What to do in Maupiti in French Polynesia: our practical guide
A sublime lagoon, a still wild island and welcoming inhabitants... Welcome to Maupiti! This tiny island of just 10.5 km2 is located to the west of the archipelago of the Society Islands in French Polynesia. It is the favorite of our trip.
The particularity of Maupiti is that the island is well protected from mass tourism thanks to its unique pass with a mainly outgoing current and known to be the most dangerous in French Polynesia! Few boats dare to venture there. Moreover, its shallow lagoon does not allow large boats to navigate there. Finally, its population wishes first and foremost to protect the island from large tourist inflows in order to live in a small local and peaceful ecosystem. There is no hotel on the island with 1200 inhabitants and a capacity to accommodate around 100 tourists in family pensions only.
We spent 3 days in Maupiti including 2 half days, enough to allow us to go around the main points of interest but clearly not enough to really enjoy the island as we would have liked to. From this brief feedback we propose an article that retraces the different visits we have made to the island, as well as some tips to help you plan and organize your stay in Maupiti.
1What to see, what to do in Maupiti
Although Maupiti Island is very small, it has many attractions! Between its lagoon, its motus and its main island, you will find many activities and excursions to do in Maupiti.
The tour of Maupiti Island
The tour of Maupiti Island is very fast. The only road on the island goes around in only 9km! You can therefore choose to go around the island on foot or by bike. There are some nice views of the lagoon along the way with a very nice panoramic view of the small pass to the south-east of the island (see on the map at the bottom of the article).
We personally chose to go for a walk, preferring to take our time to contemplate and walk along the sea. In the end, even if almost the entire route is flat (there is only a small pass to pass with an ascent of a few hundred meters), the ride was still quite intense because of the heat and sunshine present all along (there is only a little shade on the road). It will take between 2h and 2h30 to complete the loop.
If you prefer to choose a bike, the ride will be much faster. This time, allow about 45 minutes to complete the tour, knowing that the ascent of the small pass may require you to set foot on the ground. The problem here is not so much the difficulty of this small climb that can be climbed quietly, but rather that some bikes that are rented on the island are very basic, without speed and without brakes!
Be very careful when using these bicycles because only the back pedal can brake, and emergency braking will not be possible unless you step on the road...
Explore archaeological remains and sites
Many archaeological remains are visible in Maupiti, such as the Vahihau marae (temple) and some very well preserved petroglyphs. You can access these sites during a tour of the island on foot or by bike. Unfortunately for us, we missed them, having only seen the map of historic sites when we returned to the pension. So don't hesitate to ask for the famous map at your pension!
The ascent to the Maupiti lookout, the well named Mount Teurafaatiu, is in our opinion a must on the island. The breathtaking view will be worth the effort to climb the 360 metres of positive altitude difference and the big kilometre between the main road and the summit.
The start of the hike is not at all indicated. To find it, follow the path that leads to the interior of the island as soon as you arrive at the massage salon in the city.
Allow an average of one hour to walk the distance. This time will vary depending on your fitness, how often you stop to admire the views, and the weather conditions, whether it is temperature or humidity.
In case of bad weather, the interest of the belvedere will be much less and especially dangerous. Because yes, the ascent is not easy from the beginning with a few rocks to climb after only a few hundred meters. But it's just an appetizer. The last quarter of the ride becomes acrobatic with the presence of knotted ropes to cross the rocky sections.
Nothing insurmountable reassure you, but concentration is required because the ravine is never very far away. Once you reach the top, all you have to do is enjoy this breathtaking panorama!
Our advice to reach Mount Teurafaatiu:
- Try to climb as much as possible when visibility is good.
- Plan on leaving in the first part of the morning, the heat is overwhelming by leaving too close to noon.
- A good pair of trainers can be enough, but beware when climbing, the friable ground that slips a lot, especially in the undergrowth where the leaves cover it, a real trap!
- The climb is short, but don't underestimate the heat and the hunger that can be waiting for you. Therefore, take snacks and plenty of water.
- The strenuous climb can put you in a state of advanced sweat, a little wool can be a good idea once the summit is reached, the wind can be strong up there!
