A proud member of the Society Islands archipelago of French Polynesia, Tahiti is one of the most visited islands of the South Pacific. Being the largest island of the Windward Islands, it has a population of over 183,000 and stretches upon an area of 1,045 square kilometres. Its capital city, Pape’ete harbours 133,000 of those people, leaving around 50,000 inhabitants scattered throughout other settlements (the largest of which is the well-known Fa’a’ā with its nearly 30,000 inhabitants). The island looks like composite from above for it has two major components: the Tahiti Iti section (the one located to the south-east – this is the smaller one) and the Tahiti Nui section (the larger one located to the north-west). The official language spoken there is French but if you happen to be one of those fortunate people who dabble in Tahitian, you will be able to get by using that as well.
Located within the bounds of the marine tropical climate zone, Tahiti experiences very little temperature fluctuation. Temperatures generally range between 24 and 30 degree Celsius all year long and the water (that of the lagoon) is somewhere between 23 and 26 degrees. Basking in 2,600-2,900 sunshine hours each year, it is one of the most agreeable paradises in the world. If you are one of those people who do not particularly enjoy extreme heat, Tahiti is the perfect place for you. Oh, and did we mention that it receives only enough rain to sustain its lush and fascinating vegetation? The only thing that we recommend that you keep an eye on is the hurricane season. Additionally, we recommend that you pack adequate protection against mosquitoes for they can be quite a nuisance.
Tahiti and its capital city of Pape’ete are served by the Fa’a’ā International Airport, the only international airport on the island (and in the entirety of French Polynesia). Located 5 kilometres south-west of the capital, it serves as hub for the Air Tahiti and the Air Tahiti Nui airlines. Operating with a single asphalt runway, it funnels a little under 1.2 million passengers each year. Note that the Fa’a’ā International Airport is considered the epicentre of all air traffic in French Polynesia because it offers flights to over 40 local destinations. If you happen to visit Mo’orea after basking in the grandeur of Tahiti, know that a flight there only tales 10 minutes.
The best possible way to get around on the island of Tahiti is by car or by scooter. You can find rental services in Pape’ete easily and we recommend that you use them without a second thought. It would be a pity not to explore the entirety of the island on your own and to sit on the beach all day. This is a tropical island and its vast plethora of wildlife will enchant you in such a way that you will remember the experience for the rest of your life.
Other ways to get around (or to go sightseeing) include boats. You can either go and hop on a sightseeing boat or hire a local with one to show you the best places around the island. The locals are friendly and will try to help you if you ask them. Be sure to use some of their words if you can (they greatly appreciate such efforts): iaorana (hello), nana (goodbye), maeva (welcome), mauruuru (thank you), etc.
SIGHTS AND ACTIVITIES:
First and foremost, before you do anything else, hit the waters and go either snorkelling or diving. These two are quite possibly some of the greatest experiences that one can have in French Polynesia. Though there are many services to choose from, we recommend that you do your research before stopping at the first option. This is due to the fact that not all of them pay that much attention to safety and to specific regulations. Ask around and talk to people who have already dived there.
If you are one of those people who just adore shopping, we recommend that you pay a visit to Pape’ete’s Le Marché shopping centre. The two-storey establishment is quite possibly the best place for you to purchase local goods and souvenirs. From small vanity items to exquisite local food, you can get anything there. Oh, and if you truly wish to immerse yourself in the local culture, be sure to buy a “pareu”. This is essentially a brightly-coloured piece of cloth that can be used for different kinds of purposes such as clothing or as picnic rags.
But you know what? There are other ways in which you can explore the local culture as well. Visiting the renowned Musée de Tahiti et des Îles, for example is one such option. Directly translatable as the “Museum of Tahiti and the Islands”, it the most prominent Tahitian ethnographic museum located in the village of Punaauia. Established in 1974 and dedicated to Polynesian artefacts and traditions, it is now in full cooperation with the much larger Musée du quai Branly of Paris. Definitely a must-see!
While Tahiti, Mo’orea and Bora Bora are most undoubtedly great experiences, we recommend that you explore other French Polynesian islands as well. They will not only leave you with slack jaws, they will also make you want to live on them for the rest of your lives. We are not going to lie: coming home from Maupiti, Huahine, Manihi, Fakarava, Tikehau, Raiatea or Rangiroa is not easy – it is like leaving a piece of your heart on the islands and returning with the greatest memories of your life in exchange. Go and explore bravely for none of the local grandeur shall leave you disappointed!
Tahiti is one of those places that most backpackers only dream of but here’s the thing: it is not all that expensive. Yes, getting there can get pricy but once you’ve landed, there is nothing to worry about. Prices are agreeable and the people are helpful. Do not let your dreams fly by you – let the waves take you to the tropical paradise that you long for!