On September 6Nicole Griffith answered the question:Tahiti is the cultural heart of French Polynesia, and wherever you go on the island, you'll be exposed to an array of rich experiences. To appreciate the culture in Tahiti, you must first understand the island's history. Pay a visit to the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands to learn more about the Polynesian people and their unique cultural heritage. Then, explore a rural village and get a sense of how the island has changed, and how much of it has remained very traditional.
To experience modern-day culture, head to Vai'ete Square on a Friday or Saturday night and dine at the local food trucks, Les Roulottes; then wake up on Sunday morning and visit Tahiti's marketplace, Le Marché. These are the popular local hangouts and the peak times to catch the locals out and about.
You can even discover a range of cultural experiences without leaving your resort. Some hotels provide demonstrations on how to crack open a coconut or how to wear a Tahitian wrap called a pareo. They also frequently offer live musical entertainment and traditional dance performances. For the best show on the island, we recommend the Polynesian show at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort, offered on Friday and Saturday nights.
The most authentic way to be fully immersed in the culture is to visit Tahiti during a special event or festival. During the month of July, for example, Tahiti celebrates Heiva I Tahiti, a spectacular month-long festival of Polynesian culture and dance. Take part in some of the activities and you'll feel as though you've been transported to another place in time.
On September 6Nicole Griffith answered the question:The scents and smells of Tahiti are something you'll want to bottle up and bring home with you. Thankfully, you can. If you love to cook, Forbes Travel Guide’s editors recommend buying a supply of Tahitian vanilla beans to spice up your kitchen. You'll be so inspired by the cuisine in Tahiti that you'll want to add this rich island flavor to everything you prepare at home.
Be sure to stock up on the island's signature beauty product, monoï oil. This naturally scented perfume consists of coconut oil infused with the fragrant Tiare flower, or Tahitian gardenia, and is used in almost every spa in Tahiti.You can find these products and more at Tahiti's local marketplace, Le Marché, located in downtown Papeete. Other must-have items include black pearls, wooden tiki statues, woven hats and colorful Tahitian wraps, or pareos.
On September 6Nicole Griffith answered the question:Beyond the fresh ingredients and local flavors, dining in Tahiti is all about the experience. Whether sharing a meal with the locals or dining at one of the island's gourmet restaurants, Tahiti serves up some wonderful food experiences. Here are the five best Tahiti food experiences according to Forbes Travel Guide’s editors:
1. Eat at Les Roulottes. Each night, these gourmet food trucks open for business at Tahiti's famous waterfront promenade, Vai'ete Square. They serve a range of delicious and affordable snacks including crépes, fresh fish and steak sandwiches. It's the perfect opportunity to grab a quick bite and experience a popular local hangout.
2. Take cooking lessons at Le Méridien Tahiti. L'Atelier du Chef is a series of intimate cooking classes offered at the resort. With a maximum of only five students per class, you'll receive hands-on instructions from the resort's executive chef. The curriculum includes unique dishes such as crispy shrimp with fresh mint and mango salsa, or tuna tartar with parmesan biscuits. At the end of class, you'll head into the dining room at Le Carré to enjoy your creation in a real restaurant setting.
3. Order fondue at Le Belvedere. This popular local restaurant has a setting high on a hillside with spectacular panoramic views. Arrive early enough to enjoy the sunset and then watch as the city lights take over downtown Papeete below. The most popular dish on the menu is the meat fondue, which is served with a selection of savory sauces. The price of a meal here includes your hotel transfers, since the road leading up to this hillside restaurant is very steep and narrow.
4. Buy fresh local produce from Le Marché. Open daily, this vibrant marketplace is Tahiti's equivalent to a farmer's market. Give yourself plenty of time to walk around and take in the sights, smells and sounds. You'll browse through a colorful selection of fresh fish, organic vegetables and tropical fruits. Use this opportunity to try some of the island's more exotic varieties, such as noni and breadfruit.
