Tahaa, French Polynesia

Visits to fragrant vanilla plantations and precious pearl farms are a must, or pop to peak-dominated neighbouring sister island Raiatea, venerated for its ancient Polynesian spiritual sites, such as striking Marae Taputapuatea temple. Both isles are encircled by the same lagoon, which is also home to marvel-inducing mini isles (motus) along its reef-strewn outer fringes perfect for sunbathing, snorkelling and sea kayaking. Favourites include Motu Tuvahine (home to barefoot-boutique retreat Vahine Island, which boasts views from overwater bungalows over Tahaa and iconic isle Bora Bora beyond). Divers should plumb the depths of aquatic wonderworld Teavapiti Pass; hikers and mountain-bikers should hit the rugged, waterfall-dotted interiors. Raiatea is also the heart of the Society Islands' yachting and sailing scene and tempts serious surfers with its blissful breaks.

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Areas in Tahaa

When to go

Enjoy the best weather in the dry, cooler winter period from May to October. Summer (November to April) sees hotter temperatures, rising humidity, cloudier skies and heavier rains, although storms are usually brief. Peak season falls in line with the northern school holidays, especially July and August, Christmas and New Year; the islands also book up for the July Heiva festival, so get in early or look for off-season bargains. Sailors should avoid the tropical depressions from November to March.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    All international flights to French Polynesia touch down at Tahiti's Faa'a Airport (www.tahiti-aeroport.pf), just west of capital Pape'ete. National carrier Air Tahiti Nui (www.airtahitinui.com) covers the key routes, taking around five hours from Auckland, linked by Qantas code-share from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, Los Angeles (with connections from Paris) and Tokyo. For details of other airline options, see our Tahiti guide. To reach Tahaa, hop on a 45-minute flight to adjacent isle Raiatea just to the south; the two are separated by a three kilometre-wide channel of water. Raiatea Airport is on the north coast, near main town Uturoa. Regular direct daily flights from Tahiti can be booked through domestic carrier Air Tahiti (www.airtahiti.pf), which offers money-saving AirPasses if you plan on visiting several islands. Planes are small and sometimes stop at Moorea or Huahine en route; there are also direct 15-minute flights from Bora Bora to Raiatea. Watch out for weight restrictions (usually 20kg, but you can get discount deals on excess baggage), and aim for window seats for stunning views (ask the air crew which side to bag). Boutique hotels on outlying motus will usually offer their own free airport boat transfers, meeting you at the airport and departing from just outside the terminal building. Air Tahiti's Bora Bora Pass offers flight deals between Tahiti and neighbour islands Bora Bora, Huahine, Moorea, Maupiti and Raiatea/Tahaa.
  • Boats

    Navette (shuttle boat) services and water taxis run between Uturoa, just south-east of Raiatea Airport, and various stops around Tahaa to the north, including Marina Taravana. Hotel transfer boats may pick you up from the airport or meet you at on of the nearer public navette stops on Tahaa. Planning to arrive with your own boat? Raiatea is the epicentre of French Polynesia's yacht-charter and sailing scene, with a tranquil lagoon and marina access. For inter-island boat travel, catch the Maupiti Express 2 speedboat (www.maupitiexpress.com), which runs between Bora Bora and nearby Tahaa (90 minutes), Raiatea and Maupiti (both two hours). Various mixed cargo/passenger and cruise boats ply their way between Tahiti, Raiatea and the other Society Islands, but domestic flights are far quicker, and are Smith's tip for cost and comfort.
  • Automobiles

    Both Tahaa and Raiatea have one sealed road running around their main island perimeters, with a couple of tracks leading into the interiors. You'll find taxis and hire-car firms at Raiatea Airport or in nearby town Uturoa, although most hotels can arrange pick-ups by car or boat. You can also hire scooters for touring.