When Tahiti comes to mind, people picture the romantic getaway of their dreams: untouched white sand beaches, azure blue waters and hundreds of lush volcanic islands. Travel blogger Sher of Sher She Goes has had family on the island for generations. Today, she’s sharing all the unforgettable things to do in Tahiti that give it the name ‘Queen of the Pacific’!
Most people think Tahiti is a far flung destination, but the gorgeous islands of French Polynesia are just an 8-hour flight from Los Angeles. Here’s a complete guide to exploring Tahiti.
Tahiti’s Islands are officially called French Polynesia. The area was settled by Polynesians between 300 – 800 AD and then later annexed as a colony of France in the late 1800s. Today, you’ll find predominantly people of Polynesian descent in Tahiti, but everyone carries French passports and the island’s official language is French. The dual French and Polynesian cultures create a unique atmosphere on the islands!
In its entirety, French Polynesia comprises over 118 islands, scattered halfway between Los Angeles, California and Sydney, Australia. They are clustered in 5 main archipelagos:
- Society Islands
- Tuamoto Islands
- Gambier Islands
- Marquesas Islands
- Austral Islands
Fun Things to Do in Tahiti
In Tahiti, you can experience it all! Whether you want to blissfully relax in an overwater bungalow or have a more active, tropical adventure, there’s so much to do in French Polynesia. Here are 8 of our favorite suggestions:
1. Go Snorkeling in Tahiti’s Natural Aquarium
Scientists refer to Tahiti’s turquoise blue waters as earth’s ‘richest natural aquarium’. They’re home to over 1,000 species of fish, colorful coral reefs and majestic big wildlife in the open sea.
If you visit the Tuamotu and Society Islands, you can spot nearly a third of all the dolphin species in the world! Meanwhile the quiet lagoons of the Austral, Gambier and Tuamoto Islands are the preferred nesting grounds for sea turtles and whales.
A great time to visit Tahiti is during the whale migration from July to November each year. Humpback whales slowly move from the icy Arctic to the warm shores of Tahiti to nest and feed. Since Tahiti’s waters are protected, with strict fishing regulations, Tahiti is the perfect place to spot all the underwater wildlife you’ve always dreamed of encountering.
2. Visit Black Sand Beaches
Black sand beaches are some of the rarest and most beautiful beaches in the world. Two of the most popular include Papara Beach and Teahupo’o Beach. But watch out! Tahiti’s active volcanoes render these sands hot to the touch and your feet might just burn after a few steps.
3. Shop for Cultured Pearls
Take home a piece of Tahiti with you and buy a beautiful cultured pearl. Polynesian designers create every shape, size and type of pearl jewelry you’re looking for and some of the most unique souvenirs incorporate both natural materials like wood and leather with the mother of pearl beads.
4. Treat Yourself to Tarumi (Polynesian Spa)
Want to really let loose? Try a traditional Polynesian massage, called Taurumi. The pressure relieving massage restores the mind and body as traditional practitioners apply pressure along your body’s energy lines. Polynesian healers are called Tahua and this traditional medicine is a meticulous craft handed down from generation to generation!
As an added bonus, spa treatments on the islands typically use local products like coconut, coffee and avocado to leave you soft, smooth and completely purified.
5. Hike to the Summit of Mount Aorai
Mount Aorai is the third highest peak in the Tahitian Islands and an avid hiker’s dream. To reach the summit of giants, nearly 4,200 feet high, you’ll have to start the hike very early in the morning. Parts of the path are even nicknamed the Devil’s Peak.
But, with the difficult terrain comes a magical reward! Mount Aorai’s summit views are breathtaking and encompass not only the ocean but also the island’s lush peaks and valleys.
6. Go on a 4×4 Safari Tour
Moorea is an emerald peaked, heart-shaped island in the Society Islands archipelago, formed from volcanic mountains. A fun way to explore its magic is via a 4×4 safari or an open air 4×4 truck.
Once you make it up the ‘Magic Mountain’, you’ll have an incredible view of the lagoons below you. Bring your camera! The combination of lush green forest and turquoise blue waters is postcard perfect.
7. Taste Tahiti’s Traditional Cuisine
Tahiti is a Garden of Eden, with every imaginable exotic fruits and fish on the menu. Everything, from the fruits to the seafood, is incredibly fresh and often drizzled in a little coconut oil to finish!
Here are some must try foods on your visit to Tahiti:
- Breadfruit (‘uru)
- Orange Plantain Bananas (fe’i)
- Root vegetables like taro, tarua, ufior and ‘umara
- Tahitian Vanilla Beans: these are incredible, with a floral fruity flavor
- Perch, Mahi Mahi & Parrot Fish
- Poisson cru à la Tahitienne: seafood crudo marinated in lime juice and coconut milk
- Suckling Pig cooked in a himaa, or underground oven
8. Sway Your Hips in a Tahitian Dance Lesson
Did you know the famous hula dances of Hawaii have their origins in Tahiti?
Polynesian dance in Tahiti is called Ori Tahiti, and is the traditional art movement for a culture that relied on oral tradition. When in Tahiti, take a dance lesson so you can bust out the moves! Put on a Polynesian pareo, sway your hips and move to the beat of the Tahitian drums and ukulele.
There are a couple of different types of Tahitian dance, but two of the most famous variations are the Otea, a rapid military like dance traditionally performed by men, and the Aparima, a slow sensual dance with an emphasis on the arms and hips.
As you can see, there’s lots more to do in Tahiti than just relax in an overwater bungalow. Cheers to your unforgettable vacation!
Sher Jordan of Sher She Goes is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.
Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.