The turquoise waters around Tahiti are filled with bright coral, lush landscapes and an abundance of marine life. Find out what you can expect to see.
Some of the best overwater bungalows in the world dot the waters around the islands of Tahiti.
Photo Credit: iStock
Even the nicknames of the islands of Tahiti sound like paradise.
Locals call the island of Tahiti the Queen of the Pacific. The name seems appropriate, since Tahiti towers over the ocean, crowned by a circle of magnificent peaks, and serves as gateway to the rest of French Polynesia, a grouping of 118 islands and atolls spread over five archipelagos in the South Pacific Ocean.
Then there’s Moorea, the so-called Magical Island, located about half an hour by high-speed ferry from the island of Tahiti. What makes Moorea magical? Probably the way it rises out of the ocean in an explosion of green, with a wide lagoon surrounding the mountains. It’s no surprise that it has been likened to the mythical paradise of Bali Hai from the musical South Pacific.
One of the most famous islands of Tahiti, Moorea rises out of the ocean in an explosion of green.
Photo Credit: iStock
The other well-known island is Bora Bora, dubbed the Romantic Island; it’s one of the world’s top honeymoon destinations. Breathtaking Bora Bora’s many shades of blue lagoon is encircled by palm-covered motu (a reef islet), and it boasts the castle-like Mount Otemanu, perfect white sand beaches and coral gardens inhabited by colored fish and giant manta rays.
While most visitors want to spend as much time as possible in the glorious waters of the islands of Tahiti, many others also want to spend time exploring the lesser-known gems of French Polynesia such as Taha’a, Huahine and the Tuamotu Attols.
If you visit French Polynesia by cruise, you’ll visit several islands. If you fly into Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, for a land vacation, you can hop to different islands on day trips.
If diving is your thing, you’ll find plenty of world-class adventures. The islands are famous for warm (80 degrees F), crystal-clear (up to 150 feet of visibility) waters, large marine life, coral gardens, sunken ships and oceanic drop-offs.
Near Tahiti, you can explore the wreck of a large cargo ship and a Catalina boatplane on a lagoon dive between 20 and 70 feet deep; at Shark Valley, you can see antler and boulder corals in bright blue waters.
On a dive in Bora Bora’s beautiful lagoon, you’ll usually be accompanied by swarms of gigantic manta rays gliding within arm’s reach. Surrounding the island is a vibrant coral reef that attracts snorkelers and scuba divers from around the world.
There aren’t a lot of strong currents in the waters around Moorea, which makes it a great spot for beginner divers. But experienced divers can still find deep, dramatic canyons. And dive experts suggest venturing to the lush island of Huahine, where lesser-known sites present a quiet underwater world of yellow coral gardens, eagle rays, pufferfish and gray reef sharks; or to the lagoon of Taha’a and Raiatea (called the Sacred Island), which is a favorite with divers for its caverns, sea mounts and drop-offs.
Snorkelers can check out the clear, shallow waters of Bora Bora, Moorea, Tahiti and Huahine. There’s also jet-skiing (Huahine’s lagoon is a hot spot), paddleboarding, sailing and swimming in abundance throughout the islands of Tahiti.
Snorkelers can check out the clear, shallow waters that surround the islands of Tahiti.
Photo Credit: iStock
When you come up for air, paradise appears in the form of gorgeous beaches, like Bora Bora’s famous Matira Beach; Moorea’s Temae Plage Publique, a wide stretch of white sand boasting an unforgettable view across the lagoon to Tahiti; and Huahine’s Avea Beach, which slopes into a lagoon deep enough—at any tide—for a swim.
But don’t spend your entire visit under water. Venture out: Enjoy the great seafood, shop for the perfect pareo (a sarong-like wraparound skirt), and talk to the colorful locals about island history and mana, the spirit and life force they believe surrounds and connects all living things.