Things to do in Tahiti

Things to do in Tahiti

The Islands of Tahiti are home to not only the most stunning beaches in the world, but to wild jungle, dramatic mountain peaks, and rich culture dating back thousands of years. That said, we can’t blame you if you want to spend your holiday lazing about on a postcard-perfect beach (choose your sand colour— sugar white, flamingo pink or volcanic black.) But if you’re the type who loves to experience the nature, food, history, arts, and people of a place, with Tahiti, you’ve chosen the right tropical island paradise. Here are the best things to do in the Islands of Tahiti that don’t include the beach.

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Interacting with ocean life in the ocean is way more fun than watching from above on a boat

Paddleboard with sharks and stingrays

Get your workout in and work on your tan while paddle-boarding amongst giant stingrays and dog-sized reef sharks. Gliding just beneath the crystal clear surface, these stunning creatures will emerge and frolic with you. Interacting with ocean life in the ocean is way more fun than watching from above on a boat. If you don’t know how to paddleboard, you can get a lesson before you head out. It’s easy to learn.

Mo'orea, French Polynesia

Photo: Moon

Sleep in overwater bungalows

There’s only one thing better than unwinding on a tropical island with bluer-than-blue tranquil waters. And that’s waking up directly over those waters. A trip to Tahiti isn’t complete without spending at least one night in an overwater bungalow. French Polynesia is world-renowned for these sublime huts that straddle the ocean on stilts. Get the best night’s sleep in your life in your own private thatched-roof cottage with the sound of waves becoming the soundtrack of your dreams. Rise from bed and descend a few steps into the calm waters of your own backyard. There’s an option at every price point, ranging from simple overwater bungalows to ones that offer a five-store amenity experience.

Bungalows in Tahiti

Photo: Bob Bradley

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Made up of 118 islands, discover the Pacific Island paradise by cruising into its serene lagoons and uncrowded ports-of-call

Charter a boat

What’s the best way to truly explore a country that spans the size of Europe but is 99 per cent water?  No, this is not a brain teaser. The answer is by boat! Choose the craft that matches your style or nautical abilities–sailboat, yacht, fishing boat, speedboat, catamaran or even outrigger canoe. Made up of 118 islands, discover the Pacific Island paradise by cruising into its serene lagoons and uncrowded ports-of-call. There are plenty of short jaunts if you’re short on time or long-haul trips if you’ve got nothing but time.

Try some poisson cru

The South Pacific version of ceviche, poisson cru is the national dish of Tahiti. Meaning “raw fish” from French, it’s made with sushi grade tuna or some other fresh catch of the day marinated in lime juice, coconut and fresh veggies. Tart and zesty, the flavour is softened and slightly sweetened by the coconut milk. Poisson cru is perfect for a light lunch for a pre-dinner appetizer. You might even try it for breakfast.

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Tahiti’s most well-preserved petroglyphs on the lush Te Pari coast are accessible only by boat or on foot

Scout out a petroglyph

If you dig archaeology, take a break from the sand to get your Indiana Jones on. The islands are dotted with petroglyphs—ancient rock carvings made by the islands’ original inhabitants. Researchers have not yet deciphered the meanings of some of the figures and symbols, which take the shape of turtles, spirals, sailing canoes and even a dual human figure. Tahiti’s most well-preserved petroglyphs on the lush Te Pari coast are accessible only by boat or on foot. Throw on your fedora, hire a guide and see what you can discover.

Get a traditional tattoo

You will miss Tahiti so much after you leave that it hurts. So, why not consider getting a permanent reminder of the best holiday you ever had in your life? You may not know the word “tattoo” in English is derived from the Tahitian word “tatau.” All ancient Polynesians were tattooed to depict rank and family lineage.

The art form has seen a resurgence world over with the likes of The Rock, Rihanna and Mike Tyson getting Polynesian-inspired tattoos. Travellers can get their own personalized design with a modern tattoo machine or with the traditional tools and manual techniques of the artist’s ancestors.

Tatto Tahiti

Photo: Artak Petrosyan

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Taurami involves a spiritual connection between the masseuse, called a Tahu’a, and the patient

Receive a Tahitian rubdown

A traditional Tahitian Taurumi massage is unlike any other you’ve had before. The word ‘massage’ doesn’t even do it justice. It would be more accurate to call Taurumi a spiritual healing art. The word actually translates to “health in the hands.” Much more than a way to relax a knotted back or knead away stress, Taurami involves a spiritual connection between the masseuse, called a Tahu’a, and the patient. The Tahu’a transfers his or her life force to you. Using oil made of flowers, vanilla and coconut oil called Monoï, the Tahu’a can use hands, elbows, forearms and even feet. You will have an out-of-body experience, guaranteed.

Massage Tahiti

Photo: Marvin Meyer

Massage Tahiti

Photo: Christin Hume

ATV the magic mountain

Tahiti’s sister island, Moorea, is the more rugged of the two gorgeous ladies. Only a quick ferry ride away, Moorea is all lush jungle and jagged volcanic mountains. Explorers can mount an ATV to navigate steep and narrow dirt trails to take in panoramic views at the top of Magic Mountain, a jagged emerald outcropping.

ATV Tahiti

Photo: Jason Miller

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No other artist is more closely tied to the Islands of Tahiti than the decadent, amorous, bohemian French painter, Paul Gauguin

Visit Gauguin’s final resting place

No other artist is more closely tied to the Islands of Tahiti than the decadent, amorous, bohemian French painter, Paul Gauguin. In 1901, he fled the oppressive life of polite bourgeois European society for parts unknown in the South Pacific and settled on the tiny island of Hiva Oa, where he died only two years later. Go visit this dazzling and wild island and stop by Calvary Cemetery of Atuona to visit Gauguin’s simple and lovely grave. Leave behind one of the colourful tropical flowers from which he drew so much inspiration for his artwork.

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