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Wonders of the Windward Islands

Moorea from air
Moorea from air. / dany13, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue  Highlights

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

The most amazing wonders of the Windward islands are:

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

Map with the described wonders

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WorldViolet Top 23 wonders of the Windward Islands

Geological wonders

Teahupo’o reef break

A break in the 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 an unwary surfer. Waves are beloved by surfers but are very dangerous.

Teahupoo wave, Tahiti
Teahupo’o wave, Tahiti / Claudio Toledo, / CC BY 2.0
Puraha Falls

Tall and thin waterfall, falling into Papenoo reservoir.

Topatari Falls

Impressive, tall and thin waterfall.

Vaiharuru Falls

A tall and thin waterfall.

Vaimahutu Falls and other Faarumai Falls

A tall and thin waterfall.

Vaimahutu Falls, Tahiti
Mou’a Puta

A pierced rock on a dramatic, enormous cliff. According to local legend, it was pierced by a spear thrown by Pai.

FautauĂ  Falls (Fachoda Falls)

80 m tall waterfall. Below the falls has formed a deep, shaded canyon.

Arahoho Blowhole

Amazing blowholes, one of them located inland from the coastal trail.

Arahoho Blowhole
Vaifau submarine source

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.

Biological wonders

Punaauia banyan

Giant banyan tree (Ficus prolixa) with a diameter above 10 m. Tree remained standing next to a motorway thanks to its protection by the local people.

Banyan of Gauguin

Very large and old banyan tree. Painter Paul Gauguin loved to sit in a platform built in this tree and to sip absinthe.

Archaeological wonders

Marae Arahurahu

One of the first marae to be restored in 1954. Contains a stone statue.

Marae Arahurahu, Tahiti
Tuauru funeral caves

Funeral caves in remote valley of Tahiti. Caves are intact, filled with valuable historical artifacts. One flute has been carried away and sold, thus desecrating the cave.

Marae Nu’urua

An enormous sacred site, 65 by 101 meters. Ahu is 7 m high. Some stones have petroglyphs. Here have taken place rituals of human sacrifice.

Marae Titiroa

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.

Paneo’o Valley petroglyphs

A boulder with ancient engravings – concentric circles, linear forms, human figures.

Marae Tefana I Ahura’i

Large marae, meticulously restored in 1980.

Marae Mataireae

35 m long and 15 m wide marae, with stone enclosure, 75 cm high. Well preserved. Very large stones on the corners.

Marae Maraetaata

Three marae located close, side by side. Seven burials were found here during the excavations in 1973. Restored in 1973.

Fare Hape petroglyphs

Large rock with numerous petroglyphs – stylized humans, spirals.

Architecture wonders

Robert Wan Pearl Museum

This is the world’s only museum that is dedicated to pearls, their history, traditions, collection.

Tahiti pearls
Paul Gauguin Museum

This 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.

Papetoai Church

An octagonal church, built in 1822. Considered to be the oldest existing European building in the Southern Pacific.

WorldYellow Recommended books

Voyages to Windward: Sailing Adventures on Vancouver Island’s West Coast

When Elsie Hulsizer was little, she lived on the shores of Puget Sound in Washington where she spent the summers sailing in a small open sailboat with her parents. Her parents would always start out by sailing windward, or against the wind, so they would have an easy ride home with the wind pushing them from behind.

The Sailors Guide to the Windward Islands

Revised and updated for 2015-2016, this guide features detailed sketch charts based on the author’s own surveys and aerial photos of most anchorages. It also includes clear and concise navigational information. By far the most popular guide to the area, it covers the islands from Martinique to Grenada, with dazzling scenic photography, unsurpassed onshore information, sections on exploring, provisioning, water sports, services, restaurants, and photography.

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