Tahiti, French Polynesia, sometimes referred to as “The Queen of the Pacific,” there’s think of it as the heart and soul of the South Pacific.
Regardless of how you refer to Tahiti, it is the largest of the islands, with a landmass of 403 square miles and is the most populated, with about 184,000 residents, and is the starting point for all international travelers. Since all flights arrive through Faa’a International Airport, your visit to Tahiti will begin and end in Papeete. The Islands of Tahiti consist
s of five island groups, or archipelagoes, which total 118 islands and atolls, and lies in the South Pacific – south of the equator, south of Hawaii about 2,700 miles and half way between South America and Australia. Many of the islands remain uninhabited and make up a total landmass of only 1,600 square miles.
Tahiti is a figure eight shaped island divided into a larger part, to the northwest, which is known as Tahiti Nui (“Big Tahiti”) and a smaller southeastern peninsula called Tahiti Iti (‘Little Tahiti”).
Tahiti Nui is dominated by three extinct volcanic mountains including Mount Orohena, the tallest in French Polynesia; Mount Aorai, known for its incredible views; and Le Diadème, which appears to crown the island. With lush green peaks reaching more than 7,300 feet, the scenery is breath taking. Cascading waterfalls and rippling pools in the jungle-like interior provide quite a striking contrast to the black- and white-sand beaches and turquoise, warm-water lagoons of the island’s perimeter. A drive around the entire island is about 70 miles. Taxis and buses are also popular forms of transportation on the main island of Tahiti. On the outer islands, car and scooter rentals are available and “Le Trucks” which are open-air buses, is an inexpensive means of getting around. There are some memorable sights that include the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands, the Paul Gauguin Museum, the Harrison W. Smith Botanical Gardens, and the Marae Arahurahu, which is an ancient Tahitian outdoor temple.
Papeete is a vibrant and multicultural city with busy boulevards and a pretty bustling harbor. Papeete curves around an almost enclosed bay on the north coast of Tahiti. The downtown district is a compact area and easily covered on foot. In the center of town, Le Marché, the municipal market, is not to be missed. It covers the whole block between Rue du 22 Septembre and Rue F Cardella, just one block back from Blvd Pomare. The first floor of this indoor market has an abundant supply of tropical fruits and vegetables and fresh fish. The second floor is dedicated to Tahitian art and crafts, and boasts the largest selection of colorful pareus (sarongs) anywhere. Or, if shopping isn’t your thing and you want to slow it down even more, you can go down to Papeete’s waterfront where you’ll find many paved walking paths, or you can sit and sip a cappuccino at one of the many sidewalk cafes while you watch the world go by. To really feel like a local you need to head to Vai’ete Square after sunset in the balmy evening. This waterfront promenade comes to life at night when gourmet food trucks (a sort of mobile restaurant), called Les Roulottes, open their windows to serve the most amazing meals that range from Chinese food, French crépes, steak frites, and fresh fish to pizza. Definitely worth a try!