Tahiti Travel Highlights

Travel to Tahiti. Tahiti Activities – Tahiti Travel Highlights

Things to do and see in Tahiti and the South Pacific Islands.

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Tahiti Travel Highlights

Prepare for the best island vacation in the beautiful South Pacific

Tahiti Highlights.... FRENCH POLYNESIA - South Pacific Island Vacation Adventures
Prepare for the best vacation in the beautiful islands of Tahiti!


WEDDING CEREMONIES Couples seeking the ultimate exotic wedding destination to exchange vows in a traditional Tahitian ceremony have numerous options in the South Pacific. Many resorts and hotels offer authentic and spectacular ceremonies. A popular choice for traditional Polynesian weddings will offer the bride and groom to dress as a Tahitian princess and chief, the bride and groom are wed at a colorfully decorated marae (stone temple), with local villagers performing traditional songs and dances.LE TRUCK Tahiti’s most popular and fun form of transportation and is called ‘le truck.’ These famous converted cargo vehicles provide an inexpensive and entertaining way to get around the islands. Just hop aboard, with the locals and when you are ready to depart, get off and pay the driver. An cheap and adventurous way to experience travel in the South Pacific.SOUTH PACIFIC BLACK PEARLS – Created only by the giant black-lipped oyster Pinctada Margaritifera which thrives in the lagoons of the Tuamotu Archipelago, the rare Polynesian black pearl varies in color from silver through dark gray with green and pink highlights. Many visitors take home this Tahitian “jewel” as an exquisite and beautiful souvenir and there are a number of Black Pearl Farms in the South Pacific.

Black Pearl

THE POPULAR BLACK PEARL Black Pearl farming does not guarantee a perfect pearl. Many additional factors will vary the results of an pearl so much that only about 40% of polynesian oysters produce blak pearls, and only 2% of these are perfect poe rava.
BLACK PEARL FARMING There are 70 species of oyster which produce pearls,but it is the Pinctada Margaritifera found in French Polynesia in the lagoons of Manihi and Marutea in the Tuamotus and of Mangareva in the Gambiers. Since about mid-1965, the lustrous Tahitian black pearl has been cultivated, often on single-family pearl farms that dot the lagoons.

French Polynesia

DIVING FRENCH POLYNESIA Tahiti’s underwater world is just as magificant to see. Many vistors travel to this island paradise just to scuba dive. They exlore the lagoons and reefs to see the spectacular underwater world filled with brilliantly hued fish, eels, schools of shimmering jacks and barracuda, turtles, even manta rays, dolphins and sharks.
Everywhere in French Polynesia, the turquoise lagoon waters are warm and inviting, and the marine life is simply abundant. It is among the Tuamotu atolls, though, where the best diversity of marine life occurs, for the more experienced divers. There, the nutrient-rich waters that flow through the passes from the outer reef into the lagoon hold myriad underwater adventures with soaring manta rays and cruising sharks.
There are many established dive shops on the islands, providig everything needed for every level of diving experience. Most offer diving certifications or resort courses for uncertified divers.


LAGOON FISH Tahiti’s crystal clear turquoise lagoons are home to over 800 species of colorful fish residents. Visitors can swim and snorkel the warm tropical waters and interact with fish ranging in color from the palest turquoise through the deepest blue, and encounter angel, lparrot fish, butterfly, trigger fish, manta rays, and perhaps a few sharks where most are known to not be a danger to humans.


FOOD AND RESTAURANTS Dining in French Polynesia is an experience for the taste buds. The South Pacific islands offer an abundance of fest seafood, tropical fruits, and vegetables served Polynesian style by master chefs. There is a variety of French, Chinese and Tahitian restaurants populating the islands os Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. Many other outlets of culinary treats can be enjoyed on a picnic, man offshore islets, snacks in outdoor cafes, and succulent traditional Polynesian feasts throughout the islands and resorts.

LES ROULOTTES This a a popular destination for the flavor of the South Pacific. Shopping and eateries abound on Papeete’s waterfront in the early evening, after 5:30pm. Numerous of brightly lit vans known as ‘les roulottes’ form a colorful night market selling everything from couscous and pizza to steak with real ‘pommes frites’ (French fries). The food and atmosphere is a must experience.

MONOI A popular souvineer is this coconut oil perfumed with the essence of Tiare, jasmine, ylang-ylang or sandal wood, monoi serves as a base for an entire range of soaps, lotions and cosmetics. Symbolizing the image of a Polynesian paradise, monoi is a sweet, tropical scent that you’ll definitely want to take back home with you.

PAREO Originally made of tapa cloth which Tahitian women wrapped around their hips, today the pareo (or pareu) is two yards of colorful printed or dyed fabric. Worn by both men and women, it can be tied in many different casual and elegant ways and is the ideal daytime wear for vacationers.

