A few years ago I went on my first trip to French Polynesia, and the minute I left, I couldn't stop thinking how much I wanted to go back. I promised myself I would try to visit every year to make up for all the years I missed. It's incredible how fast time flies and it was almost two years later that I got the opportunity to head back over to the islands. My Aunty Vivian (previous Sun Dot owner from 1997-2017) was also frothing to get back over and is the pro planner when it comes to ultimate adventure travel. I knew that if she was in charge, this trip was gonna be epic.
My first trip to French Polynesia, 2017
We started our trip going full speed ahead. Christa (my cousin from Kailua-Kona) Melissa (a friend from the Big Island) and I arrived a little past 3:00am to Papeete as our flight had been delayed from Honolulu. The rest of the gang had arrived a few days ago (The Varneys from Waimea, Viv, Mike, Connor and Bennett)
The whole gang, from left to right, Viv, Connor, Tina, Bennett, Christa and Mike
We were so blessed to be greeted at the airport, by our friend Teariiroa with beautiful leis. He took us straight to the harbor to check out our sailboat and wake up the rest of the gang for the early morning markets. We got there with time to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the Papeete Market and were sailing out of the harbor by 7:00am.
Arriving on our sailboat after a visit to the market, Papeete
We headed to Tetiaroa, the atoll famously known for The Brando Hotel, and its epic-coloured water. We literally spent our first day in Paradise. The water was shades of blue I had never experienced before! Bird Atoll was a bird-watchers dream come true. We saw huge bonefish cruising the shoreline and hundreds of hermit crabs.
The big kids playground, Tetiaroa
We explored one of the surrounding atolls and Melissa and I spent time fishing along a reef pass (*the area in Tetiaroa is protected so we made sure to release everything we hooked up) We enjoyed a visit from a friendly Lemon Shark and a Black Tip who both circled and cruised around our boat, just before we set out on our night crossing to Raiatea.
Christa and a visiting friendly reef shark, Tetiaroa
The snorkelling around Tetiaroa is incredible
Tag and release
This was my first time eve spending the night on a sailboat - or even sailing for longer than a few hours - so I was pretty excited. Our Captain assigned each of us a two hour watch session for the night so he could catch some 20 minute naps during our sixteen hour crossing.
Tea, the best Captain in the world
Enjoying our crossing from Tetiaroa to Raiatea
The next morning we passed a land mass to our right which was Huahine and shortly after we began to see Raiatea appear on the horizon. Everyone wasn pretty excited tobe in calm waters and set foot back on land.
We did a spectacular hike near the harbor and stocked up on supplies and Hinanos. Then we spent the next few days sailing, fishing, surfing, and cruising between Taha'a and Raiatea.
Views of Raiatea's town center
On our second night Bennett landed our biggest fish of the trip, a 15 pound Tahitian Ulua. He was hooked up off the bow of the boat for awhile before any of us even knew he was on. He brought it safely into the boat like a champ.
"My favorite memories were dancing on the crossing, watching the boys boat hop in Taha'a and play bumper cars with the dinghies". -Bennett Varney
We surfed (let's be honest, I mostly floated) some insane waves. So much power and so much reef. Our Captain even came surfing with us a few times and even went the extra mile by showing us the ultimate way to handle and recover from reef tattoos (view the photo at the end of this blog to see what I mean) We learned that Tamanu oil is one of Tahiti's best kept secrets. Get your hands on some ASAP!
Christa and I paddling back to the boat from the spot we named Four Cousins
We visited a pearl farm and a rum factory on Taha'a (typical tourists but both places were amazing!) The most delicious rum comes from French Polynesia, and I'm pretty sure the Lilikoi Passion Rum was as smooth as breakfast juice (my entire bottle didn't last longer than an hour once we got back to the boat!)
Taha'a Rum, the best passionfruit Rum I've ever tasted
The Taha'a Rum didn't last long
The Pearl Farm was cool. We got to see how the pearls are farmed from start to finish - such an amazing animal and the science behind it is pretty incredible. They gifted us some oyster shells, we made some new friends and left with a new love for the luster.
