Sky blue waters. Tranquil landscape. Bright smiles. Ia’orana, this is Tahiti. With over 118 islands in Tahiti, officially known as the French Polynesian Islands, is home to the world’s most spectacular sea views, surf breaks, freshest seafood cuisine, finest world-renowned vanilla (mmm), a place where the people are as friendly as the sharks, and, yes ladies, there are pearls galore!
Oh, also home to my ancestors for over five generations! In true Tahitian hospitality, together we have gathered to share with you the must-sees of Tahiti for the ultimate getaway retreat. In Tahiti’s luring oasis, watch your worries disappear like the ocean-blue hue blends into the horizon. Put away your google cal. The only to-do’s should be the following fanciful feats in this pearl of the sea!
Most people fly into the capital, Papeete, on the island of Tahiti (nui, meaning “big”). It’s common to island- hop to Moorea and other surrounding islands. Let’s start with Tahiti (nui), the bigger half of the largest island shaped like a crazy-8!
Tahiti (The Queen Island)
Waterfalls & Hikes
Locals and visitors agree, the must-do hike is the Three Cascades or “Les Trois Cascades”. You start the hike through the Fautaua Valley, so be sure to bring bug repellent, and ask about needing a $7 permit (retrievable from the Town Hall in Papeete). Best time to travel to see the waterfalls is during the rainy season which is primarily between December through January. The more rainfall, the better the view. No worries if you’re there on a dry day, it’s still a vision! Given the year round heat, take a break from the humidity and get to that waterfall!
For the true adventurer, explore Maroto Valley for a more off the beaten path hike. Make friends with a Tahitian and go play in the mystical waterfall on the way to the top of the mountain! Last one for my ultimate hiker-biker or even the 4-wheeler enthusiasts, Mont Marau. When the hike divides into three sections, take the Mairie Trail – it saves you an uphill walk through a housing estate.
Visit a Grotto
Mara’a Grotto is the best naturally air conditioned cave with the clearest water, delicately draped with lovely lush tropical ferns. Easily accessible, there’s even a parking lot. Go for a swim and drink in the beauty, literally, you can drink the fresh water!
The best tanning spots in Tahiti (nui) are at Papara Beach and Papenoo Beach. Why? Black sand beaches! Tahiti is known for its ebony sands, giving you one really, REALLY great tan. The dark sands beckon the sun rays so you get darker faster. If you want to hop on over to Moorea, by flight or ferry, the Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa is the quintessential Tahitian vay-cay spot to catch those tropical rays. (Oh, and be sure to spend the night in an over-water bungalow there in Moorea! Real life!)
Teahupoo is the world renowned surf spot for pro surfers. Every year, The Billabong Pro competition is held here. Even if the swell is not your speed, it’s well worth the instagram.
Best place for quick eats: Les Roulottes at Place Vaiete. Roulottes translates to ‘caravans’ in French. Food trucks, everyone! Tahiti loves them. You can order pizza, hamburgers, crepes, even a nutella banana waffle for dessert! Enjoy the live music on the weekends, too. If you’re feeling inspired to try a real local recipe, splurge on “poisson cru.” My mother used to make the authentic Tahitian dish for me growing up. Poisson Cru or “raw fish” is a Tahitian Salad very similar to Hawaiian poke or seviche – a sushi lover’s dream Tahitian cuisine, consisting of basically fresh raw tuna drenched in coconut milk, lime it up to slightly pickle the fish (we use lemons, too), and add fresh veggies. Mouth watering!
Musée de la Perle “The Black Pearl Museum” is located in Papeete and admires the art, history and literature of the pearl on its journey from the ocean to the strand. Pearls are very specific to the culture of Tahiti, as they were a sign of mystical value, religious rites and status symbols back in the day. A relative of mine many moons ago had his very own divers for the precious pearls, and we cherish the heirlooms passed down from the generations before. In fact, as I write this piece, I am wearing the very ring with three pearls set by my relative, handmade for our family. It is truly remarkable to capture a sacred pearl from the sea and display it for all to, well, see.
Moorea (The Magic Island)
Stand Up Paddle Board & Snorkeling with the Sharks at Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort.
Glide across the azure waters of Moorea for a paddling excursion unlike any other. You’ll have your gear with you to swim, too! Dive into that adrenaline and snorkel with the friendliest sharks and rays you’ll probably ever meet! It’s a magical time of engaging in the beauty of Moorea’s underwater world as you explore the reefs and say hello to the fishes. The instructors are very personal, guide you along the way, and are considerate of the day’s conditions, aiming to beat the winds and the crowds to cater to your personal experience. If you get lucky, you’ll have Franc the instructor offer you a swig of refreshing pineapple juice, mid-paddle. Beginner to pro paddling experience levels are welcomed on this easy breezy lagoon. It’s one of those, once-in-a-lifetime shark tales you will tell for years to come.
Monoï oil Be sure to bring this oil home! It’s oil taken from soaking the petals of a “Tiare” (tee-ah-day) Flower (my middle name! Represent!) The scent is divine. Great for your skin and hair. Best souvenir. Or gift it to someone. You’ll be so worldly and cultured.
Pareu (pah-day-o). Grab a pareu! It’s a beautifully (usually colorfully) designed fabric, perfect to use for a skirt, a beach wrap, a blanket, even a light towel; it’s the Tahitian version of a sarong. You WILL use it for everything, promise.
Woven handbags! Super Tahitian.
Vanilla. Just anything vanilla.
And always remember to say “mauruuru roa!” (mah-roo-roo row-uh), “thank you very much!”
By Christie Brooke