Although the lagoon is beautiful, there is little place to swim on the main island. The only beautiful beach on the island that is perfect for swimming is Terei'a Beach, which is located at the very end of the road near the southwestern extremity of the island. Here the beach spreads over several hundred meters, bordered by a few coconut palms in a quiet place. The spot is very pleasant, especially at sunset.
You can access the beach by going straight ahead instead of going up to the small hill pass that goes around the island. Then take the first or second small road to the right.
Maupiti's particularity is that its lagoon is really very shallow! So much that it is possible to cross it by foot from the main island to the Auira motu. The departure is from Terei'a beach.
Our pension being located just next to it, we tried the traverse with Lena in a baby carrier the first evening. We started it at intermediate ebb tide and the water rose halfway up to the highest point, just before reaching the motu. We set barefoot to make the crossing, the sand being very soft all along. We crossed a stingray on the way back. They are numerous in the area, as are the Blacktip Sharks that frequently come to the sandbar. Don't worry, they're totally harmless.
We strongly recommend that you make the crossing at low tide to have as less water as possible at the end.
It takes 30 to 45 minutes to make the crossing on the outward journey, so plan at least 2 hours in front of you for this short excursion. Once on the motu, you can take some time to stroll around it (which we couldn't do because the sun was about to set).
To properly identify the area, we recommend that you start at the small sandy tip and then target the motu directly in front of you.
The excursion to swim with the Manta Rays
Manta rays are numerous in Maupiti lagoon. They have their own little habits in some parts of the lagoon, which makes it quite easy to go and observe them.
Most of the island's pensions will offer you a half-day or full-day excursion to meet the Manta rays on the lagoon. We participated in the half-day excursion offered by our pension, the Tereia pension. As we were the only ones from the pension interested in this outing, we were just all 3 on the boat!
The captain of the boat led us to a first deep water area where it is possible to dive to get closer to the Manta. Flo tried to reach a large specimen but the water was quite cloudy and the stingray was well 10 meters below the surface. Soon our captain set sail for another shallower area, where Manta rays usually come close to coral potatoes so the fish can come and wash themselves. In contrast to the previous zone, it is forbidden to dive here because the stingrays are more sensitive to human presence in this part of the shallower lagoon. So we stayed in snorkeling to observe them and were able to see up to 6 Manta rays, one of which was really big! It's less impressive than really getting close to the stingrays but you can really appreciate their size..
If you have already had the opportunity to see the Manta rays in Hawaii (Kona), this experience in Maupiti is very different because we observe the stingrays swimming quietly in their natural environment.
Given the easy access to the Manta rays, we recommend this excursion whose prices are very honest (4000 to 5000 CFP per adult for half a day on the lagoon).
If your pension does not organise an excursion, it can direct you to one of the neighboring pensions that will pick you up and take you to the dock.
The coral garden we saw in Maupiti was one of the most beautiful of our stay in French Polynesia! We went there as part of our excursion on the lagoon after swimming with the Manta rays.
Our captain led us to an area of the lagoon where some rocks were emerging from the water, telling us that the coral garden was located between these rocks. The boat could not move too far forward because of the shallow water, so it took us a few minutes to reach the indicated area.
At first glance, coral potatoes are quite common, with many algae. All the other snorkelers we saw stopped at this first area near the boat, which is honestly not interesting. So we continued to palm to reach the area indicated by our captain by making our way among the corals that were not very far from our belly. Then we finally reached the coral garden. Suddenly the water level rises and offers beautiful coral reefs. It's wonderful! Dozens of different fish species welcome us, we don't know where to look anymore! On the rocks, the corals are incredibly beautiful, in all shades, not to mention the stoups with their superb colors.
We strongly recommend that you visit Maupiti's coral garden, at least the one between the two rocks (see the point on the map at the bottom of the article). Remember not to stop only at the first potatoes and move forward until you are really between the two rocks. Here the water will be deeper.
The full day excursion on the lagoon with the Tahitian oven
Every Saturday, Maupiti families offer a day trip to the lagoon (manta rays and snorkeling in the morning) to meet for lunch on a motu around a large meal made in the traditional Tahitian oven. If you are staying in Maupiti on a Saturday, don't hesitate to do this nice excursion! It is only organized on Saturdays.
