If you are visiting French Polynesia for a holiday or while traveling, why not consider discovering more authentic islands, far from the usual tourist areas? When discovering the Pacific Islands, most people (and travel guides) only plan to discover the classics: Bora Bora (luxury, white sand, coconut palms), Tuamotu archipelago (atolls and mainly for a diving holiday in Rangiroa/Fakarava) and for some, at best the leeward islands (Raiatea, Huahine, Maupiti). Very few people, wrongly in my opinion, go to the remote archipelagos as they are called, the Marquesas, the Gambiers and the Australes Islands. Today I offer an insight as to what to do on Rurutu Island, the whale island, as it is sometimes called! Like the beautiful island of Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands, I know the island very well as I have been there many times, especially for work. In this article, I will give you in my opinion the things that should not to be missed on the island of Rurutu.
The island of Rurutu, a small island paradise, is particularly renowned for whales in French Polynesia and even on a world scale. It is one of the best places in French Polynesia (without a crowd of tourists) to observe whales. Today, many local tourists come to observe these cetaceans between July and October, during the southern winter. Whales arrive on the island of Rurutu escaping the cold of Antarctica to give birth in the warmer waters of the Australes Archipelago. It was the same when I lived in Mayotte.
During this period, you have a very good chance of watching whales during a boat trip. If the conditions are good, it is even possible to get into the water with the whales, while respecting safety conditions and regulations. Half a day of snorkeling (only mask and snorkel / fins) in the middle of this underwater fauna is extraordinary. If you have the equipment, remember to capture this magical moment
As I write these few lines, the Manta Ray Club is no longer on the island. Two service providers still practice whale watching on Rurutu Island. You can ask the guesthouse where you’re staying (they know them). To my knowledge, they do not have Facebook or any other information.
Use the opportunity to come to Rurutu to contemplate this magical moment with the whales and who knows if you are lucky a little whale calf.
Take the opportunity during this walk around the island to admire the superb views over the sea and the limestone cliffs, in particular:
- The platform at the exit of Moerai town towards the airport has a spectacular view of the coastal cliffs beaten by erosion and of Moerai Bay,
- The platform at the foot of the “Matotea” cliff (White Cliff), a large basalt cliff covered with lichens, offers a view of the bay and the village of Avera,
Some of the island’s guesthouses (Le Manotel and Guesthouse Teautamatea) offer 4×4 day trips to observe the island’s beauty, both by the sea and inland. Count about 6500 xpf for a day trip.
The island of Rurutu, due to its unique geology, is full of caves and cavities. You can see them all around the island, even if most of them are not indicated with signs. I therefore recommend going on a day trip with your guesthouse.
The most famous cave on the island is called the “Mitterrand cave” (Grotte Ana Aeo in local language), famous after the passage of the French president at the time in 1990. It is the largest on the island and you can see many stalactites/stalagmites! Access to the latter is on the Vitaria main road. Drive slowly, a red inscription on a stone helps to guess the access to the cave.
You can spot the Ana Tane’uapoto cave from the roadside at the exit of Moerai, just before reaching the viewpoint on your left. The cave is accessible through a small staircase on your right and offers a beautiful view of the lagoon.
Other caves can be found around the island, but are difficult to observe on your own. Along the road that runs around the island, you can observe these magnificent limestone cliffs that overlook the ocean.
The Australes archipelago (same as the Marquesas) was once famous for its horses. On the island of Rurutu, you will still see them everywhere. A service provider offers a horseback ride on the island. Viriamu, from the guesthouse Teautamatea, will help you discover with pleasure the joys of a horseback ride along the island trails, through dense vegetation and even along the sea.
You can contact the guesthouse directly via their website or Facebook. Count about 5000 xpf for a 2-hour outing.
It’s one of the fun things to do on Rurutu Island!
And yes, the island is particularly known throughout French Polynesia for the production of taro. This famous root vegetable is very popular with the residents of the island, which still very often is used for traditional meals.
Whether you are on foot, by bike or by car, you will have the opportunity to observe these huge taro plantations, often located in wetlands. You will notice the installation of canals as an irrigation system.
It is one of the specificities of the island that is worth a look! Enjoy a walk through the interior of the island to observe them.
With the permission of Viriamu (guesthouse Teautamatea), you can visit the Marae ta’aroa, considered the largest Marae in the Australes archipelago. Viriamu is in charge of maintaining the site and it is with pleasure that we discover the site
Marae are places of ancient Polynesian worship that were practiced back then. It was considered as cultural, social and political spaces.
Rurutu Island has some very nice hikes to do, but unfortunately, nothing is really indicated.
From recent information I have had on the island, there is a hiking guide on the island that can help you, especially to go to Mount Manureva.
