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Tahiti is an enchanting tropical haven that beckons with its picturesque landscapes, bright turquoise waters, and dreamy overwater bungalows. And, whether you’re craving a relaxing escape or after some adrenaline-fueled adventures, this island paradise has something for everyone. In this post, I’ll detail my ultimate guide to the 41 best things to do in Tahiti and what you need to know to craft your dream itinerary!

41 Best Things to Do in Tahiti

Before I jump into the full ‘monster’ list (because I did promise an ultimate guide ), I just want to say that this post takes a hot second to read through. So, in case you’re short on time and want just a quick highlights list… here are my top 7 must-do activities in Tahiti!

NOTE: I’ll start with the more adventurous activities first since I think they’re the most worth it. And don’t worry, I’ve also included several free things to do in Tahiti for my fellow budget travelers!

1. Explore the Island With a Local

A picture of Tahiti's lush vegetation that can be found around the island.

Whether you’re staying in Tahiti for several days or simply passing through for a day or two, one of the absolute best things you can do in Tahiti is explore the island with a local.

Why? Because there’s no better way to learn the lay of the land and the local customs than from a local. This is something I believe holds for any destination, and it’s why I go out of my way to connect with locals in every place I travel to.

But, with French Polynesia specifically, exploring with a local guide is even more powerful. So much of the island’s treasures are hidden. Literally, you could drive around the entire island, and still miss out on 80% of the island’s attractions… more on that later

However, with a guide, they can show you some of the hidden gems and iconic landmarks, and regale you with all the stories that can’t be found in the books or blogs. Oh, and it means you don’t have to worry about getting lost navigating the island, because… been there, done that — 3x lol.

Anyway, if you want to start your Tahitian adventure on the right foot, I recommend discovering the island with a local!

Check rates & availability for this excellent private island tour of Tahiti!

2. Snorkel Amongst the Diverse Marine Life

A picture of Kristin and her friend snorkeling in Tahiti. Snorkeling is one of the best things to do in Tahiti!
Kristin and her best friend having a blast snorkeling around Tahiti!

With Tahiti’s crystal clear waters, another must-do activity is to observe all the wonderful underwater life! From all kinds of vibrant tropical fish to rays, turtles, and sharks, there’s so much to see in the waters around French Polynesia!

My friends and I made a point to snorkel every day and try out the various local spots so we could see all the different marine life and colorful coral reefs! That said, we had the means to do this because we had a rental car and got some insider intel on where to go from a chance encounter with a local.

But, if you don’t plan on getting a rental car and want to maximize your time, your best bet is to join a snorkeling safari! With the help of a local guide, they can take you directly to the known hotspots for observing tons of exotic sea creatures!

Not to mention, if you aren’t a strong swimmer, this particular snorkeling adventure provides sea scooters. For anyone who doesn’t know, sea scooters are little motors that you hold onto as they propel you through the water. Either way, be sure to snorkel around Tahiti’s brilliant blue waters!

Check rates & availability for this awesome snorkeling tour in Tahiti!

3. Go Off-Road in Papenoo Valley

A picture of Papenoo Valley with it's impressive waterfall in the background. A fun thing to do in Tahiti is to go off-roading into the breathtaking valley that's inaccessible to normal cars.
One of the incredible cascades you’ll see within Papenoo Valley | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

Remember how I was saying that you could drive around the island and miss 80% of Tahiti’s best features? Well, this is a prime example of what I’m talking about.

Most people spend all their time on Tahiti’s beautiful beaches, in the water, or driving along the perimeter of the island. But by doing this, most people miss out on discovering the heart and soul of the island — Tahiti’s breathtaking interior.

More specifically, Papenoo Valley is a treasure trove of natural wonders. In fact, this valley is where you can find the island’s sole natural lake, waterfalls that tower to skyscraper heights, and sacred archaeological sites that speak of the ancient cultural heritage.

The catch? Papenoo Valley is only accessible by rugged roads that a 4×4 vehicle can navigate. This may seem disappointing or unfortunate, but I actually prefer it this way.

With an expanse as vast and untouched as Papenoo Valley, it’s best discovered through the eyes and expertise of someone who knows the land intimately. Someone who can ensure we not only learn the history but also respect these lands so future generations can also enjoy them.

Well, that, and I find riding in the back of 4×4 pretty thrilling! So, if you’re ready to delve into the heart of Tahiti’s lush interior and marvel at its untamed beauty, consider joining a local on a 4×4 off-road adventure.

Check rates & availability for the best 4×4 safari through Papenoo Valley

4. Marvel at the Famous Teahupo’o Surfbreak

A picture of a local surfing the famous Teahupoo. Even if you can't surf, a must do in Tahiti is to see this force of nature up close!
A local riding what would be considered a *baby* wave by Teahupoo standards! | Credit: Sol G.

Teahupo’o, pronounced (Choo-poo), is the most famous surf break in French Polynesia and the location of the annual Billabong Pro Teahupo’o surf competition.

This left wave is known for its heavy break, monster size, and crushing power. If that didn’t seem scary enough, the break sits right on top of razor-sharp coral reefs that I can personally testify — hurt!

While the wave is normally between 2-3 m (6-9ft), Teahupo’o is known to reach deadly heights of about 7 – 8m (26ft). Oh, and it happens to be the venue for the surfing portion of the 2024 Summer Olympics

Therefore, even if surfing is not your thing, seeing this world-famous break in action and admiring the enchanting backdrop of Tahiti’s mountains from the safety of a taxi boat is worth it!

Check rates & availability for a taxi boat ride to Teahupoo

5. Swim with Gentle Giants on a Whale Watching Safari

Whale watching is an unforgettable experience and one of the many things that visitors can partake in if they visit Tahiti between July and October.
A momma whale and her calf swimming in the waters around Tahiti! | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

Planning your trip between August and early November? If so, an activity you won’t want to miss out on is swimming with the gentle giants of the sea!

