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.