This probably isn’t the island whose photograph was on your holiday brochure. No, there aren’t any sweeping white beaches and vistas over a neon blue lagoon are few and far between. Yet this is the heart of French Polynesia and it would be a shame to bypass the waterfall-laden, shadowy mountains, unpretentiously beautiful black-sand beaches and distinctly Polynesian buzz that make Tahiti a gem in its own right. Many people immediately hightail it out of Tahiti for the white-sand bliss of Mo’orea or Bora Bora so that ironically, the most accessible and well-known island of French Polynesia remains more off the beaten track than its far-flung sisters.
The island is very much centralised around Pape’ete, the pint-sized chaotic capital with its traffic jams and smells of flowers, sweat and salt air. To islanders addicted to the city pace of life, this is the only place to be and they lap up the gritty nightlife, cinemas, music and endless array of food on hand.
While visiting Pape’ete is a must, it’s the outdoor action outside the city and cultural offerings that woo visitors to extend their stay. Hike through archaeological sites, up never-ending river valleys and past coastlines dotted with wild passion fruit. In July catch the country’s most spectacular festival, the percussion and dance-heavy Heiva and from July to October go whale-watching with far fewer tourists than you’ll find on Mo’orea. Year-round on Tahiti Iti there’s a chance there will be big waves at Teahupoo and you can hire a boat to watch pro surfers tackle the break’s cavernous tube up close.
Best places to stay in Tahiti
Tahiti & French Polynesia - Plan your trip (Chapter)
Your journey to Tahiti & French Polynesia starts here. You'll find the tools to plan your adventure: where to go and when, how much to budget, plus in-depth info on the best places to dive in the region.
Heiva: a guide to celebrating the culture of French Polynesia
'Bora Bora Heiva flower floats' by MarkWallace. Creative Commons Attribution Location: To’ata Sq, Pape’ete, Tahiti Dates: July 4-20 2013...
Tahiti & French Polynesia - Tahiti (Chapter)
While Tahiti isn't the white-sand island of your holiday brochure, it is the heart of French Polynesia. Waterfall-laden, shadowy mountains; unpretentiously beautiful black-sand beaches; and a distinctly Polynesian buzz make Tahiti a gem in its...
Tahiti and French Polynesia on a budget
No, there's no need to remortgage the house to visit Tahiti & French Polynesia. Despite a reputation for opulence and exclusivity, it's perfectly possible to visit these dreamy islands on a limited budget – if you make the right decisions...
Tahiti & French Polynesia - The Tuamotus (Chapter)
Life in the Tuamotus is equal parts harsh and paradisiacal: hardly anything grows so there's little fresh produce, and the only drinking water is collected from the rain. Yet the silence, starry skies, coral beaches, blue lagoons, idyllic motu...
Papeete Inner Island Full-Day Jeep Safari
Discover the best of Papeete on this full-day 4WD safari adventure. You'll travel through almost impenetrable rainforest to discover some of the jewels of Tahiti. This is a rare opportunity to see the places where most tourists cannot gain access. Experience the untouched majestic beauty of Papeete and uncover archeological sites on this full-day jeep safari tour.
Learning to surf in the Land of Giants
The name Teahupoo is synonymous with fear in the surfing world. Rivaling Hawaii's Pipeline as the most photographed wave in the world, Teahupoo's mountainous tube breaks near-perfectly over a shallow cheese grater of coral...
Tahiti & French Polynesia - Mo'orea (Chapter)
Mo'orea is so beautiful you'll be rubbing your eyes at your first glimpse of it from Tahiti. The loveliness of the island intensifies as you draw nearer. That turquoise lagoon that you were sure was Photoshopped in the brochure? It's better in...