Papeete (Tahiti), French Polynesia
Cruise Ports Papeete (Tahiti), French Polynesia

Papeete (Tahiti), French Polynesia

As the Capital City of Tahiti, this beautiful array of islands we know in French Polynesia is a worthwhile destination by itself. You may find yourself arriving here due to the International Airport, or as one of the Cruise Ports, whilst sailings these stunning waters.

You will find an amazing multicultural experience in Papeete. The mix of Polynesian, European and Asian influence gives way to a laid-back and friendly interaction. Tahitian and French are the two official languages, but its okay, as English is widely spoken in hotels and shops.

As for shopping, whilst you are on Papeete, the ultimate indulgence of a Tahitian Black Pearl may be what you are after. Papeete is also known for other shell jewelry, vanilla beans, and a must-have for any beach holiday, a pereo ( sarong ) and Monoi Oil (coconut oil). When shopping, however, do keep in mind, what can be bought back into Australia due to our vigilant agricultural standards.

Wandering around, you will find local markets and boutiques or artists studios. It is worth noting however, these do open early, and are generally closed by 3-4 pm. You will most likely visit the Municipal Market of Papeete, which operates 8.00 am - 5.00 pm. There are also small shopping centres, which have extended hours.

Nights out in the city will be filled with bars and restaurants, many with local, amazingly talented voices and dancers. French, Italian and Chinese cuisine is easily found, but one of the must-dos is Les Roulottes. This Papeete institution, a collection of food carts operating from early evening until late at night on the waterfront at Vaiete Square offering the most amazing dishes as well as delicious desserts ( think French pastries or Polynesian Ice-cream ). Swordfish and Tuna will be the freshest you can taste. Plus, be sure to try a local dish – Poisson cru à la tahitienne; raw fish marinated in lemon juice and coconut milk. Yes, like ceviche, but because of coconut and vegetables used in the dish, the taste is really unique.

Your days can be spent in Museums learning about the Polynesian culture, the founding history of this island, and the subsequent French Polynesian area. There is an amazing display of Paul Gauguin's original art in Musée Gauguin. The James Norman Hall House (co-writer of The Bounty Trilogy) houses over 3000 books and the author's typewriter.

For those of you who prefer the outdoor attractions, there are many of these to enjoy. Botanical Gardens are easy to access, next to Musée Gauguin. Point Venus lighthouse or the Tomb of Tahiti's last king are landmarks again capturing the history. But for nature on display, Aorai Mountain is perfect for a hike (takes about 5 hours to reach the peak), or for something less stressful, visit one of the many beautiful waterfalls. The most popular are The Three Waterfalls, known locally as Les Trois Cascades or the Faarumai Waterfalls. These are a series of falls in Tahiti Nui about a half-hour drive from the City. The first fall is reached easily, the second and third waterfalls are accessible via a hike through lush rainforest. The third one is the best – a 40m (131ft) stunner with a refreshing swimming basin at the bottom.

For beach lovers, remember that most of Tahiti’s beaches are more black volcanic, but La Plage de Maui, or Maui’s Beach, is composed of pure-white sand – the only stretch of it's kind on Tahiti Iti. It is a good hour coastal drive from Papeete, and it’s a destination to allow a whole day for. Sinki your toes into the powdery sand between dips. There’s a beachside cafe where you can order Polynesian plates of steamed fish, as well as local produce such as breadfruit, as you watch the fish dart about in the bluest of waters.

Stay a while and enjoy.

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