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31 Great Things To See and Do in Tahiti

31 Great Things To See and Do in Tahiti


avatar   Scott
Trip Date 04/05/2014
Posted On 02/17/2020 17:03:22

Destinations | Cruises | French Polynesia | Tahiti | Self-Guided Walking Tour | Driving Tour Around Tahiti | Historical Papeete | Dining | Shopping | Excursions



A stay on Tahiti is a wonderful starting point for any French Polynesian adventure. Depending on your interests, the island offers a variety of sites and experiences - all in a perfect climate. Although the island is south of the equator, temperatures are much like those in Hawaii.

Similar to Hawaii, Tahiti was a kingdom when it was originally discovered. It was later taken over by the French and became a French colony. Tahiti is now part of French Polynesia, a semi- autonomous country that is protected by France.

With international flights arriving into Papeete, a self-guided walking tour is a great start to any visit. In addition to wandering around historical Papeete, we recommend getting away from the city to truly discover the island. A driving tour around Tahiti will allow you to explore the more rural areas as well. (Cars can be easily rented at the rental counters within the airport.)

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We'll help you plan your trip with these 31 great things to see and do in Tahiti. In addition to the points to see on walking and driving tours, we've included ideas for dining, shopping and even excursions. It's also easy to take a day trip to visit the nearby island of Moorea if you have the time! There is so much to see and do in French Polynesia that we need to go back ... soon!


Enjoying Every Minute in Tahiti

Enjoying Every Minute in Tahiti

11 Places to Find on a Self Guided Walking Tour of Papeete

It's fairly easy to get acquainted with the port area and central Papeete on your own. Here's 11 fascinating places to find on a self guided walking tour - see them all or select those that you are most interested to discover:

1. The Quay

You'll see boats docked at The Quay year round. (Across the harbor at Motu Uta is where the wharves and warehouses of the city's shipping port are located.) If you are visiting Papeete during the "dry season", it can be especially exciting. It is between the months of May and October when you'll find some of the best yachts from around the world docked at Quay de Yachts.

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2. Parc Bougainville

Located in the heart of Papeete, Parc Bougainville can be found next to the post office. With the surrounding hustle and bustle, the park is a great place to get away from the crowds, do some people watching or enjoy a picnic or snack. Named for the French explorer who originally thought he discovered Tahiti, don't miss seeing the two naval cannons on each side of the statue of Bougainville!


Cannons at Parc Bougainville

Cannons at Parc Bougainville

3. 2nd of July Square

Also located in the heart of the city with views of the harbor is 2nd of July Square. Formerly known as Place Jacques Chirac, the park was originally named after the former president of France. Each year on July 2nd, Place de 2 Julliet is filled with people paying tribute to those who have lost their lives in nuclear catastrophes.

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4. Eglise Evangelique

Originally founded in the early 1800s, Eglise Evangelique is the largest Protestant church in French Polynesia. You can't miss the grand steeple adorning the rooftop. (You likely also won't miss the outrigger canoes frequently parked across the street from the church, either.)


Eglise Evangelique

Eglise Evangelique

Outrigger Canoes

Outrigger Canoes

5. Place Toata

Depending on when you are visiting, you may find loads of activity at the waterfront park known as Toata Square. In addition to being a common starting point for sightseeing tours, the park is a favorite meeting point for locals both with and without young children. It's a fun place to see what's happening in the harbor, and if you're lucky, you might see teams training for an upcoming outrigger canoe race.

There's a popular outdoor amphitheater that serves as a year round venue for rock concerts. The amphitheater plays host to the national dance competition each year in July during the Heiva Nui Festival. There's also some open air take-out snack bars within the park offering cold drinks, ice cream cones or even a complete lunch.

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6. Place Tarahoi

The territory of French Polynesia's governmental operations are located at Place Tarahoi. Previously the home of Pomare Palace, the queen's mansion, the site was royal property in the old days.

Territorial Assembly

The building with the monument to Pouvanaa a Oopa (who spent his life fighting for independence) is home to the French Polynesian Territorial Assembly. Visitors are welcome to walk the hallways of this modern building during business hours.


French Polynesian Territorial Assembly

French Polynesian Territorial Assembly

Presidential Palace

With its beautiful gardens and fountain, the Presidential Palace is also located in Place Tarahoi. It is this building that the President of French Polynesia calls his residence.

