Sara Fondo standing on top of a mountain in Tatra National Park, Zakopane, Poland

Taha’a on Bicycle: Ultimate One Day Itinerary

Taha'a, French Polynesia

Come explore Taha’a on bicycle with me as we go on an epic bike ride to discover all the island has to offer with this guide and one-day itinerary!

As a proper Copenhagener you know I love a bicycle, so of course I was gonna take the opportunity to go on the most scenic bicycle trip around the Island of Taha’a, when the opportunity presented itself.

The road that encircles Taha’a is approximately 60 kilometers and mostly flat, making it ideal for an adventurous bicycle trip. A trip that takes you through lush tropical landscapes, past charming villages, and provides breathtaking views of the Island’s coastline. Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to purchase a unique black pearl from one of the Island’s pearl farms, you’ll find yourself immersed into the cultivation and production of the fragrant and fine vanilla, they produce here in this little tropical paradise, you’ll munch on some local specialties at a seaside restaurant, be amazed by the meticulous craft of Tiki-making at a local sculptor’s place, and end your trip with a reward for your physical bicycle-endeavors – with a taste test at a local rum distillery.

Taha’a is one of the lesser known of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, but I would highly recommend you visit. This bicycle trip was honestly one of the best days I’ve had in all the months I’ve spent in French Polynesia so far, and in this blog post I will share with you everything you need to know, so you can embark on your own epic adventure around Taha’a.

Taha'a on Bicycle: Ultimate One Day Itinerary

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Renting a bicycle in Taha’a

What you need to know

1-Day Bicycle Itinerary around Taha’a

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Renting a bicycle in Taha’a

Start your day by renting a bicycle at Enjoy Cycling in Tapuamu. They open at 8.30 AM. The bike rental is part of Rhumerie Mana’o, so simply go to the reception and ask for a bike, or you can write in advance and make a reservation (they have a local number or a Facebook page, where you can contact them)

The Dutch lady renting out the bikes is super friendly and will offer you a coffee, a map of the Island and answer any questions you may have.

You can rent a standard bicycle for the price of 2000 CFP or do like me and get an electrical one for 4500 CFP. Taha’a is one of the larger islands – approximately 60 kilometers – so unless you’re in really good shape, I’d recommend you to get an electrical one.

Now, make sure to check the bike before leaving, and more important, make sure it’s charged if you’ve chosen an electrical one. Also, remember the bicycle helmet – it’s mandatory and the condition of the asphalt in certain areas ain’t no joke.

Taha'a on Bicycle: Ultimate One Day Itinerary - Sara Fondo riding a bicycle in Taha'a, French Polynesia

What you need to know

  • Taha’a is a tropical oven, so you’re gonna sweat your ass off no matter when you go. To avoid a nasty sunburn, slather yourself in sunscreen like it’s your job.
  • Bring cash money baby, in case you want to buy some goodies along the way whether that be a grand Tiki sculpture from a local craftsman, a jewel sporting one of the Island’s unique black pearls or some delicious, locally produced vanilla for your next culinary adventure.
  • Bring plenty of water and some snacks. It’s warm, and you’re being physically active, so I’d suggest at least 2 liters.
  • Bring that damn rain jacket because you can never trust the weather in mountainous regions – I got drenched on my own bicycle trip.
  • Learn the phrase “Ia Orana” (hello). You’re gonna hear it a lot, so learn that shit and say hi back because the locals are friendly as hell (pronounced like “Your Honour” but with an exotic twist).

1-Day Bicycle Itinerary around Taha’a

First Stop: Love Here Pearl Farm

You’re probably familiar with white pearls that every so often graces the neck of a presumably older, rich, white lady, but have you ever seen a black pearl?

French Polynesia’s the only place in the world that spits these beauties out, so make sure to drop by for a unique experience on your bicycle trip.

As you make your way out of Rhumerie Mana’o take a right. This route will lead you past Love Here Pearl Farm, where you will get to experience the cultivation and processing of black pearls, also known as Tahitian pearls.

