Papeete, French Polynesia

A local’s guide to Papeete

Visiting Tahiti? You don’t have to rush off to the outer islands too quickly. There is a lot of fun to be had on the main island of Papeete as well. If you can manage to be in Papeete for the Heiva festival in July, you’re in for a real treat of festival excitement: dancing, cultural shows, sporting events, parades: it’s party time in Tahiti for this national holiday. Everyone, local and visitor alike, also heads outdoors for the great annual canoe tournament. All shapes and sizes of canoe, from outriggers to pirogues, singles and doubles to huge 24 man vessels, compete in thrilling races for the crowds. If marine life is your thing, don’t miss the Papeete aquarium, entered through a giant shark’s mouth. There are also 200 year old turtles to visit not far out of town.

Hotels, even if you aren’t staying in them, are a hub of visitor activities. You can join day trips to go play with dolphins, feed sharks or feed sting rays. (You can even pet the rays, which will come right up and “kiss” you!) A range of water sports are available, such as water skiing or kite surfing, and hotel restaurants often offer an excellent meal at the end of the day, with evening entertainment such as fire dancing displays.

For an authentic local experience and fantastic atmosphere make sure to check out “les roulottes”, a kind of mobile food court, by the port, where stall holders open small trucks up to reveal kitchens producing a range of quality dishes. Some have Pacific touches, many are French style or Chinese with a Tahitian twist. Try the steak with blue vein, chow mein a la Tahiti, some fish, or a huge pizza. For dessert, there are three or four trucks dedicated to crepes alone. Or be tempted by waffles and cream…
At last, to find the perfect souvenir, head to the daily market in the centre of town for three storeys of shopping pleasure and everything from woven crowns, lavalavas (sarong style garments), shirts, ornaments, or even a tattoo!

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