What It’s Like to Travel to the French Pacific Islands

Remember that happiness is a way of travel—not a destination. – Roy M. Goodman

As a wanderer at heart, I’ve had my fair share of trips to various exotic destinations, starting in my early student days, and all the way to the present moment, when I continually crave the thrill of the unknown. The smell of the air in the new region, the breeze on my cheeks, and the sound of my footsteps, all different in each location, all equally intoxicating – until I met the queen of all oases, a dreamland that inspired Eden, French Polynesia.

Tahiti’s Hakuna Matata

I thought it was cliché even before I stepped foot on its pearl-white sand shore, but there’s a reason why Tahiti is on the throne of French Polynesian islands and keeps attracting more guests than any of its sibling atolls. However, my fascination was deeper than the overwater bungalows or cocktails on La Plage de Maui, as I was mesmerized by the palette of azure blues, iridescent waves, inquisitive marine life, and the locals with broad, genuine smiles – in fact, all of the aforementioned, colors and animals included, felt as if they were constantly smiling, in a state of bliss.

Mo’orea island in French Polynesia

It’s as if you step into a land without time, where everything is about the present moment, celebrating its simplicity and immersing yourself in the goodness of nature. On that note, green tourism is increasingly more popular, as the locals appreciate their natural wealth of flora and fauna, and in an attempt to preserve their unique range of species, they encourage visitors to partake in Earth-friendly activities.

In addition to its capital, Papeete, visitors flock to the beaches to surf, kayak, explore the dreamy blue lagoons, and bask in the incredible local cuisine comprised of locally-harvested goods. Just southeast of the capital, I went to see the Vaipahi Gardens, with a brief stop at the Maraa Grotto for a magical swim. Next day, we trekked to Fautaua Waterfall, and no matter how I try to describe it, it will not do it justice – you truly need to be there to understand. It’s in the presence of such magnificence that you start to grasp just how imperceptibly small we are compared to the awesome power of Nature.

The less known sisters

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the neighboring islands of Tahiti, of which Raiatea, the next largest in the Society Islands archipelago, further instilled that feeling of “I want to ditch everything and live here as Tom Cruise in Cocktail.” Even its name translates into “faraway heaven.” As the most cherished and sacred of all, this green-laden mountainous island receives fewer visitors every year – making it a perfect destination for soul-searching.

Taha’a island in French Polynesia

Taha’a was no less serene and joyous than its more massive companions, “the Vanilla Island” truly is as delicious and stunning as it sounds. The wild hibiscus flower that grows freely on the island alters its hue patterns with the day, and the vanilla farms are a must for all lovers of this precious commodity. Its villages are small, slow-paced and friendly, and this was perhaps my first encounter with an exotic island of such beauty with so few visitors.

Noumea in New Caledonia

Charming New Caledonia

Finding myself in the capital Noumea in New Caledonia felt like escaping reality, due to the modestly urban elegance combined with pristine nature and a fleet of numerous boats, yachts, and ships coming from all over the world to bask in its beauty. And despite its many visitors and locals, not a single moment felt too crowded, as the spirit of slow-paced beach life permeated the atmosphere.

On the other end of the spectrum lies the splendid, and ever-so-French New Caledonia culture that represents a colorful blend of the timeless European charm and the uniquely Pacific tranquil essence. Instead of the typical French baguette, go for Bougna, a local dish with chicken and fish mixed with sweet potatoes and wrapped in banana leaves. Explore the city on a train, and get a glimpse of the aerial view of the famous Heart of Voh – even if you’re not a romantic like me, you will be dazzled.

Isle of Pines in New Caledonia

And as I lost my gaze into the translucence of the blue lagoon, observed the horizon from atop the iron Amedee Lighthouse and dived deep into the waters of the Isle of Pines, I was overwhelmed by sheer gratitude for being able to experience such beauty. And I promised myself I would do my best to perpetuate that feeling upon my return home, a few life lessons come in the shape of such a blissful adventure.

[bctt tweet=”It is better to #travel well than to arrive. – Buddha” username=”havingtime”]

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