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 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!
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.
After six weeks in The Marquesas, it’s now one of our favorite places, in no small part due to lovely Tahuata island. For two weeks we bounced between a few different bays, snorkeling and diving with marine life, exploring the villages, and eating at local restaurants. Add to that marveling at the beauty around us, which is unavoidable in French Polynesia!
Location and Getting There
Tahuata Island is located just south of bigger Hiva Oa, which makes it ideal for anchoring. It’s the smallest occupied Marquesan island, with a village and a few communities with churches. The benefit of its proximity to Hiva Oa is we can stay “away from it all” at quieter Tahuata with the convenience of town a few hours sail, or motor, away.
When I said everything would be easy after our Pacific passage, I spoke too soon. Our trip to Tahuata from Ua Pou was terrible. What should have been a 60nm half-day trip turned into almost 24 hours with no sleep for both of us. The wind kept shifting from side to front, from 12 knots to over 20 to next to nothing. We had to be on guard to change the sail trim and position, which we had to do at least once an hour if not more. What was supposed to be 60 miles became almost 120 with all the tacking we had to do!
The good news is we got a lot of time to recover from the trip in a beautiful place with fun adventures.
Our first stop after crossing The Pacific was Marquesas’ biggest island: Nuku Hiva. While exploring Nuku Hiva, we anchored in two different spots and drove around on a day tour. Two weeks in Nuku Hiva gave us a great introduction to French Polynesia.
The Marquesas are impressive! The islands rise up straight out of the sea into majestic mountains. Lush green rolling hills are full of fruit trees with some of juiciest citrus we have tasted. The hiking is great and the water is warm and full of amazing sea life like mantas and dolphins. Add to that lovely people with a great culture and I love it here.
About Nuku Hiva
Nuku Hiva is the largest island in The Marquesas, which are a group of islands in French Polynesia. Nuku Hiva is located in the northwest of this island group.
Maybe because of Nuku Hiva’s size, the government designated it as the only port to clear in since the pandemic began. So, even though it is further west and thus farther away than other ports of The Marquesas, we had to stop there first from Panama.