Loaded-up with flowers, sparkling beaches, traditional houses and vistas over Pacific blue, Futuna is storybook Polynesian-pretty. Yet since the islanders here have firmly decided not to develop tourism in order to preserve their lifestyle, it’s a particularly difficult place to get around.
Uninhabited Alofi (area 51 sq km), with its tropical forest and beach, is just as photogenic and more wild. A strait less than 2km wide separates the two islands. Boats chug across to Alofi from Vele beach beside the airport.
Practical goings-on happen in Leava, Futuna’s major centre, on the island's south coast. There are a couple of supermarkets here (stocked with an amazing but expensive variety of imported goods), the island’s administrative headquarters (there’s even a library) and a wharf. The few hotels on Futuna all have bar-restaurants.
It’s a 33km circuit around Futuna but, with speed bumps on the good roads and potholes on the bad ones, it’ll take at least 1½ hours to complete a lap. Along the route you’ll come across a handful of some of the most beautiful churches in the Pacific, including the towering Pierre Chanel Church (called Petelo Sanele in Futunan), painstakingly decorated throughout with white-and-brown tapa. The chapel includes various relics of St Pierre (1803–1841; canonised in 1954), the first martyr of Oceania, including some of his clothes and the war club that is said to have dispatched him.