Maupiti – Society Islands, French Polynesia

Sleeping Beauty in the South Pacific

If you’ve seen one too many flame-lit, hip-gyrating “authentic Tahitian show” and dream of sleepy Bora Bora fifty years ago, Maupiti fits the fantasy bill. Guidebooks hesitate to include this untrammeled gem, so most travelers have never heard of the island – and that’s good news.

For the moment, at least, the Last Great Secret of French Polynesia remains blessedly quiet and laid back, delivering the languor of a real tropical paradise. The Bank Lady only makes an appearance twice a month, arriving by boat: If you want to change traveler’s checks, just hope she knows the exchange rate. Otherwise you’ll have to rely upon the kindness of strangers – what this small island of staggering beauty is all about.

Many of the private homes that rent rooms, or the small pensions that have a bungalow or two, don’t even have telephones, so you’ll just have to show up and knock on the door. Long motu islets offshore are home to watermelon and cantaloupe plantations.

You can help your innkeeper fish for tonight’s lobster dinner or take a leisurely walk through the island’s beautiful country­side along a crushed-coral road lined with fruit trees and hibiscus.

Guides are available to take you to the island’s 1,220-foot volcanic summit, or you can paddle an outrigger to an unpeopled cove for a picnic lunch. Or, you can just relax in your hammock, hypnotized by the rustle of palm fronds. Either way, Maupiti will never disappoint.

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