Miles of shoreline, dozens of resorts, French cuisine to die for – Tahiti has all the makings of a honeymoon destination. But beach bums often pass over Tahiti's sands in favor of Bora Bora's ivory shores. Despite its idyllic reputation and accessibility, Tahiti is more of an off-the-beaten-path stop than a romantic getaway. However, that doesn't mean Tahiti deserves to be ignored.
Leafy forests sit beside sandy shores, French crêpes are served alongside Tahitian poisson cru (raw fish). If there ever was a place that embodies the beautiful duality of the French Polynesian archipelago, it's Tahiti. Here, the quirky, often chaotic atmosphere of the island's capital, Papeete, rubs elbows with uncorrupted natural beauty. In fact, Tahiti – the largest of French Polynesia's 118 islands – is often referred to as two separate islands despite them being joined by a tiny land bridge. Tahiti Nui is the larger, northern section where Papeete can be found. Tahiti Iti (the smaller half) is less accessible, although many visitors make the trek here for a taste of seclusion. Just note that spending a week on either part of Tahiti will cost you quite a chunk of change. But travelers agree that the warm waters, the lush jungles and the luxurious resorts are worth the splurge.
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The best time to visit Tahiti is between May and October. Although the temperatures are balmy year-round, Tahiti's winter season enjoys less humidity. Tahiti really only experiences two distinct seasons: Winter brings less rain and pleasant temperatures while the summertime – November through April – can be unbearably hot and humid, not to mention rainy. But regardless of when you travel, you can expect hotel rates to be high.
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
French is the official language of French Polynesia, though you'll find that many locals (especially those who work in tourism) speak English. However, it never hurts to brush up on a few common phrases – like "bonjour" ("hello") and "merci" ("thank you") – or bring along a French-to-English dictionary or phrasebook. Also, bear in mind that for most Tahitians, English is a second language; be patient and courteous when conversing with locals. You may also hear bits and pieces of Tahitian, the local island language, but most residents will promptly switch to French or English when communicating with you.
The currency is the French Polynesia Franc (XPF); the exchange rate fluctuates, so be sure to check it before you go.
Tahiti is a safe place for tourists. Generally speaking, there are only a couple of dangers to watch out for: pickpockets in Pape'ete and moray eels in the coral reefs on scuba dives. Most visitors soon discover that Tahiti is warm and welcoming to foreigners. In fact, locals have a philosophy called "aita pea pea" (which translates to: "not to worry"), which results in a very laid-back and affable culture. Don't be surprised if you hear absolute strangers greet you on the street.
Surrounded by the South Pacific Ocean and blessed with ample sunshine and rain, Tahiti is an ideal spot to harvest seafood and grow fresh produce. Fish reigns supreme on menus in the restaurants in this French Polynesian island, with mahi mahi, grouper and tuna undoubtedly the most popular. You'll be remiss if you don't sample Tahiti's national dish, poisson cru, which is raw tuna marinated in coconut milk and lime juice, similar to a ceviche. When it comes to fruit, the island grows some of the tastiest pineapples, coconuts and bananas. Roulottes (food trucks) are also a staple in Tahiti, dishing out a variety of quick (and cheap) eats like pizza, crepes and burgers all packed with flavor.
Many of the island's top resorts house some of the best restaurants in Tahiti – they're also some of the most expensive. However, experts, visitors and locals suggest at least one meal at one of the upscale eateries; favorites include the overwater Le Lotus at InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa and French and Polynesian fusion restaurant Le Carré at the Le Méridien Tahiti. Downtown Papeete is home to some standout restaurants as well, according to recent travelers. They say those looking for a decadent French meal should look no further than Le Grillardin or Restaurant Le Sully.
The best way to get around Tahiti is by the affordable Le Truck bus. If you're planning on doing a lot of traveling throughout the island, a rental car is another good option. A bike can be a transportation option, too. For journeys to other French Polynesian islands, you'll have to book passage on a boat or airplane. Most travelers arrive into Faa'a International Airport (PPT), which is a 3-mile jaunt from the capital city of Pape'ete. If a representative from your hotel isn't picking you up at PPT, you can hop into a Le Truck public bus or take a taxi to your destination.See details for Getting Around
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To visit French Polynesia, you'll need a U.S. passport valid for six months beyond the duration of your trip. If you're planning to stay in the country for more than 90 days, you'll also need to acquire a visa. For more information, visit the U.S. State Department's website .
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