As the gateway to French Polynesia, Tahiti should not remain a mere stopover. Its culture, mixing modernity and tradition, arouses both surprise and wonder. You only have to leave Papeete the capital to discover a wild nature, sometimes rough, often impressive. If you are looking for the best things to do in Tahiti, let’s see the Top 10 activities on the island.
1. Going Up the Papenoo Valley
A wonderful and incredible adventure awaits you in the largest valley on the island. Following the road linking the communes of Papenoo and Mataiea, you will go to the heart of the wild lands of Tahiti. On the way, natural landscapes more grandiose than the others. The lush vegetation and the rain-fed waterfalls give an absolutely fantastic touch to the experience. And here comes the climax at Lake Vaihiria before arriving at the South Coast.
Expect to discover the island’s Polynesian heritage. You will see forgotten archaeological sites where ancient legends of gods and men are reborn. The feeling of living a waking dream is all the more true since the valley is almost uninhabited.
The crossing of the Papenoo cannot be undertaken alone. The trail is quite dangerous because of the risk of landslides and flash floods. We recommend that you take a professional guide who knows the area, in an all-terrain vehicle.
2. Discover the Lavatubes of Hitiaa
Still leaving from the east coast, a new and surprising adventure takes you to the center of the earth: the lavatubes. These are tunnels dug by lava flows dating from the formation of the island of Tahiti. You will go from light to darkness, from marvelous to fantastic. Before your eyes, colors change, twirl and create an unreal scenery.
This journey to the center of the earth will make you discover the past of Tahiti. But the experience is reserved for the most athletic. An excellent physical condition is essential to avoid accidents. Indeed, the lavatubes are to be discovered within the framework of an aquatic hike, close to canyoning. On the other hand, a certain composure is required to cross long distances in the dark.
The amateurs of strong sensations and the surpassing of oneself will find here a sporting challenge with the height of their waitings. The lavatubes can only be visited in the company of a professional guide, because of the risks associated with possible flooding.
3. Whale Watching
Whale watching in Tahiti is an unforgettable experience, sure to delight all nature lovers. Every year, from July to November, these majestic giants of the sea migrate to the warm waters of French Polynesia to give birth to their young. Aboard a boat, you can observe them at close quarters.
Taking part in an excursion allows you to learn and understand the crucial role these mammals play in the ocean ecosystem. Professional guides will provide you with a wealth of information on whale habits and behavior. These eco-tours are conducted with respect for the animal and its environment.
What’s more, when the safety and weather conditions are right, you can dive into the water to observe the whales’ movements. This very impressive experience is definitely one of the best activities you can do during your stay in Tahiti.
4. Snorkeling in the Lagoon
A trip to Tahiti’s lagoon can be accompanied by snorkeling. You’ll be able to observe a multitude of aquatic species in shallow, crystal-clear waters. Pastanaga rays, sea turtles and numerous tropical fish will hold no secrets for you.
The snorkeling sites are all different, and some are quite surprising. This is particularly true near the wreck of a seaplane, which has become a natural habitat for small fish, protected from predators. This underwater life takes the form of an incessant ballet, and snorkeling becomes an adventure! Organized tours are an excellent opportunity to discover the richness of Tahiti’s lagoon.
5. Faraura Valley Hike
Prepare your backpack and put on your walking shoes, today you are going to hike. Tahiti is a mountainous island, covered with lush and often uninhabited valleys. It is also the land of waterfalls. One of the most impressive of them all is located at the end of the Faraura valley. Starting from the east coast on the main island, you will go up a river for several kilometers through a wild and unforgettable scenery.
In search of the perfect waterfall, the journey becomes almost initiatory. You will cross the river several times and bathe in several pools of water, the famous basins. At the end of the effort, the main waterfall finally appears, almost 200 m high. The moment is simply unreal: cut off from the world and confronted with the force of nature.
The Faraura hike is one of the best ways to discover the interior of Tahiti at your own pace. The presence of a professional guide is not imperative. However, it is preferable to undertake this adventure in a group to ensure certain critical sections. Also, a good physical condition will be necessary to complete this gigantic loop during the day.
6. Meeting at Papeete Market
One of the best things to do in Tahiti is to visit the covered market of Papeete. This is the place where all of Tahiti and her islands meet, discuss, exchange, in a festival of colors and flavors. Freshly caught fish, mountains of exotic fruits, thousands of tropical flowers and above all the Polynesians. Coming to the market of Papeete is part of the local culture and one goes there as one goes to the fountain. It is also what to do in Tahiti when it rains.
