Tahiti is the largest island of French Polynesia, located in the archipelago of Society Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean at 17°40′S, 149°30′W. The island had a population of 169,677 inhabitants according to the 2002 census. (This makes it the most populated island of French Polynesia holding 69% of the total population.) The capital is Papeete, on the northwest coast. Tahiti has also been historically known as Otaheite.



Tahiti triangle South Pacific Ocean


Tahiti triangle - Pacific Ocean





Tahiti is some 45 km (28 mi) long at the widest point and covers 1,048 km² (404 sq mi), with the highest elevation being at 2,241 m (7,352 ft) above sea level (Mount Orohena). The island consists of two roughly round portions centered on volcanic mountains, connected by a short isthmus named after the small town of Taravao, which sits there. The northwestern part is known as Tahiti Nui ("big Tahiti"), and the southeastern part, much smaller, is known as Tahiti Iti ("small Tahiti") or Taiarapu. Whereas Tahiti Nui is quite heavily populated (especially around Papeete) and benefits from rather good infrastructure such as roads and highways, Tahiti Iti has remained quite isolated, its southeastern half (Te Pari) being accessible only by boat or hiking. A main road winds around the island between the mountains and the sea while an interior road climbs past dairy farms and citrus groves with panoramic views


Map of Tahiti - South Pacific Ocean


Map of Tahiti - South Pacific Ocean



The vegetation is tremendously lush rain forest.


Some references have mistakenly labeled November through April as Tahiti's wet season. But, according to a 2001 UCLA research study done using years of government cataloged weather data, the islands of Tahiti receive, on average, more hours of sun, and less hours of rain, than Hawaii does year round. Graphs demonstrating the results of the study can be found at Tahiti Tourisme North America's website (the official government sanctioned site for the destination).





Tahiti was estimated to have settled by Polynesians between AD 300 and 800 coming from Tonga and Samoa, although some estimates place the date earlier. The fertile island soil combined with fishing provided ample food for the population.


Although the first European sighting of the islands was by a Spanish ship in 1606, Spain made no effort to trade with or colonize the island. Samuel Wallis, an English sea captain, sighted Tahiti on June 18, 1767, and is considered the first European visitor to the island. The perceived relaxed and contented nature of the local people and the characterization of the island as a paradise much impressed early European visitors, planting the seed for a romanticization by the West that endures to this day.


Wallis was followed in April 1768 by the French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville who was completing the first French circumnavigation. Bougainville made Tahiti famous in Europe when he published the account of his travel in Voyage autour du Monde. He described the island as an earthly paradise where men and women live happily in innocence, away from the corruption of civilization. His account of the island powerfully illustrated the concept of the noble savage, and influenced the utopian thoughts of philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau before the advent of the French Revolution.


In 1774 Captain James Cook visited the island, and estimated the population at that time to be some 200,000. This was probably too high; another estimate from the same period was 121,500. After Cook's visit, European ships landed on the island with ever greater frequency. The best-known of these ships was HMS Bounty, whose crew mutinied shortly after leaving Tahiti in 1789. The European influence caused significant disruption to the traditional society, by bringing prostitution, venereal diseases, and alcohol to the island. Introduced diseases including typhus and smallpox killed so many Tahitians that by 1797, the island's population was only about 16,000. Later it was to drop as low as 6,000.



Dupetit Thouars taking over Tahiti on September 9th, 1842


Dupetit Thouars taking over Tahiti on September 9th, 1842



In 1842, a European crisis involving Morocco escalated between France and Great Britain when Admiral Dupetit Thouars, acting independently of the French government, was able to convince Tahiti's Queen Pomare IV to accept a French protectorate. George Pritchard, a Birmingham-born missionary and acting British Consul, had been away at the time of the agreement. However he returned to work towards indoctrinating the locals against the Roman Catholic French. In November 1843, Dupetit-Thouars (again completely on his own initiative) landed sailors on the island, formally annexing it to France. He then proceeded to throw Pritchard into prison, subsequently sending him unceremoniously back to Britain.


