A small island located at the end of the Society archipelago, Maupiti is a rough diamond that has little to envy to its famous neighbor, Bora Bora. Standing proudly as a medieval fortress, its rocky peak dominates a translucent lagoon.
Relatively isolated, this island has preserved its serenity; it is probably thanks to this protected nature that sea turtles continue to come to lay their eggs on Maupiti’s white sand beaches every year.
Nestled in the heart of a jade lagoon, opened to the ocean, Maupiti is a mysterious and authentic place.
The island of Maupiti:
In 1722, while he thought he was in the middle of the Tongan Islands, Jacob Roggeveen discovered Maupiti and Bora Bora during one of his expedition, 50 years before Tahiti was discovered. However its remoteness and its lagoon deemed difficult to access have protected it from the European influx.
It was not until July 1769 that James Cook went to the edge of the island. Tupaia, the man with him, knows the island well and will help him locate its geographical location and map Polynesia.
Preserved from outside influences thanks to its geographical isolation, it is nowadays one of the few islands that refuses to succumb to mass tourism. Considered as a true microcosm, this small paradise lost in the heart of the ocean embodies the image of Polynesia.
Also, while visitors are more and more excited to discover Maupiti, locals have been keen to preserve the charm, authenticity and prosperity of yesteryear and have been strongly opposed to the establishment of international hotel structures. Here, we like to say that Maupiti looks like Bora Bora fifty years ago.
Located 315km northwest of Tahiti, it is the smallest inhabited island of the Leeward Islands. With an area of only 13.5 km², it easy to walk around it.
The must sees
The Vaiahu marae:
Anchored in the cultural and spiritual heritage of Polynesia, the marae is a sacred place that arouses everyone’s curiosity, captivates and impresses. Located on the beach, the Vaiahu marae is all the more important as it is considered a true national monument. Nine kings were enthroned: Hamaiterai of Rurutu, Mateata of Rimatara, Tamatea of Raivavae, Te Piurairai of Rapa, Hama of Atiu, Mahamama of Manitia, Maruano de Maaroaro, Marietoa of Hamoa, Terihoriho de Vaihi.
Long ago, the king reigned from a stone which served as a seat. Whoever refused to obey him would be executed. A flat stone, located near the lagoon, was used for theses sacrifices.
Haranae Valley’s petroglyphs:
Some archaeological remains are still visible on the island, like the famous Haranae petroglyphs. These include two crabs and two turtles. Remember to ask your way to the locals as the site can be hard to find.
Ofai tairi manu:
The stone is an essential symbol in maohi culture. This one is no exception. The drum stone, as we call it, was used to identify schools of fish. The inhabitants struck this stone with a faniu (part of the coconut palms located near the trunk) in order to frighten the seabirds. Frightened, they fled to the open sea and gathered above schools of fish. This technique was somewhat very basic but ingenious.
The Auria motu:
What if you could walk on water? From the beautiful beach of Tereia, you can reach the islet just across the lagoon! You just have to put one foot in front of the other to fly over a small, shallow sand path. The illusion is almost perfect … Make sure you experience this during low tide, otherwise you will have to swim to cross. It will take you half an hour but stingrays and sharks might join you on the way and time flies when you are in good company.
The Tarona snack-bar:
Located on the beach, the Tarona snack-bar is undoubtedly one of the best on the island. Listen to the sound of the waves and enjoy a succulent raw fish with coconut milk while watching the lagoon. Can you picture yourself there?
What activities to practice?
Over the years, scuba diving has gradually become popular, to the point that a center has settled in Maupiti. Explore the coral reefs and the other wonders of the ocean. Down there, you will have the opportunity to swim among sharks and Manta rays.
If you’d rather simply wear a mask and snorkel, opt for a snorkeling session. You will have the opportunity to see underwater species such as surgeons, eagle ray, jacks, cleaner wrasses, goatfishes and stingrays.
