Tahiti Unplugged

Our picks for the most romantic but affordable inns in the islands

- La Baie de Nuarei B.P. 605, Maharepa, 011-689/56-1563, labaiedenuarei.pf, from $154

- Fare Arana P.K. 19.5, Atiha, 011-689/56-4403, from $140

- Fare Vaihere P.K. 15.5, Opunohu Bay, 011-689/56-1919, farevaihere.com, double $150, for six $250

- Village Temanoha 94 Maharepa, 011-689/55-2500, from $107

Huahine

Relatively few outsiders come to Huahine, an unspoiled paradise of vanilla plantations, thick jungles, wide lagoons, and world-class surf.

Actually two islands linked by a short bridge, Huahine has only 5,700 residents and two isolated resorts. Flights from Papeete take about 45 minutes, and once the planes land, Huahine's sleepy airport often shuts down for the afternoon.

The only decent place to stay on the southern end of Huahine, Pension Mauarii proudly grooms a castaway vibe. Door handles are fashioned from branches, buffed tree trunks act as pillars, tubby tikis stand guard in the courtyard. Capped by thatched roofs rigged with flap doors to catch the breezes, the chalets are twice the size of their competitors; some even have interior lofts. All have giant bathrooms done in inlaid coral, cracked tile, and, in a nod to honeymooners, the odd fertility totem standing at attention. The young owner, Vetea, entertains guests over meals like a surfer-boy version of Fantasy Island's Mr. Roarke. He's respected for transforming a once-tired pension into a handsome, full-service resort. Unlike anywhere else in this price range, the Mauarii aims to provide everything a visitor needs-convenient since Fare, the island's only real town, is a half-hour drive away. There's an activities concierge (wakeboarding, scooter rental, and so on) and a gourmet restaurant, which, unusual for this island, serves all three meals. The restaurant's prices are a little more than they have to be, but the food's good. Note: Rooms book up early.

Huahine Vacances, located where the two islands join on Maroe Bay, sells a package deal extraordinaire: For one price, you get a house of your own, plus use of the compact car and the 13-foot speedboat that come with it. Bordeaux-born Michel Sorin arrived here on vacation in the early '80s and never left. He had a vanilla plantation that got obliterated by a nasty-and extremely rare-storm in 1998. So he built three suburban-style ranch homes and opened them as a pension. Two have three bedrooms, one has two, and all come with spacious living/dining areas and giant terraces with views of the water. Each could easily please a family of six, what with niceties like hairdryers, washing machines, cribs, ovens, and grills. Jacqueline, Michel's Polynesian wife, will even babysit for $50 a day. A few doors west, a competing outfit, Villas Bougainville, provides much the same package, only with more space and a position set back in greenery, hidden from the water.

Huahine's consistent waves attract die-hard surfers who stay for months, subsisting on nearly nothing. How do they do it? They stay at places such as Chez Guynette, a.k.a. Club Bed. By day, it's Huahine's unofficial nerve center for backpackers, who swat flies and nurse cold Hinano beers on the patio. By night, it's a long-running, eight-bed crash pad operated by New Jersey-reared Marty Woolston and her teddy bear of a Polynesian husband, Moe. So what if it's dark and needs renovations? Who cares if you don't get more than an efficiency-style room and a shared kitchen? It costs just $18, and it's right at the port in Fare, a few doors up from the only supermarket on the island, so you won't need a car. The best surf breaks are a short paddle away. At these prices, Guynette is what dropout fantasies are made of.

- Pension Mauarii B.P. 473, Fare, 011-689/68-8649, mauarii.com, room $75-$90, bungalow $100-$150

- Huahine Vacances P.K. 10, Maroe Bay, 011-689/68-7363, iaorana-huahine.com/en/huahine.html, two-bedroom house, car, and boat from $205 a night for two or three people

- Villas Bougainville B.P. 258, Fare, 011-689/60-6030, iaorana-huahine.com/en/bougainville.html, two-bedroom house, car, and boat from $255 a night

- Chez Guynette B.P. 87, Fare, 011-689/68-8375, iaorana-huahine.com/en/guynette.html, $18

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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