The excursion to swim with the whales
During the whale season (mid-July to November), you will have the opportunity to get close to the whales that give birth in the warm waters of the South Pacific. Excursions are organized by pensions who will take you offshore, beyond the lagoon to swim with large marine mammals.
2How to get to Maupiti
The biggest difficulty you will probably have in organizing your stay in French Polynesia will be to go to Maupiti. The very small island is served by the plane (Air Tahiti) only a few days a week or about one flight every 3 days. Maupiti is also only a stopover on the line between Papetee, Raiatea and Bora Bora, which means that there are really only a few places available for sale.
If you travel in high season, remember to book your flights well in advance so as not to be blocked and miss the opportunity to discover the beautiful Maupiti.
Finally, you should know that there is a good chance that you will have to stay at least 2 nights on the island since there is no daily flight. Lastly, the low frequency of flights may force you like us to shorten your stay or extend it. You will have to adapt to the limited number of flights available to Maupiti.
Once you arrive on the tarmac of the small Maupiti airfield, you will then have to take a boat to reach the main island or motu on which you plan to stay since the airfield is located on a motu. But don't worry, everything is very well organized! Several small boats with about 20 seats will be waiting for you when you arrive at the aerodrome. Each boat serves one or more pensions (so you will take the same boat when you return). The boat captains will approach you on arrival to ask you which pension you are staying at and will tell you the right boat to board.
Depending on the pension where you are staying, you may have to pay the driver for the ride. In our case, we had to pay 500 CFP per trip/adult, i.e. 2000 CFP for the round trip for two.
If your pension is located on the main island, the pick-up truck of your pension will be waiting for you near the quayside. Your luggage will be placed in the back and you will be led to get into either the cabin or the back (if the weather is good) to reach your pension. In Maupiti life is cool :-)
Be careful, there are no bank or ATM in Maupiti. Be prepared by withdrawing a few money before arriving at the airport, especially to pay for the boat transfer.
3How much time to spend in Maupit
The minimum duration that seems to us to be a minimum is 3 full days on this island to enjoy it. This will give you time to do a tour of the island and the Belvedere hike on a big day, then spend a day exploring the lagoon to share between one or two excursions, and finally a last day to enjoy the Terei'a beach and cross to the motu Auira.
You can also opt to take more time to enjoy the island and its magnificent lagoon by staying a few more days and why choose a pension on a motu.
4Where to stay in Maupiti
You will not find any hotels in Maupiti. To stay there, you will have to go to one of the 16 family pensions on the island, which will offer you a half board formula with breakfast and dinner. Most of the pensions are on the main island, while a few others have settled on one of the peripheral motus.
If you choose a pension on a motu, think that you will have to take a boat every time you want to reach the main island. This will involve defining in advance round-trip schedules and therefore a little less flexibility in your program. Nevertheless, staying on a motu will invite you to peace and quiet and a relaxing holiday.
Be careful, like on many islands in French Polynesia, tap water is not drinkable in Maupiti. The pensions will therefore provide you with either water bottles or a water machine equipped with a purifier.
We have tested the Tereia pension
We stayed for 2 nights at the Tereia pension at the home of Sandra and her family, located near the beach of the same name. We enjoyed the location near the beautiful beach, as well as the very good meals prepared by the cooks (a delight). The rooms are simple with a small private bathroom. There were relatively few mosquitoes when we stayed there. The excursion on the lagoon accompanied by Sandra's son was very nice and at a good price. However, to get to the city you will have to rent a bike or ask for a transfer by pick-up.
5Where to eat in Maupiti
In Maupiti, the inhabitants ensure that everyone can do his job without competition. So you won't find two people selling the same thing except for excursions!
In the village, you will find a good restaurant perfectly located in front of the lagoon (it is the only restaurant on the island and the portions are generous, you can order a dish for two there). Not far from the restaurant you will also find an ice cream shop, a beverage shop and a small supermarket that will sell you some canned food (beware, the island is only supplied once a month so the shelves are often empty a few days before the next passage of the boat).
There is also a snack bar on Terei'a beach (at Mimi's) that sells a few takeaway dishes, but we do not recommend it, on the one hand because the wait is rather long and on the other hand because we think we have been sick after eating a raw fish dish there...