Three Island Destinations Rarely Visited By Cruise Ships

Cruise ships love to call on island destinations. Those that live on those islands are glad to see them and their cash-spending passengers too. But for travelers who just happen to be on a land vacation at the time a cruise ship calls, this is bad news. Almost instantly, a quiet, serene island paradise can be overrun with thousands of cruise passengers trying to cram a whole lot of island into a little bit of time.

Still, there are some island destinations rarely visited by cruise ships that are host to some of the best beaches and island life in the world. Here are three of them to enjoy.

Tobago (pictured) is one of the two southern Caribbean islands that make up the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, northeast of the island of Trinidad and southeast of Grenada. Tobago is known for its Carnival, is the birthplace of the limbo and sees few cruise ships – mostly small ones.Tikehau is a coral atoll in the Palliser Islands group, part of the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia, known for its pink sand beaches. To get there, a daily flight between Tahiti and the Tikehau airport delivers travelers to the island paradise. Cruise ships do not stop here.

Manihi is also a coral atoll in French Polynesia, popular with snorkelers for its beautiful and diverse marine fauna. Home to a number of pearl farms, Mahini is largely uninhabited and home to the Mahini Pearl Beach Resort.

[Flickr photo by nosuchsoul]

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Tahiti

Located in the South Pacific, Tahiti is thought of by many as a prime vacation destination. But what do you actually know about these islands? To test your Tahitian knowledge, here are 10 things you probably didn’t know.

1. The official languages of the country are both Tahitian and French. However, English is also widely spoken on most of the islands.

2. What is commonly known as “Tahiti” or “The Islands of Tahiti” is officially categorized as an Overseas Country of France, with its own government overseeing all international decisions on behalf of French Polynesia.

3. There are 118 islands and atolls spread out over five archipelagos.

4. Most Polynesians believe the mythical island of Hawaiki, today known as Raiatea, rose from the bottom of the ocean and was the beginning of all life on Earth.

5. The over-water bungalow was invented in the islands of Tahiti 45 years ago.

6. On Fakarava, there is a church called Jean de la Croix made completely of coral.

7. The Islands of Tahiti is the only country in the world to have a winery, Vin du Tahiti, on a coral atoll.

8. The word “tattoo” originated in French Polynesia. The legend of Tohu, the god of tattoo, talks about painting all the fish in the ocean and showing their vibrant colors and designs. In Polynesian culture, tattoos are thought to be signs of beauty, and were ceremoniously applied to the body as a celebration of adolescence in earlier times.

9. Mount Temehani on the island of Raiatea is home to the Tiare Apetahi flower. This flower will not grow anywhere else in the world, despite botanists having tried to replant it for centuries.

10. The Tahitian alphabet contains only 13 letters.

For a more visual idea of Tahiti’s lesser-known side, check out the gallery below.


Teahupo’o: the world’s ‘heaviest’ surfing wave

, site of a legendary surfer break on the French Polynesian island of Tahiti, has developed quite the reputation among big-wave surfers. Due to a shallow coral reef just off shore, waves here tend break as massive, chunky walls of water, a phenomenon that has earned Teahupo’o the distinction as the “heaviest” wave in the world.

The video above, filmed at Teahupo’o, offers a first-hand view from the ocean of what it’s like to ride the massive swells of this epic surf spot. Set to an ethereal soundtrack, the video follows surfers as they brave one of the biggest surfing days at Teahupo’o in recent memory, riding crushing “fists” of ocean that grow and collapse, threatening to swallow them whole at any minute. Sit back, click the play button, and let yourself be mesmerized by these awesome feats of athleticism.

Summer vacation in Tahiti: 5 reasons to visit French Polynesia’s Tuamotu Atolls

If you’ve had enough with the recent onslaught of wintertime blizzards, you’re probably ready to start your summer vacation planning. How about jetting off to a part of French Polynesia that few travelers ever visit?

