Tahaa, the Vanilla Island
While the name Tahiti is often synonymous with French Polynesia, the truth is there are more than 100 islands that make up this destination — each one of them having something special to offer.
Known as the Vanilla Island, Tahaa is one of French Polynesia’s most fertile islands, filled with sweet-smelling vanilla plants and an impressive variety of tropical fruits: bananas, mangoes, star fruit, coconut, grapefruit, limes, papaya and more.
Visiting a vanilla plantation is a must, as over 80 percent of Tahitian vanilla comes from this island.
A few of the plantations run organic operations, such as Brian Henderson and his wife Morita Hioe of La Vallee de la Vanille, using rolling hillsides (instead of greenhouses) and coconut shells to fertilize their soil and feed the plants.
Interestingly, out of 25,000 varieties of orchids, vanilla is the only one to produce something edible. Don’t leave without browsing the onsite boutique, which offers an impressive array of vanilla-infused products, some of which include body oil, soap, shampoo, sea salt, olive oil, perfume, volcano rocks, coffee and sugar.
Tahaa is also known for its abundance of pearl farms, which one can visit to see how the precious beads are cultivated, examined and grafted, as well as learn about the process and the different types of pearls.
While pearls around the world are typically white, French Polynesia is known for its black and iridescent-coloured pearls of all shapes and sizes. Most pearl farms also have a boutique where you can shop your own pearl as well as compare the different grades of pearls.