That’s right, during whale season, thousands of humpback whales pass through these pristine waters. And, only in French Polynesia and a couple of other places in the world do you have the unique opportunity to swim alongside these majestic creatures!

With the help of certified guides, you can respectfully and ethically observe these creatures up close, hear their whale song, and see adult whales breach the surface with their calves! Truly, I don’t think it gets more personal than that.

Thus, if you happen to be visiting during whale season, be sure to add swimming with these incredible creatures to your Tahiti itinerary. I promise this is an experience that will simply take your breath away and leave you in awe.

Check rates & availability for this half-day Whale excursion in Tahiti
Along the way, you’ll also search for dolphins, turtles & rays!

6. Dive with Sharks

Swimming with sharks in Tahiti guarantees a memorable experience and is something I would recommend everyone trying.
A smaller shark I encountered in Tahiti!

Does anyone else have a healthy fear of sharks? If so, you’re not alone! In fact, I would say your survival instincts are alive and well.

Fortunately for us, the sharks around Tahiti are pretty friendly and normally just minding their own business! And, in these waters, you can usually find an assortment of sharks, from lemon and blacktip to reef and tiger sharks!

So, if you’re ready to swim with these often-feared creatures, here are two different experiences I can recommend.

First is this 2-hour snorkel experience, where you can look forward to seeing tropical fish, rays, turtles, sharks, and maybe some dolphins. Again, your adventure is powered by fun little shark-shaped sea scooters that can help you navigate the waters with ease!

The second experience I recommend is the Full Day Dive Adventure with Fluid Plonge Tahiti. As the name suggests, this experience is much longer and includes a morning dive, a meal on board the boat, an afternoon dive, and then another sunset dive.

And, in contrast to the first experience, the full-day adventure is heavily centered around ensuring you see all kinds of shark species.

Regardless of which excursion you opt for, know that the instructors are well-prepared, extremely knowledgeable, and do everything they can to create a safe and fun atmosphere!

Check rates for the 2-hour snorkel excursion here!

NOTE: I recommend bringing a hat and a long sleeve to avoid getting burnt as the sun can be quite brutal for hours on end.

7. Spend a Day Exploring Moorea

A picture of Kristin and her friend posing in front of the Moorea Tropical Gardens sign.
Just two best friends on that post-heavenly food high

If you plan on primarily using Tahiti as your home base, a fun thing to do is to spend a day island hopping over to Moorea! For anyone unfamiliar with Tahiti and her islands, Moorea is Tahiti’s sister island and can be easily reached within an hour from Tahiti.

Now, you might be wondering, “Doesn’t Moorea have the same stuff as Tahiti?” I’ll admit, the views are similar in that you get to take in the jagged mountain peaks, lush greenery, and unbelievable coastline. But, it’s not quite the same.

Compared to Tahiti, I found that Moorea has better snorkeling opportunities, with its crystal-clear lagoon, and provides slightly more opportunities for exhilarating excursions. Oh, and I can’t forget about the Rotui Juice Factory, which lets you sample several of the island’s flavorful alcoholic and non-alcoholic juices!

So, if you’re craving a little change in pace, consider popping over to Moorea for a day or two! You won’t be disappointed.

8. Swim Over Underwater Wrecks

There are several underwater wrecks around Tahiti. Swimming around them and seeing the ocean life that has repurposed the wrecks is one of the more unique things to do in Tahiti.
A picture of one of the wrecked boats | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

Have you ever thought about what happens to planes and boats when they crash or sink Well, they become new homes for fish and coral reefs!

If you find yourself looking for a unique experience, check out this epic snorkeling experience! Over 1.5 hours, you’ll get to foray into an area known as the “Aquarium,” which is teeming with diverse marine life and home to a couple of underwater wrecks!

The tour begins with a short 10-minute boat ride. Once on-site, you’ll get to spend over an hour snorkeling with your guide amongst all the tropical fish and vibrant coral reefs.

Then, to ensure you ensure you never forget the experience, your guide will send you complimentary pictures from the excursion! As someone who has paid $50+ for a couple of pictures from tours I’ve done, this is an absolute steal of a deal…

Check out this memorable snorkel tour through Tahiti’s Aquarium!

9. Trek to the Majestic Fautaua Waterfall

A picture of Fautaua Waterfall in Fautaua Valley. Hiking to this waterfall is one of the most popular things to do in Tahiti.
Peep my friend at the bottom of Fautaua Waterfall! | Credit: Sol G.

While most people love to spend their time at the gorgeous white and black sand beaches (totally fair!), Tahiti is also known for its hiking trails that lead to impressive waterfalls! These hikes range from “extremely easy” to “expert explorer.”

One hike I recommend for anyone looking for a challenge and to get their steps in for the day is the Fautaua Waterfall Hike. As you can likely tell from the name, it guides you to Fautaua Waterfall, which is the island’s tallest waterfall!

The hike is on the more intensive side, taking approximately 5 to 6 hours. But, the flip side is that you get to travel off the beaten path and discover Tahiti’s luscious and vibrantly green interior!

Furthermore, my friends and I only saw 2 other people on the trail, so we got to enjoy this natural wonder away from the crowds! If this seems like something up your alley, check out my complete guide for trekking to Fautaua Waterfall.

10. Partake in the Local Surf Culture

A picture of Kristin and her friend heading out for a surf sesh at Papara in Tahiti.
Just me and my best friend heading out for a surf sesh at Papara! | Credit: Sol G.

As I mentioned earlier, Tahiti has a thriving surf culture that can only be matched by the surf culture in San Diego, Hawaii, Portugal, and maybe a few other destinations.

Whether you’re a complete beginner, an eager amateur, or a seasoned pro, consider partaking in the pastime that’s practically a right of passage on these islands! You can find surf breaks that cater to all levels around Tahiti.

