Things to Do in Tahiti
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More Things to Do in Tahiti
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.
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.
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.
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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