Virtually everyone that has ever flipped through a surf magazine knows about Teahupoo, but what many don’t know is that Tahiti has a wide diversity of waves for every level of wave rider. A French territory, Tahiti is about as far removed as it is possible to be from the posh beaches of Biarritz and crowded streets of Paris. Still, the largely undeveloped island showcases numerous examples of French culture, and is one of the few places where you can drink a coconut and snack on a baguette while watching tropical barrels spin symmetrically into crystal-clear reef passes.

The Surf: Predominantly over coral reef, although there are a number of beach breaks as well, many of which are popular with beginners. In general, Tahiti should be considered an intermediate to expert destination.

Five Waves Worth Surfing:

  1. Teahupoo—Although not everyone’s idea of a perfect wave, the world’s heaviest left hander can’t be left off this list. Fun and hollow at 4 foot, mental at 8 foot and death-defying at 15, Teahupoo is the wave against which all others are measured.
  2. Paparra: A popular, often crowded beach break for those who need a respite from the reef.
  3. Taapuna: A left hand reef break that has been popular for years, Taapuna can get crowded, but is a classic reef pass wave and quite consistent.
  4. Moorea—Tahiti’s neighbor island, Moorea has numerous reef pass setups, a relaxed vibe and beautiful beachside resorts—a great place for a surfing honeymoon.
  5. Tuamotus: Another spot that isn’t technically on Tahiti, this nearby island group picks up north swell in the southern hemisphere summer and has various live aboard yacht charters available.

The Water: Tahiti is tropical paradise as its best. Crystal clear blue water ranging from 75–86 F (24–30 C) is quite simply as good as it gets.

The Season: Southern hemi swells roll through from March through October (Tahiti’s winter), making French Polynesia one of the best “summer-time” escapes from northern hemi doldrums.

The Vibe: The Tahitian people are known to be some of the friendliest and most welcoming in the world. However, lineups get crowded here, so tensions can mount.

Things To Do: This is paradise, so relax! Non-surfing activities include snorkeling and scuba diving, fishing, paddling, hiking and lounging on the beach.

Where To Stay: Accommodations vary from homestays with local families to surf camps to five-star resorts.

What To Bring: A shortboard, several step-ups and at least one mini-gun. After all, you don’t go to Tahiti to grovel. Bring a bunch of spare leashes, reef booties and a helmet if you are of that persuasion, tropical wax, first aid supplies, and a pair of brass balls. Also, bring a lot of money—Tahiti is probably the most expensive tropical island destination out there.

Getting There: Faa’a airport sees flights from all over the world, and good airlines include Air Tahiti Nui and Air New Zealand. Tourist visas not required for many countries (more info: Airport code: PPT.