Discovering Tahiti, French Polynesia

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Did You Know?

greeted at the airport

  • Tahiti is shaped like a goldfish cracker: Tahiti Nui is a larger more popular island (where the Faa’a International Airport is located), and Tahiti Iti is the smaller peninsula. 
  • Tattoos were used to identify rank and heritage until European missionaries arrived banning tattoos from the islands in the 1890’s. Almost 100 years later, a local jeweler opened Tattoo Shop de Tahiti and once again Polynesians identified with their heritage through ink.
  • Nails were Tahitians’ first introduction to metal and became the most commonly traded item among pigs, chickens, wild boars, fruit, trees, shells, hooks, and pearls.
  • The name of Tahiti’s capital, Pape’ete, originated from transporting water from the river flowing through the small town. Settlers brought the river water back to their homes in gourds carried in woven baskets. Pape is Tahitian for water and basket translates to ete earning the town’s name Pape’ete.

The Capital, Pape’ete

downtown papeete

Papeete Town Hall

Bora Bora Lounge

mitch downtown papeete

Bora Bora Lounge

  • Being earlier in the day, we had the bar to ourselves at the pirate themed Bora Bora Lounge. Happy hour food and drink specials are featured every day from 5:00pm – 10:00pm.

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  • Our hotel, Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort & Spa, offers complimentary shuttles daily to Pape’ete. The morning shuttle allows guests to visit the public market while the afternoon shuttle provides an opportunity to visit the food trucks in Vai’ete Square, serving Chinese, French, Italian, and seafood along the harbor every evening at 6:00pm or experience Pape’ete’s nightlife. 

Pape’ete Public Market

La Route du Monoi  sign outside market

papeete market

  • The 2 story public market, Le Marché, is open daily 8:00am – 12:00pm. The first level, consists of produce, meats, seafood, flowers, souvenirs, and food stands ranging from French pastries to Japanese sushi and Chinese steamed bao buns. The vendors spill onto the surrounding streets selling sarongs, jewelry, handbags, and more. The upper level features a small restaurant and hand crafted souvenirs for sale.

in the papeete tahiti market

necklaces for sale

produce at market

pearls in tahiti

  • Just down the street from Le Marché is the upscale shopping mall, Centre Vaima, where Robert WAN Pearl Market, the leading retailer of Tahitian cultured black pearls, is located. Tahitian pearls, being naturally dark in color without added dyes, have become the most expensive and desired pearls in the world. Although Black Lip Pearl Oysters are farmed in other countries, only pearls from oysters grown in French Polynesia earn the name, Tahitian Pearl. Pearls are priced according to size, ranging from 8mm to 18mm, surface, shine or luster, and shape. 

vendor at tahiti market

upstairs papeete market
The 2nd floor restaurant seating pictured left

me at the papeete market

A Safari to the Crater

river through crater in tahiti

  • Excited to explore more of Tahiti, we climbed into the back of a Tahiti Nui Travel 4WD truck for the Pape’ete Inner Full Day Jeep Safari . But, instead of visiting the Arahoho Blowhole, watching local surfers at a black sand beach, and swimming in the Cascades of Faarumai as the tour described, we drove through the center of Tahiti, deep into the rainforest. 

Traveling Gingerbread Note: We book nearly all of our excursions through Viator and our expectations are constantly exceeded. But, the itinerary of the Pape’ete Inner Full Day Jeep Safari was actually a description for many of the half day tours operated by other tour companies.

us in tahiti at a waterfall

tahiti basin

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  • Years of the perfect altitude, wind, and rainfall created a network of streams flowing through layers of basalt rocks resulting in nearly 100 waterfalls throughout the island of Tahiti.

