The underwater worlds you’ll find in French Polynesia are one of the main reasons to visit here, but the appeal of the Islands of Tahiti doesn’t end at the water line. In fact, there’s plenty to do on the land in addition to all the snorkelling and lounging on the beach. From exploring ancient temple mounds to joining in Polynesian feasts, the Islands of Tahiti have many land-based attractions to add some variety to your vacation here. In order to help you decide what to do on a trip to Bora Bora, Tahiti, or Moorea, we’ve put together a list of the best land-based activities in the Islands of Tahiti. Hopefully they’ll help you take advantage of all that French Polynesia has to offer.
What are active things to do in Bora Bora?
Ride an ATV or 4WD vehicle through the mountains
Although Bora Bora is defined by its gorgeous lagoon, it’s also home to several mountains that provide a stunning green backdrop to your beach vacation. You can take half a day or a full day to explore the interior of Bora Bora with Goway. On the 4WD and Snorkelling Combo tour, you start your day off with a 4WD drive around the island. You visit the village of Vaitape, stop off at lookouts with beautiful views of the lagoon, and even see the old American military bunkers left over from World War II. In the afternoon, you head on a snorkelling journey through the famous lagoon.
A half-day variation of this tour is the Jet Ski and ATV Combo trip. It starts with a Jet Ski ride across the lagoon. You then board your very own ATV. After growing accustomed with driving, you’ll drive up Povai Hill to explore the military bunkers and reach the summit, where you’ll enjoy incredible views over the island. It’s then back down the hill and up another mountain to reach a lookout with views of Mt. Otemanu and Povai Hill.
Head on a 4X4 sunset tour
Bora Bora is beautiful at sunset. Take advantage of the golden glow of the sun over the South Pacific with the Vavau 4×4 Sunset Tour With Champagne that takes you to an old Tahitian temple and alongside the American military bunkers and cannons before reaching the beach where you’ll toast the end of the day with some sparkling wine.
What is there to do in Huahine?
Visit ancient temples and sacred sites
Located in the Society Islands, Huahine is French Polynesia’s own Garden of Eden. It’s known for its abundant greenery and large vanilla and pineapple plantations, so it’s the ultimate place to explore on land. The 4WD Safari Half Day Tour spends half a day crossing the island and visiting archaeological sites and natural highlights. You’ll stop by the old maeva or ancient temples of the island, visit Fauna Nui Lake, where fishermen have continued to use stone traps developed over 400 years ago, and Motu Manunu, where political councils were held and people were even sacrificed. You’ll also make it to Belvedere for some incredible views of the island and the surrounding ocean, as well as venture through the vanilla plantations of Huahine Iti.
The Sacred Sites and Legendary Places tour focuses more exclusively on the history of Huahine. You’ll travel in the company of an American anthropologist who takes you to the maeva and old stone fish traps of Fauna Nui Lake. Continue through vanilla plantations before reaching the tomb of the last great priest, Raiti, at Marae Manunu before seeing the sacred blue-eyed eels of Fare.
What are the best things to do in Moorea, Tahiti?
Head on an island safari
Moorea, the sister island to Tahiti, is among the most lush and beautiful in French Polynesia. The Aito Four Wheel Drive Safari tour is a great way to explore the inland. This half-day tour takes you through the volcanic centre of the island. Visit vanilla, pineapple, and banana plantations at the Lycee Agricole (agricultural school), stop at Belvedere Lookout for views over Cook Bay, and end at the Magic Mountain.
If you’d rather explore the island on foot, try the Hiking the Three Coconut Trail tour, which takes you from Belvedere Lookout through the valley to another lookout for an incredible view of the Opunohu Valley. You’ll have time to sample some local fruits along the way and even go swimming in the river.
Join a Polynesian feast
Nothing compares with the hospitality of the Polynesians. With the Tiki Village Show and Dinner, you head to the Tiki Village, which recreates a traditional Polynesian village near the lagoon of Haapiti, complete with thatched roof huts and fire pits and ovens. You’ll see demonstrations of mat weaving and tiki carving before enjoying a feast of Polynesian dishes like roast pig and breadfruit cooked in a traditional ground oven. The evening ends with a show of music, storytelling, and, most excitingly, fire dancing.
What are some fun activities to do in Raiatea?
Ride an ATV or 4WD across the island
Raiatea is the second largest of the Society Islands, but relatively quiet compared to the more popular islands of Bora Bora and Moorea. Thus, it’s a great place to get in touch with nature as you explore the jungle interior. The 4WD Tahaa Safari tour does a circuit of the island, stopping off at a vanilla plantation to learn about farming practices along the way. The Adventure ATV or SSV tour also stops off at a vanilla plantation before you board your ATV and head up to a lookout over the island. You end your tour in the village of Patio.
What are the top things to do in Tahiti?
Explore the city of Papeete
Tahiti is the largest and most populated of the islands in French Polynesia. Its capital, Papeete, is the largest centre in the islands and a great place to get in touch with modern Polynesia. The City and Circle Island tour combines a visit through the city and a journey into the jungle to capture the two sides of the island. Start in the city where you visit the traditional market, the cathedral, and the Pearl Museum. You’ll then leave the city behind to head to Venus Point, where most European navigators landed on the island. Turn to the Arahoho Blow Hole, where a lava tube creates a sea geyser whenever the waves crash against the rocks. You’ll end the tour in the Vaipahi Garden to see the island’s beautiful flowers and the Grotto Caves to admire the optical illusion in the lake. You can also opt for the Papeete City Morning tour that takes in the market, cathedral, and museum, as well as city hall and the Viama Center.
Head on an island safari
Of course, you may want to focus strictly on the bountiful nature of Tahiti. The Mountain 4×4 Safari Half Day Tour takes you in a 4×4 into the Valley of Papenoo to explore its landscape of rivers, waterfalls, and tropical plants as far as the eye can see. Slow down the pace and explore this relaxing environment in the company of a guide who can field any questions you have about the local flora and fauna.
You can also explore the west coast of the island on the Tahiti Island Afternoon tour. During your journey, you’ll see the Mara Arahurahu, a restored Polynesian temple and site of many of the island’s most important ceremonies. You’ll also stop by the waterfall of Valpahi before reaching the East Coast to explore Venus Point and end at Tahaaraa Lookout Point for its breathtaking 360° views of the island and Moorea in the background.
Hike the Vaipohe Valley
Tahiti is also a great place to explore by foot. The Walk in Vaipohe Valley Half Day Tour takes you through the lush valley in the company of a local guide to admire the scenery of waterfalls, rivers, and tropical plants. You’ll visit a riverside garden complete with lemon trees, paw paw trees, and coffee bean trees and stroll alongside natural ponds and waterfalls. It’s a casual hike that’s perfect for travellers who aren’t conditioned for more intensive hiking.
You should never ignore the water on a trip to the Islands of Tahiti, but neither should you leave the beautiful landscapes of these tropical islands unexplored. Whether you’re heading on an ATV ride up mountainsides, hiking through lush valleys, or learning about the ancient Polynesian history of the islands, the islands of French Polynesia offer so much to see and do.