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Perhaps one of the less well-known of French Polynesia's Society Islands, Huahine is nevertheless one of the most beautiful and its lush landscape has rightfully earned it the nickname ‘The Garden Island'. Part of the Leeward Islands group, Huahine itself actually comprises two islands – Huahine Nui and Huahine Iti (Big Island and Little Island) – which are connected by a bridge and surrounded by a coral reef. More than just a paradise escape, Huahine is also home to a number of French Polynesia's most culturally important sites and attractions.
Owing to the island's small size, it's possible to see a lot of it during your visit and as a result many excursions are designed to take you to several areas, exploring a number the island's key cultural sites while offering plenty of opportunity to drink in the scenery. For many, it's enough to sit back and relax on the beach, enjoying the sun but for those wishing to explore, there's quite a lot to see.
On an island tour (a 4x4 safari-style one is always a good option) you'll no doubt have the chance to witness its Maraes. These open-air temples are made of stone and wooden posts and as well as being areas of sacred importance for the islanders are a significant cultural attraction. On such a small island, much of the traditional diet naturally comprises fish and the islanders' ancient fishing methods are also the subject of much cultural interest and it's possible to see them in action when you visit. The island's inhabitants use ancient stone traps which lie in shallow waters to lure their catch, a method that's so effective that it hasn't changed in 400 years. Pearls are also big business here and another popular attraction is Huahine's pearl farm, where it's possible to learn how the island's people culture their treasures from the ocean's oysters. Another captivating attraction is the spectacle of the island's huge blue-eyed eels, which reside in a local stream and can be fed by tourists.
You wouldn't necessarily associate Huahine with museums and art galleries, but even on this remote island escape, it's possible to visit both though albeit, in a very different form than you're probably used to. Fare Potee is locally known as the chief's house but these days, it's a small archaeological museum which was faithfully rebuilt following the 1998 cyclone which struck the island. Art lovers, meanwhile, should make a beeline for Galerie Umatatea; a one-woman artistic enterprise where the owner and artist Melanie produces and displays her own beautiful paintings of everyday life.
You won't be surprised to learn that Huahine offers little in the way of shopping experiences; however the aforementioned gallery is a great place to pick up a souvenir, as limited edition prints of some of the artworks are available.
If you want seafood served under an authentic fisherman's cottage-style thatched roof, then Huahine's the place. There are a number of restaurants on the island offering a variety of tasty seafood dishes and there's even a burger bar for the slightly less adventurous.
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