But, to give you just a couple of my favorites, I recommend amateurs hit up Papenoo. This is a beginner-friendly point break located half an hour away from Papeete. Meanwhile, more experienced surfers should check out Papara, which I’ll talk about more later!

And for any complete beginner, I suggest taking surf lessons from Tura’i Mataare surf school. Everyone is welcome, and they provide all the necessary equipment for you to successfully learn!

So if you have even an inkling of interest in learning to surf, check them out. Because remember, everyone starts their surfing journey somewhere, and how freaking cool would it be to say you surfed in Tahiti!!

Check rates and availability for the Tura’i Mataare surf school

11. Adventure Through Lava Tubes and Canyons

A picture of Fautaua River. During the hike to Fautaua Waterfall, you will have to cross the river a few times.

Want a thrilling adventure and don’t mind getting a little dirty? Try lava tube canyoning on the east coast side of Tahiti in Hitiaa!

I know I know…the idea of willingly trekking through rivers and going underground can freak people out. However, I assure you that it is an adventure of a lifetime! Inside the lava tubes, you can see Tahiti’s incredible interior and pass through various waterfalls!

To do this hike, you’ll want to go with a guide because they can provide you with the necessary gear (wetsuit, helmet, etc) as well as safely lead you through the lava tubes. I recommend the guides at Manawa.

Check rates & availability for this canyoning experience through Tahiti’s Lavatubes!

NOTE: This is a seasonal activity because you can only hike through these tubes when there is no rain or extremely little chance of rain.

12. Experience Bliss in an Overwater Bungalow

You’ve likely seen the iconic overwater bungalows before and thought, “Dang, I want to stay in one someday“. Well, during your trip to Tahiti is the perfect opportunity to splurge a little and do so!

Overwater bungalows are *the* definition of luxury. Your room comes with a private terrace that allows you to jump directly into crystal-clear waters filled with fish, rays, and other sea creatures.

Then at night, you can retreat into your little haven, falling asleep to the soothing sounds of small waves crashing. Sounds like heaven paradise right?

Presently, the InterContinental Tahiti Resort and Spa is the only location on Tahiti that is open with overwater bungalows. Each bungalow comes with a multitude of amenities and there is a limited number, so make sure to make a reservation as soon as you can!

Check rates and availability for the overwater bungalows at InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa here!

13. Savor Traditional Tahitian Flavors

A picture of the delicious food that Kristin and her friends ate while at a restaurant in Tahiti.
We had poisson cru at least once a day lol

Considering that eating food is one of the basic necessities of life, a must-do is to savor the traditional Tahitian flavors! Outside of all the exciting adventures and excursions, immersing yourself in the island’s unique culinary scene is one of the best ways to learn about Polynesian culture!

For example, a French Polynesian dish that you’ll likely see gracing almost every menu is Poisson Cru. This signature dish is made from fresh tuna marinated in coconut milk and lime juice, diced tomato, and cucumber.

And while it may not look the most appetizing, it’s a refreshing burst of flavors that encapsulates the essence of Tahitian cuisine! Seriously, I think my friends were addicted to it.

Another dish to be on the lookout for is Tahitian Po’e. This is a traditional Polynesian dessert that’s essentially fruit pudding. You’ll usually see banana po’e but it’s sometimes made with other fruits!

And of course, for any fellow foodies, there’s always the option of joining a food tour in Tahiti. This is an easy way to sample several Tahitian specialties and understand their cultural significance with a local!

Check rates and availability for this excellent food tour through Papeete!

14. Navigate to Hidden Gems by Boat

A picture of Tahiti's mountainous interior as seen from a boat off the coast of Tahiti Iti.
Exploring around Tahiti Iti by boat! | Credit: Sol G.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when visiting French Polynesia is only exploring the area around Papeete. Sure, the capital city is fun and great to hang around if you only have a few hours in Tahiti. But, if you have a full day or more to explore, it’s absolutely worth venturing beyond the bustling hub.

More specifically, if you want to discover some of the island’s hidden lagoons and secret beaches, I recommend visiting Tahiti Iit, or Little Tahiti. This part of the island has an even more mystical aura and laid-back vibe with its unspoiled beauty that few tourists see.

Not to mention, this smaller segment of Tahiti is only 1.5 hours away from Papeete. So, it’s quite doable to reach even as a half-day excursion! You will just want to rent a car since, as I mentioned previously, public transportation isn’t reliable.

Speaking of half-day excursions, an experience that combines a couple of the activities I’ve mentioned above is this splendid boat tour around Tahiti Iti. This tour begins at the marina that takes you to the awe-inspiring Teahupo’o Wave, where you’ll watch some locals glide through the perfect barrels.

Then, you’ll cruise in the nearby lagoon to Fenua Aihere, a remote spot on the island with dramatic landscapes. From there, you’ll stop at the Vaipoiri River and walk around the surrounding tree forest. Finally, you’ll snorkel in a coral garden filled with rainbow-colored fish!

Thus, if you are ready to escape from the crowds and immerse yourself in the island’s less-trodden paths, then consider this experience!

Check rates and availability for this hidden gem boat tour

15. Thrill-Seek with Jet Ski Excursions

A picture of some people riding jet skis over the waters surrounding Tahiti.
You might even glide alongside sociable dolphins or, from July to October, majestic whales!| Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

Craving some speed and adrenaline? A popular activity to do in French Polynesia, especially on the islands of Moorea and Bora Bora, is riding a jet ski! It makes sense considering there aren’t many people who would turn down an opportunity to zoom through the crystal clear waters of the South Pacific.

Plus, it’s a pretty exhilarating way to take in the island’s stunning scenery! Imagine feeling the rush of wind in your hair and face as you enjoy the island’s stunning coastline and beautiful landmarks from a different perspective.

If this sounds like something you want to add to your itinerary, I recommend booking with Tahiti Jet Ski! The company provides comfortable Seadoo jet skis, which can be operated solo or with a partner and are capable of reaching speeds over 60 km/hr!

