5 Tahitian Islands We're Dreaming of Right Now
The Islands of Tahiti -- even if you've never been, chances are you're picturing pearly white beaches, turquoise waters and photo opportunities that would make your Instagram followers instantly jealous.
The reputation is justified, but there's also plenty more going on that you wouldn't expect. Here's our profile of some of the lesser-known Tahitian islands we'd love to be visiting right now.
Tahiti, the mainland
It sounds bold to proclaim Tahiti a "lesser-known" island when the country is named after it and most airlines fly into the capital city, Papeete. However, some travellers only spend one night here before heading to another island, and we think it's worth sticking around for longer.
It looks like something out of Jurassic Park. Surrounded by lush, green forests, the mountainous interior is dominated by volcanic peaks, rushing rivers and fields of tropical flowers. You can quickly get off the beaten path on a Jeep tour; we recommend choosing one that takes you to the towering waterfalls of the Papeno'o Valley.
On the south-west of the island lies the village of Teahupo'o, said to be one of the best surfing spots in the world. Although areas of the beach are suitable for beginners, some waves can reach up to seven metres. A scene in the 2015 remake of the movie Point Break was filmed here, and it's also the site of the famous Billabong Pro Teahupo'o surfing competition.
It's worth checking out Tahiti Homes for a place to stay; vacation rentals are available on a weekly basis and are especially cost-effective for families or groups.
Pronounced "hoo-a-heeny," this island is just as fun to visit as it is to say.
It's one of the best places to learn about black pearls, which, unlike white ones, can't be mass-produced. Huahine Pearl Farm is smaller than some found on other islands, so you can meet the owner and canoe across a lagoon to see the process up close. Each oyster can take up to five years to yield a single pearl.
In Fare, you can see and feed blue-eyed eels, which the islanders believe to be sacred. The eels' eerie stares don't seem to scare local kids, who can occasionally be seen swimming with them. Pension Fare Maeva is a good place to spend the night -- it's run by a local family and rooms start at under $100.
Three words: Pink. Sand. Beaches.
There's also a spectacular crown of coral said to host a greater variety of fish than anywhere else in the islands of Tahiti. Rent a bungalow at Pension Ninamu, spend your days snorkelling and sunbathing and pray that you never have to leave.
Raiatea and Taha’a
Technically these are two islands, but we're not counting because they're only a 15-minute boat ride from one another and you may as well visit both together.
Raiatea can best be described as Tahiti's cultural hub. Here you'll find Marae Taputapuatea, a significant archaeological site. Polynesians used it as a cultural and religious centre as far back as 1000 AD, and some of its original structures and traditional statues exist to this day.
Fun fact: If you've ever had a scoop of French vanilla ice cream, there's a good chance part of it came from Taha'a. The ingredient doesn't get its name from France, but from French Polynesia, and 80% of Tahiti's production is on this island. Vanilla-bearing orchids grow everywhere, and their scent is said to permeate the air.
Let's get this out of the way first: you really don't have to be a millionaire to appreciate Tahiti. Seriously. There are plenty of hotels, B&Bs and homestay options that cost the same or less as their counterparts in Australia, and packagers offer discounted holidays.
But if you just happen to inherit a large sum of money, going to Tetiaroa is better than hiding it in your mattress. Dubbed "The Godfather" of private islands (Conde Nast Traveller), it was Marlon Brando's personal hideaway before a luxury resort opened in 2014.
The Brando is the sort of place where you might spot President Barack Obama penning his memoirs or Pippa Middleton on honeymoon. The three-bedroom villa is €9,000 ($13,500) per night and certified paparazzi-free; it has its own swimming pool and private yard leading to a beach frequented by sea turtles.
Choose your own adventure
We hope you've enjoyed our dream tour of Tahiti. With more than a dozen islands to choose from, there wasn't space to write about them all, but each has its own character.
You can reach most of the islands from Papeete, which is around nine hours from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on Air Tahiti Nui. Flights are on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and include a stop in Auckland.
Still looking for your spot in the sun? "The Islands of Tahiti" website offers further inspiration.