Tahiti Basket

TIARE Traditionally worn behind the ear, in the hair, made into leis and heis (floral crowns), the fragrant, white star-shaped flower of the Gardenia Tahitensis is the national emblem of Tahiti. When placed behind the left ear of a vahine, it signifies “my heart is taken,” and behind the right ear, “my heart is still to be taken.”

WOVEN HATS First introduced by the missionaries, Tahitian hats are modeled on European styles but made with local materials, such as reed, bamboo and pandanus. Attractive and reasonably priced, they’re the perfect headwear to protect modern-day beachcombers from an overdose of South Pacific sun.

BASKETS For the market or fishing, the ahima’a (ground oven), or for carrying fruit and vegetables, each ‘ete (basket) has its own name, form and material. Commonly woven out of pandanus, basketwork from the Marquesas and Austral Islands is the most highly reputed, and can be found in Papeete.

Musical Instruments

CHURCHES The presence of Protestant, Evangelical and Catholic churches on the landscape reflects the fact that Tahitians are a religious people. Sunday churchgoing is half way between a chanted dialogue with God and an elegant social event. Guests are welcome to attend services, and no matter what your religion, you will find the Polynesian’s unaccompanied singing both beautiful and moving.

POLYNESIAN ART All Polynesian arts and crafts tell a story. The Pacific island traditions of timber carving, tapa cloth-making, tattooing and weaving are empowered with the mythology of their own genesis. Art is representative of the Polynesians’ ancestry, and as a result they love and respect it, just as they love their ancestors.

JAMES MICHENER In 1942, a young naval officer named James Michener was stationed on Bora Bora. He began writing about Polynesia. And the rest, as they say, is history. Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific” became a huge success as a bestselling novel, inspiring a Broadway musical and a movie named “South Pacific.” And Bora Bora became Michener’s eternally enchanted island of “Bali Hai.”

TATTOO Revered as an ancient Polynesian art form, tattoos, or tatau, are a badge of honor, a sign of courage, a testament of manhood. Prized possessions for which islanders are prepared to endure months of agony, tattoos form an important part of the social structure because they pass along stories about legendary ancestors and important chiefs.

LOUIS-ANTOINE DE BOUGAINVILLE The first French navigator to circumnavigate the globe, Bougainville landed in Tahiti in 1768. Discovering the most unspoiled civilization any European had ever seen, he established the legend of Tahiti as the consummate “paradise” on earth, a seductive myth that has continued ever since.

MOVIES MADE IN TAHITI Hollywood has made three attempts to capture the “Bounty” mutiny on screen, with Charles Laughton and Clark Gable (1935), Marlon Brando (1962) and Mel Gibson (1984). “An Affair to Remember” (1957), starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, was filmed in Moorea, as was “A Love Affair” (1993). De Laurentis chose Bora Bora for his1979 film “Hurricane.” Recently, “Couples Retreat” (2009) was filmed in Bora Bora.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS An integral part of everyday Tahitian life. Before the great navigators arrived, islanders would dance to celebrate special occasions or the end of a war, the few musical instruments available being used to mark the beat. Later they were used to celebrate the arrival of new visitors, European explorers, who were somewhat surprised by these unknown rhythms.


DRUMS The pahu (drums), over which shark skin was drawn tight by strings, are still used today. Beaten with the hands or with drumsticks, they are played side by side with the toere, a long cylindrical drum with a split along its side.

CONCH SHELL In French Polynesia, the Couch shell is widely know to be used in many island ceremoinies. They pierce a hole at the top of the pointed end and when blown it emits a loud sound. The shell was originall used for a signal to those out to sea by the island warriors.

Tahiti Flowers

UKULELE Compared to the percussion instruments, the ukulele is a relative newcomer. Imported from Hawaii at the turn of the century, today it is as much a part of the Tahitian myth as the shell lei and grass skirt.

POLYNESIAN PEOPLE The rarest and most precious of Tahiti’s gems is its people with their sparkling eyes, radiant smiles, flawless beauty, and priceless innocence. Their pace of life is slow. Their philosophy, “aita pea pea” (not to worry), is truly the Tahitian way. They love to share their wealth of ancient traditions through songs and dance ceremonies, leaving you with a treasure trove of memories that will linger long after you have left their paradise home.

VANILLA The variety Vanilla Tahitensis, created at the end of the 19th century, is the most widely cultivated in French Polynesia. It has an exceptional aroma, and its beans are plumper, shinier and richer in oil than those of other species. The islands of Huahine and Taha’a are famous for their vanilla plantations.