Also, their knowledgeable guides are highly rated, can help you learn about the island, and will ensure your safety in the water.

Oh, and unlike some of the other jet ski companies, you have more flexibility and control over how long you want your excursion to be. For example, you can choose to jet ski around for just half an hour or opt for an extended two-hour adventure.

Either way, this is a surefire way to get your heart racing as you glide across the endless blue waters, and discover the island’s immense beauty and biodiversity!

Check rates and availability for jetskiing around Tahiti

16. Catch a Bird’s Eye View of Paradise

A picture of a Tahiti Nui Helicopter flying over Tahiti.
An experience of a lifetime! | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

Keeping in line with unique ways to traverse Tahiti, another unforgettable activity you can do during your stay in Tahiti is a helicopter tour! Tahiti Nui Helicopters is a company with experts who specialize in showing guests incredible aerial views across French Polynesia.

With options for 20 or 30-minute flights, you have plenty of time to marvel at all kinds of sights. For instance, depending on the route you select, your helicopter adventure may include breathtaking views of the Fautaua Valley’s dramatic terrain, the Tiara pass, Papeete’s bustling port, the serene lagoon of Punaauia, and the lush valleys of Papenoo, Punaruu, and Maroto.

You’ll even have the chance to glide past Mount Orohena, which is something I can’t wait to do one day. A little fun fact about this mountain is that it’s the tallest peak in French Polynesia. It towers toward the sky at 2,241 meters and is surrounded by otherworldly valleys, rivers, and waterfalls!

So, if you want to witness the spectacular, panoramic views of Tahiti from above be sure to check out Tahiti Nui Helicopters! (P.S. The company does offer flights on the other islands as well…)

17. Set Sail on a Romantic Sunset Cruise

A picture of the sunset over the water as seen from a sunset cruise
Views from my sunset cruise!

Whether I’m in Hawaii, Guam, or any other beach destination, one of my favorite things to do is watch the sun dip behind the ocean horizon. And, while you could certainly do this from Tahiti’s shoreline or the grounds of a waterfront hotel, one way to make the experience even more special and intimate is with a private sunset cruise.

Taapuna Sandbar Resort is a company that offers hour private afternoon and sunset cruises on their elegant ship. They are conveniently located in Puna’auia, which is a quick 10-minute drive away from Papeete.

How it works is that you’ll meet at the dock in Puna’auia to board your boat, and then you’ll set sail along the waters of Tahiti’s lagoon. As you cruise around, you’ll listen to good music and have access to snorkeling equipment to explore the vibrant underwater world below!

And what’s nice about this company is that they charge by the group. So, if you are looking for a chill activity to do with your family or friends, this sunset cruise is a great option as the cost per person decreases the larger your group is!

Check rates and availability for soaring high above Tahiti

18. Shop at the Lively Papeete Market

A picture of some of the stalls at the Papeete Market.
I loved souvenir shopping here! | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

In the heart of the capital is the lively Papeete Market! This bustling market takes up the space of an entire city block and is filled with stalls selling everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to full-on meals and handcrafted goods!

This makes it the perfect spot to grab some food for your day’s excursions, people-watch, and purchase some souvenirs to bring back home, such as shell necklaces, woven hats, or sarongs!

My friends and I frequented the Papeete market almost every other day to stock up on fresh mango and star fruit! Seriously, the mango was the best mango I’ve ever had, and it’s ruined all future mangos for me.

Just know that there’s no official parking lot. So, be prepared to park on the side of a nearby street and walk for a few minutes if you are driving with a rental car.

19. Enjoy Tranquility in Jardins de Paofai

A picture of the large pond that can be found at the Jardins de Paofai in Papeete.
The beautiful lily pond in the Jardins de Paofai | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

If you’re in the capital and looking to get away from all the noise, head over to the Jardins de Paofai. These gardens are located right along the waterfront and have several paths that make for a chill afternoon stroll.

Around the grounds, you’ll see beautiful flowers and palm trees adorning the paths. There is also a large pond teeming with colorful fish, which is my personal favorite to walk around.

And if you’re lucky, you may see some local racing canoes, called pirogues, of all sizes dotting the pebbled shoreline. Local teams can sometimes be seen practicing if you visit in the afternoon.

20. Devour the Food at Place Viaete

A picture of our food from one of the food trucks at Place Viaete. Grabbing food from Place Viaete is a must thing to do on Tahiti. They offer an assortment of cuisines with large food portions for relatively cheap prices.
One serving of food from one of the food trucks! | Credit: Sol G.

During the day, Place Viaete is a pleasant location to take a break and admire the boats in the nearby harbor. However, by 6 PM, the square located in the center of Papeete transforms itself into a buzzing night market!

Various food trucks (roulettes) are set up, offering an array of cuisines. Think Chinese food, pizzas, fries, crepes, seafood, and so much more! Most nights, live music and entertainment can also be found around the square, creating a lively atmosphere.

Plus, not only is the food delicious and plentiful but also it’s available at a great price! Prices vary between the different roulettes, but we thought the portions were great value.

In the picture above, we spent $12 on that large portion and honestly struggled to finish it. Thus, if you are looking for a place to grab a bite to eat with a lot of variety and fairly inexpensive food, I would highly suggest visiting Place Viaete!

NOTE: Bring CFP Francs as some of the vendors don’t accept cards.

21. Circumnavigate Tahiti

A picture of cars driving down the road in Tahiti.
Views while driving around the island! | Credit: Sol G.

Spending lots of time on the island and planning on renting a car? If so, a boots-on-the-ground kind of way of exploring the island is simply circumnavigating the island via car! This not only allows you to see numerous off-the-beaten-path sites and hidden gems but also allows you to have full control over your schedule.

