Fortunately, travelers today needn't sell their most precious assets or journey two months to find the seductive South Seas ease Gauguin enjoyed. A mere good night's sleep from Los Angeles - about eight hours on flights departing in the afternoon or evening - Tahiti still has the beauty that myths are made of: volcanic mountains swathed in lush greenery, clear waters shading from emerald to azure, palmy beaches and handsome people.
About the only thing confusing about Tahiti is its name. Tahiti is the island hub of a constellation of 118 islands referred to in the aggregate as Tahiti or French Polynesia. These are further defined as five archipelagos (island groups): the Society Islands, the Tuamotu Atolls, Marquesas, the Austral Archipelago and the Gambier Archipelago.
An escorted circle-island tour is the easiest way to hit the highlights, including the small Gauguin Museum within the Harrison W. Smith Botanical Gardens of Papeari (32 miles from Papeete). Along with memorabilia, displays include sketches, block prints, reproductions and some of Gauguin's original works. You also can visit the artist's home in Punaauia and the hut at Mataiea Village where he painted (both south of Papeete).