TIARE APETAHI According to legend, this delicate white flower is the hand of an island princess who proclaimed, as she died in her lover’s arms, “Every morning when you come to the mountain, I will give you my hand to caress.” As proof of its unique nature, the Tiare Apetahi cannot be transplanted and grows nowhere else in the world except on the slopes of Raiatea’s Mount Temehani.

COCONUT PALM Much more than the perfect adornment for a white sand beach, the coconut palm plays an important role in the Tahitian way of life. Water from young coconuts makes a refreshingly cool drink, a cooking ingredient, and can even be used medicinally. Mature, dried coconut flesh becomes copra from which coconut oil is extracted, and was once the mainstay of island economies.

MARAE Explore the Marae, mainly a place for worship of gods and other important events, such as the enthroning of a king, council of war, victory celebration, or wedding, the ruins of these huge stone temples can be found throughout the islands of Polynesia


BIRDS OF THE ISLANDS Bird life is rich among the Polynesian Islands, with nearly 90 species present here.

SEA BIRDS Most are sea birds that prey on marine life. Petrels and shearwaters are birds of the open ocean that range far out at sea and come to land only to breed and rear their young. Coastal sea birds—the boobies, tropicbirds, terns, noddies, and frigatebirds—feed on the rich reefs and lagoons and roost on land. Most shore birds occurring in these islands— the Pacific heron, golden plovers, and tattlers— are seasonal migratory species.

LAND BIRDS Species of land birds are few, as no large land mass is near enough to support their migration, but endemic land birds include the reed warbler, the rare Marquesas kingfisher, and the colorful ultramarine lorikeet. Birdwatching is a highly recommended activity in these lush islands and can lead to great adventures.

Tahiti Furniture

SHELLS French Polynesian waters are home to over 1,500 shell species, some of which are sought after by collectors. It is possible to dive for shells, but as this upsets the ecosystem, it is better to collect them on the beach, or to buy them in shops. Small shells made into leis and jewelry make ideal souvenirs to take home.

PAUL GAUGUIN Without doubt, Paul Gauguin is the most celebrated artist ever to have visited French Polynesia. After a first stay from 1891–1892, he returned in 1895 and set up home at Punaauia, on the main island of Tahiti. He then moved to the Marquesas, where he died at Atuona in 1903. The Gauguin Museum on Tahiti is dedicated to the memory of this legendary Impressionist painter

MARQUESAN ARTISTRY Among the most refined in the Pacific islands, the Marquesans’ early artistic style depicted their strong cultural heritage. The early islanders crafted powerful war clubs, finely carved wooden bowls, fan handles, and tikis of both stone and wood. The tiki face is believed to be the Marquesan’s genealogical link to his ancestors and the gods.

Tahiti Furniture

ROCK ART Stone carvings were believed to hold ‘mana,’ or spiritual power, and were crafted only by trained specialists, ‘tuhuna taai tiki.’ Archaeological sites now show thousands of petroglyphs based on common designs: geometric patterns, human stick figures with realistic faces, and animals. The only rock paintings in Polynesia are found on Hiva Oa.

LEIS AND HEIS Leis and heis (crowns) of Tiare flowers are not simply reserved for tourists— the desire for beauty and adornment is anchored in the Polynesian culture. During festivals, the perfume from leis and heis is so strong, so intoxicating, that in kissing a vahine on the cheeks, some men say they become dizzy!

CAPTAIN JAMES COOK Considered by his peers to be the best navigator and explorer of his time, Cook was sent by the British Admiralty and Academy of Sciences on three voyages of discovery in the Pacific. Tahiti was included in each of these voyages, and he played an important political role here by favoring the domination of the Pomare Dynasty.


FARE Traditional Polynesian homes, fare, were constructed of tree trunks and branches and topped with coconut palm and pandanus. Built in different sizes according to their use, today, fare lend their styling to the charming bungalows of Tahiti’s unique resorts.

WILLIAM BLIGH Captain of the “Bounty,” Bligh was sent to Tahiti to collect breadfruit seedlings. Cleared in the naval inquiry into the mutiny, he returned to Tahiti to collect breadfruit. After another naval mutiny, and a revolt in Australia during a term as governor of New South Wales, he returned to Britain, ending his career as a Vice Admiral.

POISSON CRU A popular dish served throughout the islands, poisson cru (marinated fish) is a perfect light lunch or refreshing appetizer. The recipe is simple, and the results delicious: cube raw tuna or bonito and marinate it for ten to thirty minutes in lime juice, until it’s just “cooked.” Mix with minced tomato, grated carrot and chopped onion. Blend with unsweetened coconut milk. Bon appétit!

TIFAIFAI QUILTS A relatively recent art form, the tifaifai reflects the sense of color and design so dear to Polynesians. It was just 200 years ago that missionary wives showed Tahitian women how to use small pieces of colored fabric to form what today has become a treasured wedding gift.