Along the way, you can expect to see stunning island scenery, from lush valleys and towering mountains to sparkling blue lagoons and secluded beaches. You’ll also pass through charming villages, giving you a taste of the local culture and way of life.

On average, it takes about 6 hours to drive around all of Tahiti. But, I would plan on this being a full-day excursion as you’ll likely make plenty of stops along the way. Plus, traffic around the island can be unpredictable.

When my friends and I were driving, we got stuck behind one of their garbage trucks. Since the road often becomes one lane, we had to move at their speed for a hot second . Just try to have patience when this happens because Tahiti runs on island time and doesn’t have the same robust infrastructure that most larger destinations do.

And just to give you an idea of some of the places you can hit up, the next few items are specific stops I recommend making if you have access to a car!

Check rates & availability for renting a car in French Polynesia!

22. Explore the Sacred Marae Arahurahu

Rock statue of Tiki at the Marae Arahuahu. This ceremonial site has one the most well preserved traditional temples on the island.
My friend that I made at Marae Arahuahu | Credit: Sol G.

Located in the Pa’ea district is Marae Arahuahu, one of the most important archaeological sites in French Polynesia.

The ceremonial site dates back to the 15th century and features the most well-preserved Marae. For those who don’t know, a marae is a traditional temple where Tahitians used to meditate, perform rituals, and do incantations.

As you walk around, you can truly feel the energy and spirit that used to encompass the grounds. Personally, I left the grounds with a great feeling of calmness and tranquility.

NOTE: If you aren’t planning on getting a rental car, there are a lot of awesome tour options that provide transportation here. For example, this is a great half-day tour that stops by Marae Arahuahu as well as several other historic sites and attractions around the island.

23. Wander the Harrison Smith Botanical Garden

A picture taken at the Harrison Smith Botanical Garden. You can see the lovely pond and the palm tree-lined waterfront.
This is the perfect place for a peaceful stroll | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

If you are a plant enthusiast or simply want to feel like you have entered some magically enchanted forest, I cannot recommend wandering around the Harrison Smith Botanical Garden enough.

The garden grounds seemingly stretch forever and have several winding paths around ponds, vivid flowers, and a giant banyan tree. Some of these plants are native to French Polynesia but they also have a variety of flora that have been imported from different continents across the globe.

With so much to see, you can easily spend half a day strolling through the grounds, admiring all the exotic plants and species.

The downside is that with all the attractive vegetation and flowers, there are a plethora of mosquitoes. To avoid doing the chicken dance at night like my friends and I had to, I recommend applying an almost excessive amount of strong mosquito spray!

NOTE: Unfortunately, the Harrison Smith Botanical Garden is currently closed for renovations!

24. Relax in the Water Gardens at Vaipahi

A picture of the beautiful waterfall that awaits at the water gardens at Vaipahi
The beautiful waterfall that awaits at the water gardens at Vaipahi | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

Just down the road from the Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens are the slightly smaller Water Gardens at Vaipahi.

Here, you can stroll around the beautiful ponds and observe all kinds of tropical flowers and exotic plants. There are even little info signs that give you background information about the plants.

Alternatively, if you fancy getting some exercise in, the gardens at Vaipahi also have various hiking trails that lead to spectacular vantage points and waterfalls. Depending on the trail you select, the hike can take anywhere from 40 minutes – 2.5 hours.

NOTE: Beware, some trails have fairly steep portions, so bring good shoes!

25. Uncover History at the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands

One of the traditional headmasks that is on display at the Museum of Tahiti and her islands. Learning about Tahitian history in this museum was fascinating.
One of the traditional head masks on display at the museum

For those keen on learning more about French Polynesia’s rich history, head over to the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands. It’s about a 20-minute drive from Papeete in the area called Puna’auia.

Within the museum, you’ll find several sections and a couple of exhibits that cover everything about Tahiti’s culture, from the arrival of European powers to original Polynesian outriggers and all kinds of captivating artworks on display.

My friends and I were particularly fascinated looking at all the meticulous details of their head masks and traditional clothing! I can only imagine how beautiful it must have been to partake in their ceremonies centuries ago…

Around the grounds, you’ll also find a fairly large outdoor garden that’s well-maintained. You can even walk to the edge of the water to catch a fantastic view of Moorea.

So, if you’re looking for a chill and affordable activity, delve into the history of these beautiful islands at the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands! Tickets are 1000 XPF or ~$9, and they even offer audioguides for ~$5 to help you better digest all the information.

26. Appreciate the Island’s Unique Architecture

A picture of the Saint-Francois Xavier Church in Tahiti.
One of the only stone churches on the Tahiti | Credit: Sol G.

It probably won’t take you long to notice, but one of the big differences between Tahiti’s capital city and the capital city of other places around the world is that there aren’t any towering skyscrapers made of reflective glass or contemporary buildings in futuristic shapes.

In fact, the majority of structures you’ll see are only a couple of stories tall, if that, and quite modest. For instance, the picture above is Saint-Francois Xavier Church, which is one of the only stone churches in Tahiti.

While the church is certainly not Notre Dame Cathedral or the Duomo in Milan, my friends and I enjoyed driving around the island and spending a few moments visiting the island’s small churches and places like Mairie de Pa’ea. We found that a lot of the buildings around the island have an alluring, understated, and charming Polynesian vibe!

Thus, if you have an appreciation for simple beauty, a laid-back activity to do during your downtime is to learn about the island’s rich history and cultural heritage as reflected in its buildings.

27. Behold the Three Waterfalls of Faarumai

The three waterfalls of Faarumai are some of the most accessible waterfalls in Tahiti. Chasing waterfalls is always one of the best things to do.
Left: You can see the first waterfall from the parking lot! | Right: A little waterfall selfie

Another tourist-favorite place to visit is the 3 waterfalls of Faaruma. Unlike visiting the impressive Fautaua Waterfall that I mentioned earlier, the hike to these three waterfalls is much more beginner-friendly!

