View Over Mount Aorai - Tahiti Tourisme © Myles McguinnessView Over Mount Aorai
©View Over Mount Aorai|Myles McGuinness

Four days in Tahiti

Tahiti, island of a thousand surprises

Tahiti is the biggest island in French Polynesia, but it is often just the place where you change planes for one of the other islands. However, Tahiti has a wealth of hidden treasures, and much more besides. Both on land and in the lagoon, there are a multitude of activities for you to choose from and Tahiti is also the perfect place if you just want to take it easy. Here are a few suggestions for a four-day tour which includes a bit of everything!

Seafront PapeeteSeafront Papeete
©Seafront Papeete|Tahiti Fly Shoot

Day 1

There’s no better way to get the true feel of Tahiti than by visiting the market in Papeete. Art and crafts from all the archipelagos, local fruit and vegetables, fresh fish, snack bars selling local dishes – a visit to the market is an immersion in the very essence of French Polynesia. Go early if you can, especially on a Sunday morning, and enjoy the sights and sounds as you soak up the atmosphere.

If you want to explore Tahiti, then start by seeing it all! Rent a car, or take a guided tour, and go all the way around the island delighting in its varied scenery. On the west coast you’ll be driving alongside the turquoise lagoon. Make a cultural stop at the museum of Tahiti and the islands before going for a swim on the public beach at PK18. If you look across the lagoon you can see Tahiti’s sister island, Moorea. Then take to the road again, but stop off to visit some of the marae along the way – Marae Ta’ata and Marae Arahurahu. There is a certain power in these ancient sacred places, known as mana, which is almost palpable. Refresh yourself in the cool water at the grotte de Mara’a before continuing to the magnificent water gardens of Vaipahiand then on to the botanical garden.

When you get to the famous PK0 sign, it means you’re at the end of the road, or the beginning, depending on which way you’re facing! Either way, you are on the peninsula, Tahiti Iti, and you can see one of the most impressive surfing waves in the whole world, the wave at Teahupoo.

The road back is along the east coast, and the atmosphere is completely different. It is the island’s untamed coast, where the ocean breaks directly onto the cliffs and the steep valleys are covered in a luxuriant, dense vegetation. Stop to look at thetrois cascades (three waterfalls) before visiting the trou du souffleur(blowhole), which is really impressive when the sea is rough. Further along, you’ll pass many surfing beaches where you can stop and admire the prowess of young Tahitian surfers. Then finish the day at Venus Point where you can watch the magnificent sunset as you stroll along the beach.

Day 2

If you like hiking, Tahiti is the perfect place for you! Beginners, enthusiasts or seasoned trekkers, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The more intrepid can even take a longer trail and bivouac for the night. It’s a good idea to use the services of a guide. Not only will he help you discover the natural beauty of the island, but he’ll also embellish the experience with a host of traditional tales and legends. Forests, deep valleys, canyons and mountains are there to be explored and admired. Discover sites steeped in history with archeological remains that give an insight into the lives of the Polynesians of old. And from the peaks of Tahiti, look out over the entire island in all its splendor. There are many different trailsproposed by the numerous guides, and each one will be an experience to remember!

For those not given to walking too far, try an excursion on a quad ATV – you won’t be disappointed! The appropriately-named « Traversière » (transversal) is the only track in Tahiti which crosses the island and leads directly to the center of the original volcano. You’ll pass luxuriant vegetation, waterfalls and see stunning scenic views over the island’s diverse countryside. After a break for lunch at the relais de la Maroto and a swim in the river, you can go in search of some of the prehistoric sites that can be found in the middle of the Polynesian forest, pass through a tunnel of volcanic rock, or visit a very surprising lake. Scenery that will take your breath away! A quad ATV is one of the best ways to discover the island’s interior.

Day 3

TheTuamotu Islands are rightly reputed for their abundance of sea life, but the sea around Tahiti has little to envy them. Many superb dive sites with spectacular underwater scenery can be found all round the island. The west coast offers a dozen or so first-rate sites in its clear blue lagoon. While the east coast, which has no lagoon, offers different sensations when you dive at one of the countless sites along its cliffs and black sandy beaches. The peninsula, Tahiti Iti, also has a vast choice of sites which abound with rays, tropical fish, all kinds of sharks and if you’re lucky, a whale or two between July and November. You will discover that Tahiti is just as beautiful under the sea as it is above the ground.

If diving isn’t your thing, why not take a day trip to the peninsula and discover its unique beauty? Begin with a visit to admire the legendary wave at Teahupoo in the Havae pass, where the world’s best surfers gather to compete each year. Then continue along the coast of Fenua ‘Aihere, which you can only reach by boat sea because the road ends at Teahupoo. However, there are places where you can go ashore and explore the forest of immense mape (Tahitian chestnut tree) and even splash in the basins of water in their roots. After stopping for lunch, take a postprandial stroll to shed a few calories and discover the waterfalls and caves in this remote part of the world. Then back to the boat, and if it’s the right season, you might be lucky enough to cross the path of a whale or two on the return trip.

Day 4

After getting to know Tahiti on land and under the sea, how about observing it from up above? There are several ways you can get a bird’s-eye view of the island, and the most peaceful is from the timeless serenity of a hot-air balloon. Perhaps more exhilarating is a 30 minute flight in a helicopter, which will take you deep into the valleys and mountains before flying back along the coast and hovering over the multi-colored lagoon for the photo opportunity of a lifetime.

For the more adventurous, you can try paragliding, either on your own or in tandem with an instructor. Imagine looking down on paradise as you soar like a bird over the shimmering blues and greens of the turquoise lagoon. If you prefer, you can opt for the powered version of a paraglider, taking to the skies aboard an amphibious ultralight, with the lagoon as your runway.

And for the really daring, the sky’s the limit when you take a parachute jump and enjoy a slow descent over Tahitiin the company of professionals. Two hours of thrills and excitement and a view that will take your breath away!

If you’d like to experience a more traditional means of transport, then you can sail the lagoon or the coast on a Polynesian outrigger sailing canoe. Learn the traditional methods of navigation used by the first mā’ohi navigators in the days before electronic equipment. Sail to the rhythm of local legends about adventurous sea voyages of the early Polynesians. A voyage to the heart of Tahiti’s culture and traditions!