Take your time, wander through the aisles and watch all of Polynesia in motion. At best, visit the market early in the morning and especially on Sundays, when the merchants also occupy the street and the surrounding area. During the week, you will go upstairs where stalls display local handicrafts, clothing and essential oils. This will be an opportunity to buy nice souvenirs from Tahiti. The market is a must-see when visiting the Queen Island of Polynesia.
7. A Jet-Ski Exploration Tour
Venturing out onto the lagoon offers new perspectives on the island of Tahiti. Because of its distance from the shore, the Queen Island of French Polynesia becomes monumental, revealing its mountainous relief. Offshore, the waters of the lagoon are more beautiful, tinged with lovely gradations of blue. A jet-ski excursion allows you to appreciate Tahiti and its lagoon in a whole new way.
Thanks to this motorized craft, it’s possible to cover great distances quickly and multiply the number of vantage points. Along the way, encounters with the lagoon’s animal species are the occasion for several stops, where silence and observation are the order of the day. Best of all, jet-skiing as a couple gives you the chance to enjoy a special moment together, in complete autonomy.
8. Visit a Black Sand Beach
Before embarking on your inter-island trip, don’t forget to visit Tahiti’s beaches. Many of them have fine, warm, black sand. This peculiarity has its origins in the island’s ancient volcanic activity. The contrast with the generally accepted image of white-sand beaches in French Polynesia is immense. And yet, this originality is not without its charms!
Tahiti has many black sand beaches, most of them on the east coast. There are a few that deserve a special mention. These include Lafayette and Pointe Vénus beaches, a 20-minute drive from Papeete. On the peninsula, Tautira beach is a remote and absolutely fascinating little gem.
9. See Teahupoo Wave
Among the legends of Tahiti, the indescribable wave of Teahupoo is without question. Surfers from all over the world watch for it, wait for it frantically and when it appears, the world holds its breath. As the surfer enters a tunnel of water up to 8 meters high, he knows he has no right to make a mistake. Then begins the aquatic ballet, a real sporting and physical feat in the face of unleashed nature.
Let’s meet on the peninsula of Tahiti Iti, at the spot of Teahupoo. Surfers are not the only ones who can enjoy the moment. Indeed, several boats offer to take you as close as possible to the line-up and admire the show in complete safety. The experience is above all contemplative, but what an adrenaline rush when the wave rises higher and higher before breaking! Perhaps the moment when you will realize the particularity of surfing in Tahiti, a demanding sport where humility meets excellence.
To see this mythical wave, go by the blue boats of Teahupoo Taxi Boat. It is the best address to be close to the event, with a competent and friendly staff. Before boarding, don’t forget your camera to capture the most beautiful images.
10. Discovering Food Trucks
It’s impossible to imagine a stay in Tahiti, however brief, without a visit to Vaiete Square in Papeete. This is where, in the late afternoon, the food trucks set up camp. It’s time to eat, but in Tahiti the experience is as much gourmet as it is social: everyone gathers at the food trucks!
Tahiti’s food trucks offer a culinary variety to suit every taste bud. You’ll find all the specialties of Tahiti, not to mention Oriental and Western flavors. Not only do food trucks offer generous portions at affordable prices, they also guarantee the freshness and quality of their ingredients, contributing to their success. A must-do in Tahiti!
Bonus: Attend the Heiva i Tahiti
The Heiva i Tahiti is a festival held every July. On this occasion, the best artistic troupes in French Polynesia take part in a competition of choreographed dances and traditional songs. The stakes are high: the promotion of Polynesian cultural heritage.
Of course, the Heiva i Tahiti is an exceptional event that we invite you to discover. However, it’s up to you to plan your stay according to your own schedule: don’t plan your trip around the dates of the festival. On the other hand, if you’re visiting the island in July, don’t miss the opportunity to attend a colorful show in the company of Tahiti’s vahines.
What You Can Still Do in Tahiti
While surfing is a religion in its own right, golf in Tahiti also offers some nice moments of sporty relaxation. Others will prefer to dive and explore the wrecks of boats. Or why not simply discover the benefits of a Tahitian massage. What you can do in Tahiti depends on your desires and expectations. Contact us to organize your next stay in the South Pacific Islands.