News of the events in Tahiti reached Europe in early 1844. The French statesman François Guizot, supported by King Louis-Philippe of France, had strongly denounced the annexation of the island. However, war between the French and the Tahitians continued until 1847. The island remained a French protectorate until June 29, 1880, when King Pomare V (1842–1891) was forced to cede the sovereignty of Tahiti and its dependencies to France. He was given the titular position of Officer of the Orders of the Legion of Honour and Agricultural Merit of France. In 1946, Tahiti and the whole of French Polynesia became a Territoire d'outre-mer (French overseas territory). In 2003, this status was changed to that of Collectivité d'outre-mer (French overseas community).


French painter Paul Gauguin lived on Tahiti in the 1890s and painted many Tahitian subjects. Papeari has a small Gauguin museum.






Aerial view of Arue and Mahina area, east of Papeete, Tahiti


Aerial view of Arue and Mahina area, east of Papeete



Tahitians are French citizens with full civil and political rights. The Tahitian language and the French language are both in use.


Tahiti is part of French Polynesia (Polynesie Française). French Polynesia is now a semi-autonomous territory of France with its own assembly, President, budget and laws. France's influence is limited to providing subsidies, education and security. The current President of French Polynesia, Oscar Temaru, is advocating full independence from France, however, only about 20% of the population is currently in favor of full independence.


During a press conference on June 26, 2006 during the second France-Oceania Summit, French President Jacques Chirac said he did not think the majority of Tahitians wanted independence. He said he would keep an open door to a possible referendum in the future.


Elections for the Assembly of French Polynesia, the Territorial Assembly of French Polynesia, were held on May 23, 2004. In a surprise result, Oscar Temaru's pro-independence progressive coalition formed a Government with a one seat majority in the 57 seat parliament, defeating the conservative party led by Gaston Flosse. On October 8, 2004, the Gaston Flosse led opposition party succeeded in passing a censure motion against the Government, provoking a political crisis. A major topic of controversy is whether the national government of France should use its exceptional power to call for new elections in a local government, in case of a grave political crisis.



Javelin throwing at the Heiva annual cultural festival in Papeete, French Polynesia, Tahiti


Javelin throwing at the Heiva annual cultural festival in Papeete





Tourism is a significant industry, mostly to the islands of Bora Bora and Moorea. In July, the Heiva festival in Papeete celebrates Polynesian culture and the commemoration of the storming of the Bastille in France.


After the establishment of the CEP (Centre d'Experimentation du Pacifique) in 1963, the standard of living in French Polynesia increased considerably and as a result, many Polynesians abandoned traditional activities and many islanders decided to emigrate to the centre at Papeete. Even though the standard of living in Polynesia is elevated (due mainly to France's FDI investment), the economy is extremely reliant on imports. At the cessation of CEP activities, France signed the Progress Pact with Tahiti to compensate the loss of financial resources and assist in education and tourism with an investment of about US$150 Million a year from the beginning of 2006. The main trading partners with Tahiti are France which accounts for about 40% of imports and about 25% of exports, the USA, Japan, Australia and New-Zealand.


Black pearl farming is also a substantial source of revenues, most of the pearls being exported to Japan, Europe and the US. Tahiti also exports vanilla, fruits, flowers, monoi, fish, coprah oil, and noni.


Unemployment affects about 13% of the active population, especially women and unqualified young people.



French Pacific Franc, dix mille francs


French Pacific Franc



Tahiti’s currency, the French Pacific Franc (CFP), is on parity with the French Franc (about 100 CFP’s for every U.S. dollar). Hotels and financial institutions offer exchange services. U.S. currency and major credit cards are widely accepted.


There is no sales tax in Tahiti. However, a special 2% reduced rate Value Added Tax (VAT) applies to all rented accommodations (hotel rooms, pensions and family stays), and room and meal packages for tourists. A 4% VAT rate applies to purchases in shops, stores and boutiques. A 6% VAT rate applies to bars, excursions, car rentals, snacks and restaurants.





Tahiti hosts a French university, Université de la Polynésie Française ("University of French Polynesia"). It is a small growing university, with around 2,000 students and about 60 researchers. Le Collège La Mennais is located in Papeete.



