The Seldom-Seen Side of the South Pacific
|BEYOND TAHITI: Raiatea, the new face of French Polynesia (PhotoDisc)|
Of all the islands that pepper the South Pacific, few conjure a more complete picture of paradise than Tahiti and the islands of French Polynesia. Certainly the purple water that laps Fiji at sunset and the pristine beaches that ring Rarotonga are the envy of anyone who knows you're going (and can't join). But Tahiti? It flies under the radar of collective perception, the kind of place where towering jungles, silky lagoons, and warm hospitality join forces so powerfully that leaving it could spark a mutiny.
Of course, one time in the late 1700s it did inspire mutiny; for a little more than 18 months Captain Bligh's rebellious Bounty crew abandoned the British Admiralty to live among Tahiti's breadfruit trees and fantasy waterfalls while Bligh himself, cut loose in a dingy, miraculously returned to England alive. And while many of the mutineers were eventually hauled off the island and back to reality in shackles, the romanticism of Tahiti and French Polynesia lives on.
Though by no means new territory today, Tahiti and her isles still hold plenty of secrets amidst its centuries-long charm. While you might know Bora Bora's signature peaks and drool over the huts that sprout from the water around Moorea, the islands of Tahiti and French Polynesia cover a swath of blue-green Pacific that, if superimposed over Europe, would stretch from Athens to Lisbon to Copenhagen. More than 118 islands make up the country's five archipelagos, each with a different topography and feel. That sprawling geography leaves plenty of other islands to dish out exceptional beauty to the few visitors who come their way, meaning you'll always be able to find secluded jungle pools and beaches free of footprints. You can even go skinny dipping in lonely coves without a witness or forgoing any of the services of a five-star country.
Here, we profile three of our favorite, often-overlooked islands. From the rich archeological sites of Nuku Hiva to spectacular diving off Raiatea and the gorgeous water huts of Huahine, these three dollops of terra firma feel so sequestered that you can't help but contemplate your own revoltagainst the concept of leaving.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication