Tahiti … Behind this name with magical connotations that evoke a lost paradise in the middle of the Pacific and innumerable references to dreams and exoticism, hides an island with many facets.
Economic capital of French Polynesia, this mountainous island surrounded by a coral reef, will also take you to discover surprising and unexpected landscapes.
Often considered a simple stopover before flying to neighboring islands, this island will charm you and deserves special attention.
The island of Tahiti:
According to the legend, Terehe, a girl of the royal family of Raiatea, would have been at the start of the creation of the island. Having defied a sacred law, she would have been swallowed by an eel from the depths. Nourished by his spirit, the eel grew and became a huge fish named Tahiti Nui. It was then that the gods intervened and sent the fish to its final destination. This large fish became the island of Tahiti whose dorsal fin would be represented by Mount ‘Orohena’ culminating at 2241m and Tahiti Iti the second dorsal fin.
Today, the bigger land of the island still bears the name of Tahiti Nui and is separated from Tahiti Iti (the small part) by the Isthmus of Taravao.
Tahiti is the largest and the highest island of all the French Polynesian islands.
Becoming the economic and administrative capital in the early 1900s, it now home to more than 70% of the population of French Polynesia.
A true cornerstone, the island also has the only international airport of Polynesia, which makes it the land of welcome and the first stop for the majority of tourists arriving in this paradise at the end of the world.
Residents live mainly on the coast of this volcanic and mountainous island and the center remains nearly untouched leaving lush vegetation protected.
Locals are deeply attached to their fenua (land) and their legendary kindness allows many moments of sharing and exchange with those who want to discover the authentic and pure side of the island.
Papeete and its market:
Papeete means “basket of water” in Tahitian. It was indeed the place where people used to fill their calabashes with water. Today, Papeete is a lively city with undeniable charm. Its cathedral is the central landmark. This is where the zero point kilometer is located or ‘PK 0’ as we name it here. Thus, all around the island we will give you geographical landmarks according to the nearest PK!
Near the cathedral, stands the market of Papeete. A true institution, it is the key center of the city. You will find there all the local food products, fruits, vegetables and cooked dishes but also handmade products, including wreaths and necklaces of flowers. A place not to be missed under any circumstances.
The mountainous terrain:
With its peak rising to 2241m, it is the highest island of Polynesia. This rugged setting reveals lush valleys and towering mountains.
Some valleys are accessible by 4×4 and even if you cannot cross the island from end to end via its crater, the 4WD remains the simplest way to dive in the heart of these winding paths giving access to breathtaking panoramas and landscapes.
The Venus Point:
If the postcards reflect beaches with fine white sand and their mythical coconut palm trees, Tahiti is nonetheless a volcanic island and therefore offers many black sand beaches. The Pointe Venus beach is a good example. Ten minutes away from the eastern exit of Papeete, nestled in the bay of Matavai, this beach that saw the arrival of the splendid boats that brought the first explorers. With its view on the sister island, Moorea, it is not uncommon to see, when the season is favorable, whales swimming just a few meters from the shore. Venus Point is symbolized by its majestic white lighthouse, which is still used today by sailors arriving in local waters.
The water gardens of Vaipahi:
Located on the south coast of the island, these gardens form a small jewel of the local flora. In front of the lagoon, you will be able to experience during a walk accessible to all ages, the beauty of the flowers and the plants. Explanatory panels are there to help you and guide you. It is also the start of some famous hikes for the most motivated walkers.
The Taravao plateau:
On the peninsula lies the Taravao plateau. Privileged area for farmers and breeders, this place will surprise visitors as it feels like being in Auvergne, France! The drive to the top is through a small road sheltered by high trees and gradually reveals varied country scenery with cows that appreciate the freshness of the heights. Once at the belvedere, the view will leave you speechless, encircled by the lagoon, facing Tahiti Nui and its mountains…
The Teahupo’o wave:
If there is one place you need to see if you love surfing or just see amazing waves, this is Teahupo’o Beach. A meeting place for all international professional surfers, the Teahupo’o wave is one of the most famous waves in the world. It owes its reputation to its beauty, its grandeur but also to its dangers making it a myth that many would like to experience… It hosts every year in August the famous international competition Tahiti Pro Teahupoo (formerly called Billabong Pro), and you can come to admire from the beach its majesty. It is possible to get closer with the help of a taxi boat that can bring you to this iconic wave.
The vahine, the languid dancer who has also contributed to the enchanting image of Tahiti and its islands, embodies in fact a whole section of Polynesian culture.
During the month of July each year, the Heiva gathers the best dance troupes of all the islands around a transcendent competition. The magic of Polynesian rhythms, delicate gestures, vegetal costumes … all the energy of the dance performed during several shows often sold out as the event brings together the inhabitants around the “Ori Tahiti” as it is called here.
What activities to practice?
