Tahiti is the largest of the 118 islands and atolls that comprise French Polynesia and flights to Tahiti arrive into its international airport, Faa’a.
About 70% of the population of French Polynesia reside on the island of Tahiti and of those, about 75% reside in Papeete or its suburbs. Papeete is the capital city and the commercial hub of French Polynesia. It has a colourful market offering local food, hand-made crafts and souvenirs as well as a range of pearl shops, bars and restaurants.
Tahiti is composed of two parts, Tahiti Nui or Big Tahiti and Tahiti Iti or Little Tahiti also affectionately known to locals as the Presqu’ile. These two islands parts are linked by a narrow strip of land, the isthmus of Taravao.
We love that there is so much more to Tahiti than just Papeete and the island can be a destination in itself, not just a quick stop transit island. To make the most of this island you need to get away from the main hub of Papeete and head along the coast road, be it east or west, you will end up back in the same spot as there is only one road! Tahiti is an island of hidden treasures and along the way you will discover a stunning lagoon, the black sand beaches of the east coast, majestic valley hikes and stunning volcanic peaks of the inner island, botanic gardens and turquoise waters of the west coast, rich archaeological sites, lookouts, swimming spots, picnic areas and the list goes on!
Tahiti will suit those travellers looking to experience both city conveniences & island beauty and is ideal for those willing to get out and about and discover a road less taken. The island is the perfect base to also explore Moorea given she is just a quick ferry ride across the lagoon.
Tahiti offers large hotel accommodation, smaller budget hotels and family run pensions, with the latter mainly being outside of Papeete, along the coast of the island.
Top things to do on the island of Tahiti!
- Eat at the local food vans, Roulottes, located at the waterfront in downtown Papeete.
- Venture down the stunning west coast to Teahupoo and see THE wave.
- Mix with the locals in the Paofai Gardens and watch the local Vaa’a canoeists training in the lagoon.
- Enjoy a sunset cocktail at the Pink Coconut bar at Marina Taina with gorgeous views across to Morea.
- Take a hike in the Papeeno valley and discover hidden waterfalls and breathtaking views.
- Visit the museum of Tahiti and discover Polynesia’s mythical past.
- Hire a car and drive around the island – there’s only one road so you can’t get lost!
- Visit Taravao plateau on the Presque Ile - called Little Normandy due to its unique microclimate.
- Wake up early to witness the locals selling their fresh fish and vegetables at the Papeete central market … then stick around to do some souvenir shopping of your own!
- Browse the many Pearl shops of Papeete and find your own precious Tahitian Black Pearl.
Feeling hungry? Here’s some of our favourite places to grab a bite!
- The Roulottes – these mobile food vans are scattered across the island and offer cheap, simple local cuisine such as steak & chips, raw fish, cooked fish of all sorts and a range of Chinese dishes. Outside and open air, you will sit side by side with the locals. Concentrated on the waterfront in downtown Papeete and open ‘till late – this is a must do experience in Tahiti!
- Le Cocos – a stylish, fine dining restaurant located lagoon front just outside of Papeete on the west coast. French & Polynesian infusion cuisine, stunningly presented dishes, this restaurant is a gastronomic treat!
- Le Lotus – This is the fine dining restaurant of the InterContinental Tahiti Resort, located over the water. International cuisine offering dishes from a Michelin star chef.
- L’O à la bouche – French Cuisine. Hidden in an alleyway in downtown Papeete this restaurant is a must if you’re downtown and looking for fabulous cuisine, highlighting local and French ingredients. The restaurant is very popular amongst the Papeete office workers at lunchtime, creating a bustling atmosphere.
- Blue Banana – Brasserie style food with a large menu choice. Located just outside of Papeete in Punaauia on the west coast. The restaurant has a fabulous waterfront location and is a great place to dine at lunchtime in order to maximise the stunning views across to Moorea.
- Casa Bianca – Italian & Pizza Restaurant. Immensely popular with locals on the weekend, this relaxed open air restaurant is located at the Marina Taina, just outside of Papeete in Punaauia on the west coast, and offers occasional live music. Always a crowd pleaser your wallet will thank you with a range of well priced menu options like pizzas, pasta, steak and local fish dishes. Great option for families.
- Pink Coconut - Bar & Brasserie style food. Located waterfront at Marina Taina just outside of Papeete in Punaauia on the west coast, this is a great spot to enjoy a drink and a magical Tahitian sunset at happy hour!
- The Royal Tahitian – Bar & local dishes. Located waterfront on the east coast, on the outskirts of downtown Papeete, this restaurant and bar is popular with locals. Friday and Saturday nights often offer live music and the venue is a chilled out place to enjoy a drink and sunset views.
- La Terrace - Snack & local dishes. Located in downtown Papeete, you will find a range of well-priced basic dishes from grilled fish or steak to local dishes. A good lunchtime option.
- Oasis at Vaima – Snack & local dishes. Located in downtown Papeete, this is the perfect place for a quick beverage refreshment or you will find a range of well-priced basic dishes from sandwiches to grilled fish or steak & chips to local dishes. A good lunchtime option.
- The Retro – Bar & Brasserie style food. Located on the marina side of downtown Papeete this bar is open early ‘till late making it the perfect spot to chill out and enjoy a drink anytime of the day! You will find an extensive menu of burgers, fish, local dishes and other basic snack type options.
- The 3 Brasseurs – Bar & Micro-Brewery. Located downtown just opposite the Roulottes, this is a great spot to grab a pre-dinner drink and people watch. We recommend you try a beer from their extensive menu brewed on site!