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  • Outrigger-Canoe-Racing-Tahiti - Tahitian outrigger races feature paddlers dressed in colorful pareos and traditional "heis" and leis for races and demonstrations.
  • Regent-Seven-Seas-Voyager-Tahiti - Let Seven Seas Voyager carry you to Tahiti, still one of the most beautiful spots on the planet.
  • Aerial-View-Tahiti - Tahiti, known as “The Queen of the Pacific,” is the largest and most populous of the 130 islands in French Polynesia.
  • Helicopter-Over-Tahiti - Helicopter tours over Tahiti allow visitors to view the scenic landscapes from a bird's eye view.
  • scuba_exotic_fish-1 - Encounter exotic marine life like a lionfish while scuba diving on a Paul Gauguin cruise.
  • La-Diademe-Mountain-Peaks-Tahiti - The dramatic La Diademe mountain peaks in Tahiti, the largest and most populated island in French Polynesia.
  • Kayaking-Waterfalls-Tahiti - A Tahitian man kayaks near a waterfall on Tahiti. Visitors are encouraged to do the same.
  • Tahitian-Waterfall-Papenoo-Valley-Tahiti - Follow the Papeno'o River all the way to the ancient abandoned Tahitian Village of Fare Hape and Lake Vaihiria.
  • Tahiti-couple - A Tahitian couple in traditional dress are about to greet visitors to their island.
  • Papeete-Harbor-Tahiti - Sailors and fishermen populate the harbor at Papeete on Tahiti.
  • Tahiti-Star-Flyer.jpg - The Star Flyer in Moorea, Tahiti.
  • Tahiti-scuba-dolphin.jpg - Get a different view of marine life while cruising in Tahiti.
  • Tahiti-scuba-fish.jpg - Cruise to Tahiti to enjoy scuba diving in the warm waters of Polynesia.
  • Tahiti-scuba-turtle.jpg - Enjoy regular scuba diving expeditions on cruises to Tahiti.
  • Tahiti-scuba-creature.jpg - You'ill see sea creatures you have never seen before when you scuba dive in Tahiti with TUI Travel.
  • Tahiti-scuba-clownfish.jpg - Clownfish dart in and out of rich coral reefs in Tahiti.
  • Tahiti-scuba-fish2.jpg - The coral reefs of Tahiti are teeming with fish of evey color.
  • Tahiti-butterflyfish1.jpg - The spot-banded butterfly fish is found in the coral-rich reefs of Tahiti.
  • Tahiti-butterflyfish2.jpg - Join the threadfin butterflyfish on a dive in Tahiti.
  • Tahiti-scuba-turtle2.jpg - Smile for a shot with local turtles while you enjoy your dive excursion in Tahiti.
  • Tahiti_pool - Step into a magazine cover when the Paul Gauguin takes you to the InterContinental Resort Tahiti's sublime infinity pool.
  • Tahiti-scuba-fishes.jpg - Join a dive excursion arranged by TUI Travel in Tahiti to see some of the most beautiful reefs in the world.
  • Paul_Gauguin_lagoon - The Paul Gauguin's small size allows her to maneuver from deep seas to shallow lagoons as nimbly as a yacht.
  • Tahitian-Pond-Lillypads-Vaipahi-Gardens-Tahiti - The public gardens of Vaipahi on Tahiti offer wonderful views of water, light and exquisite vegetation.
  • Tahiti-Ora - Tahiti Ora shares the authenticity and culture of the island of Tahiti and the Polynesian people through their music, dances and legends.
  • Couple-Under-Waterfall - Create a romantic memory under one of Tahiti's many waterfalls.
  • Tahitian-Mountain-Safari-Excursion - Climb into a four-wheel-drive safari vehicle while visiting Tahiti for an adventure into the island's interior.
  • Dining-InterContinental-Tahiti - You'll find romance in the air while dining at the Inter Continental on Tahiti.
  • Lighthouse-Point-Venus-Tahiti - Point Venus, within driving distance of Papeete, is home to a picturesque Victorian-era lighthouse and a monument to the crew of HMS Bounty, who landed on Tahiti here.
  • Beach-InterContinental-Tahiti - The InterContinental Resort Tahiti is known for its spectacular beach.
  • Outrigger-Canoe-Sunset - The sight of an outrigger canoe at sunset transports you back in time.
  • Sailboat-Sunset-Tahiti - At the end of a beautiful day, enjoy the view of sailboats at sunset on Tahiti.
  • Papeete-Harbor-Tahiti - Sailors and fishermen populate the harbor at Papeete on Tahiti.
  • Lighthouse-Point-Venus-Tahiti - Point Venus, within driving distance of Papeete, is home to a picturesque Victorian-era lighthouse and a monument to the crew of HMS Bounty, who landed on Tahiti here.
  • Beach-InterContinental-Tahiti - The InterContinental Resort Tahiti is known for its spectacular beach.

