The very name Bora-Bora conjures images of a far-off South Pacific paradise. The island has long been a favorite of sailors, and it still is. A single barrier reef encircles the two islands that make up Bora-Bora. The black basalt rock face of Mt. Otemanu rises 2,362 feet above an azure sea, with impressive Mt. Pahia nearby. Both dominate the heights and provide breathtaking views from the anchorages in the lagoon, one of the key attractions because of its superlative snorkeling and swimming. The smaller island, Topua, is all thatís left of the ancient volcano of Bora-Bora. Secure anchorages, white-sand beaches, restaurants, shops, art galleries, luxury resorts, and island tours are among the pleasures of a visit to Bora-Bora.
The second largest island in French Polynesia (Tahiti is the largest) and the largest of the Tahitian Leewards, Raiatea was known as the Sacred Island. In many ways, itís still the cultural heart of Tahiti because of its rich history. It was once an important port on the ancient Polynesian routes through the islands, covering an enormous triangle stretching from Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand, to present-day French Polynesia. The many fascinating archaeological and historic sites are well worth visiting on an island tour. They provide a glimpse into Polynesian culture that must be experienced firsthand. Of particular interest is the site of Taputapuatea Marae, the most significant in the islands. Horseback riding and hiking in the mountainous interior of the island are a splendid way to sightsee in a pristine tropical setting.
The fragrant scent of vanilla fills the air on Tahaa, just north of Raiatea and encircled by the same barrier reef. In fact, 80 percent of all the vanilla in French Polynesia is grown in the mountain valleys of Tahaa, earning it the nickname of the Vanilla Island. Plantation tours are an interesting sojourn ashore. Black pearls, one of the prizes of the region, are grown on aquatic farms, some of which are open to the public. Local artisans craft fine jewelry featuring the pearls, and the intricate and beautiful bracelets, necklaces, and rings are for sale in shops throughout the Tahitian Leewards. Tahaa is home to a sea turtle preserve, where visitors can observe the creatures in a park setting. The island has many fjord-like inlets both scenic and well protected for anchoring, and the snorkeling on the reef is superb. White-sand beaches are ideal for swimming and picnicking.
Locally known as the Garden Island for its lush tropical forests and agricultural land used to grow crops such as vanilla, copra, and even watermelons, Huahine is actually two mountainous islands spanned by a short bridge. The larger one is called Huahine-Nui, meaning big island, and, appropriately, the smaller one is called Huahine-Iti, meaning little island. Like Raiatea and Tahaa, it is much less traveled than Bora-Bora, arguably as big a tourist draw as Tahiti. Miles of pristine white-sand beaches, secure anchorages, and wonderful snorkeling are major appeals of this laid-back South Pacific treasure.
Located on the northern shores of Raiatea Island, the picturesque harbor of Marina Apooiti offers the traveling yachtsman the perfect start to his charter; with a wide variety of restaurants and upbeat bars to be found nearby, a day spent here is sure to get your sailing adventure off on the right tack.
Taravana Yacht Club:
Just a short hop north inside the barrier reef from Raiatea lays the tropical island of Tahaa and the sailors paradise of Taravana Yacht Club. With a warm welcoming atmosphere, a well-stocked bar and restaurant offering fine French cuisine; itís easy to see why this tranquil spot has become a favorite haunt for the visiting yachtsman.