The only downside is that you’ll either need a rental car or have to visit with a tour group as they are located on the northeastern side of the island. Well, that, or you’ll have to take a very expensive taxi ride… but at that point, I’d just pay to go with a tour group since you’ll get way more bang for your buck that way!

On your way over, you’ll pass through the village of Tiarei, which is full of colorful, local housing. From the parking lot, the first waterfall, Vaimahutu, is a short 5-minute approach on a well-marked path.

The second and third waterfalls are just another 20-minute walk from the first. These two waterfalls are right next to each other and are named Haamarere Iti and Haamarere Rahi.

Swimming is not allowed, so I recommend putting on some mosquito spray and taking in the majestic views!

28. Visit Pointe Vnus and Its Historic Lighthouse

The imposing lighthouse at Pointe Venus stands out from the rest of its surroundings. It offers a more historical perspective of Tahiti and is the perfect thing to do on a rainy day.
I wish I could climb to the top, but also my fear of heights would’ve left me stranded…

If you’re a history buff or looking to learn a bit about Tahiti’s history with Europeans, I recommend checking out the little peninsula of Pointe Venus and its towering Lighthouse.

Pointe Venus received its name from the British explorer Captain James Cook. He came to Tahiti to observe Venus’ transit across the sky and measure the time it took.

Around the grounds, you’ll find various informative plaques detailing Tahitian history, Cook’s voyage, and his mission. They also have a secret tree that you can swing off to the side and some jungle gyms that I spent way too much time at .

Oh and next to the lighthouse is Plage de la Pointe Venus, a more secluded black sand beach that is commonly frequented by locals. This is a great spot for watching the sunset!

29. Witness the Local Talent at Plage Du Taharuu

One of the most famous beaches in Tahiti. Plage de Taharuu is offers the perfect place to relax, surf and chill.
My favorite picture of Tahiti | Credit: Sol G.

For those with a rental car, a beach that’s not only my personal favorite but also popular with the locals, is Plage du Taharuu. From the striking black sand and towering mountains that encompass the area, this beach is a must-visit place!

And, if the otherworldly views aren’t enough to convince you to visit to Tahiti, maybe the prime entertainment will. This beach is home to an excellent surf break, Papara that calls to surfers of all ages.

Seriously, my friends and I came here several times and were being upstaged by little kids aged 3 – 5 shredding along the waves. I promise that’s not an exaggeration . The locals start em’ young! Needless to say, you can expect some stiff competition if you decide to surf here.

And if surfing isn’t your thing, this beach is the ideal spot to sunbathe and soak up the afternoon sun! There’s even a mini snack bar on site if you want to grab a bite to eat later on.

30. Discover the Hidden Vaihi Waterfalls

A picture of the Hidden Vaihi Waterfalls on the eastern side of Tahiti.
The twin waterfalls you can find on the eastern side of the island! | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

Another place to visit if you have a rental car is the hidden Vaihi Waterfalls. These two waterfalls are located on the eastern side of the island in Faaone, about 40 meters off the main road. The two waterfalls cascade from a height of 10 meters into a spacious pool.

And, thanks to the efforts by the Tourist Office, what was once a densely vegetated site has been transformed into an inviting garden, complete with flowers, shrubs, and fruit trees.

Depending on how much time you want to spend here, there’s also a brief hike from these waterfalls to two additional pools. The hike technically continues even further, through the valley, but we didn’t make it that far! Either way, this is a nice off-the-beaten-path place to chase a few waterfalls!

31. Bask in the Sun at Plage de Vaiava

A popular white sand beach is Plage de Vaiava. It offers stunning views of the overwater bungalows and sunset.
One of my favorite pics I took at PK 18 during sunset!

A fun place that my friends and I enjoyed spending some time at is Plage de Vaiava, more commonly referred to as PK18. This is a large white sand beach located along Tahiti’s west coast in Puna’auia.

The beach is a hotspot for watching sunsets, snorkeling in clear blue waters, and sunbathing in the soft sand. You also can enjoy an unobstructed view of Moorea and some overwater bungalows.

There is a small parking lot that offers free parking, but it often fills up on the weekend. To avoid crowds and fully enjoy the experience, I recommend visiting PK18 during the week!

32. See the Mystical Maraa Grotto

A picture of the Maraa Grotto in Tahiti.
The main grotto! | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

Whether you’re heading to Papara to surf or making your way around the island, another stop worth adding to your journey is the mystical Maraa Grotto. It’s located about half an hour outside of Papeete in Pa’ea and is the ideal spot to cool off!

Here, you’ll find not just one, but three grottos that you can visit. For those who don’t know, a grotto is essentially a small cave. I know this doesn’t sound that impressive, but the first grotto that you’ll encounter is much bigger than what pictures often depict.

Plus, the exotic flowers and lush vegetation around the grotto are simply stunning. You’ll see ferns and water cascading down from the ceiling and a giant freshwater pool below! Couple these elements with the lofty trees and their long vines that hang down, and you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to a rainforest environment!

Beyond the first grotto, you can check out two additional caves. Just know that the final cave requires approximately a 30-minute hike up a hill. But, if you do make the trip to the third one, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of Tahiti’s coastline and pass by a beautiful waterfall that you can cool off at.

If you’re interested in visiting, simply head to this location. You can park your car on the side of the road. Then, you’ll follow a well-maintained trail to the first grotto!

33. Picnic in the Scenic Mahana Park

Mahana Park is the perfect place to relax or go for an afternoon snorkel in Tahiti.
The view of the beach from Mahana Park | Credit: Sol G.

Fatigued after a day full of adventure and excitement? Come relax at Mahana Park. This park is more of a local spot and just a few minutes south of the tourist favorite, PK18 beach in Puna’auia.

The park is well-maintained and has several benches that are perfect for hosting a picnic. Or, you can even nap on them, which was my activity of choice after eating a giant pizza from the nearby Pizza Papy.

