The Island of Tahiti lends its name to all of French Polynesia. It is the gateway to the islands and where most of the population lives. For travelers who may only visit Tahiti once, we recommend placing more emphasis on the outer islands, like Bora Bora or Moorea, which are much more laid-back. However, the island is a delightful place to spend a day or two. As you will be flying in an out of this island, you may spend the first or last night here. There is plenty to see and it provides a nice glimpse of life in the islands.
The Island of Tahiti is home to some great resorts, unique restaurants, vibrant markets, tempting pearl shops, and interesting 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 in and out of French Polynesia use the Faa’a International Airport on Tahiti. You will need to stop here to clear customs before transferring to the outer islands on your itinerary. Many of our clients do not spend time on the main island of Tahiti unless their flight schedule requires it, but it is not time wasted, the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa is a great place to unwind after your long flight.
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 we 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 a few activities below.
Tahiti is a very large island with a lush interior. The island boasts a nice selection of land and sea-based activities. Some of our favorites are listed below.
It is a full day exploration of the tropical jungle like interior where you will set off from the East Coast towards the center of the island and explore the Papenoo crater. Along the way you will see beautiful flower-filled valleys with green peaks extending a mile high from the valley floor. Your purpose built 4x4 will also take you over rivers where you will encounter Tahiti’s 1,000 foot cascading waterfalls surrounded by flowers in every direction. The tour continues up the mountains into the cloud forests that surround the peaks.
Overall, a very exciting day of adventure in the inner island of Tahiti with its waterfalls, rivers and archeological sites. Lunch is not included in the price of the excursion.
This is a moderately difficult hiking trail. If you are up for it, you can explore the beautiful Fautaua Valley. In the valley you will see vast pools set in column-like basalt, archaeological sites, and the 450-foot Loti waterfall. This tour is available every day. Ask your Venture Tahiti Specialist to request your preferred time of departure.
Take a trip around the island and discover the Treasures of Tahiti. Start with the West Coast and the famous Marae Arahurahu, a site dedicated to the ancient gods where important ceremonies used to take place. Continue with a visit to the gardens and waterfall of Vaipahi, which is set in a lush tropical environment. Next, onward to the East Coast and its famous Blow Hole. This natural landmark has recently been made more accessible to visitors. You will also see the famous Venus Pointe. Wrap up your tour with panoramic views at the Taharaa View Point.
This hike is considered moderately difficult as you will do some “canyoning” while visiting lava channels. The channels were formed during the volcanic period when the island was born. While you are there, 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 are both included.
The resorts on Tahiti all offer nice dining choices on the property. However, the resort menus can be relatively simple with limited choices. We have found that the Intercontinental Tahiti consistently has the best restaurants, in particular their fine dining restaurant Le Lotus. You will also find some very good local restaurants close to the resorts or in nearby downtown Papeete. This is a great way to experience some of the local flavor! Below is a list of some of our favorites.
Le Lotus, with its thatched-roof dining room extending over the lagoon and heavenly sunset view of Moorea, may have the best setting of any restaurant in the South Pacific. The widely spaced tables are all at the water’s edge. The food is French gourmet and the service is attentive but unobtrusive, making Le Lotus the perfect romantic scene. There is a choice of à la carte or a four- to five-course, fixed-price menu. For the dessert course be sure to request a “sampler” plate instead of just one – it’s a great way to try them all!
Along with Le Lotus, this lagoon side restaurant shares top rank as Tahiti’s most romantic place to dine. Though, they have recently changed their food concept from a purist “gastronomic” menu to more of a blend of gastronomic with a French bistro meets Polynesian flair, the staff, ownership, and location remain the same. Whether you are at the tables outside or within the open-air dining room, you will have a gorgeous view of Moorea. The sound of the surf crashing on the coral reef adds to the ambiance. Get there early for a pre-dinner aperitif and watch the sun set over Moorea.
It does not have the romantic views of Moorea over the Bay of Moons, but this restaurant in the heart of downtown Papeete is one of the top restaurants in all of French Polynesia. This charming bistro’s sophisticated, muted ambiance may remind you of being in Napa or Barossa. Although the chef offers several traditional French dishes, this is not a typical French restaurant. The Polynesian fusion is embodied in his moonfish steak with a passion fruit and ginger sauce. Also try scallops marinated with red peppers or the scorched tuna with a light curry sauce. The list of French wines is short but excellent. The menu is in both French and English.
Les Roulottes are mobile diners/ food trucks that set up shop around 6 pm each afternoon along the waterfront in downtown Papeete and serve hot meals until late into the night. These two dozen fully licensed, colorful food-vans provide a variety of inexpensive but fresh and well prepared dishes, as well as bar stools to sit and watch the waterfront scene of Papeete-by-night. The sights are almost as good as the food. Here, you can order barbecue steaks, chicken and shish kabob served with french fries, poisson cru and Russian potato salad. Specialty diners serve pizza cooked in a woodfire oven, couscous, fish & chips, Tahitian food, barbecue veal and other hot delicacies fresh from the wok by way of the provinces of China. Your dinner can be a veritable moving feast, with a tempting crepe for dessert. No alcohol is served here, but the bars and nightclubs are just across the street.
This open-air restaurant commands a view of Moorea through the masts of yachts moored at Marina Taina. Most tables are under a roof, but unless it's raining or too hot, you may opt for one outside on the terrace. The bill of fare ranges the globe from delicious shrimp in curry and coconut cream (spicier than the usual local versions), to seafood pasta with shrimp, salmon, scallops, and tuna. Whole tropical lobsters, steaks, and braised lamb shanks also appear on the menu. Reduced priced drinks from 5 to 6pm makes this a great place to watch the sunset over Moorea. There is often live music on weekend nights, and a children’s menu is available.
The Blue Banana offers yet another waterfront dining choice. French and Polynesian seafood specialties abound including: tuna carpaccio, tuna tartar, and poisson cru. We do recommend that you try some of their sea based fare. However, the restaurant does offer wood-fired pizzas as well. All is accompanied by a respectable wine list. The restaurant is very convenient to the Manava Suite Resort.