We spent over two months in Tahiti and explored a lot. We came here planning a much shorter visit, but plans change on a boat! A few months later, we enjoyed our time on this big island with its happy people, experiencing the top things to do in Tahiti.
Tahiti is the largest and most populated part of French Polynesia. Islanders from all parts send their children to school here, and many remain in Tahiti to work before starting families. I read that Tahiti is home to over 68% of French Polynesia’s population. The good thing is that “big island” vibe doesn’t mean it’s unfriendly. On the contrary. We found Tahitians, and Mooreans, some of the friendliest people we’ve ever met, making it even more fun to get out and explore! Plus, they are multilingual, switching between French, Tahitian, English, and more with ease.
Get in the Water
Tahiti is surrounded by coral reefs and the clarity of the sea is perfect for spotting marine life. We joined several dives with Fluid Tahiti and saw sharks, colorful fish, and tons of turtles. Snorkel, swim, scuba, kite board, or surf. The South Pacific waters are beautiful and refreshing!
Go to Market
We went to the biggest weekly event in Tahiti, which happens every Sunday morning, and got to experience Tahiti like locals. The market (marché) in Papeete is open every day to visit, but at dawn on Sunday it pops like a nightclub. Line up for delicious Tahitian favorites, like sugary donuts and savoury roasted pork. Join the locals who come from all over the island for this fun communal experience, inside and outside the market.
Hit the Beach
You’re on a tropical island in the South Pacific, so a beach day is a must. While a volcanic island means some rocky beaches, there are several nice beaches with soft sand. The leeward side is quite industrial and waterfront land is utilized by the marine port and airport, so you have to leave Papeete to hit the beach.
Look for the beautiful public park Venus Point in the north of Tahiti. On weekends the place fills up with people bringing picnics or eating at the roulottes, playing beach volleyball, sunbathing, and swimming. The park is worth a stroll around any day.
Another popular and beautiful beach further south is Papehue Public Beach. When we visited on a hot day, the sea was calm and inviting. While there were a number of people there, locals and tourists both, it wasn’t crowded and plenty of sand was available for lounging.
Admire Street Art in Papeete
The biggest city in French Polynesia offers some of the most beautiful street art. More art gets added to the streetscape when Papeete hosts an annual festival. The large murals all over Papeete make it fun to walk around the city.
Enjoy Tahitian Food
If you like seafood, then a Tahiti must is local tuna or mahi. You can try it in multiple forms, but the poisson cru is a French Polynesian classic and a must try. Read my previous post for the best dining options in Tahiti.
Get a Day Pass
When we were stuck in the hot marina for my birthday, we devised a plan to indulge ourselves at a resort. It was easy! A resort day pass included a stunning infinity pool, a couple of bars, and lunch. It was a great way to spend the day in Tahiti, and definitely different from working on the boat in the marina. Several resorts offer this amenity as long as you book in advance. The one we went to only issued a handful of passes a day so it wouldn’t get overcrowded. We enjoyed our day feeling like vacationers in Tahiti.
Explore the Natural Attractions
The island of Tahiti is figure 8-shaped, with two sections. Tahiti Nui is the large western section where we spent most of our time. The more remote Tahiti Iti is the eastern peninsula and is known for its surfing waves.
We rented a car for a few days and drove around Tahiti Nui with a stop into Tahiti Iti. Along the way are beautiful natural attractions worth visiting, including waterfalls, blowholes, parks, and gardens. We especially liked the Water Gardens Vaipahi which had a few nice, though elevated, hiking trails.
As North American natives, we noted that all of these natural attractions are free to visit. No fees to go to the botanical gardens or the archaeological sites, on Tahiti or Moorea.
A definite must do from Tahiti is a day trip to Moorea. Fast ferries take about 45 minutes, run frequently from Papeete, and you only need to reserve if you’re bringing a car. Once on Moorea, explore this magical island by sea or enjoy the best on-shore attractions. If you can go for longer than a day, do!
That about wraps this list of Tahiti’s top things to do. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed our time in French Polynesia’s capital. After almost three months, our boat is ready, our bellies and stores are full, and we’re going to head back into the less populated parts of this archipelago. Let me know your thoughts, especially if I missed anything, in the comments.