Start \ Regions and countries \ Australia and Oceania \ Polynesia \ French Polynesia \

Windward Islands

Main attractions

Teahupoo wave, Tahiti
Teahupo'o wave, Tahiti / Claudio Toledo, / CC BY 2.0

Windward Islands, especially Tahiti, are some of the best known and most interesting Polynesian islands. There islands in a way represent the essence of Southern seas - with palms, rugged mountains, deep blue sea and friendly people.

The highlights of Windward islands are:

  • The archaeological heritage, especially the numerous marae - sacred places where gathered community.
  • The rugged mountains covered with dense tropical forest.

Natural landmarks

Trees

  • Banyan of Gauguin – Tahiti, Papeete. Very large and old banyan tree. Painter Paul Gauguin loved to sit in a platform built in this tree and to sip absinthe.
  • Punaauia banyan – Tahiti, Punaauia. Giant banyan tree (Ficus prolixa) with a diameter above 10 m. Tree remained standing next to a motorway thanks to local people.
Waimahutu Falls, Tahiti
Waimahutu Falls, Tahiti / Viajar24h.com, / CC BY 2.0

Waterfalls

  • Fautauà Falls (Fachoda Falls) – Tahiti, Faa'a. 80 m tall waterfall. Below the falls has formed a deep, shaded canyon.
  • Puraha Falls - Tahiti, Hitiaa O Te Ra. Tall and thin waterfall, falling into Papenoo manmade lake.
  • Topatari Falls - Tahiti, Hitiaa O Te Ra. Impressive, tall and thin waterfall.
  • Vaiharuru Falls - Tahiti, Hitiaa O Te Ra. Another tall and thin waterfall.
  • Vaimahutu Falls and other Faarumai Falls - Tahiti, Hitiaa O Te Ra. Another tall and thin waterfall.

Other natural landmarks

  • Arahoho Blowholes - north Tahiti. Amazing blowholes, one of them located inland from the coastal road.
  • Mou'a Puta – Moorea. A pierced rock on a dramatic, enormous cliff. According to local legend, it was pierced by a spear thrown by Pai.
  • Teahupo'o reef break – Tahiti, sea at Teahupo'o village. A break in reef, where are formed especially large, glassy blue, smooth waves. These are some of the heaviest waves in the world – a huge water mass is broken and may fall on the head of unwary surfer. Waves are beloved by surfers but are very dangerous.
  • Vaifau submarine source – Tahiti, Punaauia. 50 m off the coast, at some 15 m depth there is a powerful submarine source of freshwater. It is seen as greenish halo of freshwater, in calm weather the upsurge is seen on the surface of the water.

Man made landmarks

Marae Arahurahu, Tahiti
Marae Arahurahu, Tahiti / Rachel Roberts, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Marae and me'ae

  • Marae Arahurahu – Tahiti. One of the first maraes to be restored in 1954. Contains a stone statue.
  • Marae Maraetaata – Tahiti, Paea. Three marae located close, side by side. Seven burials were found here during the excavations in 1973. Restored in 1973.
  • Marae Mataireae – Tahiti, Papara. 35 m long and 15 m wide marae, with stone enclosure, 75 cm high. Well preserved. Very large stones on the corners.
  • Marae Nu'urua – Moorea. Enormous sacred site, 65 by 101 metres. Ahu is 7 m high. Some stones have petroglyphs. Here have taken place rituals of human sacrifice.
  • Marae Tefana I Ahura'i – Tahiti, Faa'a. Large marae, well restored in 1980.
  • Marae Titiroa – Moorea. Restored marae, located in forest. 40 m long, 17 m wide, partly paved. Contains 15 standing stones. The area next to marae was inhabited in the late 16th century and contains remnants of more than 500 ancient structures.

Petroglyph sites

  • Fare Hape petroglyphs – Tahiti, Papeno'o. Large rock with numerous petroglyphs – stylized humans, spirals.
  • Paneo'o Valley petroglyphs – Tahiti. A boulder with ancient engravings – concentric circles, linear forms, human figures.
Tahiti pearls
Tahiti pearls / Lizzy Saldana, / CC BY 2.0

Museums

  • Paul Gauguin Museum – Tahiti. Art museum dedicated to the life and works of Paul Gauguin and Constance Gordon-Cumming. In the garden are located two tiki – sacred stone statues from Ra'ivavae island.
  • Robert Wan Pearl Museum – Tahiti. World’s only museum dedicated to pearls, their history, traditions, collection.

Other man made landmarks

  • Papetoai Church – Moorea. Octagonal church, built in 1822. Considered to be the oldest existing European building in Southern Pacific.
  • Tuauru funeral caves – Tahiti, Tuauru valley. Funeral caves in remote valley of Tahiti. Caves are intact, filled with valuable historical artefacts. One flute has been carried away and sold, thus desecrating the cave.

List of described attractions by islands

Windward Islands is an administrative subdivision of French Polynesia, which consists of 5 islands:

Maiao
Mehetia
Moorea
Tahiti
ArrowMarae ArahurahuAncient shrines, Megaliths, Sites of legends
Tetiaroa

Map of Windward Islands

Your thoughts?