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Ringo Boitano: Template

palm-fringed beach with Mt. Otemanu in the background, Bora-Bora, Tahiti

Paradise on Earth:
The Romance of Tahiti
And Her Islands

Story by Ringo Boitano
Photographs by Deb Roskamp

he first thing you notice is the fragrance. The intoxicating perfume of the tiare flower announces to your senses that you are in a magical place, overflowing with tropical vegetation and soothing trade winds. It is the same fragrance that the English seamen on the HMS Bounty also first encountered; but they came, not for flowers, but for breadfruit, intended as a new food staple for their slaves in the West Indies. But that was another time and another emotional place. Today, Papeete, located on Tahiti Nui (“Big”), is Tahiti’s vibrant capital city and gateway to her islands. Roughly one-half of all of the Tahitian islands’ population lives in this city. Papeete bustles with world-class resorts, restaurants, nightclubs and endless shopping. If it’s a pearl you want or a hand-painted pareu (sarongs) - worn by women and men alike - this is the place for it.

The Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands offers a good overview of the island’s history. The English were the first Europeans to arrive, stripping the islanders of much of their heritage. In 1842, the French took over, and today the islands’ inhabitants possess full French citizenship, but the Gallic texture is evident only on the surface. Tahitians have maintained much of their old lifestyles. This is an island paradise and the warmth and openness of its people is the essence of its charm.

stone image, Arahurahu Marae
Not to be missed is Arahurahu Marae, the islands’ only completely reconstructed marae. An open-air place of worship and ceremony, the sacred temple is constructed of tiers of stones where the Tahitian elite made sacrifices. Yes, sometimes even human.

Put an inland safari on your list, too. My jeep tour was deep into the mountainous valley of Papenoo; a true Garden of Eden with fertile displays of ginger, vanilla, taro, noni and breadfruit. The medicinal and cosmetic benefits of the pants and flowers are well utilized by the Tahitians, renowned for their health, physical beauty and spiritual serenity.

lush tropical vegetation with mountains in the background, Papenoo valley

Tahiti Nui has much to offer, but locals also proudly tout the outlying, less-populated islands for their beauty and tranquility. Exploring the other Tahitian islands is best accomplished by booking an excursion on a cruise ship. You get to see more islands and it is less expensive.

resort cottages in lagoon, Moorea

Bora Bora– The Romantic Island

With its alluring blue lagoons, lush tropical slopes and Mount Otemanu looming in the distance, this enchanting island is synonymous with romance. Bora Bora is the place for a bike ride around the island, a leisurely hike, or to simply disappear on a white sandy beach. The history buff will enjoy seeing remnants of cannons manned by American servicemen during World War II. Until 1942, there were no roads and no vehicles on Bora Bora. Now tourism is on the rise, with scores of over-the-water bungalows dotting the multi-hued clear lagoon, but to the Yankee mainlander, this is still paradise found.

green mountains and beach, Moorea

Moorea – The Magical Island

Moorea is the very essence of a South Seas island paradise, and it comes as no surprise that it is a favorite of many Tahitians. The beauty of the island, with its jagged green mountains and palm-draped beaches, is astounding. James Michener called it Bali Hai, Herman Melville based his novel Omoo on it, and Captain Cook spoke passionately of its landscapes and the beauty of the local people. Moorea is unique among the Tahitian Islands in having magnificent expanses of both white and black beaches. High in Moorea’s interior mountains, Polynesian royalty practiced their archery and maraes are hidden in rainforests. On a hilltop lookout between shark-tooth Mount Rotui and towering Mount Tohivea, there is an once-in-a-lifetime view once reserved only for the gods.

Raiatea – The Sacred Island

Raiatea, meaning “faraway heaven” was the cultural, religious and royal heart of Polynesia – the birthplace of the gods. The second largest Tahitian isle, it was where entire clans, complete with dogs, plants, trees and livestock, sailed off to find new homes on other islands. Today, you can canoe around the fjord-like Faaroa Bay and discover why the island was a favorite of Captain Cook.

Taha’a – The Vanilla Island

Taha’a offers a glimpse of the traditional tranquil life of the Tahitians. The flower-shaped island is surrounded by tiny motus (small islands) and in its fertile valleys farmers grow watermelon and vanilla - which is much stronger than the vanilla that is generally obtained from Mexico.

The Foods of Tahiti

Indigenous Tahitian cuisine uses what’s available from the land and from the sea, and is abundant in fish and fruit. Coconut milk and vanilla are incorporated in many of the dishes. Poisson Cru, tuna cured in limejuice with chopped green onions, cucumbers and tomatoes; and Fafa, a stew of chicken with spinach-like taro leaves; are among my favorites. The taro root (more flavorful than the Hawaiian version), breadfruit, sweet potatoes, and plantains offer typical starch fare. Mangoes, bananas, watermelon, pineapple, papaya, guava, soursop and pummelo are in abundance. From the lagoons come parrotfish, perch, and mullet; from the open sea the freshest of fresh tuna, bonito, wahoo, scad and mahi mahi.

