Palm trees on a tropical beach of Moorea, Tahiti
Palm trees on a tropical beach of Moorea, Tahiti

The turtle-shaped island of Tahiti is the largest of the 118 islands that create the archipelago of French Polynesia. It’s also a perfect vacation destination if you want to experience the slow-paced rhythm of tropical living. Blessed with balmy weather and pristine beaches, Tahiti is a seductive floral oasis of relaxation. As soon as you arrive at Tahiti Faa’a International Airport, you’ll be wrapped in a veil of aromas of flowers, especially since you’ll be welcomed with flower leis.

The island’s coast is adorned with lovely beaches caressed by crystal clear turquoise waters, while its interior abounds with deep valleys, peaks that touch the clouds, rivers, and waterfalls, all creating a corner of paradise untouched by time. 

Beautiful beach on Moorea island in French Polynesia
Beautiful beach on Moorea island in French Polynesia

Relax on the sand

All travelers come to Tahiti to bask on its beautiful beaches. The superb ribbons of sand awaiting on the lagoons and motus are as soft and pure as you can expect from a land like French Polynesia. The most famous of all is Lafayette Beach, an exceptional strip of black sand colored by volcanic rock. The beach stretches for 2,624 feet on the edge of Matavai Bay and welcomes travelers with incredibly soft sand and superb views to the southwest. Even though the background is dominated by the Radisson Plaza Resort, the beach is open to the public and offers plenty of space for everyone to enjoy their own corner of private paradise. 

Woman snorkeling in Tahiti
Woman snorkeling in Tahiti

La Plage de Maui situated on the southern shore of Tahiti Iti is dressed in glittering white sand and many consider it to be the best beach on the island. Its lagoon is calm and inviting, perfect for swimming or just enjoying a dip into the warm waters. If you’re searching for a less popular beach, the half-mile-long Plage de Toaroto is the perfect choice, especially if you love snorkeling. Surfers usually gather at Papanoo Beach on the north coast, and Teahupoo Beach, where they can take on six-to-eight-foot tubes. Visit Point Venus Beach not only for its soft black sand, but also to admire an old lighthouse and discover why many scientists and researchers, like James Cook, were fascinated by this place. 

Polynesian women perform traditional dance in Tahiti Papeete, French Polynesia. Polynesian dances are major tourist attraction of luxury resorts of French Polynesia
Polynesian women perform a traditional dance in Tahiti Papeete, French Polynesia. Polynesian dances are a major tourist attraction of luxury resorts of French Polynesia

Change the pace in Papeete

The island’s capital, Papeete is vibrant and lively. You will instantly feel the rhythm change and you’ll get swept into the traditional lifestyle of the island’s residents, especially in the crowded area of Toata, a venue that hosts various cultural events. The city is home to interesting art and history museums, as well as numerous cultural exhibitions, but many come here to discover its floral universe hidden inside botanical and flower gardens and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the colorful market. Bougainville Park charms nature lovers while the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-Papeete that dates back to 1875 attracts all travelers due to its striking yellow color and red roof. 

Palm tree hanging over lagoon with jetty
Palm tree hanging over the lagoon with jetty

The town has a certain French flavor and abounds in cafes, nightclubs, and the lovely nightly les roulettes where you’ll find local food and an irresistible universe of flavors. The traditional market dominates downtown Papeete and attracts travelers in search of handicrafts, oils, perfumes, and souvenirs. Head to the Belvedere restaurant that awaits at an altitude of 600 m and offers guests the most beautiful views of the town and the surroundings, all the way to the island of Moorea. This also is the starting point for a lovely hike up to Mt. Aorai that will take you into the heart of the island and 2,000 m above the sea level.

Tahiti
Tahiti

Embrace the variety of the west coast

On the west coast of Tahiti, at Punaauia, you’ll discover a powdery white sand beach and superb views of the coast. You’ll arrive then at Pointe des Pêcheurs. This is where the Museum of Tahiti and its islands awaits, the perfect place to learn more about Polynesian history and culture, including the traditions of the local people and the diversity of the islands’ underwater universe. If you’re heading south, you’ll encounter the Maraa Grottos, a unique park with winding pathways that lead to ferny caves, lovely gardens, and tranquil pools. While some prefer to walk into the caves, there are others who are not afraid of a bit of a challenge and swim to the Paroa Grotto, an underwater cavern surrounded by many legends.

Plumeria flowers blooming against the sky
Plumeria flowers blooming against the sky

Keep driving south and you’ll find the town of Papara, known for its wide white sand beach and a popular surfing spot. The next village, Papeari, is a must see, especially due to its fascinating Gauguin Museum and Botanical Garden. The museum is home to 25 original works by Gauguin who lived in Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands for the last 12 years of his life, while the Botanical Garden has an impressive collection of tropical plants, numerous walking trails, and superb views over the lagoon.

Surfing in Tahiti
Surfing in Tahiti

After you pass the Gauguin Museum and keep going south, you’ll be entering a different world. Even the locals are a bit different here than the ones living on the rest of the island. The scenery is reigned by superb white sand beaches and gorgeous scenery while the people see about their daily lives without being aware of the vibrant rhythm of Papeete or the tourist crowds. The west/south coast adventure ends at Teahupoo, in a land of flowery gardens and gigantic waves. 

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