Being one of the largest islands in French Polynesia, Tahiti is a must-visit place for nature and island-loving travelers.
The turquoise ocean, beautiful beaches, aesthetic markets, and gorgeous waterfall all make up this island’s chief attractions.
Shaped like the number eight, Tahiti has two major regions: Tahiti Nui (the larger, bulging section) and Tahiti Iti (the smaller section).
Being the economic, cultural, and political center of French Polynesia, Tahiti has much to offer travelers for an unforgettable island vacation.
To make the most of your time on this tropical island, here are the best things to do in Tahiti:
When you think of French Polynesia, overwater bungalows are the first thing to come to your mind.
These are ocean huts that draw in thousands of tourists looking to spend their honeymoon or vacation surrounded by beautiful lagoons.
The first bungalows were built in the 1960s in Tahiti to give more access to the lagoon in areas where beach access was limited.
Today, they are synonymous with an exotic and luxurious tropical vacation and one of the must-do things when visiting Tahiti.
Ready to wake up to the view of turquoise water?
La Plage de Maui
Being an island formed out of volcanic activity, most beaches in Tahiti are black volcanic.
However, La Plage de Maui, also known as Maui’s beach, is a stunning exception to this.
This Tahiti Iti beach is composed of pure white sand and is one of its kind on the island.
If you want a place to dip your toes into powdery sand at a serene beach, La Plage de Maui is the place to be.
Situated on the southern coastal road, you will find a beachside café here, where you can enjoy a plate of delicious Polynesian steamed fish and the local delight Breadfruit.
Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands
The Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands is the best spot for travelers who love to dive deeper into the culture and history of the place they travel to.
Located in Puna’auia, a small surfing town, the museum has four distinct sections: pre-European culture; natural history and geography; outdoor exhibits; and the European era.
Considered to be among the most beautiful museums in the South Pacific, the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands details Polynesian history with rare collections of art carvings and historical artifacts.
Les Trois Cascades
Love your waterfalls? Tahiti’s Les Trois Cascades or Faarumai Waterfalls is the place to be.
Located in Tahiti Nui, the group of three waterfalls is the most beautiful and popular one among the many falls in Tahiti.
The first of the three falls is easy to reach while reaching the other two will require some hiking through lush rainforests.
However, the hike is worth the effort, for a 40 m splendid waterfall with a swimming basin awaits you at the third waterfall to refresh you after the hike.
Huahine Natural Aquarium
If marine life fascinates you, Huahine Natural Aquarium is bound to be your favorite spot in Tahiti.
Here, in the shallow lagoon waters, you can observe the exotic marine animals simply by standing on the platform or you can dive into the marine life.
This is a great spot for those wanting an up-close meeting with marine life.
You get to meet yellow double-saddle butterflyfish along with black-tip reef sharks (no, they don’t bite) when you go underwater.
Lasting around 2 hours, the entire tour will be an experience you cannot forget.
Tahiti, known for some of the heaviest waves, is considered the birthplace of surfing.
The island’s surfing crown jewel is Teahupo‘o. Teahupo‘o is well-respected in the surfing community for its six- to 25-foot waves.
Also known as “The End of the Road,” Teahupo‘o is the home of surf brand Billabong’s annual Pro Championships.
Despite all the big waves, this is a place where even beginner surfers can find a safe spot to practice.
Those interested in getting to know more about the Teahupo‘o village can take a sightseeing boat tour for the same.
When you have reached Papeete during your Tahiti trip, stopping by the Marché Papeete or Papeete Market is a must.
Located a couple of blocks from the sea, the market is spread over two stories and attracts people with the fruit, vegetables, fish, oils, and handicrafts that the vendors sell.
Other things available here include tifaifai (Tahitian quilts), handcrafted items like coveted black pearl jewelry and shell necklaces, and pareos (wraps).
Love buying souvenirs for every trip? Papeete Market is the best place to get some gifts for yourself and your loved ones.
French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin spent the last ten years of his life in Tahiti.
After his works gained fame following his death, the island has a dedicated museum that exhibits his works, unseen sketches, block prints, copies of documents, photographs, reproductions, sculptures, engravings, and gouaches.
Almost as a nod to the Japanese influence on French post-impressionism, this museum has a Japanese-style building.
Nature lovers get their treat with the museum sporting the serene Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens.