Arts and music


Recently there has been a strong push to revive old ways and rediscover traditional arts. Traditional musical instruments include pahu and toere drums and the curious nose flute called a vivo. Guitars and ukuleles made their way into Polynesia and the locals developed a unique song style that owes much to country & western music in form but has a distinctive South Pacific island groove. Customary dancing (tamure) has slowly made its way back into French Polynesian life, but the art of making tapa (bark paper and cloth) has largely disappeared.






Moorea ferry


Moorea ferry



Faa'a International Airport is the international airport of Tahiti with Air Tahiti the national airline. The Moorea Ferry is also a notable ferry that operates from Papeete.


Tahiti is just one of a group of closely situated Islands in the South Pacific Ocean bearing different names and identities.  With a peak of 1042 km2, Tahiti is the largest of the Polynesian islands.  Even Tahiti is really composed of 2 islands: Tahiti-Nui, the big island and Tahiti-Iti, the small one, both linked by an isthm.  Tahiti's highest mountains are: the Orohena (2235 m) and the Aorai (2066 m).  The Tahitian population is also the most concentrated especially in Papeete, the capital city and gateway of the territory.  Papeete boasts bustling markets, fine restaurants, pearl shops, clubs and boutiques.




TAHITI - The Gathering Place


Tahiti-Nui & Tahiti-Iti Islands - Tahiti, the gathering place


Tahiti-Nui & Tahiti-Iti Islands


Discover the public market ("Le Marché") where traditional Tahitian arts and crafts, oils and brilliant flowers line the walkways. The market is at its finest every afternoon when the day's fresh catch is brought from the fishing boats, and on Sunday mornings when local families shop for their traditional Sunday feasts.  Don't miss the popular "Les Roulottes", mobile diners that unfold late each afternoon along the waterfront.


The public transport system, called: Le Truck, provides an interesting way of seeing the local towns and people.  A taxi service is also available from your hotel to restaurants and shopping and is best arranged by your hotel concierge.  Car rentals are also available from the airport and your hotel.  Helicopters can be hired for dramatic island tours or for transportation to Moorea and Bora Bora.  You will find beautiful white sand beaches between the districts of Punaauia and Papara. The black sand beach of the Pointe Vénus is the most famous of the black sand beaches located on the East coast of Tahiti.  The interior of the island offers splendid and unforgettable opportunities for hiking or safari 4x4 excursions, with impressive waterfalls, archeological sites, grottoes, etc...


To visit:the Papeete Public Market; the new To'ata Square open 24hrs a day ideal for strolling and also serves as a showground for the Heiva Festival; the art galleries in Papeete and in the districts of Papara and Afaahiti; the museums; the churches like the Cathedrale of Papeete; the Botanical Garden in Papeari and the Mataoa Gardens in Papara; the different town halls like in Papeete, Arue, Faaa; the Chinese Temple in Mamao, the lagoonarium in Punaauia, the historical Pointe Vénus lighthouse; the tomb of the royal family Pomare in Arue; the marae Arahurahu; the lake Vaihiria with its eels that have ears; the different valleys and mountains of Tahiti like the Aorai, the Mont Marau; the 3 cascades (waterfalls) of Tiarei; the lavatubes of Hitiaa; and of course the peninsula and the cliffs of the "Pari", paradise for hikers looking for adventure... Do not hesitate to circle the island. In Taravao, you can reach the peninsula of Tahiti Iti by crossing the small isthm.



Papenoo beach, Tahiti


Papenoo beach




Festivals & Events:

April: Islands Music Festival    May: Tahiti Pro Surfing Competition    June: International Golf Open
July: Heiva I Tahiti, the largest dance and songs festival on all the islands   July: Polynesian Games    October: Tahiti Carnival



HUAHINE - Garden of Eden



Huahine Tiare Beach, Tahiti


Huahine Tiare Beach


Composed of 2 islands linked by a bridge, Huahine lies on a superficy of 80 km2, 170 km away from Tahiti.  Huahine is served by Air Tahiti with daily 35-minute flights from Papeete and Moorea, and 15-20 minute flights from both Raiatea and Bora Bora.  Taxi service is available, and the public transit system, Le Truck, has daily routes from outlying villages to the town of Fare. As both islands are connected by a causeway, all roads can be explored by hired excursion or by renting a car, jeep, or bicycle. Motorboats and sailboats can be rented with or without a guide for half or full-day lagoon explorations.  


