If you can tear yourself away from the sandy beaches, clear blue water, and energetic nightlife of the island long enough to do a little exploring, there’s plenty to be seen outside Tahiti’s resorts.
Some attractions are man-made; others are natural. Visiting a few of each will provide you with a look at the history and culture of Tahiti and its wonderful Polynesian peoples.
• Musee de Tahiti et Ses Isles (Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands) – Most guidebooks tout this museum as among the best in the South Pacific. Located in a breathtaking setting alongside a lagoon, the museum profiles the geological history of the islands. Exhibits include early artifacts, traditional handicrafts, documents, and photographs. Located about 9 miles west of Papeete, the museum is open every day but Monday.
• Musee Gauguin (Gauguin Museum) – Nineteenth century artist Paul Gauguin loved Tahiti and it’s easy to see the island influences in his colorful paintings. This museum serves as a memorial to Gauguin though there are only a few pieces of his artwork here. However, the museum does occasionally borrow a major work for display. The remainder of the museum’s exhibits attest to the artist’s happy life in French Polynesia.
• La Maison James Norman Hall (James Norman Hall’s Home) – The former home of the man who wrote Mutiny on the Bounty and a number of other best-selling novels, this house/museum is certainly worth a visit. Hall’s family has lovingly tended to the home, loading it up with the author’s memorabilia as well as manuscripts, photos, and more. Guided tours are available at this museum, which is only a 5 minute drive from Papeete.
• Marche Municipal (Municipal Market) – This is true Tahiti…if you can overlook the crowds. Locals flock here early to buy the fixings for the day’s meals and visitors love spending time at Marche Municipal, too. You can buy meat, produce, bakery items, and a variety of handicrafts at this very lively market, where you’ll often enjoy authentic Polynesian music during your shopping trip. Arrive early! The good stuff disappears quickly!
• Lagoonarium de Tahiti – If you prefer to view Tahiti’s diverse and colorful marine life without getting wet, this is the place for you! The underwater viewing room places visitors amidst dozens of species of tropical fish as well as small sharks and placid sea turtles.
• Arahuhu Marae – This fully-restored ancient Polynesian temple makes for a fascinating cultural experience. Guides clue visitors as to the significance of each portion of the temple museum and, during certain times of the year, special Polynesian ceremonies are reenacted here.
• Point Venus – The northernmost point in Tahiti, this is where Captain James Cook observed the transit of the planet Venus in 1769, thus the name. Frequented by visitors, the black sand beach, pristine white lighthouse, and tree-covered park are good places for a stroll or picnic.
• Faarumai Waterfalls – These are the easiest falls on the island to reach. Make your way to a central parking area and choose an easy walk to Vaimahuta falls, or a more strenuous uphill climb to Haamaremare Iti and Haamaremarerahi falls. Either way, you’ll be treated to a magnificent view!
• Arahoho Blowholes – This unique natural attraction is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Geyser-like spouts of water shoot from holes in naturally-formed “shelves” caused by the surf pounding against the headlands in Arahoho. Truly a sight to behold!
• Vaipahi Gardens – Ancient Tahitian nobles once followed the path through this garden to the warm, natural springs, where they believed they would be spiritually purified. Guests can still visit the spring in this lush garden, as well as a pretty waterfall. The tropical vegetation is quite lovely and, overall, Vaipahi Gardens is a wonderful place for taking photos.