What to Know Before You Visit the Island of Tahiti

You’ll find a lot of information out there about the Islands of Tahiti (plural), but surprisingly little about the Island of Tahiti (singular)! Tahiti is usually just a pitstop for travelers on their way to other French Polynesian islands. So, if you’re interested in exploring this beautiful island for yourself, there are a few things you’ll want to know before you go! 

You are Definitely in France 

Sure, it’s a tropical paradise island, but there is no doubt you’re also in French territory! You’ll have some of the best baguettes and brie of your life, be greeted in French first (and be lucky if you hear heavily accented English!), and get a definite French vibe. I lost count of how many people we saw on bikes carrying bundles of baguettes! I’m also very thankful my husband speaks French, so maybe consider brushing up on yours before your trip!

When your breakfast buffet includes TWO chocolate fountains and pastries, you know you’re really in France.
Also helpful: The Best Apps for Travelers

You Will Want a Rental Car

One of the best things to do on Tahiti is to drive around the island. There is a decent public bus system, but you’ll be more efficient with your time (and get to stay at the beautiful sites as long as you like) if you drive yourself. Just be aware that you will pay per kilometer when you return the car, as your rental does not come with unlimited mileage!

This cutie got us where we needed to go, but she did it without bells, whistles, or backup cameras!
Take a day trip while you’re at it: How to Rent a Car and Take the Ferry from Tahiti to Mo’orea

Avoid Papeete at Rush Hour

Oh, my stars, y’all! I live in the D.C. area, so I definitely know what bad traffic is, and the rush hour traffic to and through Papeete is next level! It took well over an hour to go fewer than 10 miles from our hotel to the other side of Papeete, and there is no bypass, no work-around, no other way but through! Trust me when I say you’ll want to start your drive in the opposite direction of Papeete, or you’ll want to wait until 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning to start your drive!

This waterfall was worth the drive, but it would have been MORE worth our while to avoid going through Papeete at rush hour to get there!
Keep reading: What to Know Before You Visit French Polynesia

There’s Really Not a Lot to Do Here (and that can be good!)

Despite being the largest island in French Polynesia, I was surprised at how little there is to do here! Unless you’re willing to commit to a multi-day hike, your options are to drive around the island, do one of the 3-4 very short hikes on the island, surf, snorkel, or take a boat tour out to snorkel. Those are great options, but you can pretty much knock all that out in two days, tops! 

That said, Tahiti is one of the most relaxing places in the world, which is so what we didn’t know we needed! We took more naps and generally rested better than ever before. We mostly enjoyed our hotel, including the spa and on-site “lagoonarium,” where we could both swim and snorkel with colorful, tropical fish! I highly recommend staying at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort and Spa, and we can’t wait to go back. 

Cocktail by the pool? Enjoy it without the FOMO!
Stay at the best place on the island: Staying at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort and Spa (not sponsored!)

Bring Your Reef Safe Sunscreen

Speaking of all that swimming and snorkeling, you’ll want to bring your own reef safe sunscreen instead of planning to buy it when you arrive—it’s expensive on the island! Regular sunscreen is very harmful to coral reef systems and their fish, so reef safe is the way to go. 

Fun in the sun!
Essential info: The Ultimate Traveler’s Guide to Sunscreen (from my dermatologist!)

Want more? Get everything you need to plan your trip on my dedicated French Polynesia Page!

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