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Heis and leis and lush scenery – Tahiti

Tahiti-Bora Bora-Featured Image-PP

I have the wonderful privilege of visiting various destinations and providing inspiration of the amazing places of this world. One of the highlights for me in 2019 was getting to travel to Tahiti – now that’s a bucket list trip! That experience inspires this week’s article…

Why Tahiti should be on your travel bucket list 

Since my cruise in Tahiti three years ago, I’ve been thinking about what makes it such a spectacular destination. Why was I so excited about going? I have to confess – I can’t stand the Caribbean. I’m actually not a beach person. Sand is sandy. Since I normally spend more of my days on the family beach vacation in the air-conditioned house rather than on the beach, it was intriguing to me that I was so excited about going to Tahiti in the first place, and why I loved it so much once I went.

I think the first thing that strikes me is the pure stunning beauty of every place we went. It is not like any island that I have been to in the Caribbean. There is such lush gorgeous scenery that really takes your breath away. It’s so green and beautiful and vibrant with foliage and flowers – it totally draws you in.

Because the islands are visually so spectacular, it somehow enhances the activities while there. The snorkeling, laying on the beach on the private island, driving up into the mountains and time spent on the water – I think the part that makes it different from other places is that you are constantly surrounded by paradise.

That difference also ties in with the Polynesian culture that you experience while there. There is this lovely culture that is real – it’s not for the tourists but is truly their way of life – the welcoming hospitality, the music (sometimes with ukulele), the fresh fruit and coconut everywhere, the local handicrafts, the flowers. Quite often during our stay there, we would be given a tiare blossom (tiare means literally ‘flower of Tahiti’), which they put in their hair over one ear, and it’s easy to think that it’s a tourist thing. My husband and I went to Mass on the island of Huahine, and it was a little difficult to get to the church on the other side of the island, so we were the only non-locals there. It struck me that they really do wear the flowers in their hair over their ear and they really do wear those crowns of flowers on their head – it is not for us, it is for them.

You can visit Tahiti and stay at some of the incredibly lovely resorts, where you can spend your time on one island or split your time between a couple of the islands depending on how much time you have; we saw Tahiti via the Paul Gauguin cruise ship.

One of the reasons I love Paul Gauguin is they sail specifically in French Polynesia, so they are experts in the area, and they have a team of local Tahitians onboard leading experiences and entertaining. The service level was very attentive yet also comfortable and friendly. The focus on cultural immersion and bringing the locals onboard enhances the connection with the destination.

Related to the Polynesian culture, one of my favorite evenings on the ship was on Thursday evening when the ship overnighted in Moorea. They have the local women come on board and sit outside of the dining room, where they make leis and heis. Everyone knows a lei is a flower necklace because they have those in Hawaii, but the hei is a crown of flowers that you wear on your head. On Polynesian Night on the ship, you kneel in front of one of the women and she would make you a hei especially for you while you watched. It was an amazing authentic experience of French Polynesia.

The other key thing about Paul Gauguin is the cruise itinerary is designed so that you get much more time in port than with other cruise lines. On our 7-night itinerary starting and ending in Papeete, we had one day in Huahine, and another day on the private island, and then we over-nighted in Bora Bora, so we had two days to enjoy that island. It also meant if you wanted to spend an evening in Bora Bora go to a local restaurant or go stargazing, you could. We also over-nighted in Moorea, which allowed the evening with the women coming onboard to make the leis and heis, and we also had two days for activities there. They also have longer sailings to explore more islands.

My time in Tahiti and sailing on Paul Gauguin was one of my favorite vacations in regard to the opportunity to relax, enjoy the stunning destination and the luxurious surroundings, experience an immersive culture, and engage in some adventurous excursions.