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Visitors to French Polynesia — a sprinkling of about 100 islands in the South Pacific that most famously include Tahiti and honeymoon spot Bora Bora — will be met with swaying palms, clear lagoons and a warm “ia orana” (Tahitian greeting) upon arrival.
Although the destination is known to attract lovebirds with its laid-back vibe, adventure-minded guests would be remiss not to venture beyond their overwater bungalows.
Cliff Jumping on Tahiti ItiKristin Carlson Kemper traveled to nearly 60 countries by age 18.
But now, as the managing director of Tahiti Tourisme United States, she is laser-focused on one dreamy destination: French Polynesia.
For an active day, Kemper suggests clients cross the isthmus from the main island to Tahiti Iti (iti means “little” in Tahitian) to see unspoiled valleys, mountains and beaches. Visitors can cliff jump, swim under waterfalls and more.
“Tahiti Iti [strays from the] erroneous impression that Tahiti is simply a stopover on the way to Moorea, Bora Bora or another island,” Kemper said.
Know Your Stuff: Travel advisors are go-to experts, and with the right knowledge, you “will not only get the commission if booking ahead, but your client will also have a more satisfying, seamless experience once in destination,” she said.
Hiking Hidden TrailsVaihiria Kelley, director of marketing and sales for North America at Air Tahiti Nui, joined the airline soon after its launch in the 1990s as an airport supervisor at Los Angeles International Airport. The native Tahitian says she feels pride in assisting Tahitian passengers and being able to communicate with them in their native language.
During a French Polynesia vacation, Kelley suggests active travelers search out local hiking trails.
“The Islands of Tahiti have amazing hikes that are a bit under the radar — especially for tourists,” she said. “Part of the reason the hikes are [hard to find] is because there are no marked hiking trails.”
Guiding Force: Because trails are not obviously marked, Kelley says hiring a professional guide to accompany clients is an absolute must. She suggests guests make an inquiry at the activity desk of their hotel.
Swimming With WildlifeAs a Tahiti Tiare program specialist with Frosch, Christina Turrini knows all about French Polynesia (as she should — she’s visited Tahiti and its islands nearly 20 times).
One of her favorite experiences is a full-day shark and manta ray snorkel excursion in the lagoons of Bora Bora with operator Lagoon Service, followed by a barbecue lunch on a private motu (reef islet). Guests are taken by boat to three snorkel spots that are teeming with black- and white-tipped sharks in addition to manta rays, all amidst a stunning coral reef backdrop.
Slow Down: Even during active adventures, Turrini recommends reminding clients to take time to absorb their surroundings.
“Tahiti is a magical place, so [tell them to] be embraced by its beauty,” she said. “The Islands offer the ideal opportunity to reconnect to what is important in life.”