Tahiti is the largest and most well-known of the 118 islands that make up French Polynesia. Papeete is its largest population center and the nation’s capital. It is home to some great resorts, unique restaurants, vibrant markets, pearl shops, and museums. The mountainous interior of Tahiti is adorned with mystical valleys, clear streams, and high waterfalls. Most of the island’s population resides near the shore, leaving the interior of the island feeling almost untouched and ancient, despite such proximity to the bustling capital of Papeete.
All international flights to/from French Polynesia use the Faaa airport on Tahiti. You will need to stop here to clear customs before transferring to the outer islands like Bora Bora, Moorea, etc.
Many of our clients do not spend time on the main island of Tahiti unless their flight schedule requires it. Tahiti is where most people live and is much busier than the other islands. Downtown Papeete is an especially busy port city and has more of an urban feel to it. There are plenty of activities on Tahiti, but most of our clients are looking for a quieter, more laid-back island with pristine beaches and lagoon water which is why they connect directly on to Moorea or Bora Bora. If you decide to visit Tahiti I would suggest a two-night stay to have sufficient time to see the main sights.
There are some great sights on Tahiti including Point Venus, the Gauguin Museum, the James Norman Hall House as well as a botanical garden and a pearl museum.
If you find yourself in Tahiti for more than a day, we recommend the 4×4 Inner Island Safari. It is a full day exploration of the tropical jungle like interior where you will see beautiful flower-filled valleys with green peaks extending a mile high from the valley floor, 1,000 ft cascading waterfalls, flowers in every direction. The tour continues up the mountains into the cloud forests that surround the peaks.
Tahiti is a very large island with a lush interior. They have a nice selection of land based & water based activities. Here are some of our favorites:
Hiking in Fautaua Valley (Half Day)
A moderately difficult hiking trail. Explore the incredible Fautaua Valley with its vast pools set in column-like basalt, see archaeological sites and the 450-foot Loti waterfall. (available every day. Preferred time may be requested)
Hiking in the Lava Tubes – (full day, lunch included)
Moderately difficult “Canyoning” hike visiting lava channels that were formed during the volcanic period when the island was born. You will explore the rocks and vaults that Mother Nature herself has carved out. When you come out of the lava tubes, follow the river bubbling with waterfalls and have a swim in the cool water. Lunch and equipment included
The resorts on Tahiti all offer restaurants on the property. Most are simple menus with limited choices. The Intercontinental Tahiti has the best resort restaurants, in particular their fine Dining restaurant Le Lotus. You will also find some very good local restaurants close to the resorts or in downtown Papeete. This is a great way to experience some of the local flavor! Below is a list of some of our favorites.
L’O à la Bouche
Passage Cardella, Papeete — French with a Tahitian splash… but, mostly French, and one of the top restaurants in Tahiti. Delicious cuisine, great wine list! Try their fish selections and be sure to keep room for desserts. Located in a small street in downtown Papeete, the restaurant’s interior is sophisticated bistro-like and offers a nice cozy atmosphere.
Food Trucks On the Waterfront, Papeete — This is a great way to enjoy true local culture and is very popular with the local Tahitians. This area has recently been completely renovated and looks wonderful. The roulottes, or dining cars, offer a variety of food: French, Tahitian, Chinese, pizzas and not-to-be- missed the “crepes”. “Crepes” in Tahiti are made the French way and the Nutella – banana is a popular option. On the weekends, there are chances there will be live music or shows. Portions can be quite large so it’s nice to share some courses and desserts.
Punaauia, West Coast — Located by the water, Blue Banana offers a nice outdoor dining area above the water. Their specialties include tuna carpaccios and tartars, of course variations of the famous Tahitian “poisson cru”. Pizzas are also available but you definitely want to enjoy some of their fish specialties. If you are staying at the Manava Suite Resort, you can walk to the restaurant (about 10 minutes).