Tahiti - Abbey Travel, Ireland


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Welcome to Tahiti


French Polynesia's main island of Tahiti (meaning 'the gathering place') stands sentinel over her surrounding sisters like a proud queen, her soaring interior mountains sheltering deep valleys, plummeting waterfalls and crystal streams flowing down to the rugged coastline of black and white sand beaches and blue lagoons. Tahiti is made up of two islands, Tahiti-Nui and Tahiti-Iti, joined by a narrow isthmus.

Most holidaymakers start their island idyll at the international Faa'a Airport at Papeete, Tahiti's capital and the commercial hub of French Polynesia. The small, busy city has a French flavour and laid-back atmosphere, worth exploring for its vibrant Central Market, pearl shops, attractive waterfront with its unique mobile diners, and a selection of excellent restaurants. Another must for visitors is to take a round-the-island tour, along the 73-mile (117km) road encircling the island, passing historic monuments, museums, beaches, ruined temples, waterfalls, gardens and dramatic scenery.

The island's best white sand beaches are between Punaauia and Papara, but most visitors get more of a thrill out of visiting the famed black sand beaches on the east coast, particularly renowned Pointe Venus. Besides enjoying the seaside, Tahiti also offers some interesting sightseeing, including magnificent Botanical gardens, museums, archaeological sites, the tomb of the royal family Pomare, a lake containing unique eared eels, lava tubes, and a host of other unusual experiences.

Information & Facts


Like all of French Polynesia, Tahiti enjoys tropical, warm and humid weather all year round, averaging eight hours of sunshine per day over a year. The islands experience a rainy season, generally between late October and early March, when cloudy skies and brief heavy rain showers can occur. The rest of the year rain is rare and temperatures constantly high, tempered sometimes by refreshing breezes. The water temperature ranges between 79° F and 84° F (26°C to 29°C) making for extremely pleasant bathing all year round.

Getting Around

Tahiti has its own public transit system known as 'Le Truck', the open-air vehicles covering Papeete and surrounding towns with informal frequent stops. There are plenty of taxis, best arranged through the hotel concierge, and car rentals can be arranged at the airport or hotels. Helicopters or a variety of sea-going craft can be hired for island tours.

French and Tahitian are the official languages; English is widely spoken.

The unit of currency in French Polynesia is the French Pacific Franc (XPF), divided into 100 centimes. The exchange rate is fairly stable as it is linked to the Euro. Banks throughout the islands are open mainly on weekdays only and are the best place to change foreign currency; rates of exchange are not as good at hotels. There are ATMs on a few of the islands, but shouldn't be relied upon. Most hotels and resorts will exchange travellers cheques in US$ or Euros, and credit cards and US currency is readily accepted on the main islands. Tourism taxes are levied for accommodation and activities.

GMT -10 (The Marquesas Islands are half an hour ahead of the rest of French Polynesia).

The vibrant heart of Papeete is its fascinating public market, where for more than 150 years traders have touted a vast array of exotic goods from Tahitian arts and crafts, to fragrant oils, flowers, fruit, straw hats, seashell jewellery and pareus (sarongs). The market is particularly colourful and lively in the late afternoon when the day's catch is brought in from the fishing boats, and on Sunday mornings when the island families traditionally do their weekly shopping.

The famous French painter, Paul Gauguin, spent the last 12 years of his life in Tahiti and fittingly, the island sports a museum dedicated to his life and work. Among the exhibits Visitors expecting to see original versions of his iconic Tahiti-period paintings will be disappointed although there are some original sculptures, engravings and gouaches. The gift shop sells excellent prints. While in the area, a visit to the adjacent Harrison W. Smith Botanical Gardens is well worthwhile.

Cultured pearls, particularly the famed Tahitian black pearl, are French Polynesia's main export and the best buy for visitors to the islands. If you are planning to shop for pearls it is wise to first stop by the Pearl Museum in Papeete where you can find out all about these 'gems of the sea' and learn to judge their quality.

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