Flights to Tahiti: Sophisticated South Pacific
Flights to Tahiti reveal islands that look like Gauguin paintings come to life. Hibiscus and frangipani blossoms and palms sway over powder-white beaches. Lagoons change colour from turquoise to deepest emerald. Hike rainforest-cloaked volcanic peaks and snorkel tiny coral atolls. You might spot a shy turtle, or a giant clam hiding in the underwater forest, before it slams shut.
Over-water villas reign supreme in Tahiti. Long, wooden boardwalks bridge aquamarine lagoons that lead to your traditional thatched 'fare' bungalow. Step off your private deck into the bath-warm lagoon or fan yourself with a palm leaf as your personal butler serves dinner-on-the-deck. If the tropical heat makes you too idle to step outside, entertain yourself by gazing through the aquarium 'windows' in your fare's floor instead. Tame reef fish might even swim up to be fed.
Feel the vibe at Marae Taputapuatea, one of French Polynesia's most sacred meeting sites, found on lush, volcanic Raiatea. Some locals say the huge central platform and altar stone still retain ancient psychic powers. So, if something's troubling you write it down, take it to the marae and burn the paper. Your problem will dog you no more – especially if you perform the ceremony under a full moon. Spooky.
Back to nature
Fancy some island hopping on your Tahiti holiday? Sail through breaks in the reef towards deserted golden beaches. Pause to snorkel slowly in sprawling, intricate coral gardens. Catch a ferry from Papeete to Moorea and visit the crashing Afareaitu Waterfalls. The water thunders 100ft down black-lava mountainside, creating a frothy plunge-pool at the bottom.
Where? Tahiti is the main island in the Society Islands archipelago. Nearby Taha'a is scented by its vanilla plantations while Bora Bora's huge turquoise lagoon is paradise for snorkellers.
Population: Unlike many Polynesian countries, foreigners are permitted to buy land and settle in French Polynesia. As a result, the local cuisine is as French as it is Pacific.
Key dates: Tahiti can be 'blamed' for the Mutiny on the Bounty in 1789. The crew found island life so idyllic they cast Captain Bligh adrift in a small boat so they could stay and marry the locals.
Did you know? The Society Islands were named by explorer Captain James Cook. Some say for the Royal Society, his London sponsor. His journal, however, states it was because they lay 'contiguous to one another'.
If crystal clear lagoons and perfect white beaches don't get you as laid-back as you'd like, get fully horizontal at a luxury spa in our pick of Tahiti accommodation. Overwater villas, lagoon-side pools and paradise views come pretty much as standard wherever you stay.
Expect a French twist on Tahiti tables. It could be your breakfast croissant. Or perhaps the passion fruit, coconut and ginger flavours complementing your ocean-fresh lobster and fish at lunch or dinner.
Shopping in Tahiti
Tahiti is all about black pearls. Get the lowdown on selecting the finest for lustre, colour and – of course – size at the Robert Wan Museum. Then make for the 'Pearl Row' markets and gape like an oyster at the eye-watering prices.
Papeete is the only place you’ll find city-style nightlife in French Polynesia – but expect to pay Paris prices! Head to the harbour for bars, restaurants and clubs that run the gamut from French pop to transvestite cabaret.
Tahiti is inevitably associated with painter Paul Gauguin – though you'll find little of his work in the museum that's dedicated to him. For real South Pacific flavour, head to the fascinating Musée de Tahiti or an atmospheric ancient marae temple .