You can contact him directly from his Facebook. He’ll take you for a walk in the nice places of the island!
On your own, you can go to the superb viewpoint located on the cliffs north of the village of Moerai.
The access is by the secondary road, behind the town hall. Continue along the dirt road that goes up the mountain for about 30 minutes of walking (always stay on the left). At some point, you reach a flat area and you have a path that goes up to the antennas on your right. From the antennas, follow the small path that goes along the cliff for 5 minutes and admire this great viewpoint of the taro plantation and Moerai.
The island of Rurutu is also very famous for its basketry, braiding, mats and Tïfaifai, a large blanket of hand-sewn patchworks. They can be found in every house on the island.
For basketry, you can buy very beautiful handmade bags or hats (pandanus leaf), either in the handicraft shop or in the villages of Hauti (town hall) and Avera (shop behind the town hall).
Rurutu Island has beautiful beaches too. The most beautiful and best known is the one located in the south of the island, in the village of Na’airoa. Toataratara beach offers a stunning white sandy beach, with a view of 4 small limestone islets. You will enjoy swimming in this little paradise with its turquoise blue colors. Swimming on the shoreline and around its elevated coral islets is a very nice experience….
There are other small beaches around the island, such as on the Vitaria or on the road to Peva.
These are clearly things to do in Rurutu!
As a last thing to do on the island, for those who love history, go for a walk on Eric Bishop’s grave. This navigator, buried in Moerai cemetery according to his last wishes, had sailed all over the oceans. One of his achievements was to reach the city of Cannes in France to Honolulu, Hawaii, between 1937 and 1938, on a traditional homemade pirogue.
For a holiday in French Polynesia, as for all the other islands of French Polynesia, you will have to go first to the island of Tahiti. I recommend you have a look at this great flight comparator to find the cheapest flight from where you live. I have been using it for at least 10 years now.
From the US, the cheapest way to visit French Polynesia is from a San Francisco – Papeete flight. If you’re flexible on the dates, you can find a ticket for a price of 600/700$. If you live far from SF, I would recommend choosing a flight from the main city to SF first.
You are in preparation for your travel to French Polynesia and you haven’t bought your tickets yet, you can take a look if Polynesia is one of this month’s cheap plane ticket deals !
Once you reach Tahiti Island, the easiest way is to take a direct flight from Tahiti to Rurutu with Air Tahiti. Count on average 45 000 xpf for a round trip flight (350€), for 1h30 flight (direct). Yes, I know, domestic flights are quite expensive considering the distance covered!
The island of Rurutu has some guesthouses and a hotel that has just been renovated.
I personally tested the Teautamatea guesthouse, run by Viriamu and his wife. The pension was very nice, basic with everything you need and a very warm welcome from our hosts. If you go there, you will enjoy the great dishes of the chef, a delight! Viriamu also offers superb horse rides and a 4×4 tour of the island. More details on their website and Facebook. I recommend them in the blink of an eye. Usually, the airport transfer is always included in the price.
There are other pensions that I have not had the opportunity to test, including the Manotel. The hotel on the island has recently reopened and offers bungalows on the beach.
If you’re in Tahiti, you can have a look at the website “Séjour dans les îles”. It offers flight + accommodation packages for some of the island’s pensions, which is much cheaper than organizing everything yourself!
If you choose to stay in one of the guesthouses, it is more likely that you will on half board. In any case, you can buy food in the island’s shops, located in the island’s three villages, Moerai, Hauti and Avera. Everything you need is there.
Note that there is a pizzeria on the island that is pretty good. Be aware that the pizzeria isn’t always open though. For the food lovers, a pastry shop is also located along the main road in the village.
When it comes to travelling on Rurutu Island, the island is generally quite large and too hilly to go around on foot. The most motivated may be able to visit the island by bicycle, but you should know that there is a part of the island that is not yet asphalted, between the village of Narui (to the south) and the village of Hauti (to the east).
It is possible to hitch-hike on the island, even if some parts of the roads, once you get away from Moerai, are much less frequented.
The simplest trips will be done through the guesthouse during a 4×4 day outing.
It is possible to rent a car to get around. Ask your pension for more information.
That’s the end of my article. It is an authentic island, which I really recommend visiting for its local character, its landscapes, whale watching and beautiful beaches, all with no or very few tourists. I really suggest it to those who are looking for a taste of “real French Polynesia”. It was my child’s first trip, by the way. Are you travelling with a baby to French Polynesia? Here are the info you need to know!
I hope you enjoyed this article on the things to do in Rurutu? If so, feel free to share it on your social networks! If you have any questions about Rurutu Island, please feel free to leave me a comment.
See you soon,