Taha'a Pearl Farm
We spent a night hanging out with the boat captains and crew around us and woke up the next morning to the most amazing coral garden I have ever seen in my life. We drifted down amongst millions of fish and sea creatures. From nemo in his anemone, to the most 90s style fish, electric-colored clams and schools of every fish you can imagine, it was like we were in an ulternate universe, and the whole way it was barely five feet deep!
The time we spent with our captain and his friends of Poe Charter, were some of the best times. They really know how to show aloha and enjoy every day, sharing their music and ukulele with us, as well as refreshing Rum Punch and local delicacies like the fresh raw clams with a squirt of lime they brought over for breakfast one morning...yumm!
Our arrival view from the Four Seasons Bora Bora
Our next stop was the Four Seasons on Bora Bora. The perfect place to go to celebrate a honeymoon (or in our case, to finally have a real shower after six days!) The bungalows by the pool were the perfect place to relax and take in the luxury around us. We were so blessed to stay here, thanks to Melissa and the hard work she puts in as a marine biologist at the Four Seasons Hualalai, on the Big Island.
Day One highlights from Four Seasons Bora Bora
Our first night was spent as anyone who had just got off a boat after seven days would want to spend it - a few solid minutes in the hot tub, before ordering room service cheeseburgers and creme brûlée and watching Moana on the big screen. We met a really awesome 9 year old girl at the hot tub and invited her over to our room. Visiting from LA with her parents on their honeymoon, she brought the element of joy that comes with having kids around when watching Disney movies. It was the perfect night.
We spent majority of the next day enjoying our ocean bungalows. Its hard to leave when they are all overlooking crystal, sparkling lagoon water and majestic mountains loom in the backdrop. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset that night from the hot tub and some delicious cocktails by the pool. It was a sad day when we had to leave Bora Bora,but we were really excited for Part Two of our #BestTripEver
Day Two highlights from Four Seasons Bora Bora
We flew in the shortest airplane ride ever, from Bora Bora to Huahine and immediately fell in love with the laid back, quiet pace of Huahine. I could go on forever about how much I wish I could live here forever. Huahine is Heaven, that's about the best way to keep this short and sweet.
Melissa fishing off our dock, Huahine
Floating the days away
Bennett, Connor and Torikivai cruising
The ocean colors around Huahine are pure magic
One of my highlights on Huahine included picking tiare buds each morning with our host family (they farm over 600 tiare bushes each morning to supply the Monoi Oil Company with their beautiful flowers) It's kind of like shell hunting on land; meditative and calming while you try to fill your bags to 400 without losing count!
Picking Tiare on Huahine
We went on an epic hike, surfed some fun and challenging spots - one in crazy onshore winds and another with the narliest rip known to mankind. We shared some beautiful meals together, always with the freshest coconut milk and Ahi spreads of all styles from poisson cru to Ahi curry and the best
Views from the top, Huahine
Another highlight had to be the Huahine Distillery. Free tastings of the most delicious liquiors that left you smiling and laughing and ready to jump off bridges (this literally happened!) I'm pretty sure I'd go back to Huahine just to visit this distillery again!
Yet another highlight for me was painting pareos. Bring from Hawaii we spend a lot of time at the beach and a pareo or sarong is a staple of my wardrobe. We spent some time learning how our friend Nainoa helps hand paint them with his mother. It's a process full of love and dedication and each piece is totally unique.
Christa helping Nainoa paint a pareo, Huahine
Huahine was so hard to leave. Luckily Christa and I had a few extra days to spend here after the rest of our gang had to head back to Hawaii. We enjoyed spending the time with our host family, Samantha, Toiki and Torikivai (their adorable four year old son). We had the most epic send off, spending our final hour hanging at the airport under the trees, watching the sunset and sharing Hinanos with our new Huahine Ohana.
We spent a lot of time on our dock, photos by Mike Varney
Lucky for us, we still had a week left in French Polyesia but for now I'm going to let the memories end here and save the rest of our adventure for another day.
For fast recovery from Free reef tattoos, use Tamanu Oil, Captain Tea after a typical day out charging