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Dream Of Future Travel With This Visual Tour Of Tahiti By An Renowned Photographer

We’re all suffering from a considerable amount of cabin fever right now. It’s spring. We should be outside, hitting up early music festivals, bar hopping, and spending time with our friends. You know, all the things we can’t do right now. Instead, we’re stuck inside, endlessly binge-watching whatever Netflix or Hulu throws at us, cycling through intermittent panic spirals, random bouts of creativity, and the inexplicable desire to bake focaccia.

Though it’s a tricky time to promote travel — both because the lockdown is continuing and because a huge swath of the nation is financially depleted — it does feel like a nice dose of escapism is in order right about now. So we tapped professional travel photographer Myles McGuinness for a little visual inspiration. Myles was all too happy to help and shared a gallery of images with us from a place he loves dearly: Tahiti (with a few from neighboring Mo’orea and Bora Bora thrown in for good measure).

Myles has seen his photos published and exhibited in National Geographic, The Smithsonian, and the California Surf Museum, among others. He’s made a name for himself by capturing the extreme and stunning beauty of natural environments in a way that seems at once personal and epic in scale. When laying out the images below, he provided captions to help immerse us in each photo plus sage travel advice for the second you’re ready to plan a trip of your own.

Let’s dive into this visual travel guide of Tahiti, curated by Myles McGuinness, and start dreaming of that day when we can hit the road again.

Myles McGuinness

Where can we find the best hiking in Tahiti?

We drove up Mount Marau, which is that peak you see in the lead-off photo, the one with the purple sky and the couple walking out through the ferns. We did that at sunrise and you can hike that or you can drive up to the top. It’s kind of a sketchy drive. The road was one of the scariest I’ve ever been on — it’s a one-way road and the client’s like, “Hey, we got to get out of here before it gets dark.” And I’m like, “Why?” She’s like, “Oh, you remember that road we came up? Well, we’ve got to get back down that in the dark.”

And I’m like, “Oh my gosh.” Of course, two cars meet on the corner where there is a bend in the road and it’s only one car wide and I’m like, “I’m hopping out of the car while you guys shimmy back and forth on this one.”

But it’s a great place to see the sunset or sunrise.

We did the off-road adventures with the ATV’s on Mo’orea and that’s pretty easy to find. There’s a bunch of people that do that. On the main island of Tahiti, they have adventures that go into Papenoo Valley — which is kind of a must-see. That’s where the waterfalls are.

Myles McGuinness
Myles McGuinness
Embracing mana at an inner island secret watering hole on Tahiti.
Myles McGuinness
Chasing rainbows and waterfalls deep in the heart of Tahiti. An excursion on the island will take you through Papenoo Valley, including Topatari Falls, Vaiharuru Falls, and Puraha Falls.”
Myles McGuinness
Venturing further into the mountains, the clouds become thicker, the mountains taller and the volume of each waterfall intensifies. Here, a couple admires the beauty of the valley and capture the power and force of more waterfalls on display.
Myles McGuinness
A young couple bathes in a waterfall in Papenoo Valley Tahiti.

What are some of the must-see sites in the Papenoo Valley?

The main fall with the couple above, and the one with the guy with his arms outstretched — that’s literally right off the road leading into the valley. Supposedly there are eels in that lake, but I didn’t see any.

What’s the best way to stumble upon a secret watering hole or waterfall?

Ask a local. That seems obvious, but that was key for sure. I mean, you can see countless waterfalls in the distance from some of the main roads. But some of the better ones in Papenoo Valley you’ll need someone to take you there.

Myles McGuinness

What spots would you recommend for taking in a great sunrise or sunset if you’re not down for a hike?

Anywhere on the west coast facing the setting sun. I really enjoyed Teahupo’o, which is the end of the road where the waves are, but it’s a great relaxing tranquil spot and you’re away from all the noise of the city.

Myles McGuinness
A group of men paddling an outrigger canoe in Tahiti as the sunsets with Mo’orea Island in the background. The Polynesian outrigger canoe is known in French Polynesia under its Maori name: Va’a.
Myles McGuinness
A young boy and his mother enjoy a tranquil sunset paddling in the lagoon near Puna’auia, on the island of Tahiti.
Myles McGuinness
If you want to compete with the best paddlers and top teams in the whole wide world, Tahiti is the place.
Myles McGuinness
Tahitian dance Ori Tahiti is an art that is often illustrated to show the Polynesian Woman Vahine — perceived as one of the most sensual images of femininity and beauty.
Myles McGuinness
What is the difference between Tahitian and Polynesian dance? Both styles of dances are Polynesian but each style is unique. Hula dance usually uses the arm movements for the symbolism while Tahitian dance involves more hip movements for story-telling… Kahiko Hula, on the other hand, encompasses the entire body (with the hands telling the story) and has sharp, brisk movements.
Myles McGuinness

What is one thing everyone should do when visiting Tahiti?

I’ve been there three times now and I really want to swim with the whales — they come through later in the summer, I think. I’m always there in the middle of the summer, so I’ve missed that. The sharks here were from Bora Bora, but you can also see these guys on Mo’orea too.

Myles McGuinness
Coral reefs are the rainforests of the oceans and the islands of Tahiti are going to great lengths to protect theirs.
Myles McGuinness
The local Black Tip sharks of Bora Bora are well fed, and humans aren’t on the menu.
Myles McGuinness
Bora Bora, truly amazing above and below.

Do Tahiti’s water bungalows live up to the hype?

I mean, you’ve got to do that. They invented the water bungalow and now everyone kind of copies the Tahitians. What allows them is there’s an outer reef that protects the island, the atoll, so that surf doesn’t really come in and affect everything. It’s kind of like a lagoon between the beach and the ocean. So the bungalows are nice and calm. There’s not generally surf and crashing waves or anything like that. It’s a pretty tranquil place.

Myles McGuinness
Water Bungalows at the Hotel Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort.

What’s your favorite thing about visiting Tahiti?

Ah, all of it. I mean, it’s like going back in time. I’ve been to Hawaii before, but it’s Hawaii 50 years ago and it’s still quiet and real and the Polynesian culture is still strong and intact and hasn’t been kind of diluted down, and they really do embrace it. It’s not a just put on for the tourists. There is this really cool, authentic culture still intact. The people there are just amazing.

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