The Top 9 Things to Do in Huahine

French Polynesia Huahine coastal landscape lagoon
Damocean / Getty Images

Huahine, known as “The Garden of French Polynesia,” is one of the most natural, tranquil spots in the Society Islands archipelago. Roughly halfway between Tahiti and Bora Bora, visitors here won’t find the large international resorts that punctuate the country's more popular destinations—but the island’s abundance of natural beauty and friendly local residents make this one of the dreamier corners of the South Pacific.

Actually comprised of two close-together islands—Huahine Nui (Big Huahine) on the north and Huahine Iti (Little Huahine) to the south—Huahine has some of French Polynesia's most distinctive scenery. Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti share a lagoon surrounded by a coral reef, and at times the islands' hidden inlets and coves make the lagoon feel more akin to a mountain lake than a tiny dot in the vast ocean. With just eight small villages and no stoplights, the vibe here is languid—anything brisker than a meandering pace seems utterly foreign.

01 of 09

Take an Island Tour

Huahine coastal landscape forest lagoon and islets
Damocean / Getty Images

You can take a land- or sea-based jaunt around the island with a tour operator, though some companies combine the two in one trip. Most of the ocean excursions include snorkeling around the coral gardens near Motu Mahare and a picnic lunch on the beach. If you opt for a land-based tour, you'll typically stop by an art gallery or pearl farm, vanilla plantation, and several scenic overlooks.

Depending on where you’re staying, tours can be arranged with hotel concierge desks or by inquiring with the owner of a pension (Tahitian guesthouse). Some tours require advance bookings, as they have a minimum participation required to operate.

02 of 09

Feed the Sacred Eels

In the village of Faie, a bridge crosses a freshwater stream filled with eels. The eels, which have blue eyes and are considered sacred in local mythology, are perhaps the island’s biggest celebrities. They’re noted for being quite docile and give plenty of attention to visitors, particularly if they’ve brought some tinned mackerel from a nearby stand to feed them.

Most island tours make a stop to visit the eels; self-guided visitors should keep an eye out for the bridge over the small stream in Faie, roughly across from the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

03 of 09

Check Out the Shell Museum

Address
667 FARE Route de l'Aéroport, Huahine 98731, French Polynesia
Phone +689 87 23 03 23

Motu Trésor museum has more than 500 shells belonging to the various species of shellfish in French Polynesia. An hour-long presentation in English and French goes over the habitat and behaviors of many of the shellfish; during this time, you'll learn how to identify which shellfish bite, which ones are poisonous, and how to handle shells if they’re found with their inhabitants still inside. This is also a good place to shop for Tahitian pearls—the owner is also a professionally trained jeweler.

04 of 09

Explore a Polynesian Temple

Marea at Maeva
Michel VIARD / Getty Images

There are several marae (temples) on both Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti. Marae were used for a variety of religious and spiritual purposes, typically with a specific god associated with their use. On Huahine Nui, there are nearly 30 in and around the village of Maeva, supporting the theory that the area was once inhabited by high-ranking nobility.

On Huahine Iti, Marae Anini is well-signposted from the road and sits next to a long stretch of tranquil beach. When visiting marae, it’s important not to touch or climb on the platforms or structures.

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05 of 09

Sample Tahitian Cooking at Chez Tara

Raw fish
claudiio Doenitz / Getty Images
Address
Unnamed Road,, Huahine, French Polynesia
Phone +689 40 68 78 45

"Ma’a Tahiti" is the Tahitian name for traditional Tahitian cooking. Poisson cru, a coconut-citrus dish reminiscent of ceviche, is Tahiti’s de facto national dish and often the centerpiece. Other dishes include Poulet fafa, chicken stewed with taro leaves and coconut milk, roast pork, and ipo coco (coconut bread). Adventurous eaters can also sample fafaru, fresh tuna marinated in what can best be described as fermented seawater.

Chez Tara on Avea Bay on Huahine Iti is famous for its weekly Ma’a Tahiti buffet; they serve most of these dishes every Sunday from noon onwards.

06 of 09

Dine Al Fresco

Le Mahana Hotel Restaurant

Courtesy of Le Mahana Hotel

Huahine isn’t exactly overflowing with restaurants, but most of them offer outdoor dining, often on or near the lagoon. The fanciest options include Omai Restaurant at Maitai Lapita Village in the town of Fare and Hotel Le Mahana's on-site restaurant on Avea Bay. Also in Fare is the laid-back Huahine Yacht Club, where picnic tables are set right on the ocean’s retaining wall; here, patrons dig into everything from steaks and burgers to fresh seafood served in every possible combination.

If you're looking for something more casual, Fare is home to several roulette food trucks, which serve large portions through walk-up windows, and informal “snacks” (short for “snackbar”).

07 of 09

Shop for Jewelry at a Pearl Farm

Huahine Pearl Farm and Pottery

Courtesy of Huahine Pearl Farm and Pottery

Address
72CC+R5W, Huahine, French Polynesia

Tahitian pearls, noted for their luster and range of brilliant colors, are one of the country’s top exports. Visitors won’t find the endless pearl shops lining the streets like in Papeete, but there are several pearl-sellers on Huahine. Most pearls cultured in French Polynesia come from the Tuamotu & Gambier archipelagos, but there is one operating pearl farm on Huahine. Located on the lagoon, Huahine Pearl Farm runs a free boat launch from Faie's marine throughout the day. The owner is also a master potter, making this the only place in French Polynesia that produces both pearls and pottery.

Pearl Treehouse, next door to the Maitai Lapita, and Motu Tresor, near the airport, are other good places to shop for pearls.

08 of 09

Browse Local Art at Gallery Umatatea

In addition to pearls and pottery, Huahine has noted artwork in a handful of shops around the island. Gallery Umatatea is out on Motu Ovarei, past the village of Maeva. The artist, Melanie Dupre, captures various Polynesian subjects in watercolor, giclee, and other mediums. Dupre opens the gallery when she’s home (look for the “open” sign on the roadside).

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09 of 09

Take In the Views

Polynésia/Huahiné Island/Bridge in Maroé Bay

dany13 / Flickr

Often the best way to experience Huahine is to simply go for a walk or a drive and let the island wash over the senses. There’s a Belvedere lookout near Faie that offers commanding views of Maroe Bay, but there’s hardly a place on the island that isn’t Instagram-worthy from either land or sea—it’s part of what makes this island so unforgettable.

Article Sources
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  1. Tahiti Tourisme. "Huahine." Retrieved on August 30, 2021.

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The Top 9 Things to Do in Huahine