The island of Tahiti is often overlooked on French Polynesia vacations, with many travellers instead opting to head straight to other islands such as Moorea and Bora Bora. Yet, the natural wonders and cultural sites on the country’s biggest island are great fun to explore for a few days. The tropical island of Tahiti is crowned by a circle of majestic peaks, filled with scented hibiscus flowers, castaway bays, and sparkling blue lagoons. The island has unique restaurants, luxurious resorts, vibrant markets, pearl shops, and boutiques full of tropical-inspired treasures. Capital city, Papeete, which translates to the “water basket”, was once a gathering place where Tahitians came to fill their calabashes with fresh water. Explore this island gateway city and immerse yourself in authentic Polynesian history and culture.
Gorgeous Cultural Sites
Get island chic as you shop like a local at the famed Marché de Papeete. Here you’ll find colourful pareu (sarongs), shell necklaces, woven hats, and local produce. Sneak into the nearby Notre Dame Cathedral for a quiet retreat from the hot Tahitian sun. The cathedral is a buttercup-yellow coloured church that serves as the historic centre of the Catholic community in Papeete. The charming church altar is decorated with beautiful tropical flower arrangements, and choirs sing in the upstairs area.
For a small island, Tahiti has some great cultural museums worth checking out. The Robert Wan Pearl Museum is the world’s only museum dedicated to pearls. Here you’ll learn about everything, starting from pearl making techniques to the factors influencing its colours. You’ll see the largest Tahitian pearl in the world on display, which measures in at 26 millimetres. The Gauguin Museum is a Japanese-styled art museum dedicated to the life and works of Paul Gauguin, the renowned French artist who left Paris for French Polynesia. For a great overview of Polynesian history and culture, visit the Museum of Tahiti and its Islands, set in a lagoonside coconut grove.
Idyllic Natural Wonders
Follow the path to paradise and arrive at the famous Pointe Venus (Cook’s Transit of Venus). Captain James Cook observed the transit of the planet Venus, here in 1769. It is Tahiti’s northernmost point and it offers breathtaking panoramic views. This romantic spot is a photographer’s dream, so don’t forget your camera!
To see gorgeous endemic Tahitian flowers, trees and ponds, visit Vaipahi Garden and explore its scenic waterfall and lush walking paths. Catch amazing vistas on hikes in the gorgeous Fautaua Valley or Vaipohe Valley. Navigate quick-growing tropical foliage and climb to the top of Mount Aorai, the island’s third-highest peak, for a stunning island view.
A must-see natural Tahiti site is the Arahoho Blow Hole. It’s an incredible lavatube designed by liquid lava flowing under cold and hard lava, creating a bizarre but beautiful channel. When waves crash against the rocks and enter this channel, the result is a powerful sea water geyser that showers (and delights) onlookers.
Embrace your inner adventurer and go on a scenic 4X4 safari to explore Tahiti’s waterfalls and misty mountains. Get out on the water on a sunset Tahiti cruise to take in the spectacular colours of a tropical sunset and beautiful views of Moorea. Or, enjoy the island a few days before embarking on an overnight Tahiti cruise. If your Tahiti vacation falls between August and October, go whale watching and spot the magnificent humpback whales that swim up to French Polynesia from Antarctica. Active Tahiti travellers can also jetski, surf, snorkel, or dive around the Tahitian coast. If pure relaxation is your ultimate goal, enjoy doing nothing at all on Tahiti’s sugar-white beaches.
After working up a hunger, be sure to visit the roulottes, the islands’ unique gathering place and street food equivalent. Here you can sample tasty culinary creations from various food trucks, and get an authentic dining experience. One of the greatest concentrations of roulottes can be found at Vaiete Square in Papeete. Feast on grilled chicken, Chinese noodles, and tangy Tahitian speciality, Poisson Cru (raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk). You can also find many great restaurants in Papeete. Try Le Coco’s for a fabulous four-course dinner or three-course lunch.