I had 2 basic reactions to the laid-back island of Huahine: excitement at seeing the blue-eyed eels and the unrealizable possibility of getting into enticing blue, blue water and seeing its perfect but unchanging landscape. A little over 100 miles north of Tahiti, Huahine has none of Tahiti’s variety and bustle. It’s a place for people who want to entirely escape civilization.
Like Tetiaroa, Huahine has many marae, temple sites, and was for centuries visited by Tahitian royalty. It also has miles of empty beaches paralleling several shades of shockingly clear seawater. There are 8 very small villages on Huahine but no urban center with coffee shops and free wi-fi. It has vanilla farms, but several in-the-know locals told us to wait to be on Taha’a to buy Tahitian vanilla. Huahine has 2 parts, Nui and Iti, separated by Marae Bay and connected by a bridge. Both have relatively high mountains at their center. The village with the most action is Fare on the larger, Nui part. Because we were there on a Sunday during the Christmas season, we were told that only the Christian churches in Fare were likely to be opened. This turned out not to be true. There were coconut sellers, opened shops, locals wanting to show tourists around, and an impressive rainstorm to remind us that this is the rainy season.
We rented a car to meet a full-time resident from America, artist Melanie Dupre, see Lake Fauna Nui with its fish traps, the blue-eyed eels near the village of Faie, and smaller Huahine Iti, which has the best beaches and varied water sports, but not on the Sunday before Christmas. I had not seen fish traps like this since being on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai. The eels are considered sacred and used to be much more abundant. This collection of them on Huahine is somewhat rare and an unforgettable sight even though it is difficult to see their blue eyes. They are large, have adapted to fresh water, and spend their time hoping for tuna to be dropped. Tourists are encouraged to touch and feed them, and many of the younger ones volunteer. Visiting perfect Avea Bay was frustrating for me because a doctor had told me to avoid getting into salt water due to some recent leg injuries.
Intrepid explorer James Cook was one of the first Europeans to see Huahine. He liked it well enough to return twice. Today it is visited by folks who want to do as little as possible while enjoying Huahine’s relaxing sameness. It’s the perfect place to do almost nothing of great consequence.