Way out west in French Polynesia’s Leeward Islands you come to the volcanic high island of Maupiti, a green postage stamp in the vast ocean with a surface area of just 11 sq km (4 sq mi), surrounded by long motu (islets) that enclose an immense shallow lagoon with just one access point for boats. Traditionally, Maupiti has strong cultural links with Bora Bora, 40 km (25 mi) to the east, and is sometimes described as ‘Bora Bora’s beautiful little cousin’.
If you really want a get-away-from-it-all holiday, this is the place for you. There are no resorts and no organized tours – just a few simple guest-houses and rooms to rent in family homes. Remember to take cash, because there’s no way of getting any unless the bank is open (which is an infrequent occurrence). The pace of life here is slow and peaceful, ensuring that the only viable options are to relax, relax, relax.
It takes but two hours to stroll around the island, enjoying dramatic scenery (Mount Hotu Paraoa plunges straight into the sea at the island’s southern tip) and wonderful sandy beaches (notably Tereia Beach at the western point). The main settlements of Farauru and Vaiea are on the eastern side. A three-hour hike takes you to the top of the central peak of Mount Teurafaatui, and the reward is a sensational panorama over the lagoon to Bora Bora and (on a clear day) Raiatea and Tahaa.
Maupiti is a genuine South Sea island paradise.
Population: 1.200 (2002)
When to go: Any time – this is a magical island for all seasons, even more spectacular in the summer rainy season (December to April) when clouds and sudden storms enhance the drama.
How to get there: By twice-weekly boat from Bora Bora (the Maupiti Express) or thrice weekly by air from Tahiti via Raiatea or Bora Bora.
Highlights: The tiny islet of Motu Paeao on the north side of Maupiti, where archaeologists found graves and artefacts from the earliest period of Polynesian civilization.
Snorkelling around Onoiau Pass – the only boat access to the island.
Interesting petroglyphs carved into rock at the northern end of the island.
You should know: After tourism, Maupiti’s chief economic activity is growing noni (Indian or beach mulberry), but don’t be tempted to scrump one – an alternative name is ‘vomit fruit’.