Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia French Polynesia Society Islands Tahiti



Tahiti is the largest and most populated (just under 200,000 inhabitants) island of the Windwards Islands of French Polynesia. It is located in the Society Islands archipelago in the northwestern region of the country. The capital is Papeete.




Tahiti measures over 1,000 square kilometres and contains two round parts centred around volcanic mountains. The parts are connected by a narrow isthmus. Mount Orohena is the highest mountain at 2,241 metres above sea level. The northwestern part is Tahiti Nui (big Tahiti). Here you will find Papeete, the airport and many hotels and beaches. Tahiti Iti (small Tahiti) is much more quiet. You can drive around Tahiti Nui and there even is a rougher road across the interior. Tahiti Iti has some roads along the coastline as well, but you can not drive around.




  • Papeete- capital and largest city of French Polynesia



Events and Festivals

  • Bastille Day, the French national holiday, is celebrated here on July 14th. People flock to the streets of Papeete to watch the military parade.
  • Heiva i Tahiti' - The biggest of all Tahitian festivals begins on June 29, the day of French Polynesia‘s Autonomy celebrations, and extends into July 14, when French territories celebrate Bastille Day. Papeete’s paved waterfront To’ata Square is where much of the action takes place in between. People from across French Polynesia’s five archipelagos take part in Heiva i Tahiti’s countless sporting competitions, beauty pageants, parades, and food tastings. There are also competitions in stone weight lifting, palm tree climbing, and coconut cracking. Colorfully dressed Tahitian dance troupes perform to traditional music on To‘ata Square’s open amphitheater and stage as vendors sell their handicrafts nearby.
  • Chinese New Year - Most of Tahiti’s Chinese population is the descendants of migrant workers who came from China to work on the island’s cotton plantations in the 1860s. Today, most of the five percent of Tahiti’s population who are of Chinese descent are shopkeepers who celebrate Chinese New Year in the heart of Papeete. This early to mid-February event starts with official opening ceremonies at Papeete’s town hall, then culminates with a lantern march through the streets of Tahiti’s capital and a grand ball filled with Chinese cultural performances.
  • FIFO Tahiti - Tahiti’s Pacific International Documentary Film Festival, better known as FIFO Tahiti, takes place at Papeete’s Te Fare Tauhiti Nui cultural center for six February days each year. The event includes television conferences, documentary film screenings, and competitions for filmmakers, who can also attend workshops and round table discussions.
  • Tahiti International Tourism Day - This annual September festival is geared especially towards Tahiti’s tourists, who are treated to endless traditional sporting events, food tastings, arts and crafts demonstrations, and other spectacles. Tourists also receive discounts on museum fees and shopping bargains. Locals also get into the spirit of this national holiday dedicated to Tahiti’s biggest industry by wearing colorful traditional clothing complete with exotic flowers tucked beneath their ears.
  • Tahiti Carnival - Papeete’s exuberant October Tahiti Carnival, like its South American and Caribbean counterparts, is filled with street parties, colorful dancers, and elaborate floats. Townships across Tahiti build their own floats under the greatest of secrecy before unveiling them at the Papeete parade attended by nearly 10,000 spectators. The crowning of the Queen and King of Tahiti is another carnival highlight.
  • Tahiti Pearl Regatta - This mid-May sailing regatta takes place over three stages and three days between Tahaa, Bora Bora, and Raiatea. Each night of the regatta, the winners of each stage receive trophies at dinners with traditional Tahitian entertainment. Although the main Tahiti Pearl Regatta race is open to sailing boats of all sizes, a separate race called Défi Pro is open only to professional and sponsored crews.




Located almost entirely within the tropics, the climate of Tahiti is tropical. The average temperatures are around 28 °C to 32 °C during the day and still well above 20 °C at night. The hotter months are between November and April and this is also the wet season (which peaks in January) with much more rain compared to June to September. Also, occasional tropical storms hit the islnd during this time, though certainly not every year.



Getting There

By Plane

Faa'a International Airport (PPT), 5 kilometres southwest of Papeete, handles all international flights to and from French Polynesia. The national carrier, Air Tahiti Nui, flies to Auckland, New York, Los Angeles, Osaka, Paris, and Tokyo.

