Tahaa Island Travel Tips
We’ll start the Tahaa Travel Guide with specific travel tips for Tahaa to help with the planning stages of your visit.
- French Polynesia Travel Guide: everything you need to know before heading to paradise.
- Lonely Planet: ‘the bible’ for any independent traveler. For such a dreamy yet challenging destination, I recommend grabbing one of these for the road to go along with this travel guide.
- Tahiti Tourisme: the official site of the local tourism office. You’ll find relevant information about Tahiti and the outer islands.
- Vanilla Tasting & Luxury Living In Tahaa: a personal account of my first trip to Tahaa.
- A Family Trip to Tahiti: a personal account of a family trip in the Society Islands.
How Many Days Do You Need In Tahaa?
You need at least two days to properly see Tahaa, including an island tour or a road trip, plus a visit to its lagoon islets (motu). You can theoretically combine the island and lagoon visits into a single excursion, and that’s what happens when you visit Tahaa from Raiatea. However, if you can base yourself in Tahaa, it’s a better experience. With additional days, you can really get into the island vibe and embark on a guided hike in the island’s lush valleys and peaks.
Tahaa vs Raiatea
Though they share the same lagoon, Tahaa and Raiatea have distinct personalities. So, if you’re already here, you might as well see both. You can visit Tahaa from Raiatea on a day trip excursion, but it’s more optimal if you have the option to sleep on both.
Raiatea is the center of the Leeward Islands group (Huahine, Tahaa, Raiatea, Bora Bora, and Maupiti) and is much larger than Tahaa. It’s home to a proper small town, government offices, a major hospital, a regional high school, commercial centers, and the airport. Naturally, the island offers more services to tourists than Tahaa, yet it has no resorts. The prime reason for visiting Raiatea is Marae Taputaputea (though it’s hardly impressive) and the island’s superb hiking opportunities.
Tahaa is a super laid-back island, probably the ‘wildest’ island in the Society Islands. There are eight small villages along the coastline, with little happening in them apart from vanilla and pearl farming. It’s also less geared to tourists, though there are a handful of simple accommodations in pensions and, surprisingly, a couple of resorts. Stay in Tahaa for the vibe, not if you’re primarily drawn by the vanilla and black pearl production. Yes, they are unique, but you can experience both on other islands.
When Is the Best Time To Visit Tahaa?
Like all members of the Society Islands, the best time to visit Tahaa is during the dry season (June – October). During this time, the temperature is comfortable, and the southeasterly trade wind is almost constantly blowing, keeping the mosquitos and the clouds at bay. Visiting Tahaa during the shoulder season (April/May and November) is also ideal. During the wet season (Dec-March), heavy rainfall is frequent in Tahaa. It doesn’t mean that it rains all the time, but it can make a difference on a three-night stay stay in Tahaa.
How To Get To Tahaa
Getting to Tahaa is trickier than hopping to other islands in French Polynesia, but this is part of the fun and another indicator of the island’s off-the-grid vibe.
Day Trip to Tahaa From Raiatea
If you’re not planning to spend a few nights on Tahaa, you can still visit the island on a day trip from Raiatea. This is more than just a “classic” lagoon tour, as you stop for some snorkeling in the coral garden and visit pearl and vanilla farms on land. Lunch is served on a dreamy island (motu) at the edge of the barrier reef, such as Motu Iriru, with its soft white sand and coconut palms galore. For thrills, join a jetski tour of Tahaa’s lagoon, and for a high-end experience, charter a private lagoon tour.
If you’re staying at a resort
If you’re staying at one of the resorts in Tahaa, your transfer is arranged at the time of booking. The resort staff will meet you at the Raiatea airport and accompany you to a boat docked nearby for the transfer.
Tahaa by plane
Both Air Tahiti and Air Moana fly to Raiatea from Tahiti and other islands. Once you land in Raiatea, you can hop on a private taxi boat to Tahaa, such as Tahaa Location, or take a taxi to the main pier in Uturoa and connect to one of the boat shuttles departing to Tahaa. The Enota Shuttle is the slower “public ferry” and runs from Monday to Saturday. Alternatively, the Tahaa Transport Rapide is the quicker way to reach Tahaa, with service also on Sundays. Your hosts on Tahha will pick you up from the pier.
Transfers between the islands is not frequent and you need to know where to get off in Tahaa (and whether the chosen service docks there). Therefore, it’s best to discuss the transfer with your local hosts on Tahaa.
Tahaa by ferry
The Apetahi Express connects Tahaa with Tahiti via Raiatea, Bora Bora, and Huahine. This new service makes it more affordable to see multiple stops within the archipelago. You might also be able to get to Tahaa from Raiatea and (and maybe even from Maupiti) Bora Bora using the Maupiti Express. There is little information about this route, but you can try contacting them via email (email@example.com) or phone (+689-40676669 or +689-87740240).
Getting Around Tahaa
There is no public transportation in Tahaa, so the final transfer from one of the piers to your pension of choice is arranged with your hosts. To explore the island, join a guided 4X4 tour which usually runs for half a day. Alternatively, rent a car and circle the island at your own pace. Many pensions either rent manual cars and scooters or partner with local suppliers, such as Tahaa Location. Driving in Tahaa is fairly simple, and the roads are in good condition. Finally, cycling around parts of the island is doable. The island is fairly large and has a few steep sections, but overall, it’s safe to explore on a bicycle. It might be possible by now to rent electric bicycles in Tahaa.
