Embarking on a journey from Papeete to Bora Bora is like stepping into a postcard-perfect paradise that’s often whispered about in traveler’s tales. I’ve made this trip more times than I can count, and it never fails to take my breath away.
The azure waters, the silhouettes of overwater bungalows, and the warm Polynesian welcome are just the beginning. Whether you’re flying or sailing, the transition from Tahiti’s bustling hub to the tranquil allure of Bora Bora is an experience that’s as unforgettable as it is stunning.
Join me as I share insider tips and personal stories that’ll make your trip from Papeete to Bora Bora more than just a journey—it’ll be the adventure of a lifetime.
Every time I set foot in Papeete, I’m greeted with a scene straight out of a travel magazine. The capital of French Polynesia, Papeete is vibrant and bustling, exuding an electric atmosphere that’s hard to miss. My first stop is always the Marché de Pape’ete, a market where the heart of Tahitian culture pulses with life. Rows of colorful stalls beckon you to discover local crafts, tropical fruits, and the iconic Tahitian pearls.
Walking along the waterfront promenade, La Place Vai’ete, at dusk is another favorite of mine. Here, food trucks, known locally as ‘roulottes,’ set the stage for a festive night out. The energy is infectious and it’s here I’ve made friendships that last to this day. Don’t pass up the chance to see the black sand beaches either. They’re an unusual sight that stands in stark contrast to Bora Bora’s white sandy shores.
Local Cuisine in Papeete
Tahiti’s food scene is as diverse as its landscape, and Papeete serves up the best of it. I always dive straight into the local cuisine starting with Poisson cru, Tahiti’s signature dish. It’s a blend of raw fish marinated in lime juice and mixed with coconut milk; a dance of sweet and tangy flavors that’s utterly refreshing on a hot day. For meat lovers, Fafa – chicken wrapped in taro leaves and cooked in coconut milk – is a rich and savory delight.
But for a treat you’ll find only here, go for the ‘uru’, or breadfruit. It’s a starchy fruit that can be baked, fried, or boiled and has a unique taste that grows on you. Make sure to visit a local ‘ma’a tahiti’, a traditional Tahitian feast, to experience a full spread of Polynesian flavors, which often include mouth-watering pork cooked in an underground oven called Ahima’a.
Dining in Papeete is more than a mere culinary experience; it’s a cultural dive into the flavors that make up this island paradise. With each meal, I’ve discovered something new about Tahiti’s heritage, something that stays with me long after the journey is over.
Ferry from Papeete to Moorea
After savoring the local flavors in Papeete, I caught the next part of my French Polynesian adventure with a ferry ride to the stunning island of Moorea. Ferries depart regularly, providing a smooth and scenic 30-minute journey across the crystal-clear waters. As the ferry glided away from Tahiti, the bustling market and vivid hues of Papeete faded into the horizon, unveiling the tranquil beauty of Moorea’s lush mountains and white sandy beaches.
The ferry itself is surprisingly comfortable, with open-air decks and cozy indoor seating. I chose to stay outdoors, embracing the ocean breeze and keeping my camera at the ready to snap the picturesque moments one can capture only at sea. Dolphins occasionally graced us with their presence, frolicking in the wake of our vessel and adding a touch of magic to the voyage.
Activities in Moorea
Stepping off the ferry in Moorea, I was ready to immerse myself in the island’s serenity and raw beauty. Snorkeling and diving here are second to none; the coral reefs teem with life. Vibrant fish of all colors darted through the waters as I explored the underwater wonders—a must-do for any marine enthusiast.
For those who prefer land-based adventures, Moorea’s emerald mountains offer hiking trails with breathtaking vistas. I took to the hills one morning and was rewarded with panoramic views of the island’s twin bays, a sight that is simply unforgettable. The Belvedere Lookout is a popular spot, boasting a view that’s perfect for those quintessential vacation photos.
Another activity that can’t be overlooked is exploring Moorea on four wheels. Renting an ATV allowed me to traverse the island’s varied terrain, from coastal roads to adventurous mountain paths. Along the way, I discovered local fruit stands offering the freshest of tropical delights—an ample reward for the intrepid explorer.