Other airlines flying into PPT include Air France (from Los Angles and Paris), Air New Zealand (Aukland), Hawaiianair (Honolulu), Air Tahiti (Rarotonga), Aircalin (Nouméa) and Lan Chile (Hanga Roa, Santiago de Chile).

There are two airlines operating scheduled domestic air services.

  • Air Moorea - Moorea-Temae.
  • Air Tahiti - Huahine, Raiatea, Bora Bora, Maupiti, Rimatara, Rurutu, Tubuai, Raivavae, Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa, Mataiva, Tikehau, Rangiroa, Manihi, Ahe, Arutua, Kaukura, Takaroa, Takapoto, Kauehi, Katiu, Makemo, Anaa, Raroia, Hikueru, Hao, Tatakoto, Pukarua, Reao, Mangareva.

By Boat

Tahiti - Moorea vv
There are ferries and catamarans travelling between Tahiti and Moorea several times daily. It takes between half an hour and an hour to travel between Tahiti and Moorea, depending on which company you go with. The car ferries, such as those run by Mo'orea Ferry, are slower than the high-speed ferries, which take only passengers, motorcycles and bicycles. The Ono-Ono has at least four crossings daily. The Aremiti 5 and the Moorea Express travel between Tahiti and Moorea six or more times daily between 6:00am and 4:30pm and this takes only 30 minutes.

Outer Islands
There are also services, often combined with cargo, to more outlying islands, but on an less frequent basis, sometimes even only once a month. Boats usually leave from Papeete. Destinations include the Marquesas Islands, Austral Islands, Tuamota Archipelago, Bora Bora and even as far as the Gambier islands (Mangareva). An brief overview of the boats travelling to island further afield include:

  • The small cargo ship Maupiti Tou Ai'a goes to Maupiti from Papeete once a week, leaving on Wednesday evening, arrives at Maupiti the following morning, and returns to Pape'ete on Friday.
  • Vaeanu operates the Pape'ete-Huahine-Ra'iatea-Taha'a-Bora Bora return trip, leaving Pape'ete on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:00pm and from Bora Bora on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
  • Hawaiki Nui also travels the Society Islands circuit, and has two departures a week (Tuesday and Thursday at 4:00pm).
  • The Aremiti 3 travels from Papeete on Monday and Friday for Huahine and Ra'iatea.
  • About 10 ships operate through the Tuamotus. Rroutes and fares vary, so it's best to check with the offices for the individual ships. They include the Dory, Cobia I, Rairoa Nui, Saint-Xavier Maris-Stella, Nuku Hau, Mareva Nui, Vai-Aito and the Kura Ora. All these ships, except for the Dory, go to the Gambier Archipelago. The Nuku Hau sails to the Gambier Archipelago via the Tuamotus. The Taporo V sails through the eastern Tuamotus and the Gambier Archipelago once or twice a month.
  • The Aranui and the Taporo IV go to the Marquesas, stopping in the Tuamotus en route. together, they go about 2-3 times a month.
  • Services to the Austral islands are limited. The Tuhaa Pae II ([email protected]) goes three times a month, stopping at Rurutu and Tubuai on every trip and other islands less regularly.

Check the ferry link about all possibilities.



Getting Around

By Car

You can rent cars on Tahiti and a 4wd is only recommended when visiting some inland tracks. Fares are high, but as you don't need a car for more than a few days, it is not that bad, especially if you are with 3 or 4 people to share costs.
Motorcycles, scooters and bikes are for rent as well.

By Bus

The most common form of transportation around Tahiti is "le Truck". It is a rickety public open-air bus with wooden passenger cabins that will stop on the side of the street and serve different cities. Prices are very inexpensive, normally set around 100 to 200 CFP (about US$2) per person and most will end up in the centre of downtown close to the market. Other means of transportation include scooters or private cars. Most rental cars will be stickshift and end up being around 9,000 CFP per day (about US$90). There is a multitude of bikes to rent cheaply. This is especially a good idea on Sundays as everything is closed and you can end up discovering the islands.




