Situated midway in the Pacific Ocean between South America and Australia, French Polynesia is comprised of 118 islands in the Austral, Gambier, Marquesas, Tuamotu, and Society archipelagos spread out in an area roughly the size of Europe. Papeete on Tahiti is the capital. Within the Society group are Bora-Bora, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Huahine, the jewels of the exotic cruising grounds of a crewed Tahiti yacht charter. Because the islands are downwind from Tahiti they’re known as the Leewards. The mountainous heights rise from the sea atop what remains of ancient volcanoes so old the craters have all but eroded into oblivion. Encircling barrier reefs provide a habitat for sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, porpoises, colorful hard and soft coral, and more than 500 species of fish, making the Tahitian Leewards one of the world’s top snorkeling and scuba diving venues. Resorts, watersports, island tours, archaeological sites, and fine dining are just some of the delights of a crewed Tahiti yacht charter.
A crewed Tahiti yacht charter offers balmy easterly trade winds averaging between 15 and 20 knots throughout the year, virtually guaranteeing a relaxing sail every day in the calm waters behind the reefs and spirited sailing on open-water passages between the islands. With an experienced crew aboard a luxury Tahiti yacht, it's easy to relax and simply enjoy all of the pleasures of these unique and beautiful waters. Year-round temperatures range from 78°F to 80°F (25°C to 26°C).
Although Bora-Bora, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Huahine are neighbors, each island has a slightly different ambience. Of course, the South Pacific beauty is a common trait. The exquisite reefs, motus, and beaches are too. But on one island the emphasis may be more on catering to the chic, while on another Nature is supreme. On still another the handiwork of local artists or the quiet reverence at a stone temple dating back to the earliest times of Polynesian travelers is in evidence. Together, the four treasures of the Tahitian Leewards are an enchanting cruising ground for a memorable crewed Tahiti yacht charter.
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 that’s 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, it’s 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.