French Polynesia Beyond Tahiti

Tahaa, vanilla island

While the name Tahiti is often synonymous with French Polynesia, the truth is that there are over 100 islands that make up this destination, each with something special to offer.

Known as the Island of Vanilla, Tahaa is one of the most fertile islands in French Polynesia, filled with fragrant vanilla plants and an impressive variety of tropical fruits: bananas, mangoes, the Tahitian star fruit, coconuts, grapefruit, limes, papaya and more.

A visit to a vanilla plantation is a must, as over 80% of Tahiti’s vanilla comes from this island.

Some of the plantations run organic operations, like Brian Henderson and his wife Morita Hioe of Vanilla Valley, who prefer rolling hills and steep hillsides (instead of greenhouses) and coconut shells to fertilize their soil and feed the plants. It is interesting to note that of the 25,000 varieties of orchid, vanilla is the only one to produce something edible. Don’t leave without visiting the on-site boutique, which offers an impressive range of vanilla products, including body oil, soap, shampoo, sea salt, olive oil, perfume, volcanic stones, coffee and sugar.

Tahaa is also known for its abundance of pearl farms, which can be visited to see how precious pearls are grown, examined and grafted, as well as to learn about their growth process and the different varieties of pearls.

While pearls around the world are typically white, French Polynesia is known for its black and iridescent pearls of all shapes and sizes. Most pearl farms also have a store where you can buy your own pearl and compare different pearl qualities.