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7. Cathedrale de l'Immaculee Conception

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception of Papeete, also referred to as Notre Dame Cathedral, is Tahiti's oldest Catholic church. Inside the colonial style church, which opened in 1875, are some impressive pieces of artwork including both woodcarvings and paintings.


Cathedrale de l'Immaculee Conception

Cathedrale de l'Immaculee Conception

8. Hotel de Ville

While the queen's home was demolished sixty years ago, you can still get a feel for the style of the former royal residence. Today's Papeete Town Hall building was opened in 1990 and, architecturally, it closely resembles the former mansion. Also referred to as Hotel de Ville (French for "Town Hall"), the building is easily recognized by its beautiful grounds, clock tower and wraparound veranda. In addition to various governmental departments, the mayor's office is located within the Town Hall.


Hotel de Ville

Hotel de Ville

9. Musee de la Perle

During a visit to the Black Pearl Museum you can see the Robert Wan Pearl, one of the largest pearls in the world. The free museum is dedicated to explaining the importance of the pearl (and more importantly the rare black pearl) in Tahitian culture. From a video presentation explaining the farming of cultured pearls to the various displays and large number of pearls collected by Robert Wan, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about this rare gem. There's also, of course, an onsite souvenir shop where you can even purchase some Tahitian pearls so that you can always remember your vacation!

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10. Palais de Justice

If you're interested in law and you'd like to see the legal system in action during your walking tour of Papeete, you may be in luck with a visit to the Palais de Justice. A public gallery is open for limited morning hours on most business days.

11. Monument aux Morts pour la France

The War Memorial is dedicated to Tahitians who died during World War I.

12. Search for the Perfect Souvenir or Gift

If you hope to return with either a souvenir to remind you of your visit or a gift for a friend or loved one, you'll find plenty of options. In addition to the many jewelry stores you'll pass offering Tahitian pearls and other fine jewelry, there are other options for those more budget conscious:

Le Marche Papeete

Even if you are not a shopper, check out the city's Municipal Market known locally as Le Marche. It's where the locals shop, and if you happen to be in Papeete on a Sunday, go very early (before 8:00 AM) to see the most action! No matter what day you go, you'll find a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables plus meats, fishes, bakery items and even handcrafted goods. Stacy fell in love with the bright and beautiful exotic floral arrangements with anthuriums, jasmine, orchids and red ginger.


Shopping at Le Marche

Shopping at Le Marche

If you are in search of an awesome breakfast, consider dining like the locals at Le Marche. Options include fruit, fish, rice, pastries and so much more!

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Centre Vaima

If you prefer more traditional retail shopping, Centre Vaima was the city's first shopping mall. While you'll find Tahitians at the market, you'll reportedly see more of the island's French and European residents shopping at the mall.


Centre Vaima

Centre Vaima

If you are ready to cool down after your walking tour, refreshing granitas (icy, fruity drinks) were available from a snack bar outside of the Cinema Hollywood movie theater during our visit!


Sipping on a Granita

Sipping on a Granita

13. Experience Dinner at One (or More) of the Roulottes at Place Vaiete

Family run food trucks are popular on all of the Society Islands including the main island of Tahiti. Starting after 6:00 PM every evening, both tourists and locals can be found lined up waiting to order their dinner at one of the many Roulottes at Place Vaiete. The large lot near the waterfront transforms into an "outdoor food court" filled with vendors operating out of their trucks. In addition to traditional Tahitian dishes (make sure to try poisson cru), you can find just about every ethnic style imaginable. There is plenty of seating and many of the dining establishments even offer table service.


Les Roulottes

Les Roulottes

Pizza at Les Roulettes

Pizza at Les Roulettes

14. Join a 4 Wheel Drive Safari Tour

Let someone else do the driving while you enjoy the ride (albeit a bumpy one) and the scenery along the way. After taking in some amazing coastal views, you'll make your way inward to the Papeeno Valley. You'll pass through lush tropical rainforests before making stops at some off the beaten path wonders including cliffs, waterfalls and archaeological sites. There are plenty of half and full day small group Safari Adventures to choose from. No matter which tour you choose, you'll have many great photo opportunities. Many tours include a snack or lunch and you may even have the opportunity to swim.