With its lush forests and untamed landscape, Huahine is Polynesia's best kept secret. A deep crystal-clear lagoon surrounds the two islands while magnificent bays and white-sand beaches add drama and solitude to their virtues.  Huahine's few residents are warm, welcoming visitors with great kindness.  With its rich and fertile soil, the island provides farmers bountiful harvests of vanilla, melons and bananas.


Tahitian Women on the Beach 1891 painting by Paul Gauguin


Tahitian Women on the Beach 1891 painting by Paul Gauguin


Many archeological sites have been discovered there and Huahine is still intact in many aspects. Near the village of Maeva lies the largest concentration of pre-European marae in Polynesia. Now fully restored, over 200 stone structures, including 40 marae, allow you to walk into ancient times.  


Do not miss visiting the interior of the island, the Maeva marae at the foot of Mount Mouatapu and on the shores of lake Fauna Nui; the Belvedere for a beautiful view of Maroe Bay; the vanilla plantations; the Eden Parc -an 8-acre botanical garden and the awesome surfing spots !


Festivals & Events:

October: Start of the Hawaiki Nui Va'a Canoe Race, best described as the "Super Bowl" of canoe races. It is the world's largest and longest international open-ocean canoe race and covers a grueling 72 miles between Huahine and Bora Bora. The men's race is launched from Fare with a festival of music and dance






Located at only 40 km from Bora Bora, Maupiti is a small island with a superficy of a little less than 20 km2 that you can circle by foot or by bicycle in about half a day.  With only 1 difficult pass, the access by sea of this island is limited.  From the airport (located on a motu) to your pension, you will take a boat trip and have the opportunity to admire the beautiful lagoon and its fish, rays and corals.


Maupiti Motu near Bora Bora tranquil beach


Maupiti Motu



This island, which has been inhabited since at least 850 A.C, has at least 60 marae including the impressive marae Vaiahu.  The crystal-clear waters of its lagoon with its swirling sandbanks rival Bora Bora in beauty.  Preferably with a guide, you can go hiking to the cliff of Hotu Parata (165m) for a stunning view.


Moorea-The Magical Island

The sister island of Tahiti, well visible from the West Coast of Tahiti and at a distance of only 17 km, has a superficy of 135 km2 and counts among her 8 mountains, the Rotui at an altitude of 900m, and the fascinating Moua Puta (pierced mountain) that you can admire when you arrive via ferry in the Port of Vaiare.


At only 5 to 10 minutes from Tahiti by plane, Moorea is an ideal destination for the Tahitians willing to escape the faster pace of Tahiti. Moorea's airport is served by Air Tahiti and Air Moorea with flights departing every 30 minutes until 6.00pm.

Moorea also has regular flights to Huahine, Raiatea and Bora Bora. Passenger ferries operate up to six times daily between downtown Papeete and the port village of Vaiare, with voyages as short as 20 minutes. Taxi service is available and the public transit system, Le Truck, operates between villages and the ferry.  The main resources of Moorea are the plantation of sweet-tasting pineapple  in the fertile Opunohu Valley and of course the hotel industry.


To visit: The 2 majestic bays of Cook and of Opunohu, the Belvédère with its panoramic view of the 2 bays, the beautiful white sand beach of Temae near the airport; the distillery and fruit juice factory, the plantations of pineapple, the waterfalls of Afareiatu, the Dolphin Quest to snorkel with dolphins, the Tiki Theatre that recreates a traditional Polynesian village, the art galleries and the magnificent "motu" (islets).



