; large ceremonial sites and tiki on Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa; white-sand beaches and French Polynesian culture on Maupiti; Tiki Theatre Village on Moorea; stunning scenery and a fabulous lagoon on Bora Bora; Tahiti's Papeete Municipal Market.

Museums - The Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands in Punaauia on Tahiti; the Gauguin Museum on the south coast of Tahiti; the James Norman Hall Home in the Papeete suburb of Arue; lessons in pearling at the Robert Wan Pearl Museum in Papeete; Atuona's Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel cultural centers.

Memorable Meals - A meal cooked in an earthen Tahitian oven; raw fish marinated in coconut milk, called poisson cru.

Late Night - Cut loose with the locals on a dance floor on Papeete's waterfront; dinner and dance shows at Tiki Theatre Village.

Walks - A tour of the Harrison W. Smith Botanical Gardens on Tahiti; the three-hour walk right around Maupiti; a guided hike through the mountains and valleys of Tahiti and Moo

Shopping - Handicrafts made in the islands are the best mementos to take home. Favorites include woven-pandanus baskets, tapa-cloth decorations, hand-painted pareus (fabric wraps worn as a skirt or dress) and intricate wood carvings such as tiki statues, war clubs and ukuleles. Be careful about what you're buying, though. Some items you see in gift shops and markets, especially carvings and pareus, are mass produced in Indonesia and other countries. You can usually identify them because you'll see dozens of the exact same design.

Products made from monoi (coconut) oil, such as soaps and skin lotions, also make nice gifts that are relatively inexpensive. Tamanu oil (extracted from a local tree nut) works well for sunburns and healing wounds, with a variety of oils and lotions available. The local cure-all, noni juice, is sold in one-liter bottles. We recommend you shop in the grocery stores for such items. They offer a selection just as good as most gift shops with better prices.

Two other "souvenirs" are popular, but they shouldn't be impulse buys. Visitors can find black pearls for sale in every large hotel, in hundreds of shops and at the farms where they're grown. Prices may be lower than what you'd pay elsewhere in the world, but that's not to say they're inexpensive. We recommend you understand how to judge a pearl's quality before you buy-they can vary greatly.

Dining - Seafood rules in this watery territory, and a common local delicacy is poisson cru, raw fish marinated in coconut milk. Also popular, tuna and mahimahi come prepared in a variety of ways-don't miss the opportunity to try them in vanilla sauce. In fact, rich sauces and other aspects of French cuisine are a big part of cooking in the territory, although the Chinese also have made their mark with rice and noodle dishes.

Those who don't eat seafood will find beef the most common item in main dishes, usually entrecote (rib steak) imported from New Zealand. For some reason, chicken is rarely served, and although free-ranging fowl live on all of the islands, most consumed chicken is imported. In the Marquesas, wild goat is the most popular meat.

The longtime Polynesian staples taro and breadfruit aren't common in tourist-oriented restaurants, but don't pass up the chance to try them. Try maa'a Tahiti, traditional Tahitian food that is usually cooked in an earthen oven. The main dishes are a savory blend of pork and vegetables. Maa'a Tahiti can often be found on Friday menus at select Papeete restaurants, for take-away on Sunday mornings, at small local grocery stores and in some resort buffets.

As with most things in French Polynesia, eating out can be expensive, but it's not outrageous. Prices are generally comparable with those in most large cosmopolitan cities. As you might expect, the large resort hotels have some of the priciest menus, though the quality is generally quite good.

Two types of inexpensive eateries are available: roulottes (food trucks-most are complete with stools and a dining counter) and "snacks" (small restaurants that usually serve sandwiches and basic fare such as chow mein and sashimi). You can find good food at both, but use discretion when making your choices.

Another good way to trim food costs is to buy the delicious and inexpensive French baguettes sold at grocery stores. A do-it-yourself Continental breakfast with the bread can propel you well into the afternoon. Also consider having a picnic lunch of bread, cheese and wine.

            

           



Topics: #overwaterbungalow, #islandparadise #, #sunandsand, Bora Bora, Tahiti, French Polynesia

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