The wonderfully authentic Taha’a is a pearl often missed by many tourists to French Polynesia. There are no concrete fences here. The roads are flanked by the vibrant colors of the local foliage, especially the ever-blooming hibiscus.
The waters are extremely beautiful and clear, as is everything around its untouched ‘motus’ (islets). Taha’a mountain ranges offer sensational panoramas. It’s one of the most beautiful of the Society Islands.
It’s a peaceful environment where people are content. Its beauty grows on you, and the longer you stay, the more beautiful it becomes.
Why You Should Go
- Authentic Tahiti to its very roots
- Waters of extreme beauty to rival Bora Bora and other French Polynesia islands surrounding the motus to the island’s north
- Magnificent crossing possible by foot over the island’s centre offering unforgetable panaramas & a great stop-over for lunch
- Peaceful enviroment, happy people content with their lives
- Recognised internationally as producing the world’s best vanilla
- Sensational diving in the passes
Where Is Taha’a
Taha’a is located 38 km (23.6 miles) southeast of Bora Bora in the same lagoon as Raiatea. You will need to take a boat to get there no matter what Society Island you’re staying in since there is no airport on Taha’a.
A quick trip across to Taha’a from Bora Bora is an enticing and inviting thought and is possible to undertake without breaking the bank. There’s no airport on Taha’a, although there’s one on Raiatea from which you can reach Taha’a by boat. On this occasion, we decided on a boat trip by a cargo vessel.
Here is how our experience of getting there went, along with the marine life we saw on the way there. If you’re more interested in things to do in Taha’a or where to stay in Taha’a, skip to the sections down below that cover that.
Two options presented themselves — the Maupiti Express from Vaitape Wharf or the Taporo VI from the cargo vessel from Farepiti Wharf.
The Hawaiki’Nui stops at Taha’a on the way to, but not from Bora Bora. This gives you an added option for the return to Bora Bora from Taha’a.
The Maupiti Express operates the quicker, more comfortable & more expensive voyage on Tuesday, Friday (during school term) & Sunday. It takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes for the crossing and traveling at set times.
Something the cargo vessels are not always able to respect and match the times! Check full details at their office behind the Tourist Information Centre on Vaitape Wharf.
We decided to take the Taporo VI for the sheer pleasure of the adventure, recalling our journey from Tahiti to Bora Bora.
The Taporo VI operates this service 2-3 times per week, so check departure details with locals or by heading to Farepiti Wharf where travel details are displayed outside the offices of each cargo vessel. We simply turned up when the boat was in port and booked – 847xpf one way – great value!
It’s a relaxing 2.5-hour voyage with great views while watching marara (flying fish) fly from the ship’s bow. Then we were welcome, on entering Paipai Pass at Taha’a, by dolphin surfing the bow.
To starboard at the pass, a beautiful stretch of turquoise water fronting the mystic Raiatea while ahead is Point Tiamahana (Rising Sun Point). It marks the entrance to scenic Hurepiti Bay. To one’s left is the imposing & colorful structure of the Church of Tiva at the water’s edge. It’s magical!
Paipai Pass with an approaching storm & a still clear Raiatea:
Point Tiamahana sheltering Hurepiti Bay & the picturesque Church at Tiva:
The boat disembarks at Tapuamu opposite the fabulous Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa. It’s the best place to stay on Taha’a, depending on your budget. As we docked, we witnessed locals moving freshly cut bamboo by water ready for its use in local style establishments, with the Taha’a Resort and in turn Bora Bora in the background.
The Taporo VI unloading cargo in Taha’a:
Where To Stay In Taha’a
We had done little research concerning places to stay, knowing we would settle for nothing less than Tiare Breeze. It’s a fabulous hide-out where the movie stars stay (not joking), run by a great guy called Tama.
Staying at a ‘pension famille’ (family run guesthouse) is the go to on Taha’a. Au Phil Du Temps & The Hibiscus are other great choices in a different price range. Tiare Breeze’s fare pote jutting into Haamene Bay, which is an excellent spot for a massage.
Situated some 230km north-west of Tahiti & just over 30 km from Bora Bora, Taha’a shares a 290 km2 lagoon with Raiatea. It offers uninterupted navigation around both islands and provides wonderful sailing & cruising opportunities.
The coral barrier around Tahaa’s north is dotted with beautiful white sand fringed ‘motus’. The 2 passes into Tahaa’s lagoon – Paipai & Toahotu – offer exceptional, really outstanding scuba diving as does the lagoon.