Tahiti travel guide: What to do & see

our guide

The vibe

Tahiti, the main island of French Polynesia, is almost like two islands in one: the main area of Tahiti Nui, home to the bustling port of Papeete and major tourist attractions; and Tahiti Iti, a laid-back region of small villages, lush mountains and quiet beaches. You can shop for black pearls and mingle with the locals in sidewalk cafes, snorkel and dive in clear lagoons or just stroll along a black sand beach.

Cruise visitors will discover a tropical paradise of sparkling lagoons, emerald mountains, white and black sand beaches and a pleasing mix of Polynesian and French culture.

Cruise ships that call on Tahiti

Top reasons to go

  • Gorgeous tropical island scenery and azure lagoons.
  • Excellent snorkeling and diving.
  • Distinctive local culture drawn from Polynesian and French influences.
At the end of a beautiful day, enjoy the view of sailboats at sunset on Tahiti.
Courtesy of Tahiti TourismeAt the end of a beautiful day, enjoy the view of sailboats at sunset on Tahiti.

Top things to do & see

Papeete

Papeete is the central hub and main port of Tahiti, the largest of the 118 islands that make up French Polynesia. It has a bustling atmosphere, with plenty of sidewalk cafes, chic shops and a central marketplace. Historic sites include two restored 19th century churches, the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Papeete and the protestant Temple de Poafi, known for its choir of Tahitian ladies dressed in white.

Gauguin Museum

Copies of Paul Gauguin’s paintings of Tahiti are displayed in open-air buildings, along with a few original works and exhibits pertaining to his life, at the Gauguin Museum. The museum is adjacent to the 340-acre Harrison W. Smith Botanical Garden, which has walking trails and beautiful views over a lagoon.

Tahiti Iti

The rural southeast section of the island, Tahiti Iti, connected to Tahiti Nui by an isthmus, is ideal for a driving tour along the coast, where you'll find waterfalls, archaeological sites and lush mountains.

Shopping

Papeete’s central market, Le Marche de Papeete, is a great place to find local souvenirs such as wood carvings, baskets, coconut oil and mother-of-pearl items. Dozens of shops sell black pearls, which are found only in French Polynesia, including the Tahiti Pearl Market. The Robert Wan Pearl Museum offers exhibits about the pearls as well as a retail shop.

Beaches

Close to Papeete and adjacent to the Sofitel resort, the Sofitel Maeva Beach is a picturesque white strand offering kayak rentals and other water sports. Two popular black sand beaches are the half-mile long Lafayette Beach and Tahuruu Beach, a prime surfing spot.

Snorkeling & scuba diving

Tahiti’s best known snorkeling and diving spot is known as “The Wrecks,” a submerged cargo ship and sea plane, which swarms with colorful fish in a lagoon just west of central Papeete. The beautiful island of Moorea, just a 30-minute ferry ride from Papeete, is encircled by a lagoon offering great snorkeling.

Golf

The Oliver Breaud Golf Course is a scenic and challenging 18-hole course  on the grounds of the Altimaono estate, a former sugarcane plantation.

Step into a magazine cover when the Paul Gauguin takes you to the InterContinental Resort Tahiti's sublime infinity pool.
Courtesy of Paul Gauguin CruisesStep into a magazine cover when the Paul Gauguin takes you to the InterContinental Resort Tahiti's sublime infinity pool.