Plus, the beach is a great snorkel spot if you are looking to immerse yourself in underwater life and see some coral reefs. Just be vigilant of the currents as they can get strong.

34. Step Inside the Notre Dame Cathedral of Tahiti

A picture of Notre Dame Cathedral in Papeete.
You can’t miss the bright yellow faade!

In the center of Papeete is the quaint Notre Dame Cathedral of Tahiti. This Catholic Cathedral dates back to the 19th century and is the oldest church on the island.

As you can tell in the picture above, the church distinguishes itself from the rest of the city life with its bright yellow color.

That said, I’ll be the first to admit that the cathedral is certainly not the grandest in terms of architecture. But, it offers a quiet and intimate oasis from the buzz of the busy city center; you can see the Tahitian touches on the art pieces within the cathedral.

So, if you’re headed to or from the Papeete market, it’s worth walking 5 minutes to spend a few moments here. If nothing else, you can enjoy a little reprieve from the sun and the elements outside.

35. Take in the Views From Taharaa Lookout

A picture of the observation deck at Taharaa Lookout.
The observation deck that’s at Taharaa Lookout | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

For an unparalleled view of Moorea and Matavai Bay, make sure to visit Taharaa lookout! This viewpoint is situated atop One Tree Hill, which is located between Papeete and Papenoo.

This makes it the perfect addition if you’re already visiting Pointe Venus and the Lighthouse.
And, as you can tell in the picture above, it boasts a quaint observation deck so you can get those Instagram-perfect pictures!

To reach this breathtaking vantage point, keep an eye out for a roundabout near One Tree Hill. Once you find the roundabout on One Tree Hill, there’s a parking area on the right where you can leave your car. From there, it’s an easy two-minute stroll to the observation deck!

36. Observe Traditional Outrigger Canoeing

A picture of locals paddling in traditional outrigger canoes at sunset in Tahiti.
Some locals canoeing with Moorea looming in the background! | Credit: Sol G.

An authentic Tahitian experience that is both cheap to do and ties you closer to the island’s rich cultural heritage is observing traditional outrigger canoeing!

Known as vaa in Tahitian, these Polynesian canoes are a beautiful sight. Historically, they were crafted from hollowed-out trunks of trees. But, with today’s modern technology and materials, vaa are often made out of lightweight fiberglass and designed for speed and agility.

And with va’a racing being recognized as French Polynesia’s national sport, locals are often spotted slicing through the waters after work, preparing for international racing competitions. As you can see in the picture above, my friends and I admired their incredible skill and teamwork at sunset!

While watching, you might notice some variety among the canoes. We saw six-man V6 canoes, which are propelled by synchronized effort, and solitary V1 canoes, where a single paddler navigates the waves.

Oh, and they aren’t just used for racing, va’a can be used for various purposes. For instance, locals utilize them for transport, fishing, leisurely motu excursions, etc. Heck, you may even see locals paddling in va’a to deliver your breakfast if you’re staying in one of the luxurious overwater bungalows!

Should you want to try your hand at paddling these Polynesian canoes, there’s a pretty cool opportunity to do so on Moorea. You’ll go fishing with a local in their outrigger and then prepare a traditional meal with whatever you catch!

See details for fishing in a va’a with a local on Moorea

37. Attend a Traditional Dance Performance

A picture of a Tahitian Dance Performance.
Be sure to check if your hotel offers Tahitian dance performances | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

Something that’s always fun to do is witness a traditional Tahitian dance show. Many hotels, especially the resorts on Bora Bora, host weekly ‘ori Tahiti performances. These performances often include mesmerizing fire dancing, elaborate costumes, and powerful beats by to’ere drums!

Alternatively, if your trip to Tahiti aligns with some of their annual festivals, you may be able to witness multiple performances by dancers from several French Polynesian islands! For instance, the Heiva festival in July is the pinnacle of these cultural displays, where dance groups from across the archipelagos compete against one another.

All in all, these festivals and shows provide an intimate glimpse into the rich cultural heritage and vibrant traditions of Tahitian dance!

38. Admire the Striking Tahitian Pearls

A picture of some black Tahitian Pearls. If you have money to splurge, a fun thing to do is visit the Tahiti Iti Pearl Farm and pick out a black pearl to bring back as a souvenir.
The perfect *expensive* souvenir! | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

Traveling to Tahiti with a larger budget? Can’t relate… No, but something that everyone should do while making their way through shops is admire the famous Tahitian pearls. These lustrous gems, known for their unique dark hues and shimmering overtones, have captivated people all over the world. And what better place to admire them than in Tahiti itself?!

You can find them all over the island – at stalls in Papeete Market, at jewelers, boutique shops, etc. But, for those after a special experience, I recommend visiting a Pearl Farm, such as the Tahiti Iti Pearl Farm.

At these farms, you can learn about the fascinating process of grafting and harvesting pearls from oysters in the waters surrounding Tahiti. Afterward, you’ll have the opportunity to dive into the local waters, where you’ll not only see the pearl farms up close but also select an oyster to harvest your own Tahitian pearl to take home as a souvenir!

Obviously, pearls aren’t exactly cheap, so this activity is on the pricer side. But, even if you’re visiting Tahiti on a budget, I still recommend visiting a pearl farm to learn about the pearl farming process.

39. Dine at La Plage de Maui

A palm tree near the popular Plage de Maui.
There are more black sand beaches than white sand beaches on Tahiti! | Credit: Sol G.

Looking for a place to grab a bite to eat? One of the most popular places to visit amongst tourists is La Plage De Maui. It is home to one of Tahiti’s (very small) white sand beaches and is located about 40 miles south of Papeete, on Tahiti Iti.

This restaurant offers a more memorable experience in that you can feast on the most delicious seafood with your toes curled in the sand, all while looking at prime oceanfront views.