Catching the Falling Water

Catching the Falling Water

15. Marvel at the View from Le Belvedere Scenic Overlook

The uphill drive from Papeete to Le Belvedere takes just over 30 minutes and the reward is an unbeatable view. There's even a city bus that will get you to the viewpoint. From this scenic overlook located on Mount Aorai in the northwest part of the island, you'll be able to see the Fautaua Valley and the city of Papeete. In addition to sites on the island of Tahiti, you'll even be able to see the nearby island of Moorea and beyond.

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O Belvedere (closed Mondays and Tuesdays), with its outdoor terrace, is reportedly a great place for a sunset dinner.

15 Stops to Make during a Drive on the Perimeter Road

There's so much more of Tahiti to enjoy, and with a rental car you can do it at your own pace. You can drive along a Perimeter Road all around Tahiti Nui, the northwest part of the hourglass shaped island. "PK" milestones are located along the road making it easier to find various points of interest. We were happy that we drove the perimeter in a clockwise direction as we were always traveling on the inside lanes. There were plenty of places along the route where, if we were driving in the opposite direction, we would have been traveling on the edge of a cliff.

Here's 15 stops to consider as you start your planning - stop at each or choose your favorites:

16. Point de View du Tahara'a (PK 8)

Look for a former hotel parking lot on the ocean side of the road near PK 8. Although the remains of the hotel are nothing to look at, the views of Matavai Bay from this point on One Tree Hill are worth the stop. Across the bay, you'll see the city of Papeete and, in the distance, the island of Moorea.

17. Point Venus (PK 10)

At the northeast end of Matavai Bay near PK 10 lies a peninsula with a park and tall white lighthouse. It was at this point in 1769 that Captain James Cook chose to observe the Transit of Venus as it crossed the sun, hence its name Point Venus.

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The picturesque setting on the peninsula with its black sand beach, ironwood trees and lighthouse make it a popular stop for a picnic or just to absorb the view. From Point Venus, you'll look across the bay from the opposite side and also see the now extinct volcano Mount Orohena, the highest point on the island. (You may even get a special treat if your visit coincides with any kite surfers displaying their talents in the bay!)


Picturesque Setting of Point Venus

Picturesque Setting of Point Venus

18. Chinaman's Bay (PK 16)

Frequently making the list of best beaches on the island, Chinaman's Bay (aka Papenoo Beach) is on the north coast near PK 16. This beach is very popular with surfers between November and March when the waves are often the highest of anywhere on Tahiti Nui. If you just want to watch (and photograph), check out the park at the far east end of the beach. From there you'll have a great vantage point with a picture perfect background.


Surfers at Papenoo Beach

Surfers at Papenoo Beach

19. Papenoo River Bridge (PK 18)

Look for a bridge crossing over the Papeeno River just before PK 18. This is the last of the 70 bridges that cross over the river between its start at Mount Orohena and the Pacific Ocean. From the bridge, you'll have an excellent view of the Papenoo Valley.

20. Arahoho Blowhole (PK 22)

Take your raincoat if you decide to park in the small lot after the tunnel at PK 22 and get out of your car to get a good view of the Arahoho Blowhole. You'll find a deck with views of the blowhole at the end of a path (probably near a crowd of tourists). When the nearby ocean water swells, water randomly blows out of the hole in the lava rock. Depending on the size of the swell, the sprays can be huge ... and observers can easily get drenched!

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Believe it or not, the force from the water surge can be so powerful that it can pull a nearby person in and send them out to sea.

21. Faaurumai Waterfalls (PK 22)

Look for a turnoff near PK 22 with signage for Les Trois Cascades. Less than a mile down the road, there's a lot where you can park and take a very short hike though the jungle to see the first of the three Faarumai Waterfalls. Hiking further through the mosquito infested forest will bring you to the two additional waterfalls.


Faarumai Waterfall

Faarumai Waterfall

22. Anchor Point for Bougainville's 1768 Arrival (PK 37.5)

The French Explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville "discovered" the land in 1768 and named it "New Cythera". Although the place where he anchored is recognized by a plaque near the bridge at PK 37.5, he later learned that Tahiti had actually been discovered a year prior to his landing.


