Things To Do & Places To See In Tahaa
Check out this 5 days in Raiatea and Tahaa sample itinerary to see how to divide your days on the islands
Tahaa Island Tour
The following sites can be visited on a self-guided tour with your own car or as part of an organized tour with a local guide. I opted for the second option since renting a car when you’re solo wasn’t worth it but. In addition, having a local guide has the added benefit of actually understanding what it is you’re seeing. I booked a tour with Teva, the owner of Poerani Tours for a half-day 4X4 tour of the island (5,000F, | 3.5 hours | email@example.com | +689 87788025). Though you won’t see every single part of Tahaa, the island’s highlights are covered – especially the vanilla farm, which is the main reason for visiting Tahaa. Teva is super knowledgeable and speaks excellent English, though if demand is high you might get one of his relatives or friends who also work with him.
Along The Coastal Road
You might find yourself all alone on parts of the coastal road around Tahaa. Along the way, you’ll drive through sleepy seaside villages and bay after bay of emerald water. On the western side of the island, you can see the silhouette of Bora Bora – a magnificent sight on a cloud-free day.
Be on the watch for extended mailboxes on the side of the road. In fact, they’re not just used for delivering the mail but also for delivering fresh baguettes. Being such a lush tropical island, it’s no wonder why everything grows here in such abundance. Spot the wild hibiscus growing on the roadside and even star fruit which comes in both sour and sweet versions.
One of the many pretty bays on Tahaa. This one sits on the southern end of the island, right before the road begins to climb to one of the mountain passes dropping to the western part of the island.
A small picturesque village at the mouth of Hurepiti Bay. The highlight here is the signature church, beautiful and right on the water.
The ‘capital’ of Tahaa. Here you’ll find a few shops and snacks but not much else.
Undoubtedly the prettiest of many bays in Tahaa. The best way to appreciate the beauty around here is by continuing with the road as it climbs the mountain before dropping to the next bay – Haamene. Even on a cloudy and rainy day, the wild beauty of Tahaa is so impressive. You can really see just how sparsely populated the island is.
From the viewpoint of Faaha Bay, the road drops down to Haamene Bay, the deepest in Tahaa. This bay is simply huge! Simple homes dot the coastline and fishing, copra production and black pearl farming are pretty much the only things to do around here.
Black Pearl Farm
It just so happens that Teva’s family also runs a pearl farm. We stopped for a quick tour of the Poerani Pearl Farm, nestled along the shores of Haamene Bay. Our guide just so happened to be Teva’s mother, who’s been running this place for decades. With surprisingly good English, she explained the process of making black pearls. It all starts with a ‘mother of pearl’, an oyster carefully selected by a professional grafter who will then use it to inseminate the other pearls – hopefully putting the good qualities of the mother pearl into mass production.
Though undergoing a major decline, black pearl farming is still a huge source of income for islanders in French Polynesia. You’ll be able to visit a farm on almost every island and I highly recommend doing so. I learned that it takes up to five years to produce a quality pearl and that the same oyster can be used up to four times in its lifetime. But it’s really a hit or miss, as quite a few pearls do not meet the standards and either must be discarded or used for very low-quality jewelry.
Vanilla Farm Tour
Tour company, black pearl farm – what else is missing in Teva’s family? That’s right… a vanilla farm. Well, he’s got that too actually. From the pearl farm, we drove inland to the family’s vanilla farm. This is the highlight of the trip and the main reason for visiting ‘the Vanilla Island’.
To be honest, there’s not much happening on a vanilla farm, and once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all (and it rarely smells like vanilla inside). What is extremely interesting is learning about the process of making the final product and why Tahaa vanilla is considered to be the best in the world.
It turns out that it takes almost nine months to get the finished product. The vanilla that grows here is exceptional in quality due to the optimal conditions of elevation, humidity, and moisture. The only problem is that the insects that normally pollinate the flower are not to be found in French Polynesia. So what’s the solution? Vanilla farmers manually pollinate the plants in a delicate process done by hand. So this is how the best vanilla in the world makes its way (hopefully) to your creme brulee, ice cream, and even fish dishes.
The tour ended back at the Teva’s house, which also doubles as the gift shop. His lovely wife will greet you with fruit juices, vanilla coffee, and some fresh fruit to get you into shopping mode. You can obviously buy vanilla from the farm in small or large packs (five large vanilla sticks will cost about $25), as well as vanilla-related products (extract, coffee, etc.). Other French Polynesian specialties are also on sale, including monoi oils, sarongs, and even exotic spirits. Prices are very reasonable, but those of vanilla products will fluctuate on an annual basis.
Joe Dassin Beach
Between Pati and Tiva, Joe Dassin beach can only be accessed by boat. It’s wild and you’ll likely have it all to yourself, though I am not sure chartering a boat just for this makes sense. If you ask the locals, they’ll even recommend just heading out to the motus.
Surprisingly, for such an emerald island, the motus around Tahaa are considered to be some of the prettiest in French Polynesia. Perhaps it’s because of their seclusion or perhaps it’s the white sand and wild palm trees. One of the highlights of visiting Raiatea & Tahaa is definitely to head out to these small islets on the edge of the lagoon. You can join a lagoon tour which usually includes a picnic lunch on one of these dream beaches (known as picnic motu), but you can also sleep here. I stayed one night at Le Tahaa Island Resort & Spa in Motu Tautau, which is considered to be the prettiest spot in the lagoon, complete with pristine beaches ‘as seen in travel magazines’.
The small lagoon between the resort and the neighboring motu is known as ‘the coral garden’. Even if you’re not staying at the resort, chances are your lagoon tour will stop here for some of the best snorkeling around.
If you’re looking for even more adventure, walk all the way to the edge of the neighboring motu until there’s nothing but Bora Bora and a whole lot of ocean in front of you. Carefully jump into the channel leading back to the lagoon and enjoy the ridge. Riding the strong current back into the lagoon is the closest thing to flying I’ve ever felt, without having an airplane involved. You’ll be zipping by schools of fish and maneuvering around the coral. Just be careful not to cut yourself on the coral and to always avoid the yellow coral – which is poisonous (but definitely not deadly).
Hiking In Tahaa
The island of Tahaa conceals natural treasures hidden and well guarded by the inhabitants of the island. Inquire about a hiking guide that can take you to the summit of Mount Moiri. It’s not a very high mountain but it does afford beautiful views of Tahaa and its lagoon. Along the way, you’ll hike through a rainforest where locals have planted breadfruit and vanilla.
Other Activities In Tahaa
Apart from the island and lagoon tours which we covered above, you’ll also find a few local operators offering jet ski tours in the lagoon (~20,000F per couple) and quad tours in the mountains of the main island (19,000F per couple). Poerani Tours is one such company (firstname.lastname@example.org | +689 87788025).
I hope you’ve found this Tahaa Travel Guide useful. For more information about Tahaa and French Polynesia, check out these recommended guides.