French Polynesia: Island Paradise for Travelers
When you hear Tahiti, the typical response is to say, "far." But, in actuality, the amazingly authentic islands of French Polynesia are only a few extra hours from Hawaii, the go-to tropical island destination for many Americans.
The eight-hour nonstop flight from Los Angeles via Air Tahiti Nui, one of the only options in getting there, is quite pleasant if you are not expecting an over-the-top, luxury experience. The in-flight crew is exceptionally courteous and responsive to all your needs, and although the aircraft are close to approaching vintage status, they still do provide in-flight entertainment. The food is the same of what you would expect on any international flight, and it’s important to mention that alcohol is complimentary.
It’s also entertaining to watch the flight crew change from very professional uniforms to the more traditional Tahitian clothing throughout the flight. From the moment you board the airplane, you feel like you are in another part of the world as announcements are made in both Tahitian and French. The beautiful mixture of both languages helps you to escape and truly adds a special touch to this exotic travel destination.
Tahitians are known for their accepting attitude toward anything and everything. Aita pe’a pe’a, translated in English, is "no problem." This is a phrase commonly heard by anyone visiting Tahiti. The islands have no legal discrimination against homosexual activity and homophobia in French Polynesia is uncommon.
It is very common to meet and see cross-dressers, or "rae rae," working in hotels and restaurants. The Dao bar in Papeete is popular for western gays as well as rae rae. In addition, there is a piano bar located in the center of Papeete that has mainly locals but is welcoming to tourists.
"Polynesians are known for their warm welcome. They are some of the most kind, gentle, and open-minded people in the world," said Jonathan Reap, managing director of Tahiti Tourism North America. "They embrace any opportunity to share their culture and heritage with visitors, as well as the mesmerizing beauty and tranquility of their islands."
Reap added that Tahiti, in particular, is an ideal getaway for travelers no matter how they identify.
"In fact, as it’s one of the most romantic places on earth, whether you’re gay or straight, the islands of Tahiti are a couples’ paradise, offering something for every traveler - white-sand beaches, vibrant marine life, rugged mountains, and colorful history. Whether you want a private island picnic near Bora Bora or a canoe-delivered breakfast in your over-water bungalow, Tahiti is the ultimate South Pacific island paradise," he said.
Tahiti Tourism also has a gay section on its website at http://gaytahiti.com.
Hotel options on Tahiti itself are many, and a very fun and upscale option is the Manava Suite Resort, which can easily be compared to the caliber of a W Resort Hotel. The suites are oversized luxury spaces that provide kitchens, living areas, and grand bathrooms. The hotel also boasts the largest infinity pool in Tahiti.
The island offers beautiful beaches, hotels, and all the kitschy shopping one could ask for. The local market has pearl shops on virtually every corner and they are reasonably priced. It’s almost a prerequisite before leaving the island to experience hand-picking pearls from piles of thousands, as it’s extremely daunting in the best way possible.
A short 30-minute ferry ride from Papeete is the island of Moorea. This popular island, known for its many outdoor adventure activities and beautiful scenery, is the perfect place to jump in the lagoons and try paddle boarding. Scuba, snorkeling, and kayaking are also available at most resort hotels. Taking a Jeep tour of the entire island, offered by Inner Safari Tours, is a must as the tour ends by taking you to the highest points of the island for breathtaking photo opportunities.