25 Interesting Facts About Tahiti and Her Islands

Bora Bora, Tahiti, French Polynesia, bungalows
••• Bora Bora, Tahiti, French Polynesia. Jens Kuhfs / Getty Images

Tahiti and Her Islands, otherwise known as French Polynesia, are unlike any set of islands in the world.

Here are 25 interesting facts about Tahiti and Her Islands.

  • Tahiti and Her Islands covers over two million square miles of the South Pacific Ocean and is comprised of five great archipelagos with 118 islands. The Society Islands archipelago composed of the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands, the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Gambier Islands, the Marquesas Islands and the Austral Islands.
  • Tahiti is in the same time zone as Hawaii, two hours behind Pacific Standard Time, and three hours behind during daylight saving time (late April through October).
  • The most frequently visited islands are Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Taha’a, and Rangiroa.
  • Tahiti’s capital city is Papeete, located on the island of Tahiti. The translation of Papeete (Tahiti's capital) is "water basket".
  • The number of people living in French Polynesia is just over 285,000. About 75% are Polynesian; 15% European and about 10% Chinese. The urban area of Papeete, the capital city, has 133,627 inhabitants.
  • U.S. and Canadian visitors need only a passport valid for six months after the return date and a round-trip ticket for entry. Citizens of other countries should consult their travel agents or the French Consulate.
  • French and Tahitian are the official languages, though English is widely spoken is tourist areas.
  • It's common to put a tiare (Tahiti's national flower, a fragrant white blossom) behind one's ear -- left side you're taken, right if you're looking.
  • James Michener's mythical island of Bali Hai is likened to Moorea.
  • Moorea is known as "The Island of Love," and Bora Bora as "The Romantic Island."
  • Moorea means "yellow lizard" which is a name taken from a family of chiefs.
  • Natives of the lush Austral Islands grow many crops in the fertile soil. Due to their diets of foods rich in fluoride, people from these temperate isles have beautiful white teeth.
  • Over half of the population is under the age of 20 years old.
  • Tahitians are very friendly, but somewhat shy. Visitors find that by offering the first smile or "ia ora na" (hello), they will be greeted by wonderful Tahitian hospitality.
  • The beautiful black pearls, cherished by natives and visitors alike, are indigenous only in the Tuomotu Islands of French Polynesia.
  • The Chinese population (about 10 percent) monopolizes the retail trade, so when Tahitians talk about going shopping, they say they are going to "la Chine" or to the Chinese.
  • The letter "B" does not exist in the Tahitian language. Bora Bora is actually Pora Pora, meaning first born, but early visitors heard it as Bora Bora.
  • The Pearl Museum on Tahiti is the only museum in the world devoted entirely to pearls. The unique presentations about Tahitian Cultured Pearls describe and demonstrate the history and practice of cultivating pearls as well as their place in art, history, mythology, and religion.
  • The traditional method of "stone fishing" is still performed for special festivals. Dozens of outrigger canoes form a semicircle, and men in the canoes beat the water with stones tied to ropes. The frightened fish are then driven towards the beach and the men jump from the canoes yelling and beating the water with their hands to drive the fish ashore.
  • The ultimate private island escape, Motu Tapu is the most photographed isle in the South Pacific. This tiny motu, just a few hundred yards from the main island of Bora Bora, is best described as the world's most perfect to relax.
  • The word tattoo originated in Tahiti. The legend of Tohu, the god of tattoo, describes painting all the oceans' fish in beautiful colors and patterns. In Polynesian culture, tattoos have long been considered signs of beauty, and in earlier times were ceremoniously applied when reaching adolescence.
  • There are more hotel rooms in a typical Las Vegas hotel than on all 118 islands of French Polynesia.
  • Hawaii gets more visitors in 10 days than Tahiti does in an entire year.
  • There are no poisonous snakes or insects in French Polynesia.
  • Those things that look like mail boxes outside the homes of Tahitian residents are not for mail, but for French bread delivery. Residents get a fresh loaf dropped off twice a day. But alas, they must go to the post office to retrieve their mail!