Flying Dolphins and Fantastic Food at Les Relais de Joséphine, Rangiroa, French Polynesia

Flying dolphin, Rangiroa, French Polynesia

As the tides roll through Rangiroa’s Tiputa Pass, we sit sipping our morning coffee. Suddenly, we see something leap out of the waves. And another. And another.

They’re dolphins. Spinning, jumping, and riding the tides through the pass.

We’re on the terrace at Les Relais de Joséphine, an upscale inn in French Polynesia’s remote Tuamotu atoll. And every day, while my husband Alan and I enjoy our breakfast, the dolphins put on their show.

Signpost, Les Relais de Josephine, Rangiroa, French Polynesia

With the exception of the posh Kia Ora Resort and Spa, most of the accommodations on the island of Rangiroa, one hour by air from Tahiti’s international airport in Papeete, are small, family-run pensions, like Les Relais de Joséphine.

Owner Denise Caroggio opened this inn more than 10 years ago on the waterfront overlooking the pass and now runs the property with her daughter, Séverine.

This rustic-chic seven-bungalow lodging has become a magnet for independent, food-loving travelers. It’s especially popular with scuba-divers and snorkelers who come to explore Rangiroa’s marine life-filled seas.

Waterfront deck, Les Relais de Josephine, Rangiroa, French Polynesia

Facilities and Activities

Guests at Les Relais de Joséphine gravitate to the terrace overlooking the water for morning coffee, evening cocktails, and any time the dolphins are jumping. Wi-Fi is also available out on the terrace and in the adjacent open-air restaurant.

There’s no swimming beach on site, but guests can borrow from the inn’s collection of bicycles to ride up the flat road to the public beach or to explore the narrow island.

One morning, Séverine arranged for us to visit Gauguin’s Pearl, the island’s pearl farm, where we watched the grafters seeding Tahiti’s  famous black pearls.

On another day, she booked a day trip for us with local outfitters Pa’Ati Excursions to Île aux Récifs, a striking, and almost eerie, volcanic islet on the other side of Rangiroa’s vast lagoon.

Lobster salad, Rangiroa, French Polynesia French-Polynesian Cuisine

Room rates at Les Relais de Joséphine include both breakfast and dinner, and the food was a highlight of our stay.

In the morning, we enjoyed tropical fruit and fresh pastries or other baked dishes, while the family-style evening meals, served at long communal tables at 7:30 pm, featured lots of local seafood.

Our three-course French-Polynesian dinners started one night with a tropical fruit salad studded with lobster and shrimp. Another evening, we sampled korori, a delicious sashimi-style island specialty prepared from the muscle of local pearl oysters. Parrotfish in vanilla sauce was served with a green papaya gratin.

And we always ended our meal with a homemade sweet — a lemon tart, a coconut-topped chocolate fondant, or a generous slice of mango tart slathered with chantilly cream.

At least as enjoyable as the fine food was swapping stories and sharing photos over dinner with the other guests, in a mix of English and French.

One couple, serious amateur divers, showed off the stellar underwater photographs that they shot during their daily dives. Another guest directed us to a small art gallery up the road, where the artist-owner fashions unusual jewelry from local shells and stones.

Bungalow, Rangiroa, French Polynesia

Guest Rooms and Amenities

Of the seven bungalows, the best face directly over the water, offering both better views and cooler breezes.

Our unit, one of several set in the garden behind the dining room, was still spacious and comfortable. The furnishings would look at home in the French countryside, with antiqued white finishes on the canopy bed and night tables.

Bungalow interior, Les Relais de Josephine

The quilt-topped beds are draped with a mosquito netting (which we used and found helpful to keep the buzzing critters at bay). We also used the ceiling fan every night but didn’t miss having an air-conditioner.

Rooms are equipped with tiny mini-fridges, useful for chilling water and snacks.

A sliding door at the front of our bungalow opened onto a private terrace, although we found that lounging on the inn’s waterfront deck was both breezier and more scenic.

Especially when those majestic dolphins were flying.

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Hotel review by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the books, Moon Handbooks: Ontario and Living Abroad in Canada. Dolphin photo © Alan Albert. Other photos © Carolyn B. Heller. We paid a discounted media rate for our stay at Les Relais de Joséphine.

Tahiti Tourism can provide more details about traveling to Rangiroa and throughout French Polynesia.

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