Circle island tour on a bike (or on foot):
As you can imagine, with its 13,5km surface, the island can easily be crossed from one end to the other on foot. Surely, you will not need more than 2:30hrs to go around Maupiti. To make this adventure, make small and regular breaks at different points of view, on archaeological sites, at the foot of red cliffs, on a beach, at the snack bar or in a souvenir shop.
Climb to the top of Mount Teurafaatiu:
Small in size, big in height… The atoll offers a nice hike on Mount Teurafaatiu, rising up to 372m. But pay attention, as you still have to find the entrance… The starting point is not far from the big antenna, after the snack bar! Although the walk is not very long, you can count 1:30hr to 2hrs to arrive at the top, it is quite steep… Also, the beginning of the hike is rather easy if you plan to take your children but things get tough halfway as you will need ropes to climb the coast. Remember to drink water, to bring your good shoes and to protect yourself from the sun.
Visit the Sea Palace:
At the turn of an alley, during your circle island tour, you might have a chance stumble upon the Sea Palace. Recognizable among thousands, this building is exclusively made of coral and shells. The house master, Ah-Ky, is a colorful character who was successful in the 80s as a singer-songwriter. For about 8 euros, you can access the site, have a chat with him and leave with a charming braided hat made of coconut leaves.
Take a sunbath on the Tereia beach:
The Tereia beach is undoubtedly the most beautiful of the island. You will find there a vast expanse of pristine white sand where you can escape in peace.
Where to stay?
Unlike Bora Bora, Maupiti is firmly opposed to the establishment of international resorts. On the other hand, the strong desire to welcome travelers is always present. New guest houses are built every year and, although each one has distinctive features, they all embody a charm and lifestyle that is unique to the island. Wherever you go, you can enjoy tropical-flavored and home-cooked meals, freshly caught fish and exotic smells.
Tama’a! It’s time to eat:
You won’t find any room service in Maupiti. However, as soon as you set foot under the table, you will be seduced by the freshness of the fish, the exotic flavors of local cuisine, the variety of meals and the size of the homemade portions. We recommend you select the full board or half board formula if you have planned some excursions that include lunch. Gratin of fei, tuna carpaccio, raw fish with coconut milk, banana cake… Are you hungry yet?
Otherwise, you can find on the atoll some small convenience stores but it would be a shame to miss out on culinary discoveries.
How to move?
If you stay on the main island, you will have no problem walking. You can even visit the island, you won’t get lost … If you don’t feel like walking, borrow a bicycle from your accommodation or rent one on the island.
On the other hand, if your accommodation is on n islet, you can use your guesthouse’s kayak (it’s a bit more complicated to sail on a turtle’s back …). You will have to leave it a few hours on the beach if you want to visit the main island.
How to get there?
First of all, you have to take an international flight to Tahiti. From there, you can book a Papeete-Maupiti flight via Air Tahiti, the local airline company. With a direct flight, it won’t take you more than 50min and 1:30hr at most with a stopover. The ticket is around 35,000 xpf, which is roughly 300 euros.
At the moment, flights from the Tahiti-Faa’a airport are planned on Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday / Friday / Sunday but things get more complicated when it comes to inter-island circuits. These are limited to one or two flights per week for the most part.
However, if you like hiking, diving, snorkeling, and photography, this place is for you. However, remember to book your tickets in advance because it is one of the most popular destinations and the availabilities are limited.
Since 2015, it is also possible to berth in sailboat. Don’t forget to check the weather conditions before taking off.
The weather point:
Like the other islands of the Society archipelago, the climate is tropical and divided into two seasons: a warm season with some rainfall from November to March, and a relatively cooler season with daily sunshine, from April to October. We tend to recommend a departure during the austral winter, when temperatures are more pleasant, the climate less humid and the sun is shining.
Our little extras:
In the past, the atoll was known as Maurua. This is the name that appears on the maps established by Tupaia. It was not until 1970 that it was renamed Maupiti.
The island is symbolized by the penu, a pestle made of basalt rock that is mainly used for cooking. Formerly, Maupiti supplied the other islands with these.
The island is home to an endemic species, the tiare maohi of Hina, goddess of the moon, which grows only on the Pitihaheia islet, facing the charming village of Vaiea.