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Things to Do in Tahiti

While wide, white-sand beaches are often the object of vacationers’ affections, don’t let Tahiti’s lack of them deter you. The largest island in the French Polynesia’s Windward Islands, Tahiti one-ups those garden variety shorelines with black-sand beaches, formed from the erosion of volcanic materials. Tahiti is home to the raucous capital of Papeete, where cultures from all over Polynesia mix. Papeete, home to the only international airport, is where most travelers land, and the city itself is worth exploring. City tours are available—including bus and Segway tours—and include stops at highlights such as the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral, the Municiapl Market (Marché de Papeete), and the bust of Pouvanaa a Oopa. Then, it’s on to experience some of Tahiti’s natural phenomena in the mountainous, rainforested interior: Tours via 4WD, either self-drive or guided, are popular. Be sure to hit island landmarks such as the scenic lookout at Taharaa, beaches of Matavai Bay at Venus Point, and the Arahoho Blowhole (Trou de Souffleur de Arahoho). The west coast of the island is home to ancient Polynesian temples, where you can learn the history of the Polynesian people. Further insight into the South Pacific’s flora and fauna can be found at the Vaipahi Gardens. Water sports are a major draw, and floating in the cerulean waters among the abundant marine life is part of the package, whether on a sunset cruise, a whale-watching cruise, or a ride out to watch the surfers ride the Teahupoo waves.
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Arahoho Blowhole (Trou de Souffleur de Arahoho)
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9 Tours and Activities

Perched along the rocky coast of Tahiti and bordered by a scenic black sand beach, Arahoho Blowhole is one of the island’s most visited natural wonders. As waves crash against the shore, a powerful geyser-like eruption sends spectacular plumes of water into the air, wowing visitors and creating the opportunity for some impressive photos.

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Faarumai Waterfalls
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8 Tours and Activities

There are numerous waterfalls all over Tahiti, but the most popular and accessible are the three waterfalls at Faarumai, known as the Cascades of Faarumai. Turning off the main coastal road, a dirt track cuts through the teeming jungle to a parking spot. From there a 5 minute walk brings you to the first cascade, Vaima Hutu. This is a truly impressive sight, with crystal clear water rushing down a sheer rock face into a cool, inviting pool.

The other two waterfalls – Haamaremare and Haamaremare Iti – are close by each other about 30 minutes’ walk away, and are well worth seeking out.

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Marché de Pape'ete (Pape'ete Market)
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The sights, sounds and smells of authentic Polynesian life are on offer at Pape'ete’s main market, the Marché de Pape'ete (Pape'ete Market). The indoor market hall is the commercial and social hub of Tahiti’s laid-back capital and the oldest surviving institution on the island.

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Notre Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale de Notre Dame)
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2 Tours and Activities

Recognizable for its sunny yellow façade, Notre Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale de Notre Dame) is one of the oldest and largest churches in Papeete. The Gothic structure was originally built between 1844 and 1875 but has been destroyed and restored several times, most recently in 1987.

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Bougainville Park (Parc Bougainville)
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This small park with a tranquil stream, benches, lush vegetation, and an enormous banyan tree providing shade to visitors was named after Louis Antoine de Bougainville, a French explorer who believed he had discovered Tahiti and claimed it for France, unaware that less than a year prior it had been discovered by Samuel Wallis.

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Vaima Shopping Centre

The Vaima Shopping Centre is the largest shopping mall in Tahiti, French Polynesia's main island. This multilevel mall opened in 1977 and is located in the capital city of Papeete. At the Vaima Shopping Centre, visitors can shop at high end stores for clothing, jewelry, shoes, electronics, art, and much more. Some worldwide brands include Nike, Billabong, and Bose, but there are also many other local stores at the mall. It's a great place to buy souvenirs and island themed clothing. The mall is well known for its French bookstores that sell books in both English and French in many different genres and maps of the French Polynesian islands. A popular item to shop for in Tahiti is the Tahitian black pearl, and there are several shops in the Vaima Shopping Centre that specialize in black pearls.

The mall has restaurants and cafes, so you can take a break from shopping to get something to eat. There are also a few travel agents, airline offices, a locksmith and shoe repair shop, salons and a bank.

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Robert Wan Pearl Museum (Musee de la Perle Robert Wan)

Established by local entrepreneur Robert Wan, Robert Wan Pearl Museum (Musee de la Perle Robert Wan) explores the role of the pearl in art, history, and literature. Exhibits reveal how pearls get from the sea to the display case and how ocean jewels were associated with religious rites and coveted as status symbols.

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Papaeari

Tahiti is not overflowing with historic monuments, which makes Papaeari stand out even more. It is the island’s oldest village, settled somewhere between 400 and 500 AD. It is also known by art lovers for its association with Paul Gauguin, who lived in the area. The nearby museum dedicated to his life is one of the area’s major draws.

But this is also a great place to relax and enjoy island life – watch fishers bringing in the daily catch which may well end up on your plate. Hike in the hinterlands, stroll black sand beaches or travel west along the south coast to reach Atimaono, where you'll find Tahiti’s only golf course.

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Museum of Tahiti and the Islands (Musée de Tahiti et des Îles)

The Museum of Tahiti and the Islands (or Musée de Tahiti et des Îles) represents one of the world’s most important repositories of cultural and natural studies concerning the Polynesian archipelago. It is divided into 4 sections covering nature and anthropology, habitations and artifacts, social and religious life and finally the history of French Polynesia.

Costumes, customs, handcrafts and rituals of the island-dwellers are all thoughtfully presented, along with etchings and drawings capturing Europeans’ first impressions of the South Pacific.

Natural wonders on show include stuffed birds, preserved plants and a display of seashells, some particularly large. The museum’s own natural surrounds are free to visit, and abound with native species.

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To'ata Square (Tahua To'ata)

To'ata Square (Place To'ata) is the main hub for cultural events, performances, rock concerts, and festivals in Papeete, including the annual Heiva Festival, the largest annual cultural festival in Tahiti. Anchoring the square is a 5,000-seat pavilion with an outdoor stage. Onsite snack bars sell light bites and drinks in the evenings.

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More Things to Do in Tahiti

Vai'ete Square (Place Vai'ete)

Vai'ete Square (Place Vai'ete)

2 Tours and Activities

Located in downtown Papeete, Vai'ete Square (Place Vai’ete) is a nice place to take a relaxing waterfront stroll during the day. At night, however, the atmosphere becomes much more lively as colorful food wagons (roulottes) offering local cuisine and decadent desserts open to the masses.

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Paofai Gardens (Jardin de Paofai)

Paofai Gardens (Jardin de Paofai)

Stretching from To'Ata Square to Vaiete Square, Paofai Gardens (Waterfront Esplanade) are ideal for scenic strolling. Watch boats sail by as you enjoy snacks from vendors selling fresh juices, popcorn, and French pastries, who enhance the Parisian feel of the park.

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Papeete Town Hall (Mairie de Papeete)

Papeete Town Hall (Mairie de Papeete)

This butter-cup yellow building is surrounded by palm trees, a pond, and manicured gardens. The Tahitian flag flies proudly atop Papeete Town Hall, while inside, crystal chandeliers, glass furnishings, historical artifacts, and pink Italian marble give the space an air of grandeur.

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Territorial Assembly (Place Tarahoi)

Territorial Assembly (Place Tarahoi)

Built in the 1960s on the site of Queen Pomare IV of Tahiti's residence, the Territorial Assembly (Place Tarahoi) is home to the Presidential Palace and French Polynesian Assembly. Its also surrounded by manicured gardens dotted with memorial statues.

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