Tahiti “The Island of Love”
Tahiti is the most famous island in the South Seas – Queen of the Pacific. The island has the 2 highest mountain peaks in Polynesia, one reaching over 7,000 feet. Often called the “Land of Double Rainbows”, “Romantic Island” or “Island of Love”, Tahiti is in fact the largest and most populated of the 118 islands and atolls that comprise Polynesia. The island is historically known as O’tahiti and is divided into 2 parts known as Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti (Big Tahiti & Little Tahiti). The largest is Mount Orohena, the lesser is Mount Roonui, connected to each other by an isthmus creating one island.
Tahiti Iti has remained quite isolated & pristine where as Tahiti Nui is heavily populated especially around Papeete which is the capital of French Polynesia. Located on Tahiti’s northwest coast approximately 3 miles from the airport, this city has the most hotel standard room style accommodations for those transiting to outer islands or cruises, and offers few resorts with overwater bungalows. Most accommodations have a view to the west across the channel called “Sea of Moons” that separates Tahiti from it from its sister island of Moorea, only 10 minutes by air or 30 by fast ferry.
The island offers the only black sand beaches, and has tremendously lush rain forest away from Papeete and higher in the mountains where you find panoramic views, waterfalls and streams. In contrast Papeete is the hub for all international air travel as well as cruise ships and freighters, fishing boats and ferries. The is a main open market place in the center of town is bustle of island activity and nearby you have Vaima Center for shopping and dining.
Tahiti is home to the Paul Gauguin Museum, 2 botanical gardens, and famous surfing spots like Teahupoo. Driving is easy and is worth including a 71 miles of road winding around Tahiti Nui between the mountains and the sea with spectacular views. Tahiti Iti offers a road that follows the coast for 12 miles with beautiful vistas. With many things offer, this island is worth spending a day or two exploring off the beaten track, or use time for post travel shopping to prevent inter-island baggage fees, or an easy day trip to Moorea by ferry adding another island to your vacation.
Tahiti Hotels & Resorts
- Le Meridien Tahiti
- Intercontinental Beachcomber Tahiti
- Sofitel Tahiti Maeva Beach Resort
- Radisson Plaza Hotel Tahiti
- Sheraton Hotel Tahiti
- Le Royal Tahitien
- Le Mandarin Hotel
- Airport Motel
Tahiti Island Activities
Tahiti offers one of the 2 only golf courses in the Leeward Islands. The Olivier Breaud International Golf Course offers 18 holes and is a 72 par course. With a club house, restaurant, bar, and swimming pool, the course can be reached by minibus service to and from hotels. Course is not far from Papeete and it’s quality of fairway and greens are rivaled only by its beauty as it is home to many species of flower and tree unique to Tahiti New Jack Niklaus Course open on Moorea.
Most famous on Tahiti is Teahupoo Pass on Tahiti Iti peninsula, home of the Gotcha Pro Surfing Competition. The surfing here is legendary and only for the professional surfer. Other well known areas are the breaks at Papenoo, Paea, Papara Black Sand Beach, and Punaauia and Taapuna passes. Tahiti & Moorea are the easiest islands to access & travel with a board over 6’. Closest to Papeete are a few breaks around Arue and Point Venus
This island offers a number of equestrian organizations and horseback riding opportunities. Gauguin Ranch in Papeari, and Club Equestre de Tahiti in Papeete are among a few.
Tahitians love their flowers and Tahiti offers a number of parks and gardens to visit in your time passing through. Mataoa Gardens, Harrison W. Smith Botanical Garden and Mehana Park are among the favorites. The largest is Harrison Smith which is adjacent to the Paul Gauguin Museum.
As you may have already guessed Tahiti is the home of the Paul Gauguin Museum. This place is a memorial to the late French Artist and exhibits both original and reproduction works. Many of the originals are now in France where climate is much kinder to these masterpieces. You may also want to visit Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands, and the Sea Shell Museum which features examples of marine life from Polynesian Lagoons.
There are several in Tahiti that do interisland to Moorea as well as what they like to call Flight Seeing Tours of Tahiti Nui, Tahiti Iti, and Moorea. It’s an amazing experience but can be expensive. If you can afford it, do it.
Polynesia Helicopters are based out of Faa’a International Airport.
Circle Island Tours
Some of the best sights on the island can be found along the road when circumnavigating the island. Faarumai Waterfalls, Blowhole, Fern Grotto, Point Venus and the lighthouse, Kings Tomb, are among many recommended sites. Circle Island Tours are available for hire and perfect for those who have a half day or more and want to explore and see the most in that time. A minimum 2-4 people are usually required for private van.
Dolphin & Whale Watching
Dr. Poole’s Dolphin & Whale Watching trips are the best and most informative. His knowledge of marine mammals in the waters off Tahiti & Moorea is unsurpassed by any other marine biologist in the area. From July through October is the best time for observing humpback whales and for the rest of the year it is better for viewing various types of dolphin and small toothed whales. Tahiti Private Expeditions is another highly rated company.
Tahiti Dining & Nightlife
There are many dining choices in Tahiti that vary in food type and price. Each Hotel has a number of fine restaurants but there are many local places to eat in Papeete and nearby that great and offer local tastes.
This restaurant is located in Vaima Center. Mango serves Tahitian Fusion Cuisine with local ingredients and flavor. The Restaurant is a great choice for lunch or dinner with an excellent selection of wines and appetizers.
2,000 feet up this restaurant overlooks the city and Moorea. They provide round trip transportation from your hotel up this narrow one lane road in the Fare Ape Valley above Papeete. Take the 5 PM pick up and reach the restaurant in time for sunset and a drink. They drop you back at the airport if you are leaving that evening.
Family run, located at the wharf area this collection of local food trucks know as les Roulottes is a popular island favorite among the locals and the tourists that visit. It is popular not only for its prices but for its variety of foods and its evening ambiance.
L’ O a la Bouche
Located just behind the Vaima Center this restaurant serves excellent French Cuisine, Open for Lunch and Dinner.
Le Royal Tahitien Restaurant
Located in the classic Royal Tahitien Hotel, that sits on a black sand beach in Pirae. The hotel was first built in 1937 but has more a 1950’s style, but amidst beautiful gardens and overlooking a beach the restaurant and bar provide great charm and views of the lagoon with an excellent international fare. The Poisson cru is some of the best you will find anywhere and worth the visit. Live Music on Friday and Saturday evenings.