Visit Tahiti – Downtown Papeete
Boulevard de la Reine Pomare IV rings the Papeete Harbour and provides easy walking access to many places. The Pearl Museum (Muse de la Perle), the Paofai Gardens, the Church of Paofai, Bougainville Park, the Stuart Hotel where Matisse painted the harbor, the Papeete Town Hall and the Papeete Market are located on the boulevard.
The Bougainville Park area includes:
- a statue of the Louis Antoine de Bougainville
- one of the cannons from the gunboat Zealous from 1914
- a cannon of the German privateer Seeadler
- Queen Marau’s bungalow
- Gauguin’s banyan tree
- the Public square of Tarahoi with the bust of Pouvanaa a Opaa
- General de Gaulle’s monument
- Pomare Queen’s Bath
- the Assembly of French Polynesia
- the Tahitian Academy and the High Commissioner’s Residence.
Vaima Center occupies the boulevard too. It has upscale shops, restaurants and cafes. The Notre Dame Cathedral of Papeete (Cathedrale de l’Immaculee Conception) is located just behind the center, as is a fresco of the HMS Bounty honoring the author of Mutiny on the Bounty.
Visit Tahiti – Take to the Water
- Snorkel in a blue lagoon. Look for turtles and numerous varieties of tropical fish.
- Spend time at a white sand beach like Plage de Toaroto, which is great for snorkeling too.
- Teahupoo is famous for surfing.
- Take a guided excursion to interact with sting rays and sharks – yes, participants get in the water with them.
- Go sailing or ride in an outrigger canoe. Look for dolphins and whales.
- Enjoy a sunset cruise.
Visit Tahiti – Point Venus
Visit Point Venus off Matavai Bay. It’s the most northerly point of Tahiti. In 1769 Captain Cook observed the transit of Venus here. Point Venus has a black sand beach, because it is not protected by the barrier reef that encircles much of the island. The only lighthouse in Tahiti is located on the point. Nearby there is a monument to the 1788 visit of the HMS Bounty, including a plaque with the names of every crew member on it. There is also a display commemorating the efforts of the London Missionary Society in the islands of the South Pacific.
Tours from Papeete
- Papeete City Tour and Black Pearl Museum
- Tahiti Sunset Cruise
- Tahiti Whale Watching Cruise
- Inner Island Full day Jeep Safari
- Tahiti Peninsula and Teahupo’o Boat Tour
Savor the Tastes of Tahiti
- Enjoy the food truck stalls serving meals nightly Les Roulettes on Place Vai’ete at the port. The prices are a refreshing relief from the cost of dining at the waterfront resorts. During the day, head a couple blocks inland to the vendors in the Papeete Market.
- Have dinner at the fabulous setting of the Te Tiare Restaurant at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa. Enjoy poisson cru – raw tuna in coconut milk.
Tahiti Hotel Recommendation
InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa – If you only make one stop in Tahiti, it should be here.
Weather in Tahiti
Expect very little variation in temperatures throughout the year. Average highs will be about 85 F (30 C) and lows will average 75 F (23 C). The rainy season extends from November to April. Temperatures can be slightly higher during this period, because this area of French Polynesia is south of the equator. June through October are the popular tourists months, because they are drier. It can rain any time of year though and global warming influences of El Nino bring inconsistency to weather forecasting. September is likely the best month to visit Tahiti.
Visit Tahiti – Gateway to French Polynesia
With the only major airport among the French Polynesian islands located a few miles from Papeete, Tahiti is the gateway for tourism in French Polynesia. Flights from Faa’a Airport (PPT) connect on a regular basis to Los Angeles, Paris, Honolulu, Auckland, Tokyo, Easter Island and Noumea. Air Tahiti Nui is the major international carrier and often affiliates with other airlines. It’s a 10-minute flight or a 30-minute ride by high-speed catamaran to Moorea. Bora Bora can be reached on a one hour flight.
Visit Tahiti – Papeete and the Cruise Ship Terminal
For those with luggage, a taxi cab or an airport / Papeete shuttle are the best alternatives to reach downtown Papeete and the cruise terminal. Cabs are fairly expensive. In 2015 the entry price was $10 US before the mileage charge even started. Car rentals are easy to obtain. Tahiti is like two circular islands joined together. Tahiti Nui is the larger section and Papeete is located on it. A paved coastal road circles completely around it. The Circle Island Tour covers 72 miles (114 km).
Waiting for that Late Night Flight
Our favorite thing to do while waiting for a late night flight is to take a cab to the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa for dinner. This hotel is the best one on the island. The ambience and views are fabulous.
Faa’a Airport (PPT) offers luggage storage on the main concourse, which is an excellent option for those waiting all day for the standard midnight flight to Los Angeles. Store your baggage after leaving the hotel or cruise ship and spend the day in Papeete. Take an airport / Papeete shuttle or a local bus, called Le Truck, since you won’t have bags to bother with. Fares on Le Truck fares are extremely low, but be prepared for irregular service schedules and no service after 5 pm.
Visit Tahiti – See More Sights
- James Norman Hall Museum, where the author of Mutiny on the Bounty lived, is a few minutes from Papeete by vehicle, in Arue.
- The Gauguin Museum – closed for many years with no scheduled reopening date. Most of its paintings were not originals. The Harrison W. Smith Botanical Gardens are located beside the closed museum.
- Museum of Tahiti and her Islands (Muse de Tahiti et des iles) – located in Punaauia, with waterfront grounds and views to Moorea.
- Tiarei Arahoho Blow Hole (Trou du Souffleur) and Fa’aurumai Valley Waterfalls (Les Trois Cascades or Cascades de Faarumai). It’s about a 5 minute walk in to Vaimahutu and then another half hour to Haamaremare Iti and Haamaremare Rahi waterfalls.
- Maraa Fern Grottoes – on the circle island road about 27 km (16 mi) from Papeete. Grottoes include Vaipoiri, Mata Vaa, Paroa and Te Ana Tetea.
- Marae Arahurahu – a fully restored Polynesian ruin a few miles north of Maraa Fern Grottoes, plus the Tahiti’a Mai native dance performances and handicrafts.
Visit Tahiti – Background
Tahiti is also sometimes referred to as the Queen of the Pacific. Tahiti is the largest and most populated island of the Society Islands and French Polynesia. About 125,000 live here. The island is less than 30 mi (50 km) at its widest point. Most of the people are Polynesians, but French is the official language. Many people speak Tahitian. Papeete is the capital of Tahiti and has the largest concentration of inhabitants on the island. The name Papeete seems like it is French because of the “ete” ending, but it is Tahitian. Locals pronounce all three “e’s” in the named.
Famous visitors to Tahiti in the past include Captain Cook in 1769, Captain Bligh aboard the Bounty in 1778 and Charles Darwin aboard the HMS Beagle in 1835. Today most visitors are usually celebrating a honeymoon or anniversary. Tahiti’s larger size makes it a center for tourism and resorts, but the smaller islands have basically the same features and attractions in a setting that has fewer tourists and fewer permanent inhabitants.