Many of the islands of French Polynesia have cute little nicknames and Huahine’s is the Authentic Island. Having spent a few days there, I can quickly understand why. While nearby Bora Bora and Mo’orea are popular on the French Polynesia tourist trail, Huahine is often skipped and left behind. Which is too bad for those who miss it, but even better for those of us who decide to visit. Huahine is absolutely stunning and quickly became my second favourite island (Mo’orea is my first). So for anyone heading to the Authentic Island, here are my top picks of things to do in Huahine Island, French Polynesia.
How to Get to Huahine Island
The best way to get to Huahine is to fly. It’s about 40 minutes from Pape’ete, and only about 15-20 minutes from Bora Bora, so it doesn’t take too long! As I’ve mentioned in my other guides on French Polynesia, the best value for your money if you plan on visiting multiple islands is to get the Tahiti Air Pass and Huahine is an option on a couple of different pass choices.
Insider tip: Sit on the left side of the plane for the best views flying into Huahine!
How Long to Spend on Huahine Island
I spent 3 nights in Huahine and found it to be a good amount of time. I saw and did what I wanted but, I definitely could have stayed a few days longer just to chill and relax. I would say you need at least two full days to see the best of the island; one by land and one by water. Any less and you will be missing out! But, if you are someone who likes to travel slow and is looking to escape then this could be a good little base for longer.
Getting Around Huahine Island
The best way to get around Huahine is by car. Again, there is no public bus system and while taxis are available they are not common and very expensive. Huahine island isn’t huge, but it’s not somewhere you can cycle around easily either so it is definitely in your best interest to rent a car for a day.
There are a couple of car rental options in Fare, the main town of Huahine. You can organize a rental yourself or ask your accommodation to organize something for you. We got a rental for $70USD for the day including insurance (that’s nearly half the price of what we paid in Mo’orea!). Again, the rental cars are all manual so be aware of that! You can also rent a scooter/motorbike and get around the island that way as well. Look at car rental options here.
Huahine Accommodations: Where to Stay
There are only a total of 50 accommodation options in Huahine including Airbnbs (so book early!). These are spread across both Huahine Nui (the big island) and Huahine Iti (the little island). Both islands are connected by the biggest bridge in French Polynesia (although it’s quite small). Where you choose to stay will depend on the type of travel you are doing. If you want to just chill at a resort, then it doesn’t really matter since resorts will offer dining options. If you are travelling independently I highly suggest staying in Fare, which is the main village. It is by no means big but there are restaurant options, some food trucks, and a grocery store along with a couple of local shops, ATMs, and a pharmacy. The town is easy to walk around and everyone is incredibly friendly.
You can check accommodation options in Huahine here.
Things to do in Huahine
So, what is there to do in Hauhine? Quite a bit! Here is what I suggest for the best things to do in Huahine.
Rent a Car and Road Trip the Island
I definitely recommend renting a car at least one day and touring the island on your own time. There are some epic viewpoints, some historical sites, and of course beautiful beaches for swimming and snorkeling. Here are my suggestions for stops:
This is a small, local museum where you can learn a little more about the Polynesian culture and Huahine. There are plenty of photos (and descriptions in French and English) as well as some old tools and relics. It’s a quick but interesting stop.
Check out the Maraes
A Marae is an ancient sacred temple used by Polynesians for worship and celebrations and ceremony. The Maraes, as you see them today, are now just big rock walls; all that remain of these sacred spots. There are a couple of Maraes on Huahine although I would say the best one Anini which is located by a scenic beach. Fun fact: the last human sacrifice at this specific Marae took place in 1871!
Stop for Viewpoints
The best part of renting a car to drive around Huahine is the views. It is a tropical paradise with lush green palms and plants, colourful and fragrant flowers, not to mention that bright turquoise blue of the lagoon water. There are a couple of ‘belvederes’ or lookout points that have places to pull over and take photos as you drive around. Look for Belvedere de Maroe and Panorama de Tefarerii.
See the Local Fishing Traps
As you drive around Huahine Nui, you’ll pass by a lake at the top of the island. Here, you will see funny structures in the water shaped like a ‘V’. These are actually traditional fish traps that are still used today.
The Abandoned Sofitel Beach
Located on the shores of the lagoon of Huahine Hui is the abandoned grounds of the Sofitel. Right now, the remains include some concrete pillars in the water and paved pathways but not much else. However, it is a beach that many travellers come to visit and snorkel and is often lauded as ‘the’ place to go in Huahine.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too impressed with this beach. Although part of that was definitely due to the fact that some locals were burning coconuts and garbage and it was smoky and smelly when we were there. But, stinky smells aside, I’d argue that Huahine has much nicer beaches.
