We are being spoilt by French Polynesian paradise. Case in point is the island of Huahine, one of the Society islands. Located less than a day’s sail from Tahiti, Huahine offers fun on land and water. We spent a week exploring and discovering the Huahine highlights.
Huahine, pronounced “Hoo-a-he-nay” by locals, is part of French Polynesia’s Society islands, with Moorea, Tahiti, Raiatea, and Bora Bora, most notably. The island’s population is around 6,000, bigger than any of the Tuamotus. Since it is close to Tahiti, only 100 miles, the island is easy to visit, accessible by regular flights and ferries from Tahiti.
Huahine consists of two islands, Huahine Nui (Big Huahine) and Huahine Iti (Little Huahine), surrounded by fringing coral reefs and little motus. We spent a little over a week exploring this lovely island, visiting three different bays by boat, and cycling around the big island.
We sailed back to The Marquesas over Christmas, skipping holiday celebrations for a rough five day upwind sail from the Tuamotus. Don’t worry! We had a huge late celebration at a traditional Marquesan oven with cruisers in Hapatoni. I’m not talking about eating with a group of cruisers. This goes well beyond that. Participating in a Marquesan oven is immersive, something people back home would pay big money to experience. Preparing for the meal, eating the food, listening to music, and enjoying it all with a huge group of cruisers and Marquesans was better than Christmas!
what is a marquesan oven?
The Marquesan oven in Tahuata made one of the best meals we’ve eaten in a while. They’re also called Polynesian ovens, or earth ovens, because they are dug into the ground. Once deep enough, the pit is filled with coals and lit on fire. The fire burns for several hours, and when the temperature is optimal, banana tree branches, palm leaves, and baskets of wrapped food are placed into the underground oven. Layers of palm leaves, then tarp, and then dirt, are piled on top, enclosing the oven, and infusing the food with smokey flavor, for more hours, usually overnight.
We spent over two months in Tahiti and explored a lot. We came here planning a much shorter visit, but plans change on a boat! A few months later, we enjoyed our time on this big island with its happy people, experiencing the top things to do in Tahiti.
Tahiti is the largest and most populated part of French Polynesia. Islanders from all parts send their children to school here, and many remain in Tahiti to work before starting families. I read that Tahiti is home to over 68% of French Polynesia’s population. The good thing is that “big island” vibe doesn’t mean it’s unfriendly. On the contrary. We found Tahitians, and Mooreans, some of the friendliest people we’ve ever met, making it even more fun to get out and explore! Plus, they are multilingual, switching between French, Tahitian, English, and more with ease.
Get in the Water
Tahiti is surrounded by coral reefs and the clarity of the sea is perfect for spotting marine life. We joined several dives with Fluid Tahiti and saw sharks, colorful fish, and tons of turtles. Snorkel, swim, scuba, kite board, or surf. The South Pacific waters are beautiful and refreshing!
Since we live in Tahiti now(justkidding), we’ve had two months (and counting) to sample the island’s many food and drink options. Read on for my recommendations of where and what to eat, plus a guide to eating in Tahiti.
Tips for Eating in Tahiti
First, keep in mind that French Polynesia is on its own timeline. Everything opens and closes early. Think 6am for breakfast and 11am for lunch. We arrived at a restaurant serving Sunday brunch at 8am and the place was packed. So get there early. The good news is, unlike other parts of French Polynesia, everything doesn’t close at lunchtime.
Sunday is another story! Barely anything is open on Sunday besides church and the beach. If you want to eat out on Sunday, reserve at one of the few open restaurants in advance.
The Marquesas are beautiful and fun to explore. Located in one of the most remote regions on earth, tourists are uncommon and supplies are thin. In contrast, the land and seascapes are stunning! Read about cruising in the Marquesas, with some tips for first-timers.
About The Marquesas
The Marquesas archipelago is in the northeasternmost part of French Polynesia. This location makes it a common first stop for sailors crossing the Pacific. Other than sailors, not a lot of tourists visit this part of the world. Which means a lot of unspoiled beauty and some difficulty accessing basic goods.
The Marquesas consists of six occupied islands and we have been to five. Mountainous and green, the land provides ample fruit for its residents and visitors. So much fruit that Marquesan citrus is exported to Tahiti and beyond. The hard part of cruising in the Marquesas is finding internet, fresh veggies, and propane, and if you can get that all in one anchorage with clear water, don’t ever leave!
Sailing in The Marquesas
Sailing between islands in The Marquesas is good in that distances usually allow for daytime trips from one island to another. Here’s an idea of distances between islands (obviously differs depending on departure and arrival bay), from northeast to southwest (our route):
Nuku Hiva to Ua Pou: approximately 22nm
Ua Pou to Tahuata: approximately 60nm
Tahuata to Hiva Oa: around 20nm
Hiva Oa to Fatu Hiva: about 45nm
The island we didn’t visit – yet – is Ua Huka, 30 miles from Nuku Hiva, so would take 6 hours.
It’s nice to have the luxury of jumping between islands without overnight trips, and each island is unique and worth visiting! Sometimes we have to motor sail, or just motor, especially when travelling between Tahuata and Hiva Oa.