If during your stay in Polynesia you do not have the opportunity to visit a pearl farm, do not worry you can catch up at the Pearl Museum in Papeete. Robert Wan, first pearl producer of Polynesia, has indeed opened jointly to one of its stores, a museum that traces the entire course of the pearl through time. Very informative, it will allow you to become educated on this wonder of the Polynesian waters.
The Museum of the Islands in Punauia, will open its doors to you on the richness of the cultural inheritance of Polynesia but also more widely of Oceania. You will find many permanent and punctual collections that will trace the place of Polynesia in history, through its artistic and natural dimensions.
And if you have the chance to make a stop there, do not leave this museum without having a tour of its gardens. Facing Moorea, with the surf waves in the background, a walk in this setting will provide you with freshness and relaxation before heading on to your next adventures…
The magnificent scenery of the island, composed of high peaked mountains, deep lush valleys, draws nature lovers to the top of Mount Marau (1493 m) to discover the dominant peaks, the central crater, the plateau of Tamanu and ridge line extending to Mount Aorai and Mount Orohena (2241 m).
There are several waterfalls pouring into basins where it is good to cool off. The most beautiful of them, the Fachoda Falls, are located on the Fautaua River. With a drop of about 300 meters, they are among the 25 highest waterfalls in the world. Hiking enthusiasts will also be seduced by the Faarumai Falls, which are located near the Arahoho vent on the north coast.
4WD visit of the Papenoo Valley:
An ideal way to enter the almost inaccessible treasures of the Papenoo Valley, is a 4WD guided tour that will allow you to grasp its immensity. Accompanied by a guide who knows the place like the back of his hand. He will be happy to share with you all the highlights of his playground. Whether it is the peculiarities of the flora or the anecdotes of its multiple epic stories. Expect majestic panoramas as far as the eye can see! Waterfalls, river, invasive vegetation, and shades of greens … the diversity of this valley is breathtaking.
Tahiti would not be what it is without its beaches, but it could not be complete either without its nature and its mountains. So let yourself be tempted by this visit to its heart…
If you are a surfer or if you want to enjoy your holidays to discover these unique sensations, Tahiti will be your favorite place! From the Papenoo to Papara, the numerous surf spots are accessible to beginners as well as the more experienced ones! What can be more magical than being carried away by the waves in the 28 degree C water facing a unique landscape?
Do not hesitate to interact with the locals as they will guide and help you according to your level.
Flight over the island:
Whether in a helicopter or a local club plane, you can fly over the island for an exceptional experience. From the sky you will get to capture its magical and amazing dimension. From the purity of its lagoons, to the magic of its coastline to the steep and impressive summits.
Where to stay?
The island offers a wide choice of accommodations, from guesthouses to luxury hotels with their overwater bungalows. Whether you want to stay near Tahiti Faa’a Airport, in Punauia on the west coast of the island or in the city center of Papeete, we offer a selection of the best options for your stay.
Tama’a ! It’s time to eat:
There are plenty of restaurants of all types and for all budgets. It is clearly here that you will have the widest choice during your trip in Polynesia.
A mandatory step however is a stop to the “Roulottes” (Food Trucks). A local institution, many are located on the Place Vaiete, in the center of Papeete, on the waterfront. Every evening you will be able to eat in a family atmosphere the famous local dishes but also a range of international dishes.
For more gourmet flavors, the Lotus at the heart of the Intercontinental Hotel will offer a local menu for lunch and dinner. This overwater restaurant faces Moorea and the delight is as much in the plate as for the eyes as the view is magical.
Finally, if you are lucky enough to be on the peninsula during lunchtime, make a stop at “La Plage de Maui”. Located by the lagoon, you will taste typical local dishes while admiring the fishes.
As the largest island of Polynesia, it is strongly advised to be motorized. If you intend to limit yourself to Papeete and its surroundings, a scooter can be enough. However, renting a car will allow you to go enjoy a circle island tour at your own pace and take the time to discover and appreciate the unique places that are hidden.
As an indication, the circle island tour by car takes about 1h15 without stopping.
However for the more patient, the bus network may be suitable. Your only need to be flexible on destinations and schedules!
Hitchhiking is still very common, so if you want to try your luck, it will also be an opportunity to meet locals who might stop and share their vehicle.
How to get there?
The island remains the gateway to French Polynesia since it is the only one to host an international airport. Many airlines serve it so you just have to choose the one that fits your budget and your starting point.
The weather point:
The island is influenced by a tropical climate. Which means that the year is divided into two seasons. The warm season (November to March), which is mainly characterized by abundant rainfalls and moist heat, and the season we call the Austral winter (April to October), which is drier and where temperatures are more bearable. We advise you to plan your holidays during this austral winter as you will have more chance to enjoy nice weather while avoiding the stifling temperatures of the hot season.
Our little extras:
In 2014, the first International Graffiti Festival (Ono’u) took place in Papeete. With its success, many artists invade the city every year at the same time and express their art on the walls of the capital. Each year, additional artworks decorate the buildings of the city that has become a giant open-air museum of this modern art. Do not hesitate to walk the streets to admire them!