Although it lies between Moorea and Bora Bora, Huahine (pronounced Hu-a-hee-nee or Wha-hee-nee) isn't on the tourist circuit just yet, but it should be. Its near-deserted roads and villages and wooded hills entwined with jungle vines beckon those looking for a little R&R.Huahine is two islands (Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti) joined by a bridge. What passes for action takes place in the main town of Fare (pronounced far-ay) on Huahine Nui, the northern and bigger island. Away from this little port, life is slow-paced and you'll be lucky to find anyone stirring on a lazy afternoon in any of the villages of Huahine Iti. Most locals ride bicycles and agriculture's still the main industry—plantations grow vanilla and melons. There are various legends surrounding the island's name. Some say that hua> means "sex" and hine means "woman," while others say the name means "pregnant woman" due to a rock outline on Huahine Nui's Fitii Peninsula. Then there's the legend of Hiro, Polynesia's most famous god. It's said that Hiro rammed his canoe into the island, splitting it down the middle. Not far from the town of Maroe is a rock spire called Te Moa o Hiro or "penis of Hiro"—you can't miss it. It's easy to explore Huahine (75 square km [47 square mi]) by rental car, as there is really only one road, albeit with a few forks in it. When you cross the bridge into Huahine Iti you can go either left to Maroe or right to Parea. The road to Haapu leads off to a dead end. When crossing from Huahine Iti to Nui the same rule applies. Take the left fork to the "busy" town of Fare and the right fork to the "sacred eel" village of Faaie, via the Belvedere lookout. Hiring your own boat allows you to circle the island and anchor at the motu; a couple of self-catering villas provide both a car and a boat. There are only one or two restaurants on Huahine Iti; you either eat at your pension, choose a pension with cooking facilities, or drive up to Fare for a wider, though still rather limited, choice.
Hotels and most pensions have restaurants and can offer half-board (MAP) options, while some small establishments include breakfast and airport transfers. Most of the island's independent restaurants are in Fare. You'll find similar menus at most restaurants and these usually include poisson cru, shrimp, and grilled fish, meat, and lobster—most accompanied with vanilla sauce—as well as desserts like coconut tart with vanilla ice cream. Independent restaurants tend to be cheaper and serve bigger portions. There are a couple of roulottes at the wharf in Fare, which sell chow mein, lemon chicken, stir-fries, rice, and pizza. Prices are around 1,100 CFP a dish and portions are big. Tipping is not expected, but will of course be accepted.
Don't expect a variety of luxurious accommodations on Huahine. There are only two hotels and only one—the newly renamed Te Tiare Beach Pearl Resort—has overwater bungalows. There are, however, some funky accommodations in Huahine Iti, such as comfortable "tents" with fabulous furnishings and a couple of very good value for money self-catering villas on Huahine Nui where a car and boat come with the daily rate.
If you're looking for nightlife you've definitely come to the wrong place. Nightlife consists of dinner and a few drinks at your hotel or pension—most restaurants, both resort and independent, start closing their doors around 9 pm.
If you're after jewelry, a pareo, or some surf gear—in Tahitian designs—you'll find them in Fare's port area; there's one long street of shops. You'll have to venture across the lagoon for pearls.
Vivi et Vonvon
Vivi et Vonvon is a restaurant with a small bookshop attached that specializes in children's books and books on French Polynesia—most are in French.
Exotica Shop has an eclectic mixture of clothes, jewelry, and gifts, but the range is not really Polynesian. It's on the second level of a small retail complex near the tourism bureau.
Fare Super Nui
Fare Super Nui is a huge supermarket that carries everything from wine and beer to milk, snorkeling gear, and clothes. It even has pigs ready for roasting. This is the hub of life in Huahine.
Magasin Vaimoe is just one of several small "corner stores" that dot the island's main road. Usually called Magasins, they sell water, beer, snacks, and a limited (and often quite expensive) range of groceries.
Huahine Pearl Farm
Huahine Pearl Farm has loose pearls and pearl jewelry, as well as pottery crafted by ex-Californian Peter Owen and his Tahitian-born wife Ghislaine. Take the free boat transfer over to the motu off the village of Faaie, which leaves every 15 minutes.
French artist Bertho Franck hand paints pareos in a little studio tucked away in a garden on the main road, a few miles away from Pension Mauarii. They are priced from 2,080 to 2,500 CFP. Just ring to see if it's open, or drive down—it's only 20 to 30 minutes from Fare by car and very scenic.
Magasin Chez Hine
A short drive from Pension Mauarii, this small "corner store" sells beer, water, soft drinks, ice cream, packaged snacks, and a small range of groceries such as tinned food and eggs.
Local Style has a colorful range of surf gear including the Tahitian label, Hinano. There also are shorts, shirts, and bikinis.