5. Enjoy a buffet dinner and dance show at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort. Though the buffet boasts an impressive selection of fresh seafood and Polynesian cuisine, the food is not the highlight of the evening. Instead, the focus is on the performance. This traditional Tahitian dance show is by far the best on the island. Be sure to request a table near the stage when you make your reservation.
On September 6Nicole Griffith answered the question:Tahiti is really the only island in French Polynesia with much to offer in the way of nightlife, although the offerings are still somewhat limited. The best way to start your evening is to wander over to Vai'ete Square where the gourmet food trucks, Les Roulottes, open nightly to serve a range of inexpensive treats including Chinese food, French crépes and pizza. This popular local hangout is the perfect place to grab a quick bite, enjoy live musical entertainment and watch the Tahitian people at play.
For the late-night hours, there are a number of local bars and nightclubs situated along Papeete's waterfront street, Boulevard Pomare. If you're in search of the best drinks, try a local microbrewery called Les 3 Brasseurs with over 20 different beers on tap; or visit Le Chaplin's, which has a selection of over 50 cocktails on the menu. For the best dancing, check out Le Paradise Nightclub or Le Royal Kikiriri and see if you can keep up with the tamure (the fast, hip-shaking Tahitian dance).
On September 6Nicole Griffith answered the question:It's very easy to explore Tahiti in one day, as the island is compact and simple to navigate. In fact, most travelers usually only spend a day or two in Tahiti— sometimes even just a few hours — before heading to the other islands of French Polynesia. If your time is limited, you'll want to experience downtown Papeete. Head to the local market, Le Marché, and buy your souvenirs for the trip home; then visit Vai'ete Square at night and eat from the gourmet food trucks, Les Roulottes. This will give you a good snapshot of what the island of Tahiti has to offer.
If you have more time to spare, we recommend a full-day circle island tour. This is one of the best ways to see the many historical sites and museums around the island. You'll stop at Point Venus, where Captain Cook witnessed the transit of Venus in 1769, and visit the home of James Norman Hall, the author most famous for his classic, "Mutiny on the Bounty." Other stops include the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands, the Paul Gauguin Museum and the botanical gardens. To get the most out of the experience, choose a guided tour from a company like Marama Tours. Or, if you'd prefer, you can also rent a car and explore the island at your own leisurely pace.
On September 6Nicole Griffith answered the question:Of all the French Polynesian islands, Tahiti offers the most in the way of shopping, especially at its local markets. The best spot for shopping in Tahiti is Le Marché in downtown Papeete. This open-air marketplace is essentially a large farmer's market and souvenir shop combined. Here, you'll find a wide selection of fresh local produce and items such as vanilla beans, monoï oil and Tahitian black pearls. Beyond the shopping, this colorful and exciting marketplace is one of the best spots in Tahiti to encounter the island's culture and people.
Another option is Le Centre Vaima. Also located in downtown Papeete, this multi-level shopping center offers a range of clothing and accessory stores. This is where you'll find the Robert Wan Black Pearl Museum, which tells the history of Tahitian pearls and explains their cultivation process. If you're in the market for a black pearl, but need help making an informed purchase decision, this is a great place to start.
On September 6Nicole Griffith answered the question:There are plenty of things to do with the kids in Tahiti. It's the best place to expose them to the history and culture of French Polynesia, while also letting them swim, play and explore the island's lush tropical surroundings. If you're traveling with little ones, here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the best things to do with kids in Tahiti.
1. Explore the island on a guided tour. This is the best way to discover the various cultural, historical and natural sites around the island. Stops include the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands, the botanical gardens, and Tahiti’s famous local marketplace, Le Marché. Although we recommend a guided tour for the added educational element, you can also rent a car and explore the island at your own leisure.
2. Go on a Jeep Safari. The interior part of the island of Tahiti is incredibly lush and therefore fun to explore. If your kids don't like to hike, this activity is the perfect solution. They'll enjoy the ride from the back of a four-wheel drive vehicle as you discover tropical gardens, cascading waterfalls and small, rural villages.
