Papeete is the capital city and the administrative centre. Once a sleepy town, today its harbor is busy with cargo freighters, copra ships, luxury liners and ocean-going yachts. There are sidewalk cafes, shops overflowing with French fashions, shell jewellery and handicrafts and a wide variety of restaurants serving Tahitian, French, and Asian cuisine.
Faa'a hosts the international airport built on the lagoon. Apart from the airlines check-in counters, there is an information counter, a snack bar, a restaurant and vehicle rental offices and shops. Nearby, in a special Tahitian-style house, artisans sell flower leis and shell necklaces.
See & do:
There are MANY things to do in Tahiti and a lot to see and take pictures of. Should you embark on a circle island trip (of around 70 miles), some of the must see things would include:
This is the large two-story Papeete's market place where many things can be bought. Buy your lunch here and some "Monoi". "Monoi" is the local tahitian oil, strongly scented and worth a good price. It is used to get tanned and moisturize your skin. Also buy a "pareu". This is typical tahitian clothing that can be tied into many different ways (a cover-up, a dress, shorts, a shawl). It can also be spread out as a picnic cloth or a beach towel. Created with traditional designs and bright tropical colors, they are inexpensive and make the perfect souvenir. This is especially good for getting to know Tahitians as every Tahitian knows how to tie one. Le Marche is also the place where you'll find jewellery as well as many calendars, postcards, cups... Ripe fruits, scented soaps, vanilla beans, dance costumes, wooven hats and bags and shell necklaces up to your ears are what you'll find in the market. It is centrally located and you can't miss it.
The Arahoho blowhole on the North side of Tahiti Nui
An area where a blowhole in the shore has formed on the road and whose waves crash inside the rock cliff.
Les Trois Cascades
Three beautiful waterfalls inside the island of Tahiti Nui.
Tomb of King Pomare the Fifth
The tomb of the only king of Tahiti, when France was a monarchy.
Pointe Venus Lighthouse
Black sand beach and clear blue water by a fishing reef.
Botanical Garden/Gauguin Museum
At Papeari, on the west coast, the botanical garden made by Harrison Smith lies alongside the Gauguin Museum in the magical setting of the MotuOvini.
The Olivier-Breaud Golf Course
You can admire the wonderful layout of this golf course set in the magnificent Atimoana complex which was a sugar cane farmland rum in the 19th century.
A restored religious site containing various stone block structures dedicated to the old gods and where important ceremonies used to take place.
It is interesting to visit the Museum of Tahiti and the Islands which has a rich collection of very old pieces and reconstructed historical scenes. The Black pearl museum as well as the Gauguin museum are fun to see if you want to get out of the heat.
A square with small restaurants (see "Eat") but also the place to be for the July celebrations with dance and traditional music, the Heiva I Tahiti.
All nautical activities: surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling (most resorts will provide you with the equipment for free), canyoning, stingray and shark feedings, water sports, deep sea fishing, kitesurfing...you name it.You also have the possibility of hiking, 4WD safari, golf...
Deep sea fishing has been curtailed on Tahiti and is difficult to find.
Diving: get a reputable dive company, our experience was that those with the far out websites were a bit low on ethics and safety, not well prepared, and did not go far past the marina.