The remnants of an ancient volcano flanked by steep peaks – Ohiri (590 m), Puurauti (458 m) & Noua Roa (418 m) – dominates the center of the island. The northern mountainous region is interspersed with wide valleys. Meanwhile, the south is a series of smaller mountains separated by the large bays of Faaaha, Huepiti, Apu &Haamene.
Haamene runs some 5km inland and is the deepest bay in French Polynesia.
Around 5000 people live on Taha’a, with Patio serving as the island’s administrative & commercial center. Tapuamu is the principal port for cargo. Agriculture, fishing & tourism form the backbone of the economy.
Tahaa’s land area of some 90 km2 is three times that of Bora Bora & is used extensively for agriculture. Experts agree that the best vanilla in the world is produced on Taha’a, and the island produces some 80% of the total vanilla production of French Polynesia. This is one of the reasons why it’s also sometimes called Vanilla Island.
Though production is on a relatively small scale, Taha’a also produces pearls of great quality. Try your luck at the pearl farms situated near the marina at Vaitoere & another just west of Patio.
Here are some freshly caught fish for sale in Patio’s main street.
Taha’a is one of the rare places where you may be lucky to witness a spectacular festival “la peche au caillou” (fishing by stone). The large stones are attached to cords and thrashed on the water’s surface to drive the fish into a trap.
The festival can be accompanied by a umu ti (walking on fire) ceremony where participants follow a tahua (priest) and walk barefoot across the fire stepping along its hot stones.
Their surface temperature can exceed 2000c (3632 Fahrenheit). Pirogue races are also held & there is much traditional dancing.
The Hawaiki’nui Va’a, the world’s most intense, spectacular & prestigious open-sea outrigger canoe race in the South Pacific is held around November each year.
It’s another great event for Taha’a attracting hundreds of the world’s best paddlers, thousands of spectators and the world’s press to witness a 3-day ordeal from Huahine to Raiatea, then to Taha’a and finally Bora Bora.
Things To Do in Taha’a
The road trip around Taha’a is a treat, with many things to do throughout the island. Starting from Tapuamu – there’s petrol (oil) here and at Patio but nowhere else on the island.
You can head south, passing by Tiva & its photogenic Church. There are excellent views back to Bora Bora along the way. The road follows the picturesque Hurepiti Bay, at the head of which there’s an intersection where the road climbs towards Haamene or heads right out to Point Tiamahana.
The road to Point Tiamahana is sealed for only half the distance, but is a very scenic and runs past a number of homes, although offers no public access to the water along its length.
The following photo shows the views from the land of my mother-in-law on Point Tiamahana, looking over the Church at Tiva & back across the water to Bora Bora.
You can backtrack to take the road to Haamene, stopping to enjoy the views from atop the rise, then head down to the township market by a T-intersection.
We headed right then almost immediately onto a beautiful stretch of road. Just keep bearing right, and it takes you through gently rolling hills filled with colorful farmland.
There’s a wonderful traditional home here operating a useful vanilla information service.
You will reach a further intersection. To your right is Poutoru, where the Maupiti Express docks. Entering Poutoru, there’s a good view of Raiatea to be had from Point Apoo Puhi (Eel Hole Point).
The road is a dead-end, so recover your tracks and on re-reaching the intersection, head righ continuing to Vaitoare through another nice stretch of road cutting across the mountain.
Onwards you can continue from Vaitoare to Haamene where the island’s only dentist and pharmacy is found. You’ll pass Tiare Breeze, our recommended place to stay, along the way.
The road continues around the other side of Haamene Bay towards Faaaha over a mountain pass offering great views from the top & some vanilla plantations on the Faaaha side.
Too enjoyable a run to stop, you can continue around Faaaha Bay to reach Point Vaiaata, from where you can see the beautiful Motu Mahaea & Motu Toahutu marking the entrance to Toahotu Pass, Huahine in the distance.
The pass is a wonderful spot where locals come to party. A good surf break here on occasion. Scuba diving in the pass is sensational and the sunrises over Huahine are nothing short of miraculous as the following photo attests. Many yachts moor overnight here in this most beautiful of spots.
The road leads around towards Raai Bay and passes the House of Vanilla, a tourist trap of sorts but selling a wide range of vanilla-related products.