Festivals & Events:

February: Tahiti Marathon    September: Super Aito Canoe Race    October: Aitoman Triathlon




BORA BORA - The Romantic Island


Bora pearl beach


Bora pearl beach



At a distance of 260km from Tahiti, these 40 km2 of superficy were once paradise for the US Navy in the Pacific during World War II.  Bora Bora, whose ancient name is Pora Pora (since the letter B does not exist in the Tahitian language), is recognizable by the flat profile of her mountain Otemanu (727 m) and above all known for the beauty of her turquoise waters.


Bora Bora is served by Air Tahiti with regular 35-minute flights from Papeete and Moorea, and 20-minute flights from Huahine and Raiatea.  The airport is based on one of her motus: Motu Mute, and is only accessible to the hotels by a passenger ferry to the port village of Vaitape or by private motorboats operated by some of the hotels.  Bora Bora has a few taxis and operates the public transit system, Le Truck. The picturesque circle-island and interior roads are best explored through hired excursion.  Car and bicycle rentals are available, while motorboat and outrigger canoe rentals offer an enjoyable way to discover the lagoon and surrounding motus.  Helicopters can also be hired for dramatic island tours or transportation to Papeete.


To visit: the motus especially Motu Tapu; the raised stones of the royal Farerua marae also called Marotetini; the former US naval base; the summit of Mt Pahia for its breathtaking view...



Tahiti Tautira beach south east




Festivals & Events:

February: Tahiti International Billfishing Tournament    August: Island Heiva Celebration    October: Finish of the Hawaiki Nui Va'a Canoe Race with huge island celebration.(Race best described as the "Super Bowl" of canoe races. It is the world's largest and longest international open-ocean canoe race and covers a grueling 72 miles between Huahine and Bora Bora.)



Raiatea - The Sacred Island  & Tahaa - The Vanilla Island


Located 220 km North West of Tahiti, Raiatea is the largest and the administrative center of the Leeward Islands (Iles Sous Le Vent) with a superficy of 200 km2.

She shares her lagoon with the neighbor island of
Tahaa (88km2), at a distance of only 5 km.

Raiatea is served by Air Tahiti with frequent 40-minute flights from Papeete and Moorea, and with several daily 15-minute flights from Huahine and Bora Bora.  Tahaa is served only by water taxi from Raiatea.

Both Raiatea and Tahaa have a few taxis, and Raiatea operates the public transit system, Le Truck, with daily routes from outlying villages to the town of Uturoa.


In the past named Havaii or Havaiki, original land of the Maohi and the center of religion and culture around 1000 years ago, Raiatea is a sacred island and she proves it by the number of her marae including the largest in Polynesia and the most famous one of Taputapuatea, held sacred to the god of war, Oro.


On the mount Temehani (772m), and nowhere else in the world (it resists transplantation), grows a unique and protected flower: the Tiare Apetahi, white flower with four petals, bigger and more open than the ones of the Tiare Tahiti, and that only opens at dawn with a slight crackling sound. Many locals sleep overnight on the mountain to be able to hear that sound.



Tiare Apetahi

Tiare Apetahi



Raiatea also has the deepest bay in Polynesia: the bay of Faaroa.  Winding through a lush rainforest, the Faaroa River is the only navigable river in Polynesia. Its historic shores launched migratory journeys to faraway islands now called Hawaii and New Zealand.

To visit: the "bassin de la Reine"; the marae Taputapuatea, the Belvedere on Mt. Tapioi (294m), the Mt. Temehani with its tiare apetahi, the site Te Puhapa, the vanilla plantations.

Tahaa is an enjoyable island to explore at a slower pace. The coral reef surrounding the flower-shaped island is crowned with as many as 60 tiny, idyllic motus perched above the North shore. A road that is nearly 70 kms in length circles the coastal plain. Along the way, eight attractive and tranquil villages are dotted, with Patio being the main one.

Much of Tahiti's harvest of vanilla is grown on this small island. Plantation tours include strolling among the rows of climbing orchids from which the vanilla pods come and a demonstration of the pollination and curing process.


To visit: the Foundation Hibiscus for the protection of sea turtles, the pearl farms, the vanilla plantations.



Festivals & Events:

November: Stone Fishing Tournament. In the method of their ancestors, men in dozens of canoes beat the water with stones tied to ropes while the schools of fish are driven ashore where they are easily collected for an extravagant feast.



