Sailing Tahiti by Private Yacht Is Surprisingly Easy

Yacht charters offer a blend of immersive access, eco-friendly exploration, and luxurious digs.

Shallow blue waters in French Polynesia with green mountains in background

Small yachts can get you to hard-to-reach coves and inlets.

Courtesy of Dream Yacht Worldwide

Waves break onto barrier reefs. Palm trees nod in the morning light. Manta rays lazily cross the sea floor. Drizzle falls while the sun shines, inviting rainbows to gleam in each direction. Then, a mother and newborn humpback whale entrust you to swim with them in the sapphire sea, rolling, surfacing, and communing with you in the deep.

It really is the stuff of dreams, traveling Tahiti via private yacht. And yet somehow—of all the ways a person could explore the 118 islands of French Polynesia—yacht charters can be among the more accessible, too, blending immersive access, eco-savvy exploration, and attainable luxury all in one.

With islands spread across an area equivalent to the land mass of Europe, French Polynesia is best explored little by little, with lots of time to play, one archipelago at a time. The Society Islands provide a perfect jumping off point for maritime adventures. Home to Tahiti International Airport, the country’s main international transit hub, they not only host direct flights from Los Angeles and Auckland on Air Tahiti Nui, but also claim alluring isles such as Bora Bora and Moorea just a puddle-jumper flight—or yacht crossing—away.

The island of Raiatea offers shopping, beaches, and UNESCO World Heritage site Taputapuātea, a basalt- and coral-laden spiritual and political gathering place established as early as 1000 C.E. Neighboring Taha’a was once conjoined with Raiatea, but the volcano that comprised the island collapsed in on itself, creating two separate, smaller islands; the former is known for vanilla plantations, rum distilleries, and pearl farms. A short boat ride away sits Bora Bora, famed for its crystalline lagoon, overwater bungalows, and scenic mountain peaks, formed by an extinct volcano whose fauna-covered caldera now winks down nearly 2,400 feet at the ships moored below.

Navigating Tahiti by boat

Each of these islands is more accessible via charter yacht, with guests boarding their boat, unpacking just once within their comfy-if-quaint two-person cabin, and navigating daily around turquoise-ringed isles from the comfort of their home away from home. Whether the yacht is undertaking a half-hour sail to an unexplored cove on the originating island or navigating a 25-nautical-mile crossing to a nearby isle over the course of a few hours, no additional onshore logistics are required. Thus, instead of throwing time and money at airport transfers, flights, and unpacking and repacking for each island stay, guests are blessed with not only a smaller carbon footprint, but also an abundance of time—and nothing to do but enjoy.

To hop on the yacht charter trend, would-be sailors choose their primary destination, boat size, and whether they want to rent out the entire yacht with friends and family or rent by the cabin instead. Rentals typically range in size from 44 to 82 feet, with popular options including catamarans such as the Fountaine Pajot Ipanema 58 or the Lagoon 620. With the possibility to include onboard kits containing kayaks, paddleboards, snorkels, masks, and fins, the options for exploration are limited only by one’s sense of adventure and number of (at least semi-) dry swimsuits.

A small yacht in Tahitian waters

There’s nothing quite like jumping in crystal clear waters off the back of a boat.

Courtesy of Dream Yacht Worldwide

For our Tahiti adventure, we sailed with Dream Yacht Worldwide, which offers a fleet of more than 900 monohulls and catamarans across over 50 destinations. My group of by-the-cabin renters (including my friend Silver and a series of former strangers who became fast friends) sailed aboard the Lagoon 620, a 62-foot catamaran offering 6 bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, allowing for up to 12 guests. (Depending on your destination and the time of year you sail, the cost of a cabin charter starts at around $1,200 per person for a week-long trip.)

Given that none of us were experienced sailors, we traveled on a fully crewed yacht versus going the “bareboat” route (i.e., sailing the vessel ourselves). Hiring a bareboat charter proves more economical, allowing experienced sailors to undertake all sailing, mooring, cooking, and ship-related duties themselves. Fully crewed options, meanwhile, include a skipper and a “hostess”; although they’re more expensive, they allow guests to simply relax into their surroundings.

We entrusted our knowledgeable local skipper Wen with everything from making safe ocean crossings to finding the best spots to snorkel, capture scenic photographs, and laze along the shores of uninhabited islands. Our hostess, an old-school term for an abundantly modern crew member, did such tasks as cook delicious meals (like lamb curry in puff pastry and mahi mahi in Tahitian vanilla sauce), assist the captain with sailing, and ensure the vessel was shipshape with housekeeping.

As I look back, the notion of sailing the islands of Tahiti via private yacht seems too good to be true. With sunrise swan dives off the stern of our ship, afternoons whale-watching from the top deck, sunset mai tais with newfound friends, and evenings of live entertainment onshore, it all feels like the stuff of dreams. And yet, my camera roll is filled with proof that it all was real, and it can be real for you, too.

Alternate charter options

Also sailing in the South Pacific, Tahiti Yacht Charter rents out 30 French-built catamarans exclusively in French Polynesia, racking up rave reviews on Tripadvisor from everyone from honeymooners to groups of friends. Meanwhile, Myst Yacht Charters boasts thousands of rentals around the world, earning similarly high marks for both the quality of its vessels and its committed customer service.

Rachel Rudwall is an Emmy-nominated TV host, producer, camera operator, writer, and award-winning photographer, whose storytelling work across 75+ countries earned her a “Fellow” designation in the famed Explorers Club.
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