DANCE Tahitian dance, an art form of an extraordinary vitality, is one of the best ambassadors of the Polynesian culture around the world. While you’re in Tahiti, you’ll inevitably be invited to dance the tamure. Named after a popular post-war song, the tamure is the dance practiced by couples during feasts and in dance shows.

TAHITIAN RECIPES The abundant papaya is a stapel in the South Pacific and can be found everywhere in Tahiti..

Tahiti Furniture

PAPAYA JAM RECIPE Begin with ripe papayas, peel, remove the seeds, and then cube the raw fruit into a pan. (About 4 cups of raw fruit will yield 2–3 pints of jam.) Cook until tender, with just enough water to prevent burning. Add 3 cups sugar, stirring until dissolved, plus ½ of a vanilla bean, and the juice of a lime wedge to the fruit. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, to a strong, rolling boil as the mixture thickens. Remove from heat, skim off the foam and immediately ladle the jam into hot, sterilized jars, and seal. Savor the juicy sweetness of papaya jam, added to baguette slices and croissants.

GREEN PAPAYA SALAD Start with one firm, medium-sized green papaya for each 4 servings. Peel the fruit, cut in half, remove the seeds, and then grate finely. Sprinkle with olive oil and the juice of 2 limes. Salt and pepper to taste. For a spicier flavor, add fresh (or oil-preserved) hot peppers. Line a small plate with greens, and mound the fruit on top for a delicious salad.

BREADFRUIT Breadfruit (‘uru) was a staple for pre-European Polynesians, who used the tree sap to caulk canoes, as a glue, a cosmetic, and to make tapa. In Polynesia there are almost 40 different varieties of breadfruit, which is generally eaten fresh or cooked as popoi.


NAVIGATION Polynesians are among the world’s greatest navigators. By the time Columbus discovered America, they had traveled thousands of miles across the Pacific. Using a coconut shell filled with water as a quadrant, they learned to take angles on the sun and stars. They had an intuitive understanding of the elements: wind, waves and currents. They learned to guide a clumsy wooden craft through hidden openings in coral reefs or to steady it on the crest of formidable breakers. They rank high among the greatest mariners and explorers of all time.

STAMPS Colorful and artistic in design, Tahitian stamps depict the flora, fauna, people, history and culture of the islands, each one a mini travel poster for this exotic paradise. Stamps can be purchased throughout the islands, but keen philatelists should head for the main post office in Papeete. A reliable subscription service is available to those not wanting to miss new releases.

SHOPPING The South Pacific Tahiti offers a variety of international and local items… exquisitely carved bowls, drums and tiki, dance costumes, arts and crafts, handblocked fabrics, black pearls, French perfumes, and vanilla beans…the list is endless.

PANDANUS The pandanus, or fara, is second only to the coconut palm in its importance to the Tahitian way of life. Its many uses range from waterproof roofing to harpoon handles. But its leading role is as a craft material, when it is deftly transformed into baskets, mats and hats that are prized for their coolness and lightness.

JAMES NORMAN HALL Adventurer, author and poet, Hall came to Tahiti in 1920 with Charles Nordhoff and started their famous collaboration. Many of their best-known works, like “Mutiny on the Bounty” and “Hurricane,” were written in Hall’s home at Arue on the island of Tahiti, where he lived until his death in 1951. A kind and gentle man, Hall was described by James Michener as “the most beloved American who ever came to the tropics.”

RAAU TAHITI Traditional Tahitian medicine (or Ra’au Tahiti) has, for centuries, treasured many tropical plants, trees, fruits, nuts and herbs as natural remedies. The juice of the noni fruit is sought after for its pharmaceutical properties, and oil extracted from the tamanu nut is used for skin care, a natural sunburn lotion, and moisturizer.

ISLAND OR ATOLL? The archipelagos of French Polynesia are made up of high islands and atolls, which are extinct volcanoes, islands such as Bora Bora that slowly sink and, through the action of builder corals, a barrier reef forms. When the island has completely disappeared, all that remains is a necklace of coral islets surrounding a huge lagoon (e.g. Rangiroa).

FISH HOOKS Usually carved of mother-of-pearl and shaped with coral files, Polynesian fish hooks varied in shape according to the catch… small hooks were for shallow water, while big fish from the barrier reef were lured with large wooden hooks sharpened to a point.

CANOES Probably the most essential of all Polynesian artifacts, the canoe was indispensable for fishing, getting from one island to another and fighting wars. Today, small outrigger canoes provide the ideal means for exploring Tahiti’s crystal-clear lagoons.

SAY IT IN TAHITIAN Hello: Ia orana
How are you?: Eaha te huru?
I’m fine: Maitai
Good bye: Parahi
Thank you: Maururu
Yes, No: ’E, ’Aita