Tetiaroa Beach

Tetiaroa Beach




Located at only 44 km North of Tahiti, Tetiaroa is most visible from the hills of the district of Mahina.  This atoll is composed of 13  motu" (islets) with white sand beaches and coconut trees, all surrounded by a limpid lagoon delimited by a coral reef barrier. This lagoon of 7km in diameter, 55 km in circumference and 30 meters in depth is very difficult to access especially with only one small canoe pass. Therefore, this atoll is mainly accessible by plane.  Out of all the motus which rarely go over 3 meters in altitude, only the main motu (motu Onetahi) where the Tetiaroa Village is located  is inhabited.

This atoll, administered by the district of Arue, is, since 1965, the property of Marlon Brando who fell in love with these islets when filming the Mutiny of the Bounty. Marlon Brando built there a small landing strip and a small (and the only) hotel called Tetiaroa Village. He opened his atoll to the public in 1972.  Most visits are between 1 and 3 days MAXIMUM and can be arranged from either Tahiti or Moorea. Longer term" stays require special permission from the owners. 
If you do not have time to visit the Tuamotus, we recommend visiting Tetiaroa because of its proximity to Tahiti and its similarity  with the Tuamotu atolls.


To visit with care: The Bird Island of Tahuna Iti, favored by the red-breasted black frigate birds, the phaetons or "straw tails", brown gannets and other petrels for breeding purposes.



Tahiti beautiful Tahitian women by waterfall



About 200 miles North East of Tahiti lies the Tuamotu Archipelago, composed of the largest collection of coral atolls in the world.  The Tuamotu count 78 atolls spread unevenly on 1,500km of land and 20,000 km2 of ocean.  The waters of the Tuamotus are a scuba diver’s dream. Whether you opt for shallow, ocean or drift dives, the underwater scenery is guaranteed to be some of the most spectacular you’ve ever seen.


Among the most known atolls, Rangiroa, Manihi and the atolls of Tikehau and Fakarava are served from Papeete by Air Tahiti with several daily one-hour flights to Rangiroa, with continuing service of 35 minutes to Manihi.

Air Tahiti also operates several weekly flights from Bora Bora to Rangiroa and Manihi.
With only a few miles of road, there is little need for public transportation. To explore the islands, rent open-air cars or bicycles. To explore the lagoon and surrounding motus, rent a motorboat, canoe or sailboat.




Located 350 km North East of Tahiti and mostly called by the Tahitians "Rairoa" (Long sky), Rangiroa is the largest atoll of Polynesia or more accurately the largest lagoon of Polynesia (since the island of Tahiti could fit in it!) with a superficy of about 1000 km2 and more than 240 motus.
 Rangiroa is a string of coral encircling a luminous turquoise and jade-green lagoon and, with its waters with 150-foot visibility, is a paradise for divers and snorkelers!


In Rangiroa, to "shoot the pass" is to experience what many have called "the world's greatest adrenaline rush!". Divers, snorkelers, or those aboard a glass-bottom boat are carried swiftly through the pass between the open ocean and lagoon alongside an infinite array of marine life (squadrons of eagle rays, schools of sharks, tuna, jacks and barracuda,...)


To visit: Gauguin's Farm Pearl in Avatoru, Some of the world's best diving sites, the Reef Passe





Like a round swimming pool, the atoll of Tikehau and its diameter of 26 km holds an interior lagoon with the most fish compared to the rest of the atolls in Polynesia. This atoll is located 300km Northwest of Tahiti and about 12 km from Rangiroa.

Tikehau has a large pass and a series of islets, the largest of which at the Southwest of the atoll, 900meters wide is inhabited.

The charming village of Tuherahera, swathed in flowers, is situated on the South end of this large motu which also has two other villages: Tuheiava, an important center for lagoon fishing and the many fish parks that supply the markets of Tahiti; and Maiaia on the Northeast that is a traditional copra producer.

Scuba diving in the Tuheiava Pass is a must: the manta rays' dance alternates with the parades of schools of barracuda, and tuna fish, not to mention the gray and the white-tipped sharks.



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