Get Lost & Find Yourself
Written By: Erik Hale & Erin Price
Photographed By: Erik Hale
The Expert: Monette Aline
Credentials: Owner at Relais Mahana
Looking to get lost for a while? Maybe need to unplug from a hectic work life? Maybe you owe someone money and don’t want to be found. If you want to be alone on your own beach, drive down a secluded highway or swim in what feels like a private ocean, this is the place for you. We landed on a tiny landing strip guarded by grass. On one side there is a rickety fence, on the other, rocks holding back the beautiful lagoon. We disembarked, gathered our backpacks and met our transport car just on the other side of the very small building being currently purposed as a terminal.
The drive from the airport to our resort took 30 minutes or about the same amount of time as our flight had from Papeete. The drive became more beautiful with every turn. We drove past mountains but never up them. We were lagoon-side for most of the trip staring at aqua colored water so colorful that it is usually only possible with a really good photo filter. The island is so sparsely populated that we saw less than 10 people and even fewer cars during our drive.
We arrived at the property and were warmly welcomed by their staff. There are fewer than 40 bungalows, and we were lucky enough to have one directly on the sand. The rooms are clean, welcoming and rustic, but have all modern conveniences from home. We opened our patio door and stepped outside. We had 180-degree aquamarine ocean and white sand views. It was truly difficult to turn away. We found ourselves wanting to spend time sitting on our patio, just taking everything in. Since it was our first day in Tahiti, we were a little restless and this resort definitely offers alternatives for restless types. In the first day alone, we paddle boarded, snorkeled, swam and rented a scooter from the front desk. There are few nearby options for food, so stopping by the in-town grocery store is a good idea. However, the restaurant is wonderful and eating every meal there would not be difficult.
Q: Describe the style of Relais Mahana.
Monette Aline: We are wanting to be a lodge or boutique resort. We are a small property. We have 32 bungalows that are called “fare” here. They are all thatched like the local style. We do not want to be a design hotel. We want it to look the way it did in the ’50s or ’60s. We want to be simple.
Q: What is the motivation for a person to stay here?
MA: The most important thing is the island of Huahine. There are many things that are unique in Huahine. We have ancient fish traps and sacred eels that are only here. We are very secluded, but it is still only a 30-minute flight from Tahiti. It is safe from mass tourism — the kind of guest that might enjoy that seclusion would love it here.
Q: Would you say that the island of Huahine and your resort might be reminiscent of how Tahiti was decades ago?
MA: Yes. This island was like Moorea 30 years ago. There are only 6, 000 inhabitants. You don’t see many cars on the road and there aren’t any traffic lights of course.
Q: What is the best feature of your resort?
MA: The beach. Your bungalow is directly on the white sand beach, and a lagoon is close by to swim in. There’s a coral garden to snorkel right in front of the hotel and no one in front of you.
Q: What islands do we see there in the distance?
MA: From your bungalow you see Raiatea and Taha’a. The islands are about 25 nautical miles away and take about 3 or 4 hours to sail to.
Q: How many visitors come to the resort from the United States?
MA: About 25 percent of our visitors are from the United States. We find that most Americans end up in Bora Bora or Moorea and miss out on Huahine altogether.
Q: What challenges exist for a traveler from The States when they come to Huahine?
MA: The language. We could always use more English speaking staff on this island. At the resort it is fine, but it can be difficult outside of the island. Our menu is translated, and all of our front desk workers speak English. We are also great at speaking with our hands.
Q: What is the nightlife like here? We have found it to be very quiet at night.
MA: Don’t come here for nightlife — otherwise you will be disappointed. Come here to rest, not for a speeding life. Only relaxation.
Q: As someone that grew up here, tell us a special place to go that only a local would know.
MA: The church. I tell everyone about it, but they never go. The temple is great on Sundays — not for religion but to meet the people. They are so happy to meet you. When you are going there for mass (which starts at 10:30 a.m.) they will come and kiss you — the whole village will come and kiss you. They are so proud. They will even put you on the first row. They all wear beautiful hats and they sing beautiful songs. It is something everyone should do.
Q: What is a must-try food that is unique to this island?
MA: We have a neighbor, a Tahitian lady, who cooks every Sunday in the traditional Tahitian in-ground oven. We heat it up using hot lava rocks and put all the dishes in there. Piglets, fish, breadfruit, taro, all go in the oven; then we cover it with banana leaves and stand back while it cooks. It takes 3 hours to cook itself. You can go swimming, shopping or to church and when you come back, the food is ready — just like the ancient times.
Words to Get You By:
Hello = Ia Orana (yo-rah-nah)
How are you? = Maita’i oe? (my-tie oh-ay) *The way I sound ordering a Mai Tai on vacation.
I am fine. = Maita’i vau. (my-tie vah-oo)
Thank you. = Mauruuru (mah-roo-roo)
Bye Bye. = Nana (nah-nah) also what I call my Grandma.
I love you. = Ua here vau ia oe (oo-ah hay-ray eh-ah-oh-ay)
Parea 98731, French Polynesia