From the water to the peaks, Moorea captivated me with its charm and laid-back atmosphere. It stood in delightful contrast to Papeete’s lively streets, reminding me that the islands of French Polynesia each have their own unique character to cherish.
Getting from Moorea to Huahine
After soaking up Moorea’s vibrant beauty, my journey through French Polynesia’s enchanting islands continued. Traveling from Moorea to Huahine is a relatively straightforward affair when you’re familiar with the local transit system. My first step was to return to Tahiti via the swift ferry service. Once in Papeete, I caught a domestic flight to Huahine with Air Tahiti, the primary airline operating inter-island flights in French Polynesia. The process was seamless, thanks to the well-timed schedules that seem tailor-made for island-hoppers like me.
The flight itself was a brief yet breathtaking affair. Gazing out of the airplane window, I marveled at the sparkling turquoise waters stretching infinitely below. In less than an hour, the plane touched down on Huahine, and I found myself transported to an entirely different world. Far less touristy and remarkably serene, Huahine feels like a well-kept secret among the Society Islands, offering a glimpse into a more traditional way of life.
Cultural Experiences in Huahine
Huahine, often referred to as the Garden of Eden, captivated my senses with its rich culture and history. Upon arrival, I eagerly immersed myself in the local lifestyle. The islanders’ warmth and their genuine smiles were as inviting as the island’s lush landscapes. I learned that Huahine is actually two islands, Huahine Nui (big) and Huahine Iti (small), connected by a short bridge.
- Sacred Sites: My explorations led me to numerous marae, ancient Polynesian temples made of stone. These sacred sites resonated with the spiritual past of the Polynesians, and each had its unique tale, which local guides were more than happy to share.
- Local Delicacies: Gastronomy on Huahine was as exquisite as their culture. I had the chance to try traditional dishes like poisson cru, a delectable raw fish salad marinated in lime juice and coconut milk.
- Craftsmanship: Venturing into the villages, I discovered the intricate art of pareo painting and Polynesian tattooing, crafts deeply embedded in the local heritage.
Interacting with the islanders during cultural festivals and everyday life painted a vivid picture of Huahine’s society and traditions for me. The rich tapestry of stories and customs I experienced here emphasized the island’s timeless connection to its ancestors. As I left the bustling local market with its array of handicrafts and fragrant local fruit, it became clear that Huahine isn’t just a stopover; it’s a chapter all its own in the story of French Polynesia.
Raiatea and Taha’a
Sailing from Huahine to Raiatea and Taha’a
Leaving behind the raw cultural beauty of Huahine was bittersweet, but the adventure continued as I set sail toward Raiatea and Taha’a. These two islands, enclosed within the same coral reef, provide an intimate view of the intricate tapestry that is French Polynesia’s maritime terrain.
I boarded a small yacht, where the vibe was immediately welcoming—the salty air and gentle waves promising yet another remarkable chapter in my journey. Not long into our sail, Raiatea revealed itself, known to many as The Sacred Island. The mythology and legends that weave through Raiatea’s history are almost palpable against the backdrop of its lush, green peaks.
Taha’a, which lies just across the lagoon, offers a more laid-back atmosphere. It’s renowned for its sweeping vanilla-scented breeze, an enticing welcome as we approached. Sailing between these islands provided me with an unexpected sense of serenity. There’s something about gliding over the turquoise lagoon waters, mountains towering on the horizon, that sets your soul at ease.
Visiting Vanilla Plantations
If there’s one thing you can’t miss when visiting Taha’a, it’s the vanilla plantations. Taha’a is often called the ‘Vanilla Island’ for its substantial role in producing this sought-after spice which I learned accounts for nearly 80% of French Polynesia’s vanilla exports.
I was fortunate to visit one of the family-owned plantations, where the scent of vanilla permeates the very air you breathe. Here’s what I found out about the painstaking process of vanilla cultivation:
- Hand-pollination is essential for these orchids, as there are no natural pollinators for vanilla in Polynesia.
