Peter Greenberg is the
winning travel editor
for CBS News and host
of The Travel Detective
on public television
MORE IN ARCHIVES
search “Travel Connection. ”
THE ISLANDS OF Tahiti are very much a series of
Paul Gauguin paintings—lush greens and pinks, glistening waters, beautiful people and a pace that is
intentionally slow and graceful.
Although the island of Tahiti and Papeete, the
capital of French Polynesia, are the most frequently
visited, don’t overlook the other islands. Each island
in the archipelago has its own distinct topography
and personality. Here are some of my favorite hidden gems.
Raiatea, which translates to “faraway heaven,”
could be thought of as the spiritual capital of the
Polynesian triangle (the region in the Pacific Ocean
where Hawaii, New Zealand and Rapa Nui become
the corners of a triangle, with Tahiti and Samoa farther in.) For starters, it is home to the most important traditional temple in Polynesia, Marae
Taputapuatea, and is steeped in island mythology.
Many Tahitians still believe that Raiatea exudes a
special power and energy.
Located in the center of Raiatea is the Temehani
Plateau, a sort of Polynesian Mount Olympus.
Polynesians in ancient times believed that their
souls ascended to the plateau when they died, and
when you get to the top you will see why: seemingly
endless views of the other islands and lagoons.
But don’t just look out; look down and you
might see the Tiare Apetahi, a flower so rare it can’t
be grown anywhere else except this mountain.
Legend has it that its five delicate petals are the fingers of a beautiful Polynesian girl who fell in love
with a prince but couldn’t marry him. And some
more legend: If you climb the mountain at dawn,
listen carefully as you walk quietly and you can hear
the flowers open with a slight crackling noise, which
islanders believe is the sound of a heart breaking.
A 25-minute boat ride from Raiatea is the island
of Taha’a. Locals call it “Vanilla Island,” and with
good reason: 80 percent of all vanilla produced in
French Polynesia is grown here. There are many
plantations across the island, but one you can’t pass
up is Vallée de la Vanille (
site/vanillatahaa), one of Taha’a’s few organic and
Finally, head for the warm lagoon between
Taha’a and Raiatea. That’s where you can dive for
your very own treasure. The temperature, density,
salinity and light of the lagoon combine to make an
environment that helps to create the best Tahitian
cultured pearls. At Champon Pearl Farm (tahiti-
perle-online.com), a local black pearl farm, you have
the chance to go diving and look for your very own
pearl in the sea.
Rangiroa is a diving mecca, with its richest
resource lying beneath the surface. There are many
diving companies on the island, but check out the
Raie Manta Club (
raiemantaclub.com), because its
Avatoru dive site is for those who want to learn
about as well as experience wildlife.
Just six minutes away from the dive site you’ll
find Te Mao, a bar with a limited menu, but unlim-
ited charm. In fact, the owners will actually come
and pick you up from the club. For those who aren’t
divers, you can still experience the world below by
taking a lagoon tour at the Blue Lagoon.
Huahine is perhaps the most lush main Tahitian
island. It also boasts one of the largest concentra-
tions of marae, or ancient temples. This is the island
Tahitians visit while many tourists are on Moorea
and Bora Bora. Port de Fare is where you’ll land by
boat, and some argue there’s not a lot to do there (I
consider that a plus). Head immediately for Surf
Burger. Locals call it the “blue roulotte,” and it’s right
across from the only supermarket in town. Order
the fish burger.
Tikehau, known for its pink sands, is a small,
circular atoll, similar to a natural swimming pool.
At 16 miles across, it’s a real-life underwater aquar-
ium filled with an array of marine life. There are
more inhabitants under the surface than on the sur-
face, which is why the fisheries in Tikehau are
among the most important contributors to the
When I go there I visit some of the family-
owned fish farms, often with the chef at one of the
resorts. Pick what you want, take it back and cook it.
But before the fish dinner, it’s time for serious fish
snacking at Snack Ohina: grilled mahimahi and
very fresh tuna carpaccio.
Whichever island you decide to visit, you are
assured that the magic of the islands of Tahiti will
remain with you. C
The “other” Tahitis
Looking beyond the main island
Costco Travel offers packages
to Tahiti and many other exciting destinations around the
world. To learn more, click
“Travel” at Costco.com or call
Overview of bay and village,
Huahine, French Polynesia