Where To Stay In Tahaa?
Tahaa is home to two resorts and several pensions, ranging from the simple to the boutique-style. Because of the limited supply, it’s often difficult to find good accommodation at a reasonable price. For self-catering and backpacking options, try Airbnb, VRBO, and Couchsurfing. For camping in Tahaa, get in touch with Camping a Taipiti. Here are a few recommendations in every category.
Tahaa’s two resorts are located on islets (motu) at opposite ends of the lagoon. The more low-key resort is Vahine Island on the eastern side of the island. The Le Tahaa Resort is the best resort in Tahaa and one of the best in French Polynesia. Le Tahaa is located on Motu Tautau, right next to a pristine coral garden that’s part of every boat tour to Tahaa’s lagoon. The resort is perfectly sandwiched between Bora Bora and the main island’s west coast, so sunsets are often dramatic. I stayed at Le Tahaa on both of my visits to the island. Here’s an in-depth review of the resort.
All pensions offer half-board stays, meaning breakfast and dinner are taken care of. This is sometimes compulsory, and it makes sense because dining options in Tahaa are limited. It’s important to note that due to Tahaa’s topography, the bungalows of most, if not all, pensions on the main island are on the mountainside. They do usually feature a lagoon-side area just across the coastal road from the pension. All pensions offer island and lagoon tours, with some offering “packages” that include accommodation, meals, boat transfers to/from Raiatea, and tours/car rentals.
Boutique pensions: if the main island isn’t enough off-the-grid, check out Eden Private Island. Formerly Pension La Pirogue Api, its location on a tiny islet at the edge of the lagoon is out of this world. Located on the north coast of the island, overlooking a string of islets and Bora Bora, Fare Pea Iti is pampering. With only six units, this charming property with a well-tended garden, a swimming pool with a gazebo, and a pontoon for easy access by the lagoon is the perfect place for a romantic getaway. Facing Le Tahaa resort, La Perle de Tahaa is another solid option. It has a small beach area and a restaurant, as well as a few family units equipped with a kitchenette.
Family pensions: the highly acclaimed Au Phil du Temps features charming bungalows and private rooms. Its restaurant is well-known on the island, and tours are available for guests. Snorkeling is possible off the pension’s pontoon. The next best option is Pension Titaina, which features three spacious units ideal for families.
What To Pack?
Tahaa is a tropical destination, and as such – I recommend packing clothes that dry quickly and keep moisture (a.k.a sweat) out. Have a look at the X Days In Y Packing List for recommendations on what to pack for Tahaa based on my experience. I also recommend packing a light rain jacket and snorkeling gear (at least a mask and snorkel).
It’s best to take out cash in Raiatea as there’s only an ATM in Patio, and you never know if it’ll work or not (plus some banks have daily/weekly withdrawal limits). Find out ahead of time if you can pay with a credit card and always have some USD or Euro for emergencies.
Diving and snorkeling in Tahaa
There are good scuba diving sites off the coasts of Raiatea and Tahaa, including a wreck dive in Raiatea’s lagoon (good visibility conditions required). If you’re not heading to the Nordby wreck site, expect abundant hard coral, tropical fish, and sharks that like to hang around the reef. Pre-book your dives with Tahaa Diving, especially if you’re not spending much time on the island. Diving is also an option if it’s very gray or raining. As for snorkeling, the best site is the coral garden near Le Tahaa Resort or near islets further north. As for snorkeling in Tahaa, most lagoon tours stop at the coral garden in Motu Tautau.
Beaches In Tahaa
To get to those picture-perfect beaches in Tahaa, you’ll actually have to venture out to the motus (islets) at the edge of the barrier reef. On the main island itself, there’s only Joe Dassin Beach to speak of – a small sliver of white sand at the edge of a dense forest. You’ll also need a boat to get to this beach as there are no roads leading down here, but perhaps a trail …
Drinking Water In Tahaa
Definitely ask before drinking tap water in Tahaa, especially when staying at a pension. All resorts filter their water and have water-filling stations throughout their property.
WiFi & Mobile Data In Tahaa
The current mobile networks in French Polynesia are Vini and Vodafone, but the latter has little to no reception in Tahaa (as of 2022). Free WiFi should be available in all accommodations but perhaps only in common areas. Surprisingly, even at a luxury resort such as Le Tahaa, the WiFi was awful. If staying connected while traveling is important to you and your roaming package does not use the Vini network, consider purchasing the Vini Travel SIM Card.
There are a few very low-key restaurants/snacks on the main island and a few food shops. Opening hours are strange, so inquire locally. All pensions/hotels should offer half-board for an extra charge (breakfast and dinner).
What To Buy In Tahaa?
Vanilla, vanilla, vanilla! They don’t call this place ‘the Vanilla Island’ for nothing. Don’t expect it to be cheap, not even if you buy directly from the farmer. Prices are determined on an annual basis by all the growers, and they are usually quite high. For about four sticks of vanilla, expect to pay 1,500F and up. You will have no problem bringing vanilla through customs; just be sure to declare. This makes an excellent gift for anyone who likes to bake. There are also quite a few black pearl farms in Tahaa, but I always recommend shopping for pearls in Tahiti.
Once opened, keep the vanilla upright, at room temperature, and with a few drops of rum at the bottom of a sealed glass container.