Beyond Bora Bora: Tahiti's totally wild Huahine

Philippa Lees
Friday, June 8, 2012
Beyond Bora Bora: Tahiti's totally wild Huahine
Welcome to Huahine, a seductive sister of Bora Bora.

When told with a wink by a poolside waiter that Huahine was a "seductress", Philippa Lees wasn't quite sure what to think — but she soon found out exactly what he meant.

After growing accustomed to the hype surrounding Tahiti's more popular islands, namely Bora Bora and Moorea, it can be hard to imagine anything more seductive — you've seen one five-star bungalow over the lagoon you've seen them all, right?

But after a gruelling eight-minute flight from Bora Bora, we touched down in another kind of paradise.

Like Tahiti, Huahine comprises two islands — Huahine Nui (Big Huahine) to the north and Huahine Iti (Little Huahine) to the south. And like Bora Bora you can expect to find crystal clear water — but that's pretty much where the similarity stops.

Huahine makes Bora Bora look like Las Vegas.

The Island is covered in thick jungle and just a handful of roads snake towards several small townships. In fact, there are only three resorts to choose from on Huahine — including one so remote it is only accessible from the water.

It turns out the sly innuendo is in fact owed to Mount Tavaiura, which forms a skyline shaped like a voluptuous, lounging woman. That, and the fact that Huahine's literal translation is "female sex".

Easy-going surfer types, travellers on a budget and anyone searching for a little peace and quiet will find paradise in Huahine, but those looking for fine dining, pampering and a strong French influence might feel a little marooned.

The island is one of cultural and historical significance — something the locals and expats have largely preserved with over 241 maraes (or temples) still somewhat standing. Perhaps because of this, Huahine is also steeped in superstition and local legend and locals enjoy telling stories of human sacrifice.

Maitai Lapita

Huahine's newest resort is unique — it has made the island's history the foundation of its operation.

The Maitai Lapita has all the trappings of a four-star resort — although officially it is only three stars — and after uncovering many artefacts during the hotel's construction, pieces of the island's history were actually incorporated into the design.

From the sleek lines and fittings to genuine relics built into the bungalows, the design is a beautiful blend of modern and traditional.

Located a short drive from the airport (which more closely resembles an open-air bus terminal), the most striking thing about the resort is its waterfront. The restaurant area opens out to the pool deck which falls away into the sand — it is breathtaking and extremely photogenic.

Maitai also boasts a different kind of overwater bungalow — built around the edge of a large pond; the quarters are spacious and airy. The whole setting capitalises on the stillness that is unique to Huahine.

The cultural significance of the site is explained in the small gallery on-site and the complex also includes a private restaurant and bar, a spa, computers with internet as well as Wi-Fi.

Matai Lapita: A different kind of overwater bungalow.

A pool with a view at Matai Lapita. Bora what?

The best way to tour an island?

The dense jungle is a stark contrast to the perfectly groomed shores of Bora Bora. But the sheer size of the Huahine jungle can't be seen until you get out on the water — on a jet ski.

More fun than a cruise and less debilitating than horse riding — this is by far the best way to tour an island. And after a 30-second crash course our troupe was flying across the island's wide reef, maturity left in our wake and awesomeness in the distance.

From Maitai there is no need to travel anywhere — our jet skis found us on the beach out the front of our resort, and from there it was a round trip.

The tour guide offers a few helpful hints, points out the odd landmark or island feature, and lays out a general trajectory — but jet-skiers have total freedom to explore the coast line, chase sea life or wave at wealthy yacht owners.

From Maitai we headed for the farthest reaches of Huahine, travelling past the overwater bungalows of Te Tiare Beach Resort, and catching glimpses of towns swallowed by jungle.

At the far tip of Huahine Iti we rounded the point to find ourselves in the most incredible lagoon yet. Unmatched by Bora Bora's bleached sand or the Teahupoo reef, this inland stretch of sea took our breath away with its perfection. Here the tour offers time to take photos, have lunch and a swim before heading through the waterway dividing the two islands.

In the heart of this little paradise is a pearl farm — the only one on the island — but if you thought you'd had your fill of Tahitian pearls this one is likely to change your mind. What appeared to be little more than a hut sitting in the middle of the water is a family-owned operation with some of the loveliest jewellery designs around.

Of course, most of the action is under the water here, and the beauty of the location is that visitors can snorkel right off the deck and check it all out. This tour departs from Faia Marina daily for free, and the pearl farm is open from 10am to 4pm every day.

Storms have long taken a toll on Tahiti's hotel operators, and in the same bay the ruins of Bali Hai Hotel still stand — a millionaire's project destroyed in 1997.

While it gives the impression of being a small destination, Tahiti and her islands cover roughly four million square kilometres of Pacific ocean. The same area as Europe. Taking the road less travelled is highly recommended.

More information

Visit for more info on travelling to Huahine.


Coral Seas Travel has a seven-night Hot Deal package from $2549 per person twin share from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Tahiti and Huahine including return economy flights with Air Tahiti Nui, two nights in a Standard Hotel Room at the Intercontinental Resort Tahiti, plus five nights at Maitai Lapita Village in a Garden Bungalow, return domestic flights, land transfers. Add $465 per person and receive all meals plus a drinks package at Maitai Lapita Village Huahine. The deal is also available exiting Perth from $3259 per person, and exiting Adelaide from $2919 per person.

The package is available for travel between November 1, 2012 and March 31, 2013 and includes all pre-payable airport taxes.

For more information on conditions and how to book, contact Coral Seas Travel or visit

Air Tahiti Nui, the international airline of French Polynesia, offers two weekly one-stop flights from Australia to Papeete. For more information visit Tahiti hosts many internationally acclaimed events through the year, including the Billabong Pro surfing tournament and Tahiti International Golf Open. For a full calendar of events visit

More stories about Tahiti and her islands:

Teahupoo: The ultimate everything

Bora Bora: the price of paradise

Related Getaway video: Jennifer Hawkins' Tahiti paradise

User comments
a seductive group of islands for single young men, ahhhhhhhhhhh what memories, diving the clear lagoons and sitting with Miss Tahiti in the early 70's while her friends srummed the guitar and spoke in beautiful tones and accents. I was lucky enough to stay with friends in Moorea, and experience all of the local cultures.