Tahaa Island Travel Guide

May 27, 2016

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 | rani-poe@mail.pf | +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.

Vanilla farm in Tahaa French Polynesia

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.

island road in Tahaa French Polynesia

silhouette of Bora Bora from Tahaa French Polynesia

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.

baguette mailbox in Tahaa French Polynesia

Apu Bay

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.

Apu Bay Tahaa French Polynesia

Tiva

A small picturesque village at the mouth of Hurepiti Bay. The highlight here is the signature church, beautiful and right on the water.

village church tahaa island by boat french polyensia

Patio

The ‘capital’ of Tahaa. Here you’ll find a few shops and snacks but not much else.

Faaaha Bay

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.

Fahaaa Bay tahaa french polynesia island tour

Haamene

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.

mountain road tahaa french polynesia

tropical bay island tour tahaa french polynesia

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.

pearl farm tour tahaa french polynesia

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.   

black pearl necklace tahaa french polynesia

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.

vanilla flower at vanilla farm tour tahaa french polynesia

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.

vanilla polinating at vanilla farm tahaa french polynesia

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.

Joe Dassin beach Tahaa French Polynesia

Motu Beaches

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’.

coral garden at le tahaa luxury resort french polynesia

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.

tropical fish in coral garden le tahaa luxury resort french polynesia

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).  

bora bora silhouette from le tahaa luxury resort french polynesia

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 (rani-poe@mail.pf | +689 87788025).

What’s Next?

I hope you’ve found this Tahaa Travel Guide useful. For more information about Tahaa and French Polynesia, check out these recommended guides.

Raiatea-&-Tahaa-Itinerary---thumbnail
Independent Traveler's Guide to French Polynesia


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6 comments

  1. Is it easy to find locals that are willing to take you to and from the coral gardens instead going through the guided tours? We are going in about 2.5 weeks for the first time and just looking for more info. Also roughly an estimate on grocery foods, we are trying to travel on a budget, eat cheap and spend money on certain tours and rental car or kayaks when needed. Thanks!

    1. Locals won’t undercut the guides so I’m not sure it’s possible. I do know that Pension Au Phil Du Temps does offer its gets return boat trips only to the coral garden so it might be worth to inquire with them. As for groceries, the challenge will be staying in close proximity to a grocery store. Tahaa is not very populated. If you can cook your meals then you can certainly travel on a budget.

  2. What are the options for snacks & drinks to buy and resteraunts? Anything at Tapuamu village? Thanks

    1. Hi. There are snacks or takeaway options at every village but you’ll need a car to get around if it’s not a short walking distance away. In Tapuamu, you have a small snack called Matahina. It might be closed now because of the Covid scare and the slowdown of businesses.

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