Tahiti is the largest island in the Islands of Tahiti archipelago in the South Pacific, commonly known as French Polynesia. Whether snorkeling a turquoise lagoon or surfing a black-sand beach, hiking to a waterfall or just to your hammock, or marveling at the colors of Papeete Market or at the agility of traditional dancers, it offers a mix of culture, adventure, and indulgence. Lodging is more affordable in Tahiti than on her sister islands, and you won’t need to arrange onward transport. But just because the island is convenient—an eight-hour direct flight from L.A.—doesn’t make it any less alluring as a destination itself.

Houses above the water with a large rocky mountain in the distance


When’s the best time to go to Tahiti?

Tahiti is really a year-round destination. If you had to choose, the absolute ideal months to visit are during the May to October “dry season,” when the weather is slightly cooler and there is less rain. That said, traveling between November and March can offer better rates. Although technically the “wet season,” the weather is usually still good: You will likely get periods of rain, but also plenty of blue sky. Expect higher humidity, though.

How to get around Tahiti

Faaa is the only international airport among the Islands of Tahiti. It is located on Tahiti itself, just a few miles west of the capital city, Papeete. Flight time from Los Angeles is only eight hours and the islands are in the same time zone as Hawaii, meaning there’s only two or three hours difference (depending on time of year) with the U.S. West Coast. (This makes jetlag much less of an issue than traveling somewhere like Fiji, where you will cross the international dateline.) Once on the ground, it is very easy to circle the island by rental car—there is just one main road and it hugs the coastline. Note there are no formal street addresses in Tahiti. Instead, locations are identified by PK (points kilometriques), which represent the distance in kilometers from Papeete cathedral.

Can’t miss things to do in Tahiti

- Tahiti underwater is sublime, so make sure to go snorkeling or diving.
- Try surfing, too—it was invented in Polynesia, possibly in Tahiti.
- If you’re by the beach, stay at least a couple of nights in an overwater bungalow if you can.
- Away from the sea, catch a Tahitian dance performance at a luxury hotel—it’s mesmerizing.

Food and drink to try in Tahiti

Fresh fish and seafood is a staple in Polynesia. The national dish is poisson cru, freshly caught raw fish (usually tuna) with diced vegetables marinated in lime and soaked in coconut milk. It is absolutely delicious and can be served with rice. Chevrettes are another popular Tahitian delicacy. These are freshwater shrimp often grilled or cooked in a French-influenced butter sauce.

Culture in Tahiti

Music and dance have long been an integral part of Tahitian life, and today learning the traditional dances is as popular with locals as tourists, who fill the many schools in Papeete. There are four main styles of dance in French Polynesia, and many hotels offer performances with dinner at least once a week. But to really experience the best of Tahitian dance, visit during Heiva I Tahiti: a major festival of traditional Polynesian culture that takes place for a week each July in Papeete and includes music, dancing, singing, and sports. Another large and important festival is the Billabong Tahiti Pro Surfing Tournament, which is an international, professional-level surfing contest held at Teahupo’o in Tahiti Iti over three days each May.

For Families

Tahiti is a great destination for families, especially if traveling from the West Coast. With the island just an easy eight-hour direct flight from Los Angeles and on the same time zone as Hawaii, it doesn’t take little ones long to adjust. Many resorts have kids clubs and are specifically geared towards families. And with adventures from snorkeling to waterfall hikes, there is plenty to do.

Local travel tips for Tahiti

Stay in a family-owned pension or Tahitian B&B to truly experience Tahitian life and culture. Spend your morning fishing with the locals, then take your fresh catch to the nearest motu (like a kind of mini island) for a picnic to remember.

Nearly every activity can be booked through your hotel, pension, or guesthouse upon arrival.

The tattoo art form was invented in Polynesia (or, at least, that’s where Europeans first enountered it), and today many Polynesians sport beautiful works of art as symbols of their personal identities.

Guide Editor

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Artists and poets like Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel chose to live in the volcanic islands of French Polynesia for more than the turquoise waters, white sand beaches, coral atolls, and dramatic, green carpeted hills, you know. The fresh ingredients available in the Windward Islands—both the fruits and vegetables growing in the fertile black soil and the abundant seafood and fish in the surrounding Pacific—coupled with the culinary genius of the French colonists make this a paradise for food-lovers, too.
Colorful and chaotic, at least by Tahitian standards, Papeete is Tahiti’s capital city and a cultural hub worth exploring. It’s undergoing a bit of a renaissance these days, with an infusion of graffiti street art brightening once gray buildings. Sip cappuccino at a chic sidewalk café while soaking up a rapid-fire French soundtrack, shop the vibrant market for everything from flawless pearls to bright parae, or catch a world-class dance and music performance.
Whether served from busy food trucks parked near the harbor or at waterside tables set with candles and white tablecloths, the foods of Tahiti—based on the local bounty of just-caught fish and shellfish, as well as fresh fruit—will be one of your fondest memories of the tropical island.
Whether you want to stay in an overwater bungalow on a turquoise lagoon or a spacious suite on a black-sand beach, you can find the perfect place on Tahiti. Choose from luxury resorts, boutique hotels, family-friendly lodgings, and more.
Although many travelers see Tahiti as an entry point to French Polynesia, it really is a destination in its own right. It’s different from the other islands, with a bustling capital, a lush, waterfall-studded interior that is perfect for hiking, and the best surfing in French Polynesia—possibly the world. It is also more affordable to plan a vacation to Tahiti than outer islands like Bora Bora. And you can always pop over to Moorea on the ferry for a day trip.
Over-water bungalows and turquoise water, floral-scented air, and succulent seafood—when it comes to a honeymoon or romantic vacation, the islands of French Polynesia are beyond dreamy. From over-water bungalows in Bora Bora, Taha’a, and Moorea to staying on a private island, French Polynesia and its resorts live up to their reputation for idyllic romance. Here we present our favorite resorts for a romantic vacation in paradise.
Many of French Polynesia’s 100 islands are actually coral atolls that lack beaches entirely, meaning that if you want a classic beach holiday you will have to know where to look. Luckily, there are pristine stretches of white-sand beach in French Polynesia, both on the main islands and on the surrounding motus, where you can fulfill your visions of paradise. This guide gives the lowdown on the best islands to find these classic beaches.
It is easy to get your water sport adrenalin pumping in French Polynesia, where you can snorkel, dive, and surf to your heart’s content. Whether you hop on a stand-up paddleboard and visit fish-filled lagoons in Moorea or kayak out to a motu in Raiatea, French Polynesia is paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Here are our favorite islands for aquatic adventures.
Indulge your fantasy of playing castaway on a secluded tropical paradise in French Polynesia. From the ultra-remote Gambier Archipelago to private islands closer to Tahiti’s international airport, French Polynesia is full of islands where you can spend days without giving a thought to the passage of time. Maybe try fishing and splitting coconuts with your bare hands, in the style of Robinson Crusoe.
When you have only one week to spend in French Polynesia it is imperative to maximize your time. What islands you visit and where you stay on each will depend on budget, but for one week in French Polynesia we like doing a night on Tahiti, three on Bora Bora or Moorea (if you can afford an overwater bungalow, by all means splurge!), and three nights in the Tuamotus. Each locale offers a distinct French Polynesian experience and makes for a romantic and well-rounded week in the South Pacific.
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