- It takes several months for the vanilla pods to mature after pollination.
- The harvesting process is as intricate as the nurturing one; each pod must be handpicked at the precise moment of ripeness to ensure maximum flavor.
The dedication of these local farmers to preserving the traditional methods of vanilla cultivation is nothing short of admirable. Watching them work, I gained greater appreciation for the complexity and luxury of vanilla that I’d previously taken for granted. And of course, I couldn’t leave without purchasing some of these exquisite vanilla pods to take a piece of Polynesia with me.
As the island softened into the evening light, the sweet, earthy notes of vanilla seemed to echo the cultural richness that I’ve come to associate with each of these enchanting islands.
As my adventure continued across the French Polynesian archipelago, I found myself nearing the world-renowned Bora Bora. Images of vibrant turquoise waters and iconic mountainous landscapes had filled my thoughts for years, and the reality didn’t disappoint.
Arriving in Bora Bora
My first glimpse of Bora Bora from the plane was spellbinding; Mt. Otemanu stood proudly against a backdrop of endless blue. The moment the aircraft touched down, the warm island air greeted me, laced with the faint hint of tiare flowers.
At the dock, I boarded a boat shuttle, which is a common transfer method to the resorts. My senses were awash with excitement and the soothing sounds of the water. The lagoon’s crystal-clear waters were so pure I could see tropical fish darting beneath the surface without the need of a snorkel. It felt as if I was gliding into a living postcard, each moment more picturesque than the last.
Staying in Overwater Bungalows
Checking into an overwater bungalow was the moment when Bora Bora’s magic truly enveloped me. These architectural marvels hover gracefully over the lagoon, supported by sturdy stilts. The blend of luxury and natural beauty was seamless. I’ll never forget the feeling of stepping onto the polished wood floors, feeling the gentle sway of the structure, and hearing the water lapping softly against the pillars.
The bungalows are designed to ensure privacy and intimacy, making them ideal for a romantic getaway or a tranquil solo retreat. The highlight was the glass floor section, often situated right in the center of the bungalow. It felt like having my personal aquarium where I could watch the aquatic ballet at any time of day.
Equipped with modern amenities and a touch of traditional Polynesian style, the overwater bungalows offered the comfort of high-end hotels mixed with the unique charm of island living. Waking up to the sunrise spilling over the horizon, directly viewable from my king-sized bed, was indescribable. And if I needed a morning dip, the lagoon was just a few steps away—my own natural swimming pool accessible via the private deck.
The experience of staying in these bungalows was a symphony of luxury and nature, creating moments so serene that they seemed to suspend time itself. Every corner of the room provided a new perspective of the island’s beauty, from the lofty peaks to the shimmering shores. It was an immersion in paradise that went beyond my wildest dreams.
Traveling from Papeete to Bora Bora has been a journey that’s etched forever in my memory. Staying in an overwater bungalow was the epitome of indulgence, blending luxury with the raw beauty of nature. I’ve found that the true essence of tranquility lies in the intimate moments spent watching the marine life dance beneath my feet. My voyage through French Polynesia, culminating in the splendor of Bora Bora, has been nothing short of a dream. If you’re seeking a slice of paradise, this is where you’ll find it.
Frequently Asked Questions
What destinations did the author visit in French Polynesia?
The author visited Huahine, Raiatea, Taha’a, and finally Bora Bora in French Polynesia, each offering unique landscapes and experiences.
How does the author describe Bora Bora?
Bora Bora is described as breathtakingly beautiful, with vibrant turquoise waters and iconic mountainous landscapes.
What type of accommodation did the author stay in while in Bora Bora?
The author stayed in an overwater bungalow, which combined luxury with natural beauty and provided a private, intimate setting.
What are the notable features of the overwater bungalow?
The overwater bungalow featured a glass floor section for viewing the ocean life below, offering a unique way to experience the aquatic environment.
How does the author describe the experience of staying in the bungalow?
Staying in the bungalow is described as a symphony of luxury and nature. It provided moments of serenity and a deep sense of immersion in a paradisiacal environment.