Place Jacques Chirac
France conducted nuclear testing for thirty years between 1966 and 1996 in the Pacific region.
Place Jacques Chirac stands as a protest against this practice and commemorates all the victims of nuclear incidents around the world.
Demonstrating an important part of Tahiti’s history, the park is home to artworks of local artists that honor those who lost their lives to nuclear explosions.
Furthermore, official memorial services are also held in Place Jacques Chirac.
While Tahiti is a great tropical escape from your daily life, it is still quite urban.
This means that a spot like Bougainville Park is a great place to drink in the greenery among all the urbanity.
The park is named after French navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville and stretches from Boulevard Pomare to Rue du General de Gaulle in Papeete.
In this green oasis, you will find tranquil streams, tropical vegetation, a koi carp-filled pond, and enormous shade-giving banyan trees.
Ready to sit on the bench and do some peaceful people-watching?
James Norman Hall Museum
James Norman Hall Museum is a treat for any bookworm.
Located in the suburbs of Papeete, French Polynesia capital the museum is a tribute to American author James Norman Hall.
Following World War 1, Hall spent most of his life in Tahiti, living in the low-roofed property where the museum sits currently.
The exhibits include the author’s collection of more than 3000 books and a typewriter, along with a model of the Bounty, the ship featured in Hall’s celebrated work Bounty Trilogy.
Enclosed within the buttercup-yellow walls, bright red roof, and the tall steeple is the oldest example of catholic influence in Tahiti.
The church also displays the merging of the island’s unique aesthetics with that of colonial architecture.
With a dozen stained-glass, cast-iron chandeliers adorning the timber ceiling, and tropical flower arrangements in the altar, the atmosphere within the Notre-Dame Cathedral is something tourists must experience when in Tahiti.
Arahoho Blowhole is a natural phenomenon you shouldn’t miss during your trip to Tahiti.
You can find this beauty when heading east and south around the coast from Papeete on the RT2 road.
The blowhole was honed by eons of soil erosion caused by strong Pacific waves and has water spraying out of it whenever the ocean swell is big enough.
Bordered by a black-sand beach, Arahoho Blowhole is a spot with some of the coolest aesthetics, made for a stunning Instagram wall, with its dramatic water spurts.
Need a green break during your trip? Vaipahi Gardens is a great choice. Vaipahi Gardens are suited for tourists of all kinds.
Hikers will have a great time with burbling, meandering springs and streams.
The nature-lover and more laid-back visitors can enjoy a walk through lush tropical plants such as the blowzy red flowers of a Pride of Burma, Pagoda trees, and the giant elephant-ear plants.
On the other hand, those in love with quiet picnics will be delighted by the dedicated picnic areas that oversee the lagoon.
Have the perfect picnic by getting the snacks and fruits from vendors at the entrance.
Black Pearl Museum
Tahiti is known for many things and among them is the beautiful black pearl.
These are one of the most expensive commodities on the island, counting into one of the sources of income.
In the Black Pearl Museum, you will find yourself diving deeper into the history, culture, and secrets associated with the pearls.
When here, be sure to not miss the biggest black pearl on the island.
The pearl weighs around 8.6 mm and measuring 26 mm in diameter (to put it in a picture, it will be around the size of a UK 10p coin).
Point Venus represents the place where Captain James Cook spotted the planet, Venus, transiting the sun in 1769.
This corner of northernmost Tahiti, located around 8 km away from Papeete, is where Captains Wallis, Cook, and Bligh landed before Cook made his observations.
In the vicinity are the lighthouse, Phare de la Pointe Vénus, built in 1868, along with a snack bar, a souvenir, and handicrafts shop, and toilets.
Together, these make Point Venus a modern-day tourist attraction for those seeking a place for contemplation and tranquility with a side of history and astronomy.
Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens
After your trip to Musée Gauguin, Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens is a natural stop, especially for all the nature-lovers.
This site is named after American physics professor Harrison W. Smith who planted exotic plants from around the world.
The garden was created in 1919 and includes 450 species of flowers and trees from Africa, Asia, and America.
Until the day he died, Smith tended to the garden.
Therefore, there is no surprise that he is also buried here in the garden among towering bamboo, mangosteen, teak trees, and cooling ponds and palms.
