Best Things To Do in Tahiti
One of the best ways to spend a Tahitian vacation is to lie back with a tropical cocktail in hand and bask in the sunshine at your resort of choice. You can also swim, snorkel, surf and more at La Plage de Maui or Papenoo Beach. To take in the incredible natural landscapes, hop a ferry to Moorea or explore the Vaipahi Gardens. But if you're itching for a different kind of adventure, you can hike to the gushing Fautaua Waterfall or shop for souvenirs in the bustling capital city of Papeete.
Updated June 12, 2019
- #1View all PhotosfreeLa Plage de Maui#1 in TahitiBeaches, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
The primary reason why so many Tahitian tourists flock to this stretch of shoreline is the sand: While many of the island's beaches boast a volcanic black hue, La Plage de Maui dazzles in pearly white. Located on Tahiti's southern shore, the clean, warm waters of the nearby lagoon are another draw – travelers say the water is unbelievably clear and the lagoon is shallow and calm. Meanwhile, the beach's snack bar serves up fresh seafood and is exceptionally popular among visitors.
La Plage de Maui is about 40 miles southeast of Papeete, but once you get there you'll see why so many make the trip. Be sure to drive carefully as Tahitian roads (and commuters) can be unpredictable.
- #2View all Photos#2 in TahitiHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
You may actually prefer visiting Tahiti during its rainy season for the Fautaua Waterfall alone, as more rainwater makes the waterfall even more dramatic. Located in the verdant Fautaua Valley, this natural wonder's sparkling water cascades into a large pool. To reach the waterfall, you'll have to take a pretty arduous hike, which is probably best done with a tour group or guide (your hotel or vacation rental host should be able to provide information on local guides).
Many travelers say you won't regret the trek to the Fautaua Waterfall. Travelers say the scenic hike is part of the adventure, though some do note the trek is a bit steep in areas and the falls can be tough to find.
- #3View all PhotosfreePapenoo Beach#3 in TahitiBeaches, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The shores of Papenoo – a small village located a little more than 5 miles along the eastbound road from Papeete – offer a reminder of the island's volcanic history. The Punaauai Beach (also known as the PK18 Beach due to its location on the road) features ebony sands that reach down into the clear blue waters of the South Pacific. And best of all, this beach doesn't see nearly as much tourist action as La Plage de Maui on Tahiti Iti. That said, you will have to compete for waves with the island's surfing community.
Although you won't find many amenities on the beach itself, you shouldn't have trouble finding something to nibble on in town. Papenoo, located on Tahiti's northern coast, can easily be reached by car or taxi from Papeete. You're welcome here anytime of the day, free of charge, but you'll want to make arrangements with your taxi driver for when you want to return.
- #4View all PhotosfreePlage du Taharuu#4 in TahitiBeaches, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Taharuu Beach is on Tahiti's southern coast in Papara and characterized by its volcanic black sands, leafy green palm trees and its width. This beach is large, meaning there's plenty of room to spread out and soak up the sun, and it's framed by deep blue water and frothy white waves. Popular with families, locals and tourists, this beach also boasts ideal swimming conditions and you may even see some surfers working on their skills. There's also an on-site snack bar.
Recent visitors said Taharuu Beach is clean and picturesque, adding that spending a day here is relaxing and enjoyable. You'll find the beach about 25 miles southeast of Papeete in Papara. There's no fee to access the beach and parking is available.
- #5View all PhotosfreePapeete#5 in TahitiEntertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Papeete is the capital city of not only Tahiti but also all of French Polynesia. Inside its boundaries, which sprawl across the island's northwest coast, are opportunities to shop, to dine and to revel in the nightlife. When it comes to shopping, black pearls and island crafts are the main items to look for. The Municipal Market in Papeete is worth a visit, too, and recent visitors said it is fun to browse the local market. Filled with fresh veggies and fruits, meat and fish, flowers and artsy goods like hats and souvenirs, the market receives high praise from travelers.
The local cuisine in Papeete is particularly enticing as well: Travelers should check out the roulottes or food trucks at Place Vaiete along the coast. Speaking of food, Chinese, French and Italian cuisines are well represented in the city. But keep in mind that restaurants in Papeete are almost universally expensive, so plan your dining budget accordingly.
- #6View all Photos#6 in TahitiBeaches, Hiking, Natural Wonders, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Hiking, Natural Wonders, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Moorea, Tahiti's sister island, is more rugged. Its landscape features a jagged outcropping called Magic Mountain, which is covered with lush foliage. Travelers can take ATV tours (and enjoy navigating the varied terrain) or hike to the top for panoramic views. There are also numerous beaches on Moorea, and Temae Beach on the north coast is one of the most popular. The island is home to a lagoonarium, where travelers can scuba dive and snorkel, and the Moorea Dolphin Center, where visitors can gaze at the marine mammals to their heart's content. A number of resorts line the northern coast of the island, too.
