Black Sand & Surfing: Tahiti’s Best Beaches

Tahiti is famous for its black-sand beaches and also for inventing surfing. The most legendary wave, Teahupoo, is a reef break located on the island’s southern tip, home to the Billabong Pro surf competition each year. But there are also less intense waves to ride, and some beautiful black-sand beaches to sunbathe on. The sand gets its dark hue from lava, and the contrast in colors is spectacular at sunset.

Tahiti, French Polynesia
Maui Beach is a rare white sand beach in Tahiti. It can get very crowded on weekends, but is peaceful during weekdays. It located right on the road but has shallow swimming, making it perfect for kids, as well as deeper spots for adults and some DIY snorkeling off the reef.
Pā'ea, French Polynesia
If you need to hone your surfing skills, no worries, Tahiti has some fabulous beginner breaks plus warm water! Tura’i Mataare Surf School offers private and small group surf lessons to anyone over the age of 5-years. The 3 hour and 30 minute lesson aims to help you master the basic techniques before you venture to multiple surfing spots along the western coast of the island. The company picks up from all the hotels, and rates include transport. If you already know what you’re doing and just want to ride the best waves for when you’re visiting Moana Surf Tours in Punaauia can provide guides or put together any combination of surfing, lodging and boat.
Papeno'o, French Polynesia
Tahiti’s East Coast is filled with surf spots, both reef and shore breaks off black sand beaches, and also has some of the best consistent beginner waves on the island. At PK 14.5 you’ll find Papenoo, which is an excellent spot for beginners with long and not very hollow waves. Two other starter waves can be found at the shore breaks at PK 12.5 and PK 13. They are accessed just off the road and are best when there is a northern swell. At PK7 you’ll find Lafayette Beach, which has easy access from the road. The shore break here produces some powerful waves and a shallow bottom – not best for beginners. The best spot to ride is by the river mouth. At Point Venus (PK 10) you’ll find a right-hand reef break that is one of the best on the island, but again not for beginners.
Teahupo'o, French Polynesia
Tahiti Iti, Tahiti‘s smaller sister island that’s connected to the main island at the southeast coast, is home to one of the most famous surfing waves in the Pacific, Teahupoo. This powerful reef break most certainly should not be attempted by anyone but the best surfers—a fall means being dragged by the current across the sharp coral right below the surface. That edge of drama makes for a tense but enjoyable afternoon of observation (from the beach). The left break is best between April and October. The Billabong Pro competition is held here August.
Puna'auia, French Polynesia
On Tahiti’s west coast, the area around Punaauia town has some lovely stretches of black and white beaches between PK10 and PK15. This is considered Tahiti’s gold coast of sorts, as it is home to some of the most expensive real estate on the island, and also boasts stunning views across the water to Moorea -- try to stay for at least one sunset. You’ll also find some good shore surf breaks along this strip of sand and for divers the St Etienne Drop-Off just off the Punaauia reef is a wonderful wall dive.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: United States
Journeys: Sports + Adventure