How These Aquatic Experiences in The Islands of Tahiti Transform You
In The Islands of Tahiti, life is deeply connected to water. With water-based activities for all skill levels, such as surfing, waterfall hikes, diving, and outrigger canoeing, here’s how to experience it yourself.
In Polynesian culture, there’s a belief that The Islands of Tahiti are imbued with what’s known as mana, which translates as a pervasive supernatural or magical power. It’s a spirit that courses throughout the land, air—and, of course, the sea. The 118 islands and atolls of The Islands of Tahiti are connected by moana, or the ocean. These crystal-clear waters, some of the most spectacular turquoise waters in the world, will carry guests to peace, adventure, and paradise.
Anyone who has had the good fortune to spend time there already will know first-hand how life-changing the experience can be. You’ll feel treasured when you visit here—and you’ll leave with memories that you’ll treasure for a lifetime. There’s no shortage of ways to soak up mana while traversing the waters, whether that’s simply basking in the beauty of the seashore or getting active out on the water, no matter your skill level. There are more than 500 water activities to choose from, and you can’t go wrong with any one of them.
Wake up in overwater bungalows
Water lovers should of course consider a stay at one of the many magnificent overwater bungalows. The Islands of Tahiti were the first to popularize this now iconic kind of hotel stay. Whether it’s a honeymoon, a big birthday or just a long-held dream, the accommodations make an excellent way to celebrate life, and savor the experience of the magical Tahitian waters.
There are numerous options throughout the islands, such as the Four Seasons Bora Bora where overwater bungalows and specialty bungalows sit atop a tranquil turquoise lagoon, earning it an AFAR Travelers’ Award for “the Most Epic Stay Hotel in the World.” Or you can opt for the classic St. Regis Bora Bora Resort, with its Jean-Georges restaurant Lagoon and signature butler service. A super-accessible way to see Moorea, Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort, is just a 10-minute flight from Papeete and boasts excellent snorkeling right outside your door. Wherever you choose to stay—overwater, or on solid ground—expect to find fresh seafood throughout The Islands of Tahiti, and a focus on traditional customs, such as beach barbecues featuring traditional Polynesian dance.
Superior scuba diving, snorkeling and beyond
For an intimate view of some of the hundreds of marine life species that call The Islands of Tahiti home, you’ll find incredible scuba diving and snorkeling in multiple locations. Diving trips around the neighboring islands of Rangiroa and Tikehau, and Fakarava—considered to be the premier diving locations in the world—will take you up close and personal with stingrays, manta rays, grey reef sharks, and sea turtles. Opt for a sunset dive at Tiputa Pass and be wowed by the sharks who come out to feed, and the dolphins twirling in the glow of the setting sun.
On Moorea, scuba or snorkeling will give you incredible sightings of stingrays, hawksbill turtles, spinner dolphins and humpback whales, who all frequent the waters here. Check out the protected Lagoonarium, where multitudes of rainbow-colored fish dart around the reef. If Scuba or snorkeling feels too involved—or if you have inexperienced swimmers in your party—why not try walking under water on Moorea with Aquablue? You’ll don yellow helmets with breathing tubes attached, and an instructor will lead the way, pointing out all kinds of coral, fish, and shells. Bring the kids (six and up) too!
Awe-inspiring surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, and transparent kayaks
You’ll find world-class swells off Teahupoo village on the southwestern coast of the big island of Tahiti. These daredevil waves are strictly for pros and super experienced surfers, but Teahupoo Tahiti Surfaris will bring you close to the break to watch the action unfold. It’s said to be the most dangerous surf break in the world, where glassy swells roll in with massive power, speed, and size, breaking over a sharp coral reef just below the surface—quite a thrilling sight to behold from right out on the water.
For something more manageable for the everyday, active traveler, rent a see-through standup paddleboard or kayak on Moorea, via Moorea Blue Paddle and Transparent Kayak, and watch all manner of fauna swim right beneath you.
Go traditional with an outrigger canoe outing
Traverse these magical waters like they did centuries ago—learn how to paddle like a real Tahitian using a Polynesian outrigger canoe, or Va’a as it’s called here, at coaching sites like the ones located in the cities of Arue and Faa’a on Tahiti. It’s the ultimate traditional Polynesian sport and will help put you in touch with the spirit of mana.
On the island of Raiatea, you’ll find the only navigable river in French Polynesia, a location with special cultural significance, it’s said to be the departure point for Polynesian migrations to Hawaii and New Zealand. Take an outrigger canoe ride in the heart of this dense tropical forest that’s rich with purau, or yellow Hibiscus, and bamboo.
Do go chasing waterfalls
For a truly incredible experience, seek out some of the most wondrous waterfalls in the world. Head to the Marquesas Islands, an archipelago of 12 islands (only six of which are inhabited) located 932 miles northeast of Tahiti. There, on Nuku Hiva, the largest of these islands, you’ll find Vaipo Waterfall, the tallest waterfall in the South Pacific. Or enjoy a full day expedition on the island of Tahiti: Travel through Papenoo Valley, and take in the magic of Topatari Falls, Vaiharuru Falls, and Puraha Falls. Or consider the half-day hike to Fautaua Waterfall, where you’ll find your own island paradise—no crowds, just nothing but natural splendor, and the full feeling of mana, a gift of quietude and wonder you’ll treasure forever.