With all the species here, Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens is a great place to sample the world’s botany.
Tahiti has some challenging and breathtaking hiking spots—Aorai Mountain is one of them.
At 2,066m, Aorai is the third-highest peak on the island and offers a demanding hike, taking around 5 hours to reach the peak for a person in good shape.
Ideally, you will need to be up early in dawn to reach the peak without facing cloud-covered mountains.
Most hikers tend to sleep overnight at one of the two shelters on the trails for free and be on their way hiking.
While the adventurous and seasoned hikers can take the trip alone, it is preferable that you have a guide with you.
Petroglyphs of Te Pari
Tahiti’s petroglyphs are some of the island’s most preserved historical works.
It isn’t easy to find and will require the expert guidance of a guide.
Te Pari, rugged coastline on the southern side of Tahiti Nui, is dense native vegetation that is not easy to navigate and accessible only on foot or by boat.
However, all the pains to reach here are worth the intriguing sight the site offers.
With the right guide, you will be able to find the petroglyph and hidden caves with ease.
Furthermore, you will also be able to spot the rock formations created by the pounding surf. Don’t miss this wondrous nature spot!
Tomb of Pomare V
At the Tomb of Pomare V lies the remains of the last king of Tahiti who died in 1981.
Located off the coastal road in Aure, a Papeete residential suburban area, the tomb is by the water’s edge and is made from coral stones.
The lighthouse-shaped tomb with a red door and topped with a red Grecian urn was originally made for Queen Pomare IV, the late king’s mother.
However, the king had her remains exhumed. A few years later, his remains were interred in the structure when he died of alcohol poisoning.
See the Largest Cultured Tahitian Pearl at Robert Wan Pearl Museum
Musee de la Perle Robert Wan, often known as the Rober Wan Pearl Museum, is another option for those interested in pearls.
Founded by Hong Kong businessman Robert Wan, the museum examines the pearl's significance in many artistic and literary genres.
Ancient people used to consider ocean gems for rituals and as status symbols.
The museum's exhibits trace the journey of a pearl from the sea to the showcase.
At about an inch in diameter, the Robert Wan is the world's largest round cultured Tahitian pearl, and the black pearl is also a highlight of the collection.
See a fantastic array of pearl jewelry, each piece with a price tag that matches its rarity and quality.
Visit the Historic Village of Papaeari
Papaeari (or Papeari) stands out with its historical significance.
It is the oldest settlement on the island, dating back to around the year 500.
For art enthusiasts, it is the location that Paul Gauguin, a French Post-Impressionist artist, formerly called home.
This peaceful island in the south is perfect for unwinding and taking it easy.
Visit Papaeari to see the fisherman bring in the day's catch, some of which may wind up on your dinner plate.
Travel west down the south coast to Atimaono, where you may play golf on Tahiti's only course or go hiking.
See Ancient Ruins at Arahurahu Marae
Off the main road, down approximately half a kilometer of dirt road, you'll find some ancient Polynesian ruins worth a quick detour.
The ancient temple or gathering place of Arahurahu is the only marae (a place of worship) in all Polynesia to undergo rebuilding.
Now, it serves as a museum.
It is Tahiti's most outstanding representation of ancient Polynesian meeting places and temples.
The exhibit boards do a remarkable job of elucidating the significance of each feature.
The pigs, for instance, were kept in the stone stalls at the entryway before being offered to the gods.
At the annual Heiva Nui festival in July, the locals reenact ancient Polynesian rituals of Arahurahu.
Tour on Wheels with Marama Tours
Marama Tours is an all-inclusive travel agency operated by a local Tahitian family.
Among the many tours available is a jeep safari.
Explore the rugged terrain of Tahiti in a 4x4 Jeep with a guide from Marama Tours.
To see where Tahiti first formed over a million years ago, your driver will take you to the site of the volcano crater.
You will see One Tree Hill, travel down the coast to Papeno'o Valley, and then venture into the island's interior to see the verdant landscapes and stunning waterfalls.
You may book private excursions or trips lasting between half a day and a full day.
While most people picture couples in overwater bungalows, Tahiti is excellent for other types of vacationers.
It is full of life and variety, from the stunning volcanic scenery that forms Moorea to the hypnotic Tahitian dances.
There are many reasons to visit this haven, and you should start with our list of the best things to do in Tahiti.