Considered to offer a number of the best diving sites in the world, the Tuamotu Atolls are some of Tahiti’s lesser known islands. These remote atolls, most specifically Rangiroa and Fakarava, possess all the exotic charm of Tahiti and Bora Bora, but they have the distinction of featuring a few activities the others don’t. Since summertime in the northern hemisphere is the dry season in French Polynesia, June through August is the perfect time to plan your visit.

If you aren’t enticed just yet, then consider these five reasons to visit the Tuamotus when finalizing your summer vacation plans this year.

Visit a Winery

How about sipping wine from a winery located in the midst of a coconut grove, flanked on one side by turquoise lagoons and the deep blue ocean on the other? Rangiroa is home to Vin de Tahiti, one of the world’s most scenic wineries. While these wines may not be on par with your favorite Chateau in Bordeaux just yet, they are well-crafted and the views are unsurpassed.

Try a Drift Dive (or Snorkel)

It may surprise you to learn French Polynesia’s seemingly tranquil waters can also pull some hefty currents. Just outside the reefs await extraordinary underwater adventures. Jump in and let the currents take you on a magical journey immersed with vibrant colored corals, thousands of schooling fish, and if you’re lucky, perhaps even a hammerhead shark. And don’t worry, the boat is right there to pick you up once your adventure ends.

Learn about Tahitian Pearls

Interested in Tahitian Pearls? Take a tour of one of French Polynesia’s best known Pearl farms — Gauguin’s Pearl. After the tour, visit the store to purchase loose or set pearls to take home with you.

Rest assured, this is not your typical tourist trap — there’s no obligation to even set foot in the store. However, if you’re interested, they have competitive prices, and most importantly, the pearls come certified. Don’t fall for the scam of buying uncertified loose pearls — they will be confiscated if you try to leave French Polynesia with them.

Visit a Coral Church

Fakarava is home to the first island church built entirely out of coral back in 1862. Today, the outer structure still remains and is quite a sight to behold.

Go Fishing

If drift diving didn’t satiate your craving for adventure, the Tuamotus also offer world-class fishing. While you cannot fish within Fakarava’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the surrounding waters are rich with options — try deep sea or spear fishing, jigging, and more.

Rangiroa and Fakarava are both easily reached from Papeete, Tahiti, by either a one hour flight or as part of a cruise itinerary. Check Air Tahiti Nui for airfare specials from Los Angeles (main US airport servicing Tahiti) or visit Paul Gauguin Cruises for upcoming summer discounts.

Tahiti greens up its tourism

Tahiti ain’t cheap. And, at least in the past several decades, it’s also had a reputation for crappy food, cheesy resorts, a seriously sketchy scene in Papeete, and a general lack of sustainable tourism. But that’s all changing.

CNN reports that small-scale, eco-oriented tourism is thriving in Tahiti, especially in the mountainous interior, and on the peninsula of Tahiti Iti. An influx of B & B’s, guesthouses and bungalows have cropped up, making a visit to the island paradise more affordable to budget travelers (after you cough up the plane ticket, but Air Tahiti Nui offers promotional prices and family discounts). The less-populous inland has loads of hiking trails, waterfalls, and remote beaches accessible only by foot, and outfitters such as Tahiti Evasion offer guided hikes for non-DIY’ers. On the luxury end, some properties, like Bora Bora’s InterContinental Resort, are reducing their carbon footprint by using high-tech cooling systems that use pumped-in, deep-sea water, instead of A/C units.

Additionally, great public transit and a thriving local food scene make it easier for culturally-inclined travelers to get a true taste of Tahiti. Roulottes, small food trucks found along Papeete’s waterfront, offers local ingredients and traditional dishes, while the central market, Marche Papeete, sells all manner of locally-grown produce. On rural Moorea, check out family farms, and slip into the relaxed, local way of life.

[Via Mother Nature Network]

[Photo credit: Flickr user D.[SansPretentionAucune]]