The Islands of Tahiti Total 118. Why Stop at Just One?

Deal Expert, New York
Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

Rarely does a name conjure so vivid a vision as The Islands of Tahiti. In fact, you’re probably already picturing yourself in a stilted bungalow mid-lagoon — thatched roof overhead, glass floor underfoot and a Mai Tai within arm’s reach. A worthy mind trip indeed.

But consider this: There are so many seductive isles and atolls — 118, to be exact — in this nearly 2-million-square-mile territory, that visiting only one puts your inner explorer at risk for serious FOMO.

So while you may still want to book a night or two at those lagoon lodgings (especially this year, as the islands celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first overwater bungalow), you’d do well to dedicate most of your trip to a cruise. Beyond simply seeing a lot more, you’ll get a richer experience. The best lines operating locally — Paul Gauguin Cruises, Windstar Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Aranui — take you well beyond the surface, gorgeous though it may be.

Here are seven more reasons to swap your resort-wear for boat shoes:

1. You’re waking up somewhere new and amazing every day, but unpacking only once.

New islands. New activities. New sunsets. One day your view is this …

The next day it’s this …

Hiva Oa

2. You’re already on the water — which is where you want to be.

Search #LoveTahiti or #TheIslandsofTahiti on Instagram, and people at play in the local liquid turquoise will quickly dominate your screen.

If the water is where the fun is, why not start and end the day there? Water activities are often included in the cruise, as is direct access to them: You can get right in from the ship, whether you’re snorkeling, kayaking to a motu (small island) or stand-up paddleboarding in a calm lagoon.

3. You can take the resort with you.

Many resorts in The Islands of Tahiti are the very picture of seclusion, and getting from the resort to … well, anything else isn’t always easy. The opposite holds true on a ship. So think of yours as a traveling overwater bungalow, with the same amenities you’d find on (or at least attached to) terra firma, whether the watersports platform on Windstar Cruises, the Canyon Ranch SpaClub on Oceania Cruises, the Michelin-rated chefs’ picks on Paul Gauguin Cruises or the Polynesian cultural events on Aranui.

Paul Gauguin Cruises

4. One price, less sticker shock.

Though this one applies to cruises almost anywhere, the point is worth underscoring when you’re talking about a part of the world where resort costs can add up particularly fast (remote islands=imported everything). Meals on board, by contrast, cost nothing extra. Same often goes for certain shore excursions, cultural events and non-premium wines and liquors.

Paul Gauguin Cruises

5. You have a huge variety of islands to choose from.

Whatever your local interest — indigenous culture, rainforest ecology, snorkeling, kayaking, beach bumming or any combination thereof — there’s an itinerary that fits the bill. Three of the likeliest components:

Among others, this island group includes Tahiti, the international air hub and French Polynesia’s economic and political center with great markets, museums and restaurants; Moorea, where lush peaks soar above turquoise waters that humpbacks often call home; and Bora Bora, whose palm-fringed, sugary white beaches rival its thickly forested peak for most-photographed feature.

Most cruise itineraries will focus heavily on the trio above, and some will get to the sister Society Islands: Taha’a, home to fragrant fields that give this island its alias (Vanilla Island); Huahine, onetime enclave of Tahitian nobility, and still home to a wealth of temple ruins; and Raiatea, Polynesia’s spiritual birthplace, and sole province of the iconic and intoxicating taire flower.

Some of the most picturesque atolls — closely grouped coral reefs that ring an inner lagoon — are found here. Among the highlights are Rangiroa, which lures snorkelers and divers to its sandbars and lagoons and Fakarava, a UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve, with such dive sites as the hammerhead-happy shark’s hole.

Almost 1,000 miles from Tahiti, these islands will be part of longer cruises, and are worth the voyage for their cloud-scraping mountains, remote beaches, dense forests, hidden waterfalls, mega-tikis and ancient sacred sites.

6. The array of local cruise lines is almost as dazzling.

Four cruise lines specialize in itineraries throughout The Islands of Tahiti.

Paul Gauguin Cruises, considered a Travel + Leisure “World’s Best,” features its own private  island, a magical motu off the coast of vanilla-scented Taha’a, and private white sand beach in Bora Bora.

Paul Gauguin Cruises

Beloved for its Canyon Ranch spa and Jacques Pépin-masterminded cuisine, Oceania Cruises blends the best of the Society, Tuamotu and Marquesas islands into ultra-dreamy itineraries.

Oceania Cruises

The intimate, four-masted yachts of Windstar Cruises make you feel as if you’re on a private ship — and you basically are — with fewer than 150 fellow cruise-mates onboard.

Windstar Cruises

With Polynesian staff and far-off island hopping, the Aranui cruise offers up an immersive Polynesian culture experience to travelers who’d happily trade luxury for adventure.


7. You can still celebrate the overwater bungalow’s 50th birthday.

Even when you book a cruise to The Islands of Tahiti, there’s no need to forfeit that age-old fantasy of staying in an overwater bungalow. With most itineraries starting and ending in Papeete, you’ll have overwater bungalows close at hand that you may not realize are there, such as the ones at Le Meridien Tahiti and The Intercontinental Tahiti Resort and Spa. Book a night on either side of your cruise to have your gâteau and eat it, too.

Learn more about cruising in The Islands of Tahiti.

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone
Show 6 Comments
  • Charlie Chan

    has anyone had any experience with aranui cruises?

    • Doug Foster

      Charlie, we went on the Aranui 3. It was a great trip. It is a trip you will never forget. Boat was fine, getting to the island and unloading the supplies was something else. All of the village people would come and meet the boat at the dock. They all had a big smile on their faces, mostly all the children. If you can book it I would say do it.

      Doug Foster

      • Charlie Chan

        Thanks Doug

        • Lisa Bayan

          My husband and I went a couple of years ago. Highly recommended. The ARANUI was fine. It is not a luxury liner. (We sailed previously on OCEANIA, a different also lovely experience). ARANUI is half passengership and half freighter.
          The cabin was spotless, comfortable and on the top deck with large window facing the freight deck below. Bathroom spacious with a tub. It was one of the top cabins. Personell very helpful and well trained for the job. Meals were taken in one communal seating.
          By the end of the trip I was ready to adopt the pastry chef who produced the most delicious French pastries and desserts…every day.
          We would consider going again. It is not well suited for anyone with mobility issues nor anyone expecting de luxe pampering.
          Very interesting to watch the loading and unloading of everything from the by weekly mail sacks for the islands, to bikes, machine parts, a small car, coke boxes and food crates.All done by heavily tatooed islanders. One a descendant of royalty. All what was missing was Marlon Brando in an adventure film!
          Wonderful once in a life time experience all around. Stay on Moorea at the end of the trip for a couple of nights. It is magical.
          Happy travels and best wishes from California

  • Richard Walden

    I lived in Tahiti and Tahaa for 10 months in 1975-76 and it was the most profoundly beautiful experience imaginable…island hopping by local boats…..It’s still a bargain if you can’t afford the cruise ships

    • Patricia M Cornell

      I don’t want the cruise ship. Can you tell me where to stay that is clean, safe and very affordable? I imagine all of the water is o.k. to swim in? Thank-you. Will be coming
      by plane.