insights from the ultimate cruising team

A Simple Guide to Cruising Tahiti

A Simple Guide to Cruising Tahiti

You would be right for thinking Tahiti is one of the most beautiful destinations the world has to offer, with turquoise lagoons and postcard-perfect white sand beaches.  You would also be forgiven for thinking you would encounter these the moment you step off the plane in Papeete.

These pristine beach scenes are depicted throughout travel brochures and destination guides so it’s little wonder many people don’t realise that to experience this idyllic haven, there is a little more to it.  And there is a lot more to Tahiti than just beautiful beaches!

There are 118 islands making up The Islands of Tahiti, or French Polynesia.  Many of these are uninhabited and, whilst the total landmass of these islands is only 4,100 sq km (1600 sq miles), the actual nautical surface area is the size of Western Europe.  So you can see why a little bit of planning is required if you would like to see even a fraction of what Tahiti has to offer!

Papeete is the gateway to French Polynesia.  When arriving from (or via) New Zealand, the flights often have late evening arrival times so an overnight in Papeete is usually required.  This isn’t a bad thing – while Papeete isn’t the most enthralling town, overnighting in Papeete gives you that extra bit of breathing space in case of flight delays. 

Papeete is also worth a look.  It’s a little on the dusty side and some buildings could do with some repairs, but the colourful fish markets can be interesting with the tropical varieties brought in and the marina often hosts some impressive super yachts.  In the evenings, Les Roulottes on the waterfront are worth checking out.  The trucks set up with tables and chairs and offer a variety of food from burgers to pasta to swordfish.  The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and it is a favourite for the locals.  Be sure to bring local currency as credit cards are not always accepted.

You can take a half day circle island tour that will take you out of Papeete and show you some spectacular sights of Tahiti, as well as giving you and overview on culture, history and politics.  It’s a good way to get an insight into Tahitian life in a short time frame.

The Islands

Each island is different – the most popular being Moorea, simply because of its close proximity to Papeete and easy accessibility.  With regular ferry crossings, bays and beaches that are far superior to the mainland, numerous activities both on and off the water and some beautiful scenic walks, it’s a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.

Venturing further afield, Bora Bora is perhaps the most famous of Tahiti’s islands and this is where you’ll find the postcard perfect lagoons and beaches.  It’s an idyllic oasis that epitomises the essence of Tahiti with crystal clear waters, fragrant flowers and tranquil seclusion and luxury. 

But if you want to see more of Tahiti that the average traveller, the islands of Huahine, Raiatea and Taha’a beckon – each with their own personality.  Huahine boasts tropical gardens with vanilla and coconut plantations, banana groves and watermelon fields whilst Raiatea oozes mystical charm with myths, history, hidden temples and fascinating legends and Taha’a is a breath-taking expanse of white sand beaches and turquoise lagoons.


Image:  Paul Gauguin

For the more adventurous still, head on out to the remote Marquesas Islands.  Unlike any other islands in French Polynesia, this rugged archipelago will hold you spellbound with volcanic, jungle-clad mountains plunging dramatically into the Ocean.  Here you will find some of the largest ancient tiki statues in French Polynesia, historic homes and cathedrals and friendly locals who will enjoy demonstrating the ancient techniques of sculpturing, woodcarving and even tattoo.  The best way to see the Marquesas is via the custom-built freighter, Aranui 5, as she delivers supplies to the locals.

Distance between Tahiti’s islands is probably greater than you think.  Domestic flights will take you between some of the islands (those with airports at least) but you’ll spend a good amount of time waiting at airports and transiting, which is why cruising is a popular option when visiting multiple islands.  Tahiti has a range of cruise options available including charter catamarans, the Aranui 5 freighter, luxury cruises like the Paul Gauguin, Oceania and Crystal Cruises and luxury expedition ships who visit for short periods.

To ensure you make the most of your time, be sure to speak to an expert who can provide you with all the options and ensure the cruise you select matches your personality.  For more information, click here.