3. Ride the ferry to Moorea for a day. The island of Moorea is only 30 minutes away from Tahiti by ferry. If you're staying in Tahiti for the duration of your French Polynesian trip, this is a great way to experience another island and get a better feel for the destination as a whole. Moorea features quaint villages, alluring beaches, superb snorkeling and plenty of hiking.
4. Sign them up for surfing lessons. While Tahiti is famous for its monstrous waves, there are also some local surf spots where the swells are much smaller and better suited for children. You can arrange for a private lesson or enroll your kids in a group class.
5. Go snorkeling. You'll find a string of great beaches along the west coast of the island, just beyond the Le Méridien Tahiti. Mahana Park is a friendly beachside park where the locals picnic and play soccer or volleyball on the weekends. The snorkeling there is very good and the water is calm and shallow, making it safe for children of all ages.
On September 6Nicole Griffith answered the question:Tahiti boasts an incredible diversity of things to do. We think you'll find that spending a few days on the island is a nice way to balance out your trip to French Polynesia. Forbes Travel Guide’s editors recommend the following things to see and do while in Tahiti:
1. Visit Le Marché. This marketplace in downtown Papeete is one of the best spots in Tahiti to experience the culture and interact with the locals. It's also the most affordable place to buy everything from vanilla beans to Tahitian black pearls—meaning you'll want to stock up on souvenirs while you're there.
2. Eat at Les Roulottes. To experience Tahiti like a local, head to Vai'ete Square after the sun goes down. This waterfront promenade comes to life every night when Tahiti's gourmet food trucks, Les Roulottes, open their windows to serve a range of affordable meals, including Chinese food, French crépes, fresh fish and pizza.
3. Circle the island on a guided tour. This is a great way to see everything in one day. You'll learn about the history of Tahiti as you travel to various points of interest around the island. Stops include the historical Point Venus, the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands, the Paul Gauguin Museum and the botanical gardens.
4. Explore the island's interior. Beyond the hustle and bustle of the downtown area, Tahiti is actually a very lush island with tropical gardens, cascading waterfalls and soaring mountains. This part of the island is often the least explored, but it's also the most beautiful. To discover the island's interior, we recommend a guided hiking tour. If you're feeling up to it, climb to the top of Mount Aorai and you'll enjoy some of the best panoramic views of the island.
5. Go surfing or take lessons. Tahiti is one of the greatest surfing destinations in the world. If you're a surfing aficionado, chances are you're familiar with the island's renowned surf spot, Teahupo'o. To witness these infamous waves, you'll need to visit the small part of the island known as Tahiti Iti. If you're a beginner, you can take surfing lessons and learn how to ride some of the smaller waves on the island.
On August 16Nicole Griffith answered the question:Since Moorea is one of the world's most popular honeymoon destinations, the island exudes romance. If you're planning to visit for your honeymoon or anniversary, here are some ways to ensure that your getaway is as romantic as possible.
For the ultimate in seclusion, stay in an overwater bungalow. These luxurious villas are completely detached from the other surrounding bungalows and feature their own private decks, meaning you'll have complete privacy during your stay. You can even have breakfast delivered via outrigger canoe if you'd rather not leave your room in the morning.
Have a romantic dinner on the beach or dine at one of Moorea's more intimate restaurants. Depending on where you stay, you can request a private dinner on the sand and enjoy a quiet, uninterrupted evening at the resort. We also recommend making a reservation at K Restaurant at the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort. With an intimate dining room and amazing candlelit crystal centerpieces, it offers one of the most romantic dining experiences on the island. Or visit Te Honu Iti, a local French restaurant that overlooks Cook’s Bay, one of the most alluring coves — it’s surrounded by towering, lush mountains — in all of Polynesia.
Nicole Griffith is a Forbes Travel Guide correspondent who lives in Los Angeles and covers Tahiti and Moorea for Startle. Griffith has frequently visited the islands of Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Huahine, Rangiroa and Taha’a. Her love of travel began when she studied abroad in Madrid and traveled throughout Europe. She has since developed a passion for the South Pacific and is now the communications manager for Tahiti.com. Griffith earned a degree in communication from the University of California, Santa Barbara.