When the pearls are taken out of their oyster-home, they are assessed based on factors like size, shape, luster, surface quality, and color – meaning that some of these pearls will be deemed “not pretty enough” (kind of like how we only want straight cucumbers in our supermarket and all the bendy ones gets tossed – how fucked up is that?)

You can ask to have a look at the second sorting pearls. These will be the ones not living up to the beauty standards, but they will be cheaper and way more unique.

If you want a head start on your pearl-knowledge, here are som facts about black pearl farming in French Polynesia:

  • The pearls are created by black-lipped oysters (Pinctada margaritifera), and the proces is made possible by human intervention. A small bead or nucleus is inserted into the oyster, which then secretes layers of nacre around it, forming the pearl.
  • The pearls are not actually black; they come in a range of dark colors, including shades of grey, green, and blue.
  • Black pearls hold cultural significance in Polynesian culture. They are often associated with love, luck, and protection.
  • Black pearl farming is a significant industry in French Polynesia and contributes to the local economy.
  • Sustainable farming practices have been developed to ensure the long-term viability of black pearl production and protect the fragile marine ecosystems in which these oysters thrive.

Second Stop: La Vallée de La Vanilla

Taha’a is also known as the Vanilla Island, and I’m sure you’ll understand why when visiting La Vallée de La Vanille, also known as The Vanilla Valley.

I had an absolute sick time visiting this place, but that was mostly because I got to talk to Brian, a Danish man who spent 15 years in The French Foreign Legion, and is now married to the woman with whom he runs the plantation along with the rest of her Polynesian family.

Taha'a on Bicycle: Ultimate One Day Itinerary - Polynesian woman sorting vanilla pods at Vallée de la Vanilla in Taha'a, French Polynesia
Taha'a on Bicycle: Ultimate One Day Itinerary - Vanilla production at Vallée de la Vanilla in Taha'a, French Polynesia

Here’s what Vallée de La Vanilla has to offer:

  • Learn about vanilla cultivation. The family and workers in La Vallée de La Vanille will immerse you into the interesting and aromatic world of vanilla cultivation and offer you a unique opportunity to connect with the natural resources and traditions of Taha’a, as well as teaching you the importance of vanilla cultivation to the local economy and the Island’s culture.
  • Take a free guided tour. You can take a free guided tour in which you’ll learn about the vanilla cultivation process; how vanilla orchids are grown, how the beans are pollinated, and how they are cured to produce the aromatic vanilla pods.
  • Buy vanilla products. Afterwards you can browse around on the property, taking in the picturesque surroundings, and if you want to bring home some vanilla products, they got plenty; vanilla extract, vanilla pods, and vanilla-infused items like vanilla-scented oils and perfumes.

You can ask Brian (the big, white, tattooed guy) for tips on how to use the pods. He taught me to stick a few vanilla pods into a container with instant coffee and sealed it for about a week’s time – the final product will be the nicest tasting vanilla coffee. Easy peasy.

Taha'a on Bicycle: Ultimate One Day Itinerary - Vanilla Brian drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette

Third Stop: Local Tiki Sculptor

When I’m biking, I always step on the pedals like I’m being chased by some wild beast. For me, there’s no go slowing. In case you have a similar case of incapability of slow-bike-riding, you might want to plot in this next stop on Google Maps and follow the directions because otherwise you’ll miss it.

Your next destination is called: Tiki Sculptor

“Tiki” is a term that originates from the cultures of the South Pacific. It refers to a carved humanoid figure or statue often made from wood or stone.

This spot is 3.6 kilometers from Vallée de La Vanille, nestled in the bay of Fa’a’aha, and there’s only a subtle sign on the road, saying “Sculpteur” that’s why directions for this one might be a good idea.

It’s the courtyard of a private home where a man lives who crafts Tiki men and woman in beautiful local Polynesian tree.

When I was there, I only got to meet his son, but his work speaks for itself. He has a wide selection of Tikis, ranging in sizes. You can get some small ones for a reasonable price, they are less detailed but still a unique souvenir, or you can opt for one of the larger ones, that are absolutely gorgeous and would be so cool to have in your home – but for these ones you’ll pay around 200-250.000 CFP (2247 USD).

