Heralding the return of our Travel Crush series is sublime Tahiti, the most populous island in French Polynesia.
I’ve never been a beach person. I hate walking on the crunchy, wet, brown sand of New York and New Jersey beaches while avoiding the carcasses of tiny dead crabs. I don’t particularly like to swim, and the ocean scares me on an existential level. And yet, to my own surprise, after a year of quarantine in my Brooklyn apartment, I’ve found myself fantasizing about white sand beaches and crystal blue-green waters. More specifically, I’m dreaming of the serene Pacific beachscapes of Tahiti and its quintessential, picture-perfect overwater bungalows.
Emblematic of tropical island getaways, I’m unashamed to admit I’ve always dreamt of staying in one of Tahiti’s famous overwater bungalows. When it comes to these highly Instagrammable lodges, Tahiti is the OG. No, really—Tahitian tourism resources cite it as the birthplace of the iconic overwater bungalow. There are two popular mainstay resorts located on the main island (Tahiti la Ora and Intercontinental Tahiti Resort), plus a range of smaller, luxury resorts (like Conrad Bora Bora Nui and Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort) with private beaches. I’m personally opting for one of the two on the mainland so I’m free to explore the local eateries and shops nearby.
I’m a sucker for a good marketplace. They’re a great place to soak up the vibes of a new place: markets are a bustling tableau of life wherever you go. Plus, it’s a great way to discover local artisans and makers. At the municipal market in Papeete, you’ll find all the goods Tahiti is known for, including pearls and vanilla beans.
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There’s tons of opportunities to connect with nature in Tahiti. Experienced hikers should consider checking out the trail to Fautua waterfalls. You’ll have to get a permit from town hall, which will run you about $6, and it’s recommended that you opt for a guide to help you through the dense vegetation—but visitors say the trek is worth it. (They also say to remember bug spray.)
If you’re looking for a more casual commune with nature, consider Faarumai waterfalls. No permit required, and the walk is far more leisurely, though equally as vibrant with foliage. You can swim in the basin, learn about the area’s geography and biodiversity from the signage dotted around the trail, and admire the natural splendor of the island.
(Millennial) Pink Sand Beaches
Crushed-up seashells give Le Sable Roses (the famous pink sand beach within the Rangiroa region of islets) its Baker-Miller hue. You’ll have to take a short flight from either Tahiti, Bora Bora, or Fakarava before hailing a rental car or boat taxi to arrive at this millennial paradise—a meager price to pay for this ethereal seascape, if you ask me.
While in the Rangiroa region, enjoy the surrounding lagoon: either from sea level, or consider a diving tour (intro levels are available for the aquatically challenged). The surrounding waters are home to a plethora of wildlife, including multicolored butterflyfish, hammerhead sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, manta rays, and stunning reefs and coral formations. The waters are clear enough for 150-foot visibility, perfect for glass-bottomed boat tours. There are also several operational black pearl farms open to tourists.