Best bets for dining

With its French influences, dining in Tahiti takes on a French flair, even when it comes to the food carts on the street serving such fare as hot crepes with a variety of fillings. You can find French pastries everywhere, including at stands in the Marche de Papeete.

Across from the pier, Jack Lobster is a popular lunch spot for fresh seafood prepared with tropical fruit salsas and other local ingredients. Also near the pier, Le Petit Auberge offers a mix of French and Tahitian flavors in such dishes as shrimp in coconut milk and vanilla. Dishes reflecting a blend of Asian cuisines are served at Chez Jimmy across from Papeete’s town hall.

Nightlife

Papeete has a lively assortment of cocktail bars and nightclubs, including Le Royal Kikirri, where you can participate in traditional Tahitian dancing, and Le Retro, a Parisian-style bar with sunset views. Many of the major resort hotels offer Polynesian-themed entertainment with dancers, flame-throwers and traditional foods.

Family-friendly options

The lovely white sand beach of Mahana Park has water sports, a restaurant and a park area for playing soccer, volleyball and other sports. And the Lagoonarium, located a few miles west of Papeete, displays tropical marine life and also offers a daily shark feeding show.

YOLO (You only live once!)

Shark diving: Outfitters such as Eleuthera Pongee and Topdive Tahiti offer certified divers the chance to dive among several local shark species under safe conditions.

Don’t miss

Located on a ancient sacred site, The Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands is an excellent place to learn about Polynesian history and culture, including about tattooing, navigation and weaving.

To enjoy the lush backcountry of Tahiti, take a four-wheel drive tour of the Papenoo Valley, where you’ll see waterfalls, archaeological sites and fabulous coastal views.

Encounter exotic marine life like a lionfish while scuba diving on a Paul Gauguin cruise.
Courtesy of Paul Gauguin CruisesEncounter exotic marine life like a lionfish while scuba diving on a Paul Gauguin cruise.

Best time to go

High season: May to October 

Low season: November to April

Tahiti has two basic seasons: the dry season of May to October, when temperatures are a bit cooler, and the wet season of November to April. However, there is really little variation in temperatures, which from average highs of 81degrees Fahrenheit February and March to 76 degrees F in July and August.

Fun facts

  • The traditional method of “stone fishing” is still performed for special festivals. Dozens of outrigger canoes form a semicircle, and men in the canoes beat the water with stones tied to ropes, driving the fish toward the beach.
  • The word “tattoo” and its practice originated in Tahiti.
  • There are no poisonous snakes or insects in French Polynesia.

When you arrive

Docking information

Cruise ships dock right in the heart of Papeete at its waterfront esplanade. Many shops and restaurants are right within walking distance.

Getting around

Taxis are available at stands in Papeete and can be hailed from the street. Fares are expensive, and passengers should agree on a price with the driver beforehand. Public buses circulate about every 20 minutes between designated stops throughout Papeete. Rental cars are available from Avis, Europcar and Hertz.

Need to know

Documents: U.S. and Canadian citizens will need a valid passport.

Language: French and Tahitian are the official languages. Some English is spoken in the tourist areas.

Currency: The French Pacific franc is the local currency, about 100 francs to the U.S. dollar. Many shops will accept U.S. dollars.

Safety: While French Polynesia has a low crime rate, watch out for petty crime, such as pick-pocketing and purse snatching.

Your take

Have you been to Tahiti? Please share a story, tip or discovery. What was the highlight for you? Please share in the comments below.

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Maria Lenhart
I am a veteran travel writer who has enjoyed reporting on destinations far and near for many publications. My favorite way to travel is on board a ship, no matter where it's going. 

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Overheard

“The Heiva music and dance festival takes place in July along with an arts festival. Other events include the Billabong Pro Surfing competition at Teahupoo in August and early September.”

Fodor’s

“Visit in November when waters are mirrorlike and perfect for diving. The month is packed with cultural events, plus, Air Tahiti Nui tends to offer fall flight deals.”

AFAR magazine

Your take: share your experience


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