Meet the Queen: 6 Things to See & Do in Tahiti
The island of Tahiti is often overlooked in favour of Bora Bora and Moorea by those travelling to French Polynesia, but what escapes a lot of people is that to skip it is to miss a lot. With its lush valleys, soaring peaks, mighty waves and vibrant local scene, Tahiti is the heart of French Polynesia, and there’s no better place to be if you want a glimpse of authentic island life.
Fill your itinerary with these much-recommended activities in Tahiti and get to know the Queen Island of the Pacific.
Explore the Papeete market
The bustling market in Papeete is an adventure in itself. Tahiti is home to around 70% of the population and Papeete, its capital, is inevitably the top commercial hub in the island. Located in the centre of the historic quarter and a short walk from the seafront, the two-storey market is always included in Papeete city tours so there’s no chance you’ll miss it. You also better leave some room in your luggage if you plan to drop by at the two-storey market because with the countless things that can be bought here, there’s absolutely no way you’re leaving empty-handed. Food, multi-coloured flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, oils, fish and handicrafts smother the extensive market, as well as local textiles and of course, souvenir items. This is the ideal place to shop at the end of your stay if you’re looking for something to bring home! Shell necklaces, hats, sarongs (pareos), jewellery… you name it, they’ve got it.
Hunt for the famous black pearls
Diamonds might be a girl’s best friend but Tahitian black pearls? They are the stuff of legend! The Tuamotu Archipelago and the Gambier Islands are the largest producers of black pearls in the world, and Tahiti’s marketplace and shops are anyone’s best chance of scoring one or two of the precious gems. Interestingly, common Tahitian “black pearls” are not actually black, they are actually varying shades of purple, blue, brown, green and silver. A true black Tahitian pearl is excessively rare and is hailed to be the most exquisite kind of pearl there is.
Drive around the island
Road trip! Imagine soothing sights of blue and emerald greeting you as you breeze through Tahiti’s roads! Get behind the wheel and away from the hustle and bustle of Papeete. Spend the day getting to know the island’s highways, outlying sights and natural treasures hidden in the island’s interiors including the Grotto de Maraa and the delightful Vaima Pools. Roads become more deserted the farther you get from the capital so explore the island at your own pace. It’s worth continuing on to Tahiti Iti where the road ends at Teahupoo, the most renowned surfing spot in all of French Polynesia and one of the top destinations for surfers all around the world. For an even more care-free trip, there are also half-day tours that will bring you to many of the island’s sights and attractions.
Ride the powerful waves of Teahupoo
With waves so huge they can suck the courage out of anyone, Teahupoo is not for the faint-hearted. Popularly called “Chopes”, Teahupoo is believed to have replaced the Banai Pipeline as the heaviest left-hand break in the world and only the bravest and most skilled dare take on its challenge. Home of the annual Billabong Pro, enthusiasts from all corners of the world flock to this surfing mecca to watch on in awe. You can also brush up on your own surfing skills with the many surfing courses in the area. As for sought-after Billabong Pro, it happens every August so if you happen to be in French Polynesia around that time and want to witness some epic surfing, head straight to Tahiti’s legendary Teahupoo!
Discover the Papeeno Valley on a 4x4
Tahiti’s Papeeno Valley, or Vallee de Papeeno, is one solid proof that a trip inland is as much a must as a day at the beach. It is one of the island’s largest valleys and the site of numerous archaeological sites, phenomenal waterfalls and glittering rivers. For a really enriching experience, join a 4x4 safari tour and let it take you deep into the valley where you’ll learn the story behind long-abandoned traditional houses, stone temples and geological formations. The ride itself is also an adventure to look forward to! The jeeps travel on dirt tracks, go up really steep hills and skirt sharp drops overlooking massive river valleys that will take your breath away! Here’s another fun part and be sure to ask your guide about it. Tahiti valley tours usually pass by some rivers with slick, natural basalt slides. Go take a break from the vehicle and slide your way into natural pools fringed by wild guava and ferns.
Have dinner at the roulottes
Dubbed Tahiti’s restaurants on wheels, the roulottes or food vans are the perfect source for cheap, fresh and quick food. The island has no shortage of really fine restaurants for sure but the humble roulottes are a totally different kind of experience and one of the must-try things for anyone visiting Tahiti. Locals love the roulottes so much that grabbing dinner at one has become part of local tradition where family and friends get to socialize. Go try it; you won’t regret it. After all, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do,” right?
You’ll find a lot of the delightful food caravans at the waterfront in downtown Papeete, in Place Vaiete. Come after sunset and watch as these little “restaurants” fry, sizzle and grill gastronomic delights that will make you ask for seconds.
For expert advice or more information on Tahiti and other islands in French Polynesia, enquire or call us at 1300 858 305. Our team of Tahiti travel professionals are full of suggestions for a memorable, action-packed itinerary for your next trip to Tahiti.