Friday, December 31, 2021

12/2/21: Huahine, French Polynesia

175 kilometers northwest of Pape'ete where we'd spent the previous night on arrival in Tahiti lay lush, mountainous Huahine. It's one of the Leeward Islands which are the most visited part of French Polynesia after Tahiti and Moorea, the latter of which would be our last island in our three-week escape to the South Pacific. After the Leeward Islands were settled by Polynesians around 850, Dutch explorer Roggeveen spotted two of the Leeward Islands in 1722 but didn't make land. 

Thanks to having a Tahitian priest on board as a pilot, Captain Cook 'discovered' six other Leeward Islands in 1769. He renamed them the Society Islands as they were contiguous to each other. 19th-century American whalers seeking a respite from winters in Antarctica replenished their ships with local products such as salted pork, vegetables, and sugar on stops to the islands. The sailors' visits also aided the local economy.

As we walked into town from our studio apartment and noticed the Seventh-day Adventist Church, we would soon realize that there were far, far more of them not only in Huahine but all over French Polynesia than we'd seen anywhere else in the world!

After missionaries from the London Missionary Society arrived in 1808, the traditional religion was abolished by Pomare II once he extended his power to the Leeward Islands. The islands, however, were a British protectorate until 1887, unlike Tahiti and Moorea that were controlled by the French in 1842. French marines attacked Huahine in 1846 but were defeated in Maeva. Even though the French in 1847 assured Britain the Leeward Islands would not be annexed, they did exactly that 40 years later. 

Because local chiefs declined to sign the annexation treaty until 1895, resistance to France was only overcome by force in 1897. Even though the English missionaries who had been there for 88 years were expelled, about 80 percent of the Leewards population is still Protestant. 

Walking through the tiny town of Fare one could optimistically call it unpretentious or perhaps more realistically a little depressing with small, poky shops, little in the way of eating options, and a not insignificant homeless population. Reading in advance about Huahine being described as "immaculately tropical and effortlessly Polynesian" made it sound more appealing than we actually found it to be. On the plus side, the 'town' faced the water, and there was a tiny beach and quay just across from the only grocery store.

The most popular and also, for us, the most viable dining option in Huahine were the roulettes or food trucks in the town square as the few restaurants had very limited hours. We soon realized that the roulettes were a staple fixture in all the islands. 

Apart from the town's grocery store, this was the only shop in town that was open most of the day.

It was evident from the outset that tourism was far less developed on Huahine than it would be on the more touristed legendary Bora Bora, which would be our third island stay. Once an airstrip was built in 1973, tourism began on the island and it's become a major port of call for yachts that anchor near the island's only major town of Fare. As we discovered first hand, there were several small pensions as large hotels had a history of going broke. For those looking for peace after the hubbub of Pape'ete, Huahine might be considered an oasis of peace if you're putting an optimistic spin on things.

Even though the island's almost entirely Polynesian population numbered just 6,000, some of the greatest leaders in the struggle for Polynesian independence came from Huahine including Pouvanaa a Oopa, whose statue we saw in front of the Territorial Assembly in Pape'ete.

One of the nicest buildings we saw anywhere on Huahine was the very colorful post office!

Not only would we see countless more Seventh-day Adventist Churches in the islands but an equal number, at least, of branches of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the LDS Church as it's formally known. The church's first foreign-language mission was founded in French Polynesia in 1843. After the French government closed the church in 1852, the missionaries left the territory. They returned and resumed the mission in 1892 after general religious tolerance was established.

On a strip of ground across from the grocery store we found a spot to leave our things and took turns swimming in the gorgeous, turquoise waters that made coming the great distance so, so worthwhile!  

Next post: Discovering all of Huahine after renting a car.

Posted on New Year's Eve, 2021, from our home in the southern Denver suburbs as thankfully snow is finally falling after the historic and dreadful fires that our northern neighbors in Boulder County faced just a day ago. As I wrote in the last post, I hope again that the new year will bring you and your loved ones peace, good health, and an escape from the pandemic to tour sites you had to put off exploring as well as the opportunity to visit family and friends living in far-flung places.


  1. Happy New year to you both ; may 2022 be full of inspiring global adventures and much love and joy at home!
    Thanks for providing the great historical backdrop to the Polynesian Islands.
    And I love your description of Fare as "optimistically unpretentious." xo xo

  2. Thanks for your comment, Lina, about our foray to our stop in our first extended island. I tried to paint a picture that was realistic and true as it was less beautiful than we imagined it would be.

    I dearly hope this new year will give you and your extended family reasons to hope for a much brighter and healthier future.

  3. Happy New Year Annie and Steven! It looks as if you've ventured back out in to the travel world. Good to know the Colorado fires didn't reach you. Safe travels and stay healthy out there.

  4. Thanks, Patti, for reading the on post and wishing us a happy new year. I've so enjoyed your recent posts, likewise, and in understand how do many travel bloggers are now on feeling it's ok to venture forth from the safety of our bubbles and see more of the world. I look forward to finding out where you'll both travel to as the year progresses. Stay safe and have fun!