This one is a rocky, coral beach (not sand) and the coral gardens for snorkeling weren’t too impressive. Plus, when we visited, the current was quite strong. It’s worth a stop to look and swim if you want a break, but there are better spots.
Mahana Hotel Beach
If you are going to stop at a beach for a few hours to swim and snorkel then the beach at the Mahana hotel is the place to do it. A large stretch of soft white sand, clear water, and some coral gardens made this my favourite beach on the island. There are a couple of other public beaches as well, but we ended up spending most of our time here.
The Sacred Blue Eyed Eels
One of the most random things to do in Huahine is to see the sacred eels. They are located in the village of Faie and clearly marked by signs. They are significantly bigger than I expected, especially for such a small river. But they are cool to see and totally safe. If you really want to, you can feed them.
Other: There is also a pearl farm and a vanilla farm on the island. These tend to be on every island you visit so if you have already visited them, skip. If you haven’t yet, then it might be worth stopping.
Take A Lagoon Day Trip
Once you have explored Huahine by land, then you should explore by the water. The best way to do this is to join a Lagoon tour. We took a Lagoon Huahine tour with Hauhine Nautique and it was one of the best tours I took during my time in French Polynesia. Our guide and captain were both a lot of fun and the tour was really enjoyable. We did two snorkel stops, a visit to a pearl farm, and then lunch on a motu (with Hinano beer and punch!). One of the snorkel stops is at a reef with lots of blacktip sharks who can be quite curious and get very close which is awesome if you love sharks as much as I do!
Fare is the main town on Huahine, but main town doesn’t mean big. It’s a pretty small and compact village but it’s worth touring around by foot or by bike. You can watch the sunset here, find a good meal, and shop for souvenirs (hand-painted pareos are quite popular).
Find the Pregnant Woman
The name of Huahine Island translates to the Sex of a Woman. Which makes sense when you look at the shape of the island where you can easily see a pregnant woman lying on her back. The best place to see this view is from the water in the town of Fare, across from the Yacht Club. Fun fact: Huahine was the inspiration for Te Fiti in Disney’s Moana!
Visit the Distillery
Huahine has a small distillery on the outskirts of Fare that the locals are quite proud of. Here they make liquors and brandy made with the local tropical fruits of the island. They will let you taste whatever you want (no fee) but be careful because the more you try the more you will want to purchase! They have some really delicious liquors!
Where to Eat in Huahine
As mentioned earlier, Fare has the most restaurant choices in Huahine. A favourite among everyone is the Yacht Club. You can watch the sunset here (and enjoy happy hour drinks from 5-6pm). It has a really fun and friendly atmosphere and good food. It’s considered to be the best restaurant in town by tourists and locals alike.
There are also a number of ‘roulottes’, ‘snacks’, and food trucks. Many were closed when we visited (a lot of local businesses are closed Mondays and Tuesdays) but some recommendations were Izzy’s and Oa Oa Roulotte.
If you are travelling around the island by car or motorbike, you can stop in at Chez Tara. They are the only restaurant on the island that offers traditional Polynesian fare but only on Sundays. I also recommend Hotel Le Mahana (although if you go at off-meal hours you can only get a baguette or drinks) but they are located by what I found to be the best beach on the island.
How Much Does Huahine Cost?
Huahine, while quieter and less touristic, still isn’t cheap. After all, this is French Polynesia. That being said, I did find some things cheaper in Huahine than Bora Bora. Our day trip, for example, cost $100 USD for a full day and a meal (including alcohol). We paid more than that for our 4-hour whale excursion in Mo’orea. Our car rental was also much cheaper ($70 USD instead of $135). However, meals and food are about the same since so much needs to be imported and brought in by boat from Tahiti.
Final Thoughts on Huahine Island
Huahine Island is not a touristic island at all which is a huge part of the draw. Most of the locals here do traditional work of farming, fishing, vanilla plantations etc. Tourism isn’t a huge draw. While this does mean that there may not seem to be much to do on the island, the authenticity of Huahine is a huge part of the draw. It’s easy to take it slow. To enjoy the scenery and the local life and explore at your own pace. Huahine island is completely different from Bora Bora and Mo’orea and, in my opinion, is a must visit when travelling to French Polynesia.
A Note on Travel Insurance in French Polynesia
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.