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Top 5 places to visit on the Island of Tahiti

Updated on June 30, 2011

The word Tahiti instantly draws to mind images of blue lagoons, coral reefs, and pristine beaches. Since its first appearance on the map in 1767 this Line island in the archipelago of French Polynesia has been seducing visitors from around the world. Tahiti is usually the first stop for voyagers heading off to more remote destinations such as Moorea, Huahine or Bora Bora. Being the largest and most populated island in French Polynesia, it's worth it to stay an extra day or two to take in and discover Tahiti's hidden beauty.

The island of Tahiti is divided into two distinct parts: Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti (Big and little Tahiti), formed by volcanoes and connected by the plateau of Taravao. French Polynesia's capital and economic center, Papeete, is located on the Northwest rim of Tahiti Nui. Here, Polynesian culture unfolds for the speculative tourist and its mysteries become even more tantalizing. The vibrant city and Pacific energy, emerge into a living gallery of sight and sound. Let your senses be your guide as you discover the various facets of Polynesian life on the main island of Tahiti.

Tahiti's Top 5

Below is a list of the top 5 Places to see before leaving mainland Tahiti. There are many more points of interest, not included on this list, that are open for you to discover. For more information about these and other sights in French Polynesia, visit the tourist website at:

1.) The Marketplace in Papeete

WIth over 200 stands selling products from every island in the archipelago, one's senses take a nose dive into complete Polynesian immersion. Taste the fresh pineapple, smell the vanilla, and marvel at the variety of black Tahitian pearls. The flower market impresses visitors and natives alike, selling tropical hibiscus, tiare, and cana. You might want to take note that merchandise sold in the market is a fraction of the price compared to items bought on neighboring islands.

The market is open from 5:30/6am-5pm monday-thursday. Fridays and Saturdays (6am-12pm), closed on Sundays.

2.) Guided Safari Visits

Outside Papeete, the island can be hard to access, especially between Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti. Many Safari companies offer tours, providing easy access to the island's main sights. Tour guides reveal cultural information about Tahiti's customs, myths, and Taboos. Choose between full day and half day excursions with companies such as 4x4 safari, Tahiti safari expedition ( or Patrick adventure.

3.) Tahiti Iti

The smaller half of Tahiti, Tahiti Iti, is a bit more rugged and not as easy to access as Tahiti Nui. Its pristine white beaches at Maui beach and the black sand on the shore of Teahupoo, are worth crossing the plateau of Taravao. For those of you looking for a little more adventure, try hiking the Pari trail, between Teahupoo and Tautira. This two day hike crosses over some of the more rigorous points in Tahit. A guide is highly suggested due to dangerous cliffs, which can be essentially impassable due to strong waves. For more information on guided hikes contact Mato Nui excursions at tel: 78 95 47 or e-mail them at

4.) Musée de Tahiti et ses îles (museum of Thaiti and her islands)

Musée de Tahiti et ses îles is one of the most expansive museums documenting French Polynesian life in the South Pacific. This museum displays geological artifacts and exhibits about Tahitian life and traditions such as: tattooing, weaving, and burial ceremonies. The museum depicts the evolution of the Pacific culture from its natural origins through post European colonialism. Nestled in a coconut lagoon, this museum is a must see for anyone interested in the history and culture of French Polynesia.

The museum is opened Tuesday-Saturday 9:30am-5:30pm located at Pointe des pêcheurs, Nu'uroa, Punaauia, BP 380 354 98718. website (in french)

5.) The Fautaua Valley and Waterfall

A nice and easy hike in the valley between mount Marau, Diadem and Aorai (whose three peaks overlook Papeeete) up to the top of an idllic waterfall. In order to have access to the trail, you will need to ask for a 'right to enter' pass from the town hall. The trail is open Monday-Friday from 7:30-1:30pm. The site is accessible by car or by bus. (by bus, hop on 'le truck' going in the direction of Titioro and get off at the stop hydraulique)

*Bonus sight: The Paul Gauguin Museum

If you have some time left over, or need to replace Tahiti Iti with something a little less risky, try the Paul Gauguin museum. After leaving Europe in 1895, Gauguin spent the rest of his life on the islands of Tahiti and the Marquises. Some of his greatest pieces reflected his life in the in the South Pacific, with colors clearly contrasting his earlier European style of painting. There is a small catch to this museum, there aren't actually any Gauguin paintings in the museum (at least not when I visited). Nonetheless, the information about Gauguin's life along with left over artifacts are interesting enough for any art appreciator.

For more information e-mail the museum at:

Sights of Tahiti

The Market in Papeete:
Rue Du 22 Septembre, Papeete, Polynésie française

get directions

Tahiti iti:
Presqu’île de Taiarapu, Polynésie française

get directions

Musée de Tahiti es ses îles:
Punaauia, Polynésie française

get directions

Fautaua Valley Tahiti:
Tahiti, Polynésie française

get directions

The Paul Gauguin Museum:
Taravao, Polynésie française

get directions


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