We went unexpectedly to what turned out to be my favorite place on the island of Tahiti, Teahupo’o. People flock to this remote settlement on Tahiti Iti year-round to eat coconuts and hang out. Many pretend to surf. Real thrill-surfing occurs way offshore, especially in August.
Geographically, the island of Tahiti is a large circle with a smaller circle attached to its southeast. An isthmus connects the 2 circles at the town of Taravao. Tahiti Iti is the far smaller circle and is far less developed than Tahiti Nui. Like on Mo’orea and Bora Bora, mountains dominate the interiors of both Nui and Iti (also called Presqu’ile). Nui’s highest point is Mt Orohena, soaring 7,352 feet into an almost always sunny sky. Iti’s tallest point, as far as I can tell, is 4,370 foot Mt Ronui, which can be barely seen from Teahupo’o. It’s near this circle’s center. Iti has 2 extinct volcanoes. There are only 2 paved roads on it. One terminates at the town of Tautira and is said to be winding, and the other, straighter road ends at Teahupo’o. Beyond these 2 towns are hiking trails, well-hidden and dangerous stonefish, boat tours, the Te Pari cliffs, and more. Iti is more authentically Polynesian than Nui.
Teahupo’o becomes Iti’s biggest destination every August. This town is very well-known to surfers who come here to experience its monster wave. In August Teahupo’o hosts the Billabong Pro Tahiti competition that attracts the top surfers from the World Surfing League. Lonely Planet calls this, “one of the greatest live sporting events you may ever get to see” and says that advanced surfers love Teahupo’o’s “hollow reef waves year round”. The smart ones wear sandals while wading near the shore because stonefish, the most venomous fish on this planet, are plentiful in the area. Stepping on one with bare feet requires medical attention to avoid a painful death. Less experienced surfer wannabe’s like Ruth climb into the blue shell in Teahupo’o center to have their picture taken.
Visiting Teahupo’o is a laid-back, people-centered experience. Have a picnic.