French Polynesia


I read that there were topless beaches in Tahiti but after exploring several beaches and traversing through the mountains around the island, I thought it was only a myth. That is until I came to this topless beach.

My friend and I planned to spend Sunday hanging out but she and I thought we’d wing it. She picks me up at the Papeete City Marina around 10 a.m., and we begin walking along the main road hoping someone wouldn’t mind picking up a couple of pretty hitchhikers. 😉

We didn’t wait long before a French transplant, and two-year resident picked us up in his car. We told him we planned to go to this white sand beach, and at first, he was hesitant about going out of his way to take us there, but then quickly had the look of “f*ck it” that he changed his plans to drop us off. Score!

It was about a twenty-minute drive to the beach, and he begins sharing his perspective on the dark side of Tahiti advising we should hide our cell phones if we ever go out to a certain hangout point where teens tend to hang out on Sunday evenings. A bit strange, but I get where he’s coming from.

After we get dropped off, I notice a SUP stand offering rentals for 1500 xfp. It wasn’t crowded, and we found a perfect spot in the shade to lay out. It wasn’t long before I was gazing around that I noticed it was a topless beach. Right on. I love how super casual topless beach cultures are. There are women of all shapes and sizes, people with families, couples, and just single ladies like ourselves who don’t blink an eye with this. Tan line free zone as far as I’m concerned. Why aren’t more Americans relaxed this way? It’s quite a change from my time in Indonesia where I had to cover from head to toe!

We spent the rest of the afternoon there, and I had a chance to work on those tan lines on my back before we decide to explore our way along the rocky beach to satisfy our ‘It’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ thirsty palettes.

We reach Le Meridien Hotel Resort (about 2 km walk from where we were) and conclude our day with a sunset and Happy Hour.


We’re still a bit far from Papeete and decide to hitch a ride back. It was only seconds after getting back onto the main road that a couple of cute guys picked us up and dropped us off as far as they were going. Then another few minutes before a couple picked us up and offered us a few roadies (completely legal here!) while they drove us into town – not to mention great music! At this moment, I love Tahiti! 🙂

I’m stuck in paradise. It’s been an incredible ordeal being stuck in paradise, and I slap myself each time I hear myself complaining about being stuck in paradise. But what I’ve learned over and over this last year is that paradise is never really paradise!

It’s been a couple of months since I first arrived in Pape’ete, Tahiti. My new cruiser family and I met here in mid-May and then took a flight to Apataki Atoll to pick up the captain’s newly purchased Lagoon 450 catamaran. We were only supposed to be in Apataki for less than a week, but then the Apataki Carenage (boatyard operation) gave our anti-Fallon necessary to paint the hull to another boat owner. That held us up an additional week until we could have a new one delivered.

We finally made it back to Pape’ete on June 8th with plans to stick around for less than a week. But, when we were going through some final boat inspections a few days later, we noticed a battery leaked on the life raft. After taking it in to be serviced, it was confirmed that the entire life raft would have to be replaced. Okay, that’s fine. We’ll just pick one around here, right? Wrong. The closest one we could find was all the way in Kiwi land in New Zealand.

What should have been a 4-day replacement process has turned into over a month due to email miscommunication and a lack of urgency with the execution on getting it here. What’s so important about the life raft? I’m sure there are at least a ½ dozen movies out there where a character has to abandon ship, and the life raft is their only chance at survival. Because we’re going on an approximate 14-day voyage to Tonga soon, you can understand why it’s important we have a working one of these.

The life raft actually arrived last Wednesday, but now it has to go through customs to clear. Lovely! Another process. Customs should only take a couple of days, but now we’re on island time with a holiday thrown into the mix. ☺

Why am I complaining so much about being stuck in paradise? Isn’t this an opportune time to explore towering waterfalls and chiseled pro-surfer bodies? Not exactly. French Polynesia is the most expensive place I’ve traveled since I quit my corporate job in September. I cry each time I see the 1050 xpf ($10 USD) sticker label at the Carrefour supermarché for one green bell pepper. Our “cat” is parked conveniently in front of dozens of retail and souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants! Ugh, somebody hang onto my crisp francs, please! I burned through $55 USD for 2GB of mobile wifi service in 30 minutes because it’s as slow as molasses here. The upside is I feel like I got a little bone thrown my way when I purchased a one-hour hot spot card for $5 USD and since then the WiFi Gods have mysteriously hooked me up in an “unlimited” sort of way. Suh-weet! At least I get one win.

The point is that I’m constantly tempted to be a consumer here. I’m finding the temptation to consume more material goods, and I’m getting accustomed to the luxury things in life again – like brand-name makeup, fancy shampoo, and great coffee. So is paradise really paradise when your old and unnecessary consumer habits return? I’ll let you answer that for you, but right now it’s not for me. I like having less. Less is more…more money in my bank account that is!

“This is a place tourists don’t see, but they should. It’s incredible and you won’t forget it.” says a Tahitian-American transplant.

I’ve arranged to meet my local new friend at 10 a.m. We’re running old school, and nobody has a way of getting touch with one another but to stop by and wait until we find each other. He’s running late so I think he can’t find where I’m staying at the Papeete City Marina. I tell him to look for Cocod’iles catamaran with palm trees painted on the side. I’m also feeling fatigue from my early morning insomnia. I want to cancel and begin to close my eyes for a mini-nap, but then I see him wandering aimlessly in my direction trying to find my boat. I wave and finally get his attention and tell him I’ll meet him outside of the marina gate. Coincidentally as I’m leaving, I run into my other friend I met in Apataki a few weeks ago. She mentioned having to do some work on her boat but would try to meet up in time to catch us.

The three of us head over to a parking lot across from the marina and hop into his slate-colored Audi and into the mountains.

Fautau’a Valley is located on the east side of Papeete. It starts off with a fairly easy trail to Loti’s Pool. My Tahitian friend takes out his Bose Bluetooth speakers and begins playing a mix of reggae and pop music as we make our way up the trail. Further along, we learn there are pools where Queen Aimata Pomare IV used to cool off and bathe. We’re about one hour into the hike before we get a brief history lesson from our part-time tour guide as we pass mossy brick Fachoda fort ruins from the French Tahitian war in 1846. We cross over the ruins and continue making our way to the waterfall observing the stunning nature along the way.

waterfall half way point
Natural waterslide and cliff jumping points are on the top of this waterfall.

We finally make our way to the top and are welcomed two freshwater pools. The first freshwater pool has a gentle mini-waterfall that leads to a natural waterfall into the second pool.

first freshwater pool
Ready, Set, Brrrr!!!

I jump in, and my insomnia was instantly cured by the shock therapy of subzero-feeling temperatures. We watch some teens jumping off of several cliff jumping points into the second pool. I’m feeling like a kid and slide down the natural water slide into the second subzero pool. SO refreshing! We climb over to where the large waterfall begins and spend the rest of our afternoon here.

Natural waterslide from one fresh water pool into the next! Pretty fun!
Natural waterslide from one fresh water pool into the next! Pretty fun!

On our way back down, we came across the waterfall from a distance making this a perfect photo-opp! 

waterfall fountain
I’m thirsty!

The hike takes about two hours and to access, you sometimes need special permission from the Papeete town hall, as well as pay an entrée fee of 600xpf (about $5 USD) per person. It’s a hit or miss with these rules and is ever-changing, but we were fortunate enough to enjoy Mother Nature for free and without permission!




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