man made tunnel in tahiti

inside the rainforest in tahiti

  • We recommend bringing insect repellent, bottled water, and snacks on this tour. The mosquitoes were vicious, landing on our insect repellent bracelets. We stopped for lunch in the center of the crater at Relais de la Maroto in Papenoo Valley. The hotel has a small bar and restaurant with outdoor seating offering a stunning view of the valley.
Relais de la Maroto Hotel in Tahiti
Relais de la Maroto

purple flowers

lake Vaihira Tahiti

  • Lake Vaihira is the only natural lake in Tahiti and is the largest provider of freshwater and clean energy. The prawns, fish, and eels living in the reservoir migrate between the freshwater lake and saltwater ocean.

a natural water hole in tahiti

  • Most tours of Tahiti visit the Northern side or drive the circumference of the island, and we found there is also a tour that drives through the lush rainforest in the center. With most hotels and the airport being located on the North West, tour companies generally avoid the East due to the length of time involved reaching that side of the island. 

History of Breadfruit

breadfruit french fries

  • Breadfruit trees, also known as Uru, is a staple in Tahiti. There are over 120 varieties found in the Pacific.
  • The first outrigger canoes, made from the trunk of the tree, could hold 8,000-10,000 men. The canoes were sealed with latex from the tree, also made into chewing gum. The leaf (pictured above) was used as dinner plates and also as toilet paper. The inner bark was made into fabric. The bark was soaked until becoming soft and then beaten into a thin fabric. Sap from wild plants was used to dye the fabric before being made into hats, lampshades, wall hangings, and handbags.
  • Breadfruit is prepared and tastes similar to potatoes; fried, mashed, boiled, roasted, or pounded into flour. Breadfruit fries are pictured above.

Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort & Spa

hotel in tahiti

  • During our time in Tahiti we stayed at the Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort & Spa on the black sand Lafayette Beach in Matavai Bay. The hotel has scheduled activities and exercise classes every morning and afternoon such as Tahitian Dance lessons, traditional embroidery, handicrafts, coconut opening demonstrations, aquagym classes, and yoga.

me in tahiti

tahiti pearl resort restau

happy hour at tahiti pearl resort and spa

  • All hotel rooms are ocean view. The beach is accessible by stairs located near the pool. The hotel offers a happy hour special of buy one cocktail get the second cocktail free every day at the Bay Bar from 5:30pm – 6:30pm.

Polynesian performance

  • The dance of Tahiti , Ori Tahiti, expresses the history of Tahiti and evolution of the people over time. Many hotels and tour companies offer traditional buffets accompanied by a Polynesian show. 
  • In 2016, nearly 3,000 dancers gathered in Atimaono, Tahiti to perform the dance of Tahiti setting a world record.

sunset over the beach

Additional Attractions in Tahiti:

  • Arahoho Blowhole: At the end of an unmarked path is the Arahoho Blowhole. After years of the ocean crashing into the shoreline, a tunnel-like passageway eroded under the lava. A geyser of seawater erupts as large waves crash into the shore.
  • World Surf League Tahiti Pro: If visiting Tahiti at the end of August don’t miss the Tahiti Pro. The dates of the competition fluctuate depending on the waves, so don’t wait until the last day. If the conditions are perfect, the competition may end a couple days early. Local tour companies offer excursions to watch the competition from a boat.
  • Cascades of Faarumai: Located in Faaurumai Valley are 3 waterfalls of the Cascades. About a 5 minute walk from the road is Vaimahutu Falls, plunging 100 feet into a pool perfect for swimming.

September 2019

Author: The Traveling Gingerbread

We have been traveling together over 6 years. Living and working full-time in Pittsburgh, PA, we travel as much as our vacation days and finances allow. We cram each adventure with activities, tours, local experiences, and always try to visit to a local brewery. We can’t walk by an Irish pub without stopping for a pint of Guinness. CREATION OF THE TRAVELING GINGERBREAD: In Tokyo, we smiled every time we saw someone talking on their large, animated phone case. We had to buy one. Having an obsolete IPhone 5, the selection was limited. We purchased a gingerbread off a neglected rack in Shinjuku, Tokyo and The Traveling Gingerbread was born. You can purchase your own gingerbread friend here! The Traveling Gingerbread offers realistic budget travel tips for full time employees, fun facts, and where to find the best craft beer.

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