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With Valentine’s Day just a week away, surprise the loved ones in your life with a sailing adventure in the French Polynesia. For the ultimate treat, go all-inclusive with a cabin charter or hire the whole yacht and crew for glorious indulgence.
Don’t rush this trip and allow yourself two weeks to explore the Society Island of Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora and Maupiti. The islands are volcanic with high peaks surrounded by dense rainforest and coral barrier reefs. The marine life is incredible with opportunities to see sharks, rays, manta rays and turtles. You’ll find the people are welcoming and will go out of their way to help you.
Relax and enjoy the sunny climate and warm waters, which reach 84°F in the summer. The rainy season is wet and hot (85- 95°F) and runs from November to April. The dry season is cooler (78 – 85°F) and windier running from May to September. These are probably the best months to come sailing.
If you want to sail bareboat, there are relatively short passages between the islands and you can enjoy some open ocean sailing. Catamarans are best for seeing more of the reef line but make sure you take the time to study the entrances to the barrier reefs, and use the alignment markers to properly line up the pass entrance. Ask the locals for advice if you are unsure about low lying coral. Mooring buoys are free or cost very little.
The islands enjoy a prevailing wind easterly wind of 15 or 20 knots, increasing to 25 knots with swells of 3 to 5ft (0.9m to 1.5m). The region has a reputation for being very expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Eating at roulettes (the food trucks), roadside shacks or local places is inexpensive and the quality is very good. The lagoons are best seen between 9am and 3pm as the sun reflection after this window makes it impossible to see beneath the clear waters.
- Pearl farms: Get to know the native black pearls and see the process from harvest to finished product
- Taputapuatea’s marae: This large marae complex at Opoa, on the south eastern coast of Raiatea, has many marae and other stone structures and was once considered the religious centre of eastern Polynesia
- Mount Temehani: This is the only place where the rare flower, Tiare Apetahi, can be seen
- Mount Tapioi: Head here for the best view of the island chain
- River Faaroa: Head upstream with your dinghy or kayak to discover the birthplace of Polynesia and travel the same route as New Zealand’s Maohi settlers.
- Wander the excellent central market in downtown Uturoa in main village of Raiatea. You will find everything you need to provision and more. It’s open six days a week, 7:30am to 6pm with limited hours on Sunday 6am to 11:30am
Discover the sailing ground
Tahaa is your first stop after Raiatea and known for its delicious restaurants and glittering sunsets. It’s a beautiful, mountainous island known for its many vanilla plantations. We recommend dinner and the Polynesian dancing show at Le Hibiscus. For an unspoiled glimpse into what the French Polynesia used to be like, head to the sleepy island of Huahine. Walk through the small village, Fare, and visit the roulettes for food at night. Port Bayourne is a beautiful area surrounded by mountains on all sides.
Bora Bora is 23nm from Raiatea and is the busiest, most touristy island, but very beautiful. Bora-Bora Yacht Club is a favorite spot for globe-trotting cruisers, and you’ll meet some interesting people as you sip a cool drink at the bar (mooring buoys, water and ice available). It’s a good alternative to the very busy Bloody Mary’s. Discover the traditional lagoonarium where you can swim with turtles, friendly rays, sharks and different kind of coral fish. Rent a car to tour the island or enjoy the wonderful hikes up the volcanic peaks.
Getting to Tahiti
You’ll find most direct flights to Tahiti’s Fa’a’ā International Airport in Papeete are via LA. You can easily get a connecting 45-minute flight to Raiatea. Allow yourself a night on Tahiti for easy jet lag recovery and to get used to the climate and culture.
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