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The Islands of Tahiti
Tahiti. The word evokes visions of an island paradise. With 118 islands boasting high, rugged mountain peaks, coral reefs, turquoise-blue lagoons, white sand, palm-fringed beaches, and luxuriously intimate resorts, each island paradise has something for everyone. Bora Bora, Moorea, Huahine, Taha'a, Raiatea, Manihi, Tikehau, Rangiroa, Fakarava, The Marquesas and the other exquisite Islands of Tahiti cover more than two million square miles of the South Pacific Ocean and is comprised of 118 islands and atolls spread over five great archipelagos.
Many islands are crowned with jagged peaks while others appear to barely float above the breaking waves. Spanning an area in the South Pacific as large as Western Europe, the total land mass of all the islands adds up to an area only slightly larger than the tiny state of Rhode Island.
Easier to travel to than you might imagine, Tahiti's Faa'a International Airport is under 8 hours by air from Los Angeles (LAX) airport, with daily nonstop flights. As far south of the equator as Hawaii is north, Tahiti is halfway between California and Australia, on the same side of the International Date Line as North America, and in the same time zone as Hawaii (only three hours behind California from March to October and two hours behind California from November to March).
Lonely Planet: Tahiti, French Polynesia
While Tahiti isn't the white-sand island of your holiday brochure, it is the heart of French Polynesia, and it would be a shame to bypass it. Waterfall-laden, shadowy mountains; unpretentiously beautiful black-sand beaches; and a distinctly Polynesian buzz make Tahiti a gem in its own right.
While exploring the lively backstreets and strolling the waterfront of the pint-sized capital Pape'ete is a must, it's the outdoor action and cultural offerings that woo visitors to extend their stay. Explore the mystical, mountainous interior on a 4WD tour, learn to dive in the translucent lagoon, wander flabbergasted amid archaeological sites, and from July to October go whale-watching or hike across the fecund interior. In July catch the country's most spectacular festival, the percussion and dance-heavy Heiva. And don't miss Tahiti Iti – this peninsula on the southeast of Tahiti, so far only known to surfers, is one of the hidden gems of French Polynesia.