When my husband and I set out on our six-week Pacific honeymoon years ago, I knew that French Polynesia had to be included. The only problem being that Bora Bora, the ultimate honeymoon destination, is also one of the world’s most expensive. Although we did bite the proverbial bullet and stayed on the cash-cow island, we also discovered a much less expensive hidden gem during out visit.
Maupiti is a small atoll located about a two-hour boat ride from Bora Bora. Everything is slower here. There are minimal tourists and travelers due to its remote location and limited access. The cost of food is not comparable to Singapore, like it’s big sister’s is. The island seems more geared towards locals here as well.
Getting to Maupiti is simple, but you have to plan. The Maupiti Express leaves only twice a day, in the morning and afternoon. You also need to plan your ride to the docks, unlike we did. We thought it might be nice to “walk it,” but after an hour of walking and realizing we were close to missing the boat, we changed our plan.
I’ve never hitch-hiked in my life, but apparently in French Polynesia, it is a completely acceptable and safe method of transportation. We hitched a ride with a nice American ex-pat who had been living on the island for a while. She delivered us to the docks just in time to buy our tickets.
As soon as we hit land, we rented bikes from a local vendor at the marina. It’s a recommended mode if transportation, as the island is not big and is highly accessible on two wheels. After stopping at a local grocery for some goodies and supplies, we pedaled our way to a beach where we would embark on another journey.
Our goal was to reach the outer ring of the motu that surrounded the island’s central peak. We waded through waste-high water for about 45 minutes. Shadows of sting rays crept past us.
The end result was worth it! We quite literally had the beach to ourselves, save a few local residences. I will throw in one caveat: never assume you are alone and your belongings are safe to leave, even if it seems like you are the only soul around for miles.
We made the dire mistake of taking a skinny-dip together and leaving our things parked under a tree. When we returned, our bag was missing. Panic-striken, we retraced our steps, trying to determine if we just somehow misplaced it. Our camera, passports, money, cards all inside. After what seemed like forever, we saw the tiny rucksack in the bushes.
Apparently someone nabbed it, grabbed some cash, and discarded it. Luckily, only some money was taken (we had reserves in a secret pouch, so we were ok). Everything else that was essential remained. Phew. It was a lesson for us. No place, no matter how safe, is exempt from petty crime. Use commons sense and stay aware. OK, end of spiel on that…
But seriously, I was so frustrated that I had’t researched Maupiti more extensively. We met a few travelers who came to stay at guest houses on the island for a fraction of the cost of what we paid in Bora Bora. If I could do it over, I would stay in Maupiti and take a day trip to Bora Bora.
In addition to being more affordable, Maupiti has such an original, South Pacific, laid-back vibe. Despite being robbed, I thoroughly enjoyed the place and would go back in a heart beat if I could.