For further information about Tahiti and her Islands, log-on to

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Feedback for Ringo

I love Ringo's piece on historic hotels. I once stayed at the Laurentian in Montreal - is it still around, is it historic? And then there was the Heups in Bismark.

It is interesting that two of your entries are in CANADA.

Brent, Seattle, WA

It's no mystery that you are great at what you do.

Sandee, Seattle, WA

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The Mystery on the Oasis pics are very funny!

Ramon, Kansas City, MO

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Ha ha ha ha your "schtick" Ringo!!

Dolly, Las Vegas, NV

Hello the travelling Boitano's hope you enjoy. Best wishes.

Elsa Magdalena Berno-Boitano, Laussane, Switzerland

My Irish roots understand terrible beauty. So do my human roots. The concept has such a ring of truth to it, doesn't it? Great article, Ringo. I hope to get to Ireland eventually, and thanks for blazing the trail!

Sandeee Bleu, Seattle, WA

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No wonder I've been hearing all these wonderful stories about Ireland. I used to think that it was just for Irish Americans seeking their ancestral roots but your article seems to call out to the non-Irish like me. Fascinating and intriguing.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

Thanks for this great post wow... it's very wonderful.

Key Logger, New York

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Lets not forget that the Marriot Harbor Beach is within walking distance to the world famous Elbo Room - Fort Lauderdale's oldest bar.

Jeff, Fort Lauderdale, FL

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Thanks for taking the time for the message and reminder. Indeed, I had a quick drink at the Elbo Room. My trip to Ft. Lauderdale would not have been complete without a visit to this historic institution.I have been reading about it for years, and was not disappointed. It felt like a real local's hangout.

- Ringo


I thoroughly enjoyed your article about Dick and Liz. I remember seeing that article back in the heyday of Life Magazine.

To remember the "behind-the-scenes" stories like that makes you genuine fan of the 60's. The famous couple's turbulent relationship was just a precursor of today's headline-grabbing media stars like Britney Spears and her colleagues. Life was simpler then. The paparazzis still had some sense of decency. You "coulda" been a good paparazzi. I say "coulda" because you kept this to yourself all these many years.

Looking forward to other media trivia you can remember.

Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA

Hey, Ringo –

Enjoyed your article on Antarctica --- cool photos, too. One thing, you mentioned that Ushuaia in Argentina is considered the most southern city in the world. I read that Chile lays claim to that distinction, with Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in the world.

Mick, Greenbay, WI

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Mick –

Now that football season is over --- I’ve often wondered what you Packer fans did in the off season ---- it’s great that you took the time to visit TravelingBoy. Great question, unlike my older brother, I adore all lamb products, and Patagonian Lamb --- cooked in a restricted area at the restaurant in an opened wood-fueled fire pit --- is amazing. The chef actually uses an ax to carve it. Frankly, I found it superior to Norwegian fjord lamb, Irish Burren lamb and even those much esteemed creatures down in New Zealand. The crab in Ushuaia is the other thing to eat. Wait a sec, you asked about Punta Arenas vs. Ushuaia as the furthermost city in the world. Well, they both have little disclaimers re populations --- you know, what’s a city, which one is a town, ect – so better let Chile and Argentina brass it out. They seem to be able to argue about any subject.

- Ringo

Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
Three Musical Pilgrimages: Mozart, Grieg and Hendrix

Troldhaugen Villa in Bergen, Norway
Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) could read and compose music, plus play the violin and piano, when he was five years old. Born into a musical family in Salzburg, Austria (then the Holy Roman Empire), he had a unique ability for imitating music, which first became evident when he recited a musical piece by simply observing his father conducting a lesson to his older sister. This led to a childhood on the road, where the young prodigy performed before many of the royal courts of Europe.

Go There

Tom Weber's travel blog/review
Treasures of Ireland: The Irish Goodbye (Dispatch #20)

Irish sunset

The Palladian Traveler brings to a close his 20-part series on the Emerald Isle from an upscale restaurant in downtown Dublin where he files his final dispatch and then quietly slips away.

Go There

John Clayton's travel blog/review
Two "MUST SEE" Truly Spectacular Places in Europe. Here's Why.

Culzean Castle, Scotland
The Han Grotto and Culzean Castle. As the name of my Traveling Boy feature is "Travel With a Difference," it's important to me to always bring you offbeat and unusual tourist places around the world you may not know about. These two fit that category to a T, and they're absolutely worth a visit. One's in Scotland and one's in Belgium. Culzean (pronounced CULLANE) Castle is located near Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland.

go there

Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's Gold Country

aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

go there

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