Popular activities in Tahiti
With so much water around, it is no surprise that water-based activities are popular near Tahiti and her islands. However, there is plenty to explore on the dry ground as well!
SCUBA diving and snorkeling around Tahiti and her islands
Tahiti is home to 800 water-based species. The best way to see them all is in their natural habitat under the ocean waves with a snorkel or SCUBA dive!
Many resorts will provide their guests with complimentary snorkeling equipment. Keep in mind, however, that not all resorts are near reefs.
If you wish to view sharks or a multitude of fish, your BigDay specialist can arrange for an excursion out to popular snorkeling sites.
Underwater coral around InterContinental Le Moana Resort, Bora Bora. Image taken on a BigDay 2007 site inspection.
Diving regulations in Tahiti require that all qualified divers must show their CMAS or PADI card and log book. However, numerous companies offer introductory dives for beginners, which require no certification.
The highest rated dive spots in Tahiti are centered around the Tuamotu Atolls and Leeward Islands, although spectacular opportunities exist around all the archipelagos. Diving cruises to multiple islands are available.
If you wish to receive your SCUBA certification in Tahiti, ask your BigDay agent to arrange this in advance, as three to five days of training are necessary, and you cannot fly within 12 hours of completing a dive. A medical examination and certificate of health, either from your home physician or one in French Polynesia, is also necessary for diving courses.
Night dives are available near multiple islands in Tahiti and wreck dives exist around Tahiti and Raiatea. Click here to see the Nordby wreck near Raiatea in Google Earth.
Shark feeding dives are done on a center-by-center basis. Some do not allowing baiting, as they believe it disrupts the natural environment. However, you don't need to feed the sharks to see them in plentiful numbers. Lemon sharks and blacktips are especially easy to spot, like at Tapu, near Bora Bora. Rangiroa is the shark-spotting center of the islands.
As the water temperature averages a balmy 79 degrees Fahrenheit or 26 degrees Celsius, wet suits are not required on shallow dives. Deeper dives provide a 3 mm wetsuit.
To capture your amazing discoveries, a quality disposable underwater camera is recommended. Look for one that is good for dives up to 100 feet (33 meters) deep - these are generally easy to find in hotel gift shops or at stores back home. For more on diving in Tahiti, read Cindy Sawyer's article, Praying for Tutae Moa.
Surfing in Tahiti
Tahiti barrel rolls. Photo courtesy of Tahiti Tourisme. The surfing in Tahiti is totally tubular, man!
Most noted for the wicked barrel rolls found on Tahiti at Teahupoo, the beach is host to the annual Billabong Pro in May and spectators year round.
Moorea and a few islands in the Tuamotu Atolls also boast excellent surf. Surf and bodyboard lessons are available at select beaches.
If you're interested in surfing, plan for the waves! The two surf seasons are November to March and April through October, but the most powerful waves are during the winter (June - August). Most resorts have no surf, so if you plan on brining your board, ask your BigDay specialist to recommend accommodations that are closest to the waves.
Other Water Activities around Tahiti and her islands
SCUBA diving, surfing and snorkeling aren't the only things you can do in the ocean (Hey! We didn't mean it like that!). The islands also provide ample opportunities to parasail, sail, windsurf, outrigger canoe, swim with dolphins, jet-ski, water-ski, boat tour and fish.
Land activities on Tahiti and her islands
Hiking opportunities in Tahiti are plentiful. The most popular mountain climb is that on Tahiti and consists of a 1-to-4 day trek up Mt. Aorai. A three hour hike to the Fautaua waterfall near Papeete is also recommended. Over on nearby Moorea, view the breathtaking Opunohu Valley from on top of the Belvedere Lookout (Click here to see the Belvedere Lookout in Google Earth.).
Get more in touch with nature via wilderness safaris or even tours by horseback in the Marquesas. Relax with a round of golf or dine out at a number of restaurants or roadside stands, called les roulottes.
Click here to view the Olivier Breaud International Golf Course in Google Earth.
Cultural and historical activities on Tahiti and her islands
Notable historical sites in Tahiti include marae (temples) where natives worshipped the gods.
TheBigDay agent David, comments, "One of the main reasons we travel, is to experience other cultures beside our own. Polynesians hold sacred their ancient burial sites or maraes. I love to recommend visiting a marae while in Tahiti. One of the best examples is in Raiatea, otherwise known as the "Sacred Island"."
Petroglyphs in the Marquesas are also particularly noteworthy.
Old Raiatea marae (temple). Photo courtesy of Tahiti Tourisme.
If you are fortunate enough to be in Tahiti during the first two weeks of July, the Heiva i Tahiti is the annual historic festival, featuring competitions, events and general merriment! There are also various outrigger canoe races and the April Maohi festival with competitions in tree climbing, races with heavy loads of fruit and coconut husking.
For a year-round activity, check out a traditional Polynesian dance show at your hotel or Tiki Village, a Tahitian village on Moorea specializing in historic arts.
Click here to view the Tiki Village in Google Earth.
A number of museums, including one dedicated to the best-selling black pearls and the famous artist Paul Gauguin are also located in Tahiti.
Visit our Tahiti History and Culture page for more information.
Shopping in Tahiti
Souvenir hunters should not miss the daily Papeete market, Le Marche, which boasts an assortment of foods as well as gift items. Popular keepsakes from Tahiti include the stunning black pearls, fruit-based liquors, monoi, a blend of coconut and gardenia extracts, vanilla, Polynesian pareos (sarongs), and handicrafts.
For an excellent, albeit slight sales-y, selection of 100 Things to Do in Tahiti, visit this list from Tahiti Tourisme.