Recent visitors loved the lagoonarium, citing the ability to get up close and personal with sharks, stingrays and hundreds of colorful fish as a neat experience. Travelers also enjoyed Temae Beach for its pristine condition and relatively quiet atmosphere. Reviewers also said the vantage point from the sand offers stunning views of the water and islands in the distance.
- #7View all Photos#7 in TahitiMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands (Musee de Tahiti et des Iles in French) is dedicated to educating visitors about this beautiful archipelago. The museum is divided into four distinct sections: the first focuses on geography and natural history, the second on pre-European culture, the third on the effects of colonization and the fourth on natural wonders. If you tire of perusing the exhibits, step outside for great views of surfers tackling the ocean waves.
Recent visitors appreciated the museum's concise, easy-to-understand exhibits about the history of Tahiti and much of French Polynesia. Many were pleased that there were displays in English and French, and several travelers said the gift shop was excellent.
- #8View all Photos#8 in TahitiHiking, Natural Wonders, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDHiking, Natural Wonders, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Faarumai Waterfalls, located in the village of Tiarei, is accessed by a short hike through the forest. There are actually three beautiful cascades to enjoy. The first is called Vaimahutu. If you walk for another 20 minutes or so, you reach the second and third falls, called Haamarere Iti and Haamarere Rahi, respectively. Recent visitors said the falls, at least the first one, are easily accessed and beautiful. Many say it's a not-to-miss sight. However, many warn of aggressive mosquitos and recommend wearing insect repellent.
Faarumai Falls sit close to Tahiti's north coast, about a 30-minute drive from Papeete via the island's main road. There is free parking and no fee to enjoy the falls.
- #9View all PhotosfreeVaipahi Gardens#9 in TahitiParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Situated along Tahiti's southern coast in Mataiea, the Vaipahi Gardens are a verdant paradise. Visitors will find more than 75 plant species from all over the world (marked with signs and information in English and French), exotic flowers, a lily pond and streams that wind through the area. Travelers said they were impressed with how well-maintained this natural attraction is. Many said that they loved its tranquility, the easy-to-traverse trails, the small waterfalls and the vibrant flora throughout.
The Vaipahi Gardens are located about 30 miles southeast of Papeete and entry is free. There's on-site parking available, plus companies like Viator offer guided hikes and tours of the area (for a fee; transportation included), which often include a stop at the Maraa Grotto (where visitors can see the caves and swim in the pools) as well.
- #10View all Photos#10 in TahitiNatural Wonders, Recreation, SportsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Recreation, SportsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Tahiti's two distinct surfing seasons allow both inexperienced and expert surfers to take advantage of the varying swells. Travelers can head to several surf spots on the island: Papara, Papenoo and Taapuna are for the beginner to intermediate crowd, while Teahupoo on Tahiti's southwestern coast is for experts only. Teahupoo is undeniably the most challenging spot for surfers to catch waves in Tahiti, producing serious swells (with waves up to 25 feet high) that break over a shallow coral reef. It's often compared to Hawaii's Pipeline, for those familiar with the film "Blue Crush," and it hosts the Billabong Pro surf competition annually.
If you haven't surfed before and you're interested in learning, you're in luck – there are a few surf schools in Tahiti. Ecole de Tura'i Mataare and Tama He'e surf schools offer instruction for first-timers, beginners, intermediate and advanced surfers. Lessons can be private or held in small or large group settings; all equipment is provided and some packages are available that extend through a week or include lunch and other activities. Prices vary depending on the season, time length and type of lesson. For more information on the surf schools, visit the companies' websites. Visitors also say even if you're not inclined to grab a surfboard and get out in the waves yourself, heading to one of these beaches to watch the surfers navigate the barrels is a treat.
- #11View all Photos#11 in TahitiHistoric Homes/Mansions, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDHistoric Homes/Mansions, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
James Norman Hall, a World War I army pilot, made a fortuitous friendship with Charles Nordhoff shortly after the war's end, and the pair began collaborating on novels together. In 1920, the writers moved to Tahiti together and wrote several novels including the celebrated "Mutiny on the Bounty." This museum, which was opened by Hall's family, contains a number of the author's belongings. You can also take a short staff-led tour of the house, which is an exact reproduction of Hall's home.
Recent visitors said bookworms and history lovers will enjoy this attraction, adding that the guides are helpful and knowledgeable. Travelers were also impressed by the verdant and colorful gardens that surround the home. However, others warned that if you aren't a fan of his work, you may not find this interesting.
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