Do note that tipping is not a custom in Tahiti. It is beginning to be seen in some of the restaurants and hotels on the larger islands, but in general Tahitians do not expect your tip as it is included in the final price.

"Roulottes" (snack shops on wheels) are especially popular on Friday nights to get some great Chinese food, crepes, and French-style dishes. You won't miss it since it is located along Papeete's waterfront. Unbelievably delicious meals at bargain prices in a fun and local atmosphere. When possible eat here as a meal for two can be had for 30 FPF, which is much less than a hotel meal (plus you get plenty of food).

The main island dish to try is the "poisson cru" ("raw fish" in French.) It is a fresh fish marinated with lime juice and coconut mixed with vegetables. Many varieties can be found all over including Poisson Cru Chinois (Chinese style), Poisson Cru Ananas (pineapple style). Parrotfish, ahi, mahi mahi, and other fresh fish are divine in a light sauce made from Tahitian vanilla and coconut milk. Do not miss the exotic tropical fruits.

Baguettes are found all over the island at a very reasonable price. As well as baguettes, Tahitians have created the "baguette sandwich" where everything from fish to french fries are stuffed into.

Make sure you also try the very popular Chinese ma'a tinito (which is a mixture of pork, kidney beans, Chinese cabbage and macaroni.)

Family occasions and celebrations are the time for a huge tamara'a Tahiti (Tahitian-style feasts) where a meal consisting of suckling pig, fish, breadfruit, yams and fe'i bananas is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in an earth-dug oven over layers of hot rocks.

If you are looking for fine dining, definitely head to Paea south of Papeete to Chez Remy or Le Carre at Le Meridien. Pricey, but fantastic meals. Chez Remy definitely hits a 5 star at both meals with a large French menu and best wine and drinks selection, and very friendly, relaxed staff who also spoke perfect English. The Papaya dessert is beyond delicious. Plan $28–$45 pp USD. The Italian restaurant near the Le Meridien entrance is also divine; perfect stone oven baked pizza, divine Anchovie-Caper-Olive Spaghetti.

Tips: get French creamed cheese at breakfast on your crepes. Also, plan for your meals. Many restaurants don't open until 7:00pm. Some of the hotels have multiple restaurants that serve different menus at different times of the day, and changes by day, which made for limited selections and inability to order something you saw the day before. Some restaurants and businesses on the island close from 12:00-1:30pm, some until 3:00pm, which can make shopping and eating on a whim difficult.




Bottles of water are readily available. Being a French territory, wine is common and easy to find. As this is a tropical island, a multitude of fruit juices from pineapple juice to coconut milk are to be found everywhere. It is sometimes better to crack open your own coconut yourself and drain it for lunch. If you're a fan of beer, the Hinano Beer will definitely be one you will like to taste and bring a few cans home.

Music and dancing tell the story of the Tahitian people. Most hotels feature evening entertainment. Club dancing is also available in downtown Papeete but close at 3:00am. You will probably not even get out that late, so tired that you will be from spending so much time in the sun discovering the island.




Accommodation in Tahiti can run from the most luxurious 5-star hotels like Tahiti Intercontinentalwith overwater bungalows, security, a bar, a pool, to small family pensions. If you're staying in one of the pensions, do try to bring insect repellent. Many of the accommodations in Tahiti are of the older style from the early 70's to today.

Several international groups are established: InterContinental, Sofitel, Novotel, Le Meridien, Starwood-Sheraton, Orient Express, Club Med and Radisson. Two local chains, Maitai and South Pacific Management, complete the hotel scene. Although complying with international standards, the overwater bungalows are decorated in Polynesian-style with the use of pandanus, bamboo and shell light fixtures. Some bungalows are fitted with glass-bottomed tables for watching the fishes without ever getting your feet wet. Be advised that the Radisson is quite a way from the airport and is perfect if you want to relax, but makes getting into town difficult (either a limited hotel shuttle or an expensive taxi ride).

View our map of accommodation in Tahiti


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: -17.6509195
  • Longitude: -149.4260421

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This is version 20. Last edited at 21:49 on Nov 21, 17 by Teoni. 21 articles link to this page.

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