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In the July issue of Recommend, we covered the cultural side of the Marquesas Islands, located just a short flight from Tahiti Nui. Now, let’s explore the island of Tahiti.

tahitiTahiti Iti
First, Tahiti Iti, where we stayed at the unique Vanira Lodge, located about 1 hour from Papeete, which is set admist lush gardens on the mountainside. Guests staying here will feel as if they’re staying in a treehouse. Some accommodations don’t have air conditioning or windows, but rather offer guests a true open, treehouse experience. Other accommodations feature the bedroom in an enclosed room offering stunning views of the ocean and mountainside with a wall unit AC, and the bathroom and shower set outdoors with a semi-enclosed open shower concept. Vanira Lodge also offers an onsite restaurant with a selection of delicious local dishes as guests eat al fresco. Guests can also book a few activities and excursions through the resort such as half or full day boat trips to discover Tahiti Iti, a sunset cruise with stops for snorkeling, and cooking classes to learn how to make traditional Polynesian dishes. There are also free activities offered such as yoga, scenic trail hikes, Polynesian dance and handicraft classes, plus biking, snorkeling, and kayaking.

Poisson cru, marinated fish meat. (Photo credit: Michelle Marie Arean)

A day trip boat tour with Tahiti Boat Excursions and Surf, one of the tours offered through Vanira Lodge, takes guests around Tahiti Iti as they visit Teahupoo, a local surf spot in the middle of the ocean as locals take on the waves, and then guests can get off where the ocean meets the river, waddle through a cool, pebbled stream to a forest where they’ll hike through trees, climb up narrow paths until they reach a cave. While on board for our excursion, we were served a Polynesian feast of ahi tuna, poisson cru (marinated raw fish), rice, grilled fish, wine, and desserts. While we devoured the delicious spread set before us, our guide took out the ukulele and played local songs for us, including the theme song of Moana, which we were told, the story behind the song is derived from Tahiti.

Our guide Teiva of Tahiti Discovery showcasing his family’s land at Papenoo Valley. (Photo credit: Michelle Marie Arean)

Tahiti Nui
A unique way to take in the island of Tahiti Nui is by exploring Papenoo Valley; we ventured out with our guide Teiva of Tahiti Discovery, whose family owns this land. We took in the stunning sites of the waterfalls, saw him feed eels in the lakes, checked out the Vaito Aru river, and explored the terrain while riding the back of a pickup truck. Papenoo Valley is the biggest valley on Tahiti’s east coast. During the tour, Teiva shared stories of his family and his grandfather, growing up in the valley, lots about the Polynesian history and culture, and taught us about the local plants and flora.

Learning the drum technique at Arioi Cultural Center. (Photo credit: Michelle Marie Arean)

The next day we visited the Arioi Cultural Center, where we learned how to make Tapa out of tree bark, which was traditionally used to make the local clothing; how to play the local Tahitian drums and even learned a song (somewhat), and we had the chance to weave our own bracelets out of palm leaves. The Arioi Cultural Center is a place for the local kids to come to about twice a week to learn the traditions of their heritage including the local dance, traditional recipes, tapa making, and how to make traditional clothing. This was a unique opportunity to get to interact with the locals and even talk to some of the kids who were visiting during our time there. This 2-hour experience will definitely give your clients an inside look to the Tahitian culture beyond enjoying the stunning beaches and an overwater bungalow.

Tahiti Nui helicopter excursion over Papeete. (Photo credit: Michelle Marie Arean)
Helicopter views over Papeete. (Photo credit: Michelle Marie Arean)

Finally we headed up to the sky for a 20 minute excursion aboard a Tahiti Nui Helicopter. If you think Tahiti is photogenic from the ground, just wait til your clients get a glimpse of it from the air. We took in the coastline scenes, but the real take-your-breath-away moment for me was when we soared into the mountains for stunning sights of the valleys, waterfalls, and greenery. You can really appreciate the town of Papeete’s size when you take a look from the sky.