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The Best Things to Do in Tahiti

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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.
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Captain James Cook set up his observatory at Point Venus, one of the loveliest spots on the island. The transit of Venus, which happens maybe once a century, lets observers here see the planet move across the sun. (That’s the official reason for...
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Hitia'a, French Polynesia
On Tahiti's rocky east coast, the volcanic Lava Tubes of Hitiaa are underground channels and eroded sections of rock in caves that have been penetrated by water. Although you can visit solo, it is really best to visit with a guided 4WD tour. Check...
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BP 42199 Fare Tony Papeete, Tiarei Pk 27,500 cote montagne, Tiarei 98708, French Polynesia
The right swell conditions produce a geyser-like fountain of water that looks very impressive coming up from what is known as the trou du souffleur (blowhole). Located by the road just before Tiarei at PK22 -- if you're coming from Papeete, the...
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Pape'ete, French Polynesia
You can drive the 71-mile circular road around Tahiti Nui in a day, either by renting a car for a day or by joining a guided tour (your hotel will have info for either). Either way, the loop road takes you along the wild and rocky east coast,...
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Puna'auia, French Polynesia
Somehow, while Europeans were still afraid of falling off the edge of the earth, the Polynesians explored and settled the Pacific, sailing about in giant double-hulled canoes known as pahi. They also found time to make really cool art. At the...
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Pā'ōfa'i, Pape'ete, Pape'ete, French Polynesia
Galerie des Tropiques is where local artists show their stuff. Take a few minutes to learn the difference between high-quality and low-quality items, and then get shopping. You'll find some very nice carvings here, and plenty of pearl and...
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To see how one family worked out their idea of living in paradise, head to the James Norman Hall Museum (La Maison de James Norman Hall). Hall was the coauthor of the book Mutiny on the Bounty, and with the book’s bounty, he bought a swath...
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Papeari, French Polynesia
At the beginning of the 20th century, a physics professor in Massachusetts inherited a ton of money. He promptly headed for the South Pacific, settling there and founding what’s now the Harrison Smith Botanical Garden. Maybe Smith had a slight...
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Unnamed Road, Vaira'o, French Polynesia
It’s sort of an unwritten rule: All movies filmed in the Pacific have to include at least one seriously dramatic steep waterfall with quiet pools to cool off in. So odds are good that somewhere on late-night TV you’ve come across Tahiti’s Vaipahi...
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Pā'ea, French Polynesia
Life across Polynesia was once defined by ritual power. In many places, chiefs were too sacred to actually look at, and if you helped bury a chief, you’d not be allowed to utilize your hands for nine months or more. The 'Ārahurahu Marae, a sacred...
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InterContinental Tahiti Resort, BP42692, Pape'ete 98713, French Polynesia
With shallow waters, oceanic drop-offs, sunken ships, bright coral walls and diverse marine life, Tahiti is perfect for both beginning and advanced divers, and if you've never dived before, but want to experience the underwater world, you can do...
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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...
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PK7, Fa'a'ā 98702, French Polynesia
Tahitian dancers, known the world over for their passion and energy, are mesmerizing to watch whether the dance is slow and graceful or fast and rhythmic. Though dancing is a national pastime in Tahiti, the many dance...
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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...
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Ha'apūpuni, French Polynesia
Tahiti is home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails in Polynesia. Stops can include spectacular waterfalls and natural pools, panoramic views, grottos, archeological sites and lava tubes. A favorite hike is to the three Faarumai waterfalls....
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The perfect place to shop for anything and everything from all the islands is the 155-year-old public market called Le Marché. Located two blocks from the waterfront in the heart of Papeete, the market covers two stories. The lower level is...
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Teahupo'o, French Polynesia
Tahiti is the birthplace of surfing, and the island offers a few excellent beginner breaks as well as one of the world's most powerful waves, Teahupo'o. To hone your surfing skills, visit the Tura'I Mataare Surf School in Paea, which offers both...
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Motu 'Au, Māhina, French Polynesia
The small “motu” islets surrounding many of the islands are the perfect spots to enjoy an al fresco island feast. These miniature, palm-covered paradises offer a get-away from the big island and you'll get a taste for paradise in the buff. You...