A charming island surrounded by a bright halo of authenticity delicately dropped over crystal-clear waters: Taha’a shines like the pearls of the Pacific ocean.
Emerging from the depths of the ocean, the Ohiri mount overlooks the lagoon with its 598m high and thoroughly contrasts with the linearity of the surrounding islets.
Here, time seems to stand still… Discreet, the island has managed to maintain both isolation and charm of elder days. Instead of huge resorts, are to be found small guesthouses and cosy lodges, here the guests’ well-being is what really matters.
Wherever you go, you will encounter generous, sincere and welcoming people.
Do you smell it? A strong exhilarating scent coming from the lush hills, that of pods which earned Taha’a the sweet nickname of “Vanilla Island”.
As you walk by every alley, you get to smell brand new flavors of colorful flowers and exotic fruits. Benevolent and secret, Taha’a is the Eden of the antipodes you have been looking for.
The island of Taha’a:
Located 143 miles to the Northwest of Tahiti, in the Leeward islands, Taha’a is definitely a must-see. Only 2,5 miles separate the island from Raiatea, both sun-soaked island are surrounded by the same emerald waters. As it partly made of a string of motu, the island is only accessible by boat, a specificity which makes it even more attracting.
With its surface area of 55mi² and its 5 000 inhabitants, the island is essentially known for its vanilla plantations, as it provides 80% of the Polynesian production. Thus, when you buy a pod “made in Tahiti”, it is much more likely that it comes from this tiny paradise. People come here to discover new flavors, meet colorful species, isolate from the rest of the world, surround oneself with passionate craftsmen and to be soaked in the islands’ way of life.
Easily navigable, the lagoon fortunately presents great moorings which makes yachting and pleasure sailing agreeable. Here you are facing a real open-air aquarium, a godsend to nautical service providers.
The vanilla plantations:
The vanilla is a tiny yellow orchid which grows leaning against trees, in lush and shady valleys and is partly responsible for Taha’a’s nickname and reputation. Particularly sweet-smelling, the vanilla tahitensis is known worldwide for its refined aroma. It requires a great know-how and a experience to grow.
Plants need to be taken care of, cosseted for months so as to help Mother Nature. Flowers are cross-pollinated manually at dawn, from July to October. Once they bloom, flowers remain open for a few hours only, which is why one must manipulate it dexterously. Once ripe, vanilla pods are picked and put outside to dry under the sun a few times, to be transformed or directly consumed.
The various vanilla plantations of the island offer to explain the whole process in details and sell pods as souvenirs. On your way to Haamene, as you cross the village of Poutoru, you can for instance stop by the House of Vanilla, a real institution which ensure every step of the production chain.
The famous coral garden :
On the West coast of Taha’a, by the motu Tautau on which the gorgeous Taha’a Island Resort & Spa is settled, is one of the most beautiful coral gardens. All you need to do is cross the islet located just in front, get in the water and let yourself be carried away… Looks like a Disneyland attraction or a life-size aquarium where you always touch bottom but pay attention to dodge coral heads! Stay away from morays and coral fire and marvel at these rainbow colors species
The Champon Pearl Farm:
Located on one of the islets surrounding the gorgeous Taha’a, the Champon pearl farm is an institution, a must-see during lagoon excursions. Are you eyes wide open? It is time to see what the Pinctada margaritifera’s got… After a quick demonstration, you will be given key informations about the whole grafting process and the classification. Whether it is round, semi-round, baroque, black, green or aubergine, no doubt you will find the right pearl.
The Mana’o rum distillery:
If you are into rums, you may have already heard of the Mana’o, as it won the gold medal during the Paris Rhum-Fest international festival. Organic and 100% made in fenua, the beverage is now known overseas. Cultivated on former vanilla plantations, the sugar canes are cut manually at dawn, refined at the Taha’a distillery and bottled in Tahiti.
What activities to practice in Taha’a?
Take a ride around the island in a scooter/bike/car/buggy:
There are plenty of alternatives here in Taha’a, whether you like to ride with your hair blowing in the wind, you want to pedal or you prefer to book a tour…
Make the most of the lagoon:
Taha’a is scattered with motu, these tiny islets where it is good to rest between two snorkeling sessions. As for the main island, it is made of four bays which offer breathtaking landscapes, it would be a shame not to explore it from the sea. What’s next? Swimming with the sting rays, having lunch on a motu and observing dolphins in their natural environment. If you like to take your time, pick the cruise option, aboard a sailing boat or a catamaran.
Fish on the high seas:
Whether you are a Sunday fisherman or a real aficionado of the discipline, you are about to assist to an outstanding session ! Get to hook some rare Polynesian species (pai’here, mahi mahi, haura, crevalle jacks and even wahoos), stay focused on your target but don’t forget to gaze at the outstanding surroundings…
Self-taught fisherman, the captain will teach you both ancestral, traditional and modern techniques. If you thought it was easy as pie, don’t be so sure ! Catch your fish and use the strength of your arms, pick it up with your bare hands and capture the moment.
Pamper yourself at the Taha’a Island Resort & Spa:
How about laying by the private laguna of a five-star resort to enjoy a taurumi session, the Polynesian traditional massage? A perfect setting, expert hands and the feeling of being utterly alone on this gorgeous island…
Try a snorkeling session:
Wow, take a look at these… Sharks, red mullets, damselfish, damselflies, groupers, parrotfish, jacks, soles, scorpion fish, nazons, trumpet fish and hundreds of small coral fishes… Put your mask on and take a deep breath!
… Or even scuba diving…:
If you want to go deep into the blue, tens of diving spots are waiting to be explored.
Fly over the island:
You can’t choose between land and see? Choose the seaplane… Contemplate the gorgeous mountains from the air and land on the lagoon.
Go for a hike:
With its three wonderful valleys, the island turns out to be the perfect spot for hikers. Its summit, the mount Ohiri is about 598m high, fair enough to take great pictures and go back with long lasting memories.
Where to stay in Taha’a?
No matter your budget, you will necessarily find the right accommodation for you. Charming and affordable guesthouses are established on the main island whereas you can find some luxury and exclusive hotels on the islets. Living the Robinson life, finding yourself on a tiny motu in the middle of the turquoise lagoon or testing the Relais & Châteaux experience, everything is possible! Discover quietness, comfort and authenticity like nowhere else.
Tama’a ! Time to eat:
The insularity will lead you to choose the American plan as it is more convenient but it should not be a problem as most establishments are well-known for their delightful meals.
Since most accommodations are located on islets, the best is to take a boat shuttle whenever you want to reach the main island or join excursions.
How to get to Taha’a:
First of all, you need to book an international flight heading to Tahiti. From there, you can make a reservation on the Air Tahiti website and there you go for a 45min flight, long enough to enjoy your local pineapple juice aboard. Then, you need to take a boat shuttle at the airport and wait for your driver if you are staying on the main island.
Everyday flights will enable you to reach Taha’a but if you are a good sailor some cargos stop by the island two to three times a week.
The weather point:
Like the other islands in the Society archipelago, the climate is tropical and divided into two seasons: a warm season with rainfalls here and there from November to March, and a relatively cooler season with daily sunshine, from April to October. We would advise you to choose a departure during the austral winter, when the temperatures are more bearable, the climate less humid and the weather sunny.
Our little extras:
The island used to be called Uporu and Kuporu. It is now referred to as the “vanilla island” as it provides about 80% of the Polynesian vanilla production. Several specialists even say it is the best of the world.
The island is surrounded by about thirty islets.
The Haamene bay turns out to be the deepest of French Polynesia.