10 Top Things to Do in Tahiti

Polynesian house on stilts
Vincent Jary / Getty Images

Tahiti is the ultimate "Fantasy Island" destination for many couples, one they often opt to splurge on for a romantic occasion such as a honeymoon or anniversary. The azure-hued realm of French Polynesia is indeed a tropical Eden ideally suited for two, while its sights and activities appeal to hedonists and adventure-seekers alike. 

Officially, there are 118 islands and atolls that make up Tahiti and French Polynesia, though you're most likely thinking of the Society Islands—the main islands out of the 14 being Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Tahaa, Raiatea, Maupiti, and Huahine—when you hear the word Tahiti; the other Tahitian Island groups include the more remote Tuamotus Islands, Marquesas Islands, Austral Islands, and Gambier Islands. You're likely to hear French spoken (don't worry, English is commonly spoken in hotels, restaurants, and other parts of the islands that are frequented by visitors) and notice the French Pacific Franc as the local currency since being part of French Polynesia, the islands are part of France.

While you could simply choose to relax all day on a gorgeous beach, it's much more interesting to get out there and see what the Islands have to offer. Start with these 10 things every visitor should do on a trip to Tahiti.

01 of 10

Learn About Tahitian History and Culture

Museum of Tahiti and the Islands

Museum of Tahiti and the Islands

Address
Puna'auia, French Polynesia
Phone +689 40 54 84 35

Located about 20 minutes from the capital city of Papeete on the main island of Tahiti, the Museum of Tahiti and the Islands TKTKTK

02 of 10

Visit Beautiful Waterfalls in Tahiti and Moorea

Waterfalls in Tahiti

Glen Allison / Getty Images

Address
FJ82+668, Hitiaa O Te Ra, French Polynesia

Vaimahutu Falls (Faarumai Waterfall), about a 30-minute drive east of teh capital city of Papeete on the main island of Tahiti, TKTKTK. Topatari Falls, Vaiharuru Falls, and Puraha Falls in the Papenoo Valley.

On the island of Moorea, don't miss Afareaitu Falls,

03 of 10

Sleep in an Overwater Bungalow

Overwater Bungalows in Tahiti

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

Address
French Polynesia
Phone +689 40 60 78 88

Sleeping in an overwater bungalow is a major bucket list item for any trip to Tahiti, and luckily, every island is dotted with the famously beautiful thatch-roofed huts poised on stilts. Check-in, change into your swimsuit, and savor your own private frangipani-scented paradise. Spend a few days waking up and falling asleep to the soothing lullaby of softly lapping water, enjoying a refreshing dip or invigorating snorkel right from your own private sun deck, and ogling colorful reef fish through strategically placed glass panels in your bungalow’s floor.

While there are lots of great overwater bungalow options throughout the Tahitian Islands, some of the most popular include Conrad Bora Bora Nui InterContinental Resort Tahiti, InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa, and The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort, which can each be booked with loyalty program rewards points, in this case through Hilton Honors, IHG Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy, respectively.

04 of 10

Feed Sharks and Stingrays by Hand

A man feeding a stingray in the lagoon

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

Address
French Polynesia
Phone +689 87 78 27 37

Humans aren’t the only creatures that enjoy Tahiti's crystalline lagoons. Stealthy black-tipped reef sharks and prehistoric-looking southern stingrays like to splash about, too. You can interact with both during a shark and stingray feeding tour, available on most islands—but you won’t just watch the food be tossed from a boat. Following your guide's lead, you'll actually get in the water as three-foot sharks circle while waiting for handouts—don't worry, they have no interest in snacking on you!—and curious rays scamper about, even rubbing their velvety bellies up against your legs like playful puppies. ADD: Moana Adventure Tours.

Otherwise, there's water, water everywhere in Tahiti and some of the islands' best scenery lies beneath its glassy surface. Slip on snorkel masks and fins after applying liberal amounts of sunscreen to each other's backs—you’ll thank us later!—and spend the day floating above wavering gardens of pastel-hued coral as silver-striped and neon-spotted fish dart amid the salty flora. Keep an eye out for starfish, sea turtles, and even the occasional eel.

Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

Enjoy a Monoi-Oil Massage

Woman getting a massage
ImagesBazaar / Getty Images
Address
Vaitape, Bora-Bora, French Polynesia
Phone +689 40 60 52 00

There's nothing better than a soothing Tahitian massage, which combines long, smooth strokes and fragrant monoi oil scented with vanilla, coconut, or tiare blossoms. GET INTO WHAT MONOI OIL ACTUALLY IS / CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE, ETC. Whether on the beach at sunset or in a five-star resort or spa’s couples suite, like the one at the Mane Spa at the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa, an hour of pampering is the perfect way to transition from active day to romantic night. OFFER MORE DETAILS / INFO / SUGGESTIONS FOR PLACES TO DO THIS.

06 of 10

Take a 4x4 Tour of Moorea

Landscape of mountains in Moorea

TripSavvy / Lauren Breedlove

Address
Moorea-Maiao, French Polynesia
Phone +689 87 77 09 71

Emerald-peaked, heart-shaped Moorea is the ideal isle to explore via land, and the best way to see its many nooks and crannies is to bounce around in an open-air 4x4 truck. From atop Magic Mountain, where the lagoon spreads out before you in a mosaic of every possible shade of blue, to Belvedere Overlook, where twin Cooks and Opunohu bays jut out below like almost perfectly symmetrical fingers, you’ll be awed by the spectacle the South Pacific's forces of nature created. ADD: Moorea Activities Center.

07 of 10

Try Poisson Cru

Poisson Cru

Sarah Bossert / Getty Images

Address
French Polynesia
Phone +689 40 60 78 88

Of all the traditional local dishes to sample—among them, breadfruit, taro, fish, and pork cooked in a himaa, or underground oven—none is as addictively delicious as poisson cru: raw tuna marinated in lime juice and coconut milk. It’s perfect for a healthy and refreshing lunch or light appetizer and you can enjoy it during a casual beachside luncheon or a romantic dinner for two. OFFER MORE EXAMPLES OF WHERE PEOPLE CAN TRY THIS ON DIFFERENT ISLANDS.

08 of 10

Visit a Pearl Farm

A hand holding tiny black pearls

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

Address
Papeete 98714, French Polynesia
Phone +689 89 53 63 88

Aside from the freshest fish imaginable, Tahiti's most abundant salt-water bounty is its cache of precious black pearls. Not all are black, but instead come in a range of bright shades of gray, blue, bronze, green and aubergine, and are farmed in the waters off several islands—namely Taha'a, Huahine, and the Tuomotu Islands. Price depends upon size, symmetry, and luster and ranges from a few dollars for a souvenir-stand bauble to several thousand for a perfectly uniform strand. Mention some pearl farms to visit—are there tours?

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Circle Bora Bora by Boat

Catamaran on the water

Colin Anderson / Getty Images

Address
Vaitape, Bora-Bora, French Polynesia
Phone +689 87 77 63 63

Bora Bora is a chameleon among the islands, and the best way to appreciate its myriad profiles is to circle it by boat.

During a sail on a catamaran, you'll marvel as the rocky, green summit of Mt. Otemanu shifts from wide and fat to square and nubby to slender and needlelike as you view it from different spots on the lagoon. The 40-foot Vitamin Sea catamaran takes visitors on full or half-day sails around the island. OFFER OTHER EXAMPLES OF PLACES TO DO THIS, TOO. ADD Matira Jet Tours.

10 of 10

Watch a Polynesian Dance Show

A traditional Polynesian dance show

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

Address
PK7, Fa'a'ā 98702, French Polynesia
Phone +689 40 86 51 10

While this may be the most touristy thing you’ll do in Tahiti, it will also be the most fun. Polynesian dance is an incredible, energetic art form set to a thunderous drum beat and punctuated by chants. And it's not just for the locals as visitors are encouraged to join in the action—it’s a lot faster than doing the Hula in Hawaii and many end up on YouTube shaking what their mama gave 'em.

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10 Incredible Things to Do in Tahiti