Food and Drink in Huahine
Fresh fish and locally grown fruits are the cornerstones of French and international cuisine on Huahine. French bread is also an island staple, and one bakery on the island supplies baguettes to every restaurant -- and residents (you can actually have bread delivered fresh daily to your mailbox). In Fare, locals operate produce stands and food trucks (roulottes) that sell dishes such as lemon chicken, chow mein and French crepes.
In Fare: The Huahine Yacht Club (formerly Te Marara, 689-40-68-70-81), right next to the pavilion where the Le Trucks drop off and pick up passengers, is a casual, open-air eatery overlooking the beach. There are no yachts to speak of, but the food is good and served in that low-key Polynesian way. There's a wine list, beer on tap and in bottles, and excellent eats. Enjoy a simple fish burger (fresh catch of the day on a seeded bun with tartare sauce, cucumber, lettuce and onion) or a more substantial main meal of mahi mahi cooked with coconut, tuna and shrimp. Vanilla sauce often accompanies dishes. Beef burgers and steaks are available for meat eaters. Visa cards are accepted on bills that exceed 2,000 francs.
Chez Guynette (689-40-68-83-75), a seven-room inn popular with backpackers, offers breakfast and lunch on an open-air terrace facing the water. Menu items include fruit smoothies, salads and burgers.
In Maroe: Rauheama Snack Restaurant (689-40-68-79-41), across the street from the tender dock, is a Polynesian hut where you can sit down for a cold drink, or grilled snacks with vegetables and fries.
Hotel Le Mahana (689-40-66-28-87) on Huahine Iti is the place to dine for luxe food and serene lagoon views. It serves French Polynesia's 'usual suspects' -- poisson cru, tuna tartare and sashimi with flair, along with classic fried fish and chips and spring rolls with a Tahitian twist. Desserts are amazing simply because the fruit is so delicious and coconut ice-cream and vanilla make for great flavorings.
_Editor's note: Exercise caution when eating and drinking ashore as passengers have become ill after consuming uncooked food and coconut products. You may want to avoid sushi and drink bottled water. It's wise to opt for meals that are cooked in front of you at restaurants with a high turnover_
Beaches in Huahine
Ship-organized shore tours may offer lagoon and beach activities, but for those who are free-wheeling or just exploring by foot near Fare, there are a few good beaches.
Near Fare: Simply known as Fare Beach, it's a few 100 metres north of the town's quay and jetty. It's good for children, there are yachts in the bay and a stall selling drinks/snacks. If in doubt, ask a local in Fare.
Vaitu Beach: This is a lovely beach located off the coastal road near the town (or more precisely the village) of Fitii, which is a few kilometres south of Fare on Cook Bay. It's a bit hard to find, so again ask locals or tourist operators before heading out of Fare.
On Huahine Iti: Araara is both the name of a motu and a great surfing beach at the south tip of Huahine Iti. Located about one mile south of the Hotel Le Mahana, follow the road to the Marae Anini (an old temple site) and the coral beach is nearby.
Don't Miss in Huahine
Fare: Tiny Fare (which in Tahitian means 'house') is Huahine's main village. There's not a lot to do, but that's part of its charm. The main drag along the waterfront is lined with small boutiques, a jewelry store, a few banks, a bustling supermarket (called Fare Super Nui) stocked with everything from food to furniture, and Internet cafes. The warm breeze carries the delicious scent of fried food, and locals in straw hats are sure to smile and say 'ia ora na' (hello).
Water activities: There are plenty of ways to get in the water on Huahine, both on shore excursions and via local operators located in Fare. To explore on your own, Huahine Lagoon (689-40-68-70-00) in Fare rents out bikes, boats and kayaks, though there are no set hours and no guarantees they'll be open. For divers, Mahana Dive (689-87-37-07-17) and Pacific Blue Adventure (689-40-68-87-21) operate scuba trips.
Belvedere Point: This lookout point is a must-stop for photographers. The summit on Huahine Nui boasts stunning panoramic views of Maroe Bay and a clear view of the ship at anchor. You can reach it by car or on select shore excursions.
Sacred Eels: Near the village of Faaie, on the opposite coast of Huahine Nui from Fare, live Huahine's sacred eels. The freshwater eels measure a metre or so in length and jump out of the water to be hand-fed by locals who stop by with cans of mackerel (which can be bought in a shop nearby). Here, eels are treated almost as family pets and are considered sacred because of local mythology; the legend states the first eel to crawl across the mountain married a beautiful maiden from Mataiea, Tahiti -- and that present-day inhabitants descended from the unlikely couple.
Marae: The sleepy village of Maeva was once the seat of royal power on the island; scattered along the waterfront and in the mountains are the ruins of maraes, or temples, which belonged to chiefs and priests. As you drive through town, also look for the stonefish traps that are unique to Huahine. These date back some 400 years and are still used today -- groups of stones are arranged in the water; when the fish swim in, they are scooped up with nets.
Fare Potee Museum: For more history, stop by the open-air Fare Potee archaeological museum in Maeva. Located in a thatched hut over the water with a woven floor (shoes must be removed, a respectful tradition in Polynesian culture), exhibits include tools used to build houses and carry water (hollowed coconut shells, for example), and fabrics such as the fibrous purau that were used to create early dance costumes and baskets. There's no gift shop, but a handful of silk pareos and small wooden canoes made by local schoolchildren are often available for purchase. The museum is open weekdays and on Saturday mornings, but opening times can be erratic.
Lagoon tours: Although Huahine Lagoon isn't as gorgeous as the body of water at near-neighbor Bora Bora, getting out onto a small island (motu) can deliver a taste of that castaway-in-the-South-Seas experience. Huahine Nautique (689-87-78-59-05) seems to have the island covered by offering beach picnics and snorkeling and tours that offer a land trip combined with lagoon activities. It caters for cruise ship passengers who can book through its website.