We lived for a while at Raai Bay on our son’s faapu (farm). Here is a shot of the entrance to the farm and of our bedroom, which had sensational views over the lagoon and up the mountains.
We grew mainly fruit & vegetables but also vanilla. In the following photo of vanilla being removed from a serre, a worker picks a medicinal plant used for the treatment of coughs & congestion.
We would seek relief from the heat of working on the faapu by swimming with the dogs in the waters surrounding Raai Bay. The first image shows Motu Moute in the background, the second looks back over Toahotu Pass and onto Raiatea.
The road crossing Raai Bay is actually constructed over the actual bay of bygone years. Back towards the mountainside, there are the remains of a former marae.
Here fishermen would gather, seeking guidance and safety before they headed out to sea. Their families would wait at the marae for their return to assist with the catch.
It is still considered by many as a good place to fish (& offers great views over Huahine at the same time).
Moonrise over Raai Bay:
From Raii Bay, the road continues to mostly grip the lagoon offering views over the many motus that dot Tahaa’s northern coastline while passing more vanilla plantations on the way through Hipu & on to Patio.
At Hipu, we passed the Mairie (Town Hall) being readied for a marriage with a dexterous Tahitian making hearts from coconut tree branches:
Closer to Patio on passing Tahaa’s other petrol station just north of the town, we found the station had organized a fishing competition for the locals.
There is a fabulous crossing to be undertaken over the top of Taha’a, running between Patio & Haamene.
It’s accessible only by off-road motorbike or a proper 4×4 car since it is fortunately maintained in a reasonable state. Particularly around April each year when the track is used for a popular fun run.
The crossing can be found by taking the road on the northern outskirts of Patio, which leads out past the football stadium. Crossing by 4×4 can be done in around an hour if pushed.
Walking the track is not too difficult and makes for a wonderful outing. Set off from Patio in the morning past great stands of coconuts & plantations of exotic tropical flowers.
The dirt road climbs to permit views back down the valleys where the mountains spear down upon the motus on Tahaa’s coral reef. The Coral Garden reef in Taha’a is a famous spot for snorkeling.
Continue to the lookout at Vaitoetoe Pass (Cold Water Pass) above Haamene where there’s a place to sit & just try to take it all in!
It’s an absolutely gob-smacking 360-degree panorama over the intricate bay formations of Taha’a flanked by wonderful mountain scenery.
You’ll have to drag yourself away to descend to Haamene.
At the base of the descent to Haamene, you’ll find a cattle fence at the entrance to a wonderful property watered by a clear stream honored by mape (walnut trees) and tarot along its banks.
There is a similar fence at the other end of the property. You can quickly find youself back on the island’s main road just north of the pharmacy at Haamene.
As an outing by foot, given the exceptional lunch spot and the outstanding all-round panoramas, it’s amongst the very best!
But let me take you back for a moment to Patio from where we broke our island tour to cover the crossing over the top of Taha’a.
There are 2 supermarkets in Patio, medical assistance at the dispensary, the Gendarmarie (police), a post office, a fire brigade and an internet café! It’s a small, quiet township, but it has a certain charm all to its own. It’s here that the mighty Hawaiki’Nui Vaa race ends its second stage.
To complete the circuit, the road from Patio leads back to Tapuamu, following the edge of the lagoon and offering very special views over distant motus. Their coconut trees sway gently to a backdrop of a most majestic Bora Bora:
Where millionaires dream to live:
The sunset can be quite dreamy
The motus of Taha’a are as stunning as their Bora Bora counterparts & should be seen by boat on any visit to Taha’a.
Stop for a swim in these astoundingly beautiful waters around one of the many uninhabited motus. Take in the full swing of motus from the luxurious Le Taha’a Island Resort, past Vahine Island and right down to Toahutu Pass itself.
It’s a great spot to dive and surf in the right conditions.
Back on dry land, there are wild pigs in these mountains. If you’re looking for something different and feel fit, see if you can join in a pig chase with the locals.
You’ll certainly see a lot of the island that way and, in all likelihood, be able to join in Maa Tahiti with them enjoying your catch and certainly, if you are game, some fafaru!
Here are some last-minute tips when visiting Taha’a:
- Buy some vanilla whilst you’re there
- Good bargains for the informed buyer to be found also for black pearls
- Only pharmacy is at Haamene
- Internet at Patio (next to the Post Office)
- Cross the island’s center from Patio to Haamene and take lunch with you & enjoy the brilliant lookout above Haamene