Taha'a on Bicycle: Ultimate One Day Itinerary - Two large Tiki sculptures at a local craftsman along the road in Taha'a, French Polynesia

Here’s what you should know about Tiki’s of French Polynesia:

  • Cultural Significance. Tiki figures hold deep cultural and spiritual significance in the indigenous cultures of French Polynesia, such as the Tahitian, Marquesan, and Maori cultures. They represent deities, ancestors, or mythical beings.
  • Symbolism. Tiki figures are believed to have protective qualities and are often associated with fertility, spirituality, and the supernatural. They are thought to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune.
  • Carvings. Tiki carvings are characterized by their stylized, elongated human or semi-human form. These carvings can vary in size, from small amulets to large statues. Traditional tools like adzes and chisels are used in their creation.
  • Usage. Tiki figures are used in various ways, including as decorative elements in traditional buildings, as guardian statues at the entrances to homes, and as jewelry or amulets worn by individuals.

Fourth Stop: Lunch at Tahaa Maitai

By now you have made it ¾ of your bicycle ride around the island, I’m sure your stomach is growling.

When you get to the village of Haamene, stop by the seaside restaurant Tahaa Maitai and enjoy a local meal in tranquil settings (it’s not as fancy as I might make it out to be by calling it seaside – it’s actually very low key and chill).

If you’re lucky you’ll get to meet the French chef Bruno who – as far as I remember – came to French Polynesia back in the 80’s and made a new life for himself. He met a woman from Taha’a and moved here, and he told me how different the Island used to be back then; no asphalt roads, sparce electricity, no internet. Basically, a whole nother Island. I guess the Island I’m experiencing today is widely a product of the growing tourism.

If you want to try a local dish, you should opt for the Poisson Cru (fish in coconut with rice). I had a fish burger with fries, and it was exactly what I needed after a long bike ride.

I also had an espresso after my meal, which was the best coffee I’ve had during my 9 in French Polynesia.

Fifth Stop: Taking in the views

Taha'a on Bicycle: Ultimate One Day Itinerary - A gorgeous backyard in Taha'a, French Polynesia
Taha'a on Bicycle: Ultimate One Day Itinerary - A 37 year old Banyan tree in Taha'a, French Polynesia

Unless you want a really long bike ride and do the entirety of the island, you have to be careful at where you turn after your lunch visit. There’s one road leading to Vaitoare which will add another 20 kilometers to your trip, and then there’s the other one, that will lead you back towards Tapuamu.

The turn you’re taking is at the corner where Snack Mac China is placed.

This road will lead you up a steep hill, so be ready to go into one of the lower gears and turn up the help of your electrical bicycle and pedal away!

If it’s a sunny day, you will be rewarded by some gorgeous views at the top. When I was there, it was pissing down, so I didn’t get any photos, but I still got a sense of how stunning and lush this Island is, and it was fun racing my colleagues up the hill (I won, of course).

Just keep following this road and you will be on your way back to the place, you picked up your bike in the morning.

Taha'a on Bicycle: Ultimate One Day Itinerary - A car where plants are sprouting from along the road in Taha'a, French Polynesia
Taha'a on Bicycle: Ultimate One Day Itinerary - A bridge with boats on it in Taha'a, French Polynesia

Sixth and Final Stop: Mana’o Rum Distillery

There is more than one rum distillery along the way, so if this is your thing, you can add some stops on this itinerary, but otherwise I would end the trip with a rum tasting a Mana’o.

When you reach Tapuamu, hand in your bicycle and helmet at Enjoy Cycling and walk to the reception area and ask to do the rum tasting.

Once again, you’ll be reminded why Taha’a is called the Island of Vanilla because they also infuse their rum with the fragrant pods (maybe the same way Brian suggested I made instant vanilla-coffee?)

As far as I know Tahiti actually holds one of the world’s oldest rum distilling traditions, dating as far back as 300 A.D., and today on the islands, rum remains a spirit of choice.

I hope you enjoyed this guide and itinerary on how to explore Taha’a on bicycle! Stay tuned for more unfiltered and honest travel content.

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