Everything from the service to the ambiance to the decent selection of dishes makes the drive from Tahiti Nui to Tahiti Iti well worth it!

40. Indulge in Fresh Baguettes

A picture of baguettes being sold at a local boulangerie in Tahiti. Looking for a cheap thing to do while you're in Tahiti? Eat baguettes!
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about baguettes once a week | Credit: Sol G.

As long as I’m giving you food recommendations, be sure to stop by a local boulangerie (French word for bakery) and get yourself some fresh bread!

Now, you may be thinking I’m being dramatic, and maybe I am. But, as a certified lover of bread (and most other carby sources of food), I feel obligated to ensure you also enjoy the little things around the island.

Almost every day, my friends and I would always stop at a local boulangerie to stock up on baguettes, sandwiches, and sometimes pastries to take on the road. This not only helped keep costs for our trip down but also the bread was heavenly, with its crispy exterior and soft, fluffy interior.

And, as you can see in the picture above, there are all kinds of baguettes you can choose from. So don’t miss out because the bread here is so much better than Panera Bread!

41. Appreciate the Vibrancy of Local Artwork

A picture of beautiful local artwork in Papeete.
I loved looking at the bright artwork scattered around Tahiti | Credit: Tahiti Tourisme

Last but not least, I suggest taking some time to admire the vibrant local artwork. All around Papeete, you’ll find colorful murals and other forms of artistic expression that showcase the beauty and culture of Tahiti.

These pieces range from traditional Polynesian designs to more contemporary styles, but they all add a unique touch to the island’s atmosphere. And more often than not, these artworks tell stories about the local culture…

Where to Stay in Tahiti

In terms of accommodations, Tahiti has an abundance of options that can fit any budget! Here are some of my top recommendations with a variety of amenities

  • InterContinental Resort Tahiti8.6 / 10
    This waterfront hotel is a popular choice as it’s located 5 minutes away from the airport and is the only hotel in Tahiti with overwater bungalows. Amenities include marble bathrooms, private balconies, fitness rooms, weekly entertainment options, and two pools!
  • Vanira Lodge 8.8 / 10
    This is a cheaper option that is located in the mountains on the peninsula, Tahiti Iti. The rooms are bungalows that make you feel fully immersed in the mountainous jungle and wildlife. They are a short distance from Teahupo’o and offer both bicycles and kayaks free of charge.
  • Manaeva Lodge9.3 / 10
    This is another more affordable option that is located close to the airport. Free shuttle rides to and from the airport are offered. The rooms are quite charming and the lodge gives a private and secluded feeling.

Or, you can browse housing options on the map below. It’ll show you up-to-date prices across different booking platforms!

What to Bring to Tahiti

Aside from all the regular items you normally pack for a trip, I recommend bringing these few specific items:

  • Sunscreen – With the pristine blue Tahitian waters comes the blazing sun. Don’t forget to protect your skin and the local environment by bringing a reef-safe sunscreen. This is the one I use and recommend since I’ve triple-checked the chemicals used in the formula
  • Bug spray – Unfortunately, mosquitoes are everywhere in Tahiti! To avoid spending the majority of your trip scratching yourself, get lots of mosquito spray.
  • Raincoat – The weather tends to be pretty fickle on the island. One hour it’s bright and sunny and the next it’s pouring rain. Don’t let the weather rain on your parade by a raincoat or travel-friendly umbrella!
  • ESIM – To avoid paying hefty data roaming fees, either rent a portable wifi device from the airport or use a French Polynesian ESIM to connect to the local cellular networks! This is the ESIM company I have used several times on my trips abroad and can vouch for. (If it’s your first time, use code: KRISTI7012 for $3 off )
  • CFP Francs – French Polynesia’s currency is the CFP Franc (XPF). Despite living in an increasingly cashless society, I recommend requesting XPF from your bank ahead of your trip. Many smaller vendors only accept cash, and you’ll want to avoid paying added fees by having to use the local ATM! Plus, it’s good for tipping in French Polynesia.

PRO TIP: Check out my useful packing list for Tahiti for a complete list of essentials you should bring on your trip.

Things to Do in Tahiti: FAQ

Is Tahiti Cheap to Visit?

Compared to Western European countries, like France or Switzerland, I like to believe Tahiti is on the more affordable side. And while Tahiti and her islands are usually associated with luxurious getaways, it’s definitely possible to travel to the islands on a smaller budget!

For context, my trip to Tahiti cost me ~$1650. This value includes my roundtrip flight, housing, our car rental, excursions around the island, museums, food, souvenirs, and even a day trip over to Moorea! Excluding fixed transportation and housing costs, I spent about $70 per day.

Is Tahiti Safe?

The crime rate in French Polynesia is very low, so it is considered one of the safer countries to visit. My female friend and I felt completely safe and secure when we were walking around town at night.

And, despite the language barrier, we found that the people of Tahiti are extremely kind, welcoming, and always willing to help. But, of course, remember to always stay vigilant and secure your personal belongings. Petty theft may occur as it might in any location.

Wrap-Up: Top 41 Things to Do in Tahiti in 2024

Tahiti is one of the most beautiful places in the world to visit and is truly an island paradise that should be on everyone’s bucket list. From its stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters to its rich cultural heritage and vibrant traditions, this enchanting island offers an abundance of activities.

Whether you are looking for adventure, relaxation, or a taste of traditional Tahitian culture, I can guarantee there is something for everyone here. And, with my ultimate guide of the best 41 things to do in Tahiti, you’re hopefully feeling inspired to plan your next vacation in paradise here!

But, if you would like some help planning your dream French Polynesia itinerary, feel free to reach out to me about my custom itinerary services!

A picture of Kristin standing on a bridge in Fautaua Valley in Tahiti.
Happy Travels through Tahiti!

Appreciation Note: You’ll notice that several of the pictures in this post were taken by my good friend Sol! You can see more of his amazing photography here!

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