Tahiti features a lush, beautiful landscapes and a warm climate. While visiting, consider staying in a traditional thatched-roof overwater bungalow perched above turquoise lagoon waters, where you can gaze through the glass floor to see the tropical fish below. Enjoy breakfast, often delivered via canoe, and sunsets on a private balcony surrounded by water and sky. Experience the culture of French Polynesia and daily Tahitian life with an island tour via rental car, guided bus tour, 4X4 safari, or horseback ride. Ride a motorized canoe, sailboat, or powerboat through the lagoons – or take a helicopter ride to enjoy dramatic views. Golfing, windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, waterskiing, hang gliding, jet skiing, and hiking are also popular and widely available in Tahiti.
Snorkeling and diving in Tahiti are truly world-class – experienced divers and beginners alike will be astounded by the clarity of the water. Swim with manta rays and enjoy drift dives, oceanic drop-offs, sunken ships, and lagoon dives. Shark Feeding is one of the most popular excursions: an experienced guide feeds docile sharks while you watch from a boat, or while floating in the water nearby!
The legendary iridescent luster of Tahitian cultured pearls can only be found in the warm lagoons of Tahiti: commonly referred to as Black Pearls, they range in color from dark black to shades of green, blue, bronze, purple, and pink. Tour pearl farms on Rangiroa, Raiatea, Huahine, Taha’a, Tikehau, and Fakarava, or visit one of the many pearl shops.
Polynesian Spas are world-renowned – there is no better space to relax than surrounded by floral fragrances and natural beauty. Bathe with fresh flowers, enjoy a herbal rain shower, or sink into a banana leaf wrap. A traditional Tahitian wedding ceremony is a meaningful option for couples wishing to get married in the islands: they are adorned in bright pareu, flowers, and shells and the groom is brought to the beach location in a canoe while the bride is carried on a rattan throne. A Tahitian priest performs rites and bestows a Tahitian name, while music and dancers enhance the ceremony. A Motu Picnic is another Tahitian tradition: enjoy a private or group lunch on your own motu (tiny island) where a Polynesian meal is prepared on a table under a coconut tree or in the warm, shallow waters along the beach.
There are many traditional art galleries in Papeete where you can appreciate the works of resident painters, sculptors, and other artists. The Paul Gauguin Cultural Center, the “Artists’ Corner” at Le Meridien Tahiti, and The Museum of Tahiti and her Islands are all worth a visit.
Modern Tahitians maintain the traditions of their Maohi ancestors. Visit Marae, open-air sanctuaries similar to temples where important events such as worship, peace treaties, celebrations of war, and the launch of voyages were once held. Heiva i Tahiti is the annual festival, a colorful display of Polynesian culture in Papeete where crafts are displayed, ancient sporting competitions occur, and traditional dance performances are recreated. Tattoos are also a Polynesian tradition – the legend of Tohu, the god of tattoo, describes painting the fish in beautiful patterns and colors and in Polynesian culture, tattoos are still considered a sign of beauty. Handicrafts found in Tahiti include weavings, quilts, wooden sculptures, drums, tapa, carvings, and hand0dyed pareu.
Tahiti is part of the “Polynesian Triangle,” which includes Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand. Tahiti has a rich history and has always been fascinating to Europeans. Researchers believe the Tahitian islands were colonized beginning around 200 BCE. Magellan spotted what is now the Tuamotu Atolls in 1521, and in 1595 the Spanish explorer Mendaña visited Fatu Hiva Island. Around the 1760s, Captain Samuel Wallis named the island of Tahiti “King George III Island” and claimed it for England. Shortly afterwards, the French navigator Louis-Antoine de Bougainville landed on the opposite side of the island and claimed it for France. Tales of the warm, tropical island and hospitable Tahitian people spread through Europe, and fascination grew. Captain James Cook brought back the first map of the Islands of the Pacific, along with illustrations of local plants and animals and by the 1800s, British missionaries and French military began to take control of the islands. In 1847, Queen Pomare accepted French protection of the Islands of Tahiti and Moorea and in 1957, all the islands became the French territory known a French Polynesia. In 1988, French Polynesia gained self-governing powers through their own Assembly.