Recognizing Bougainville's 1768 Arrival

Recognizing Bougainville's 1768 Arrival

23. Faatautia Valley (PK 41.8)

Just over 4 kilometers further down the perimeter road at PK 41.8, you'll begin seeing views of the Faatautia Valley. If your timing is right, you might even catch a distant view of the Vaiharuru Falls.


Vaiharuru Falls

Vaiharuru Falls

24. Tahiti Iti (PK 53)

It's at the Isthmus of Taravao in the town with the same name at PK 53 where Tahiti Nui (big Tahiti) connects with Tahiti Iti (little Tahiti). If you are interested in seeing some yachts, just before the isthmus you'll find Port Phaeton. Since it's a "hurricane hole" (a naturally protected anchor spot), you may be in luck.

25. Water Gardens of Vaipahi (PK 49)

At PK 49 on the south coast of Tahiti Nui is the beautifully manicured 2 1/2 acre Water Gardens of Vaipahi and the nearby Vaima Springs. During a stroll along the paths through the gardens you'll find a lake, waterfalls, picnic areas and even a swimming hole. If you are interested in learning more about some of the island's flora and culture, this is your place.

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The freshwater Bain de Vaima is a great location for a refreshing (i.e. cold) swim. The spring water is crystal clear and, even if you don't want to swim, it's a great photo opportunity.

26. Marae of Mahaiatea (PK 39)

Although it doesn't look like it today, the Marae of Mahaiatea located just east of Papara at PK 39 was once the most revered on the island. It's interesting to see the remains still there today and try to visualize what Captain Cook saw during his 1769 visit to Tahiti.

27. Taharuu Beach (PK 38.5)

Less than a kilometer away at PK 38.5 is a beach popular with both locals and tourists alike. The beautiful black sand of Taharuu Beach along with the protected waters and easy parking make it a haven for those wanting to swim or just enjoy relaxing at the beach. It's also popular with surfers (and surfer observers, too)!


Taharuu Black Sand Beach

Taharuu Black Sand Beach

28. Paea and Punaauia (PK 29.5)

The older, colonial style homes of Paea and Punaauia, suburbs of Papeete which begin around PK 29.5, are hidden behind trees yet interesting to see. Early explorers settled in Paea and Paul Gauguin, the French painter, once lived in Punaauia.

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29. Marae Arahurahu (PK 22.5)

The ancient temple and grounds at Marae Arahurahu, located at PK 22.5, were restored in the early 1950s. Admission to the well maintained archaeological site is free. If your visit is during the month of July, try to see a re-enactment of an ancient ceremony during the Heiva Nui Festival.


Marae Arahurahu

Marae Arahurahu

30. Mahana Park Beach (PK 18.3)

For some great snorkeling or swimming, check out Mahana Park Beach located at PK 18.3 The water is clear, the sea life swimming at the reef is plentiful and the beach area is shaded by palm trees. What looks like white sand is actually tiny white pebbles!

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31. Take the Ferry from Papeete to Moorea

If you still have more time or want to see more of French Polynesia than just Tahiti, it's very easy to get to the neighboring island of Moorea by ferry. You can even take a bus from Papeete to the Gare Maritime stop (aka the Ferry Terminal). The Terevau ferry makes regular 30 minute trips between the two islands throughout the day. It's a relatively inexpensive way to travel, plus you get a view of both beautiful islands from a distance throughout the journey.


Terevau Ferry

Terevau Ferry

Need a Hotel?

After our 10 day cruise around French Polynesia, we spent two full days and one night in Tahiti. We stayed at Hotel Tahiti Nui located on the main street of Avenue de Prince Hinoi. The hotel was walking distance from the cruise port so we were easily able to walk - even with our luggage!

Reservations for this (and many other hotels) can easily be made through Booking.com. By using the link provided, The Wordy Explorers will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We truly appreciate your support!

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Moorea

Make sure to check out the first of our three posts in this series about French Polynesia. French Polynesia: The Most Awesome Cruise We've Taken is dedicated to spending time on Moorea. With how to get there, where to eat, what to see and how to get around, you're sure to find some helpful information for planning a visit to the island.

Favorite Places on Tahiti

What are your top picks for places to visit or things to do while spending time on the island of Tahiti?
31 Great Things To See and Do in Tahiti







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