Papeete, Tahiti | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
No votes yet

Papeete, Tahiti

Papeete is the largest city in and capital of French Polynesia on the island of Tahiti.

Tahiti lies in the South Pacific. It is the largest of the 118 islands and atolls that comprise French Polynesia. Tahiti is in the Society Islands, an archipelago which includes the islands of Bora Bora, Raiatea, Taha'a, Huahine and Moorea, and has a population of 127,000 people, about 83% of whom are of Polynesian ancestry. The legendary name 'Tahiti' not only identifies this island but also the group of islands that make up French Polynesia.

Tahiti is composed of two volcanic mountain ranges. In the shape of a 'turtle', it is made of Tahiti Nui (the larger part) and Tahiti Iti (the peninsula). The two islands are linked by the isthmus of Taravao and skirted by black beaches.

Papeete is not a tropical... Read more

Papeete, Tahiti


Papeete is the largest city in and capital of French Polynesia on the island of Tahiti.

Tahiti lies in the South Pacific. It is the largest of the 118 islands and atolls that comprise French Polynesia. Tahiti is in the Society Islands, an archipelago which includes the islands of Bora Bora, Raiatea, Taha'a, Huahine and Moorea, and has a population of 127,000 people, about 83% of whom are of Polynesian ancestry. The legendary name 'Tahiti' not only identifies this island but also the group of islands that make up French Polynesia.

Tahiti is composed of two volcanic mountain ranges. In the shape of a 'turtle', it is made of Tahiti Nui (the larger part) and Tahiti Iti (the peninsula). The two islands are linked by the isthmus of Taravao and skirted by black beaches.

Papeete is not a tropical paradise. It is a typical government center and industrial port with small doses of French and Polynesian charm. It has shopping, eating, and drinking, but very little sightseeing for the capital city and even fewer top-class hotels. The residents speak French and Tahitian, although English is spoken by many in the tourist trade. The people-watching is superb.

Once a sleepy town, today the harbor of Papeete is busy with cargo freighters, copra ships, luxury liners, and ocean-going yachts. There are sidewalk cafes, shops overflowing with French fashions, shell jewelry and handicrafts and a wide variety of restaurants serving Tahitian, French, and Asian cuisine. Not an attractive city, there are many small shops selling black pearls, small goods, souvenirs. The marche draws many shoppers for local produce (including fish) or souvenirs. Popular cafe with wifi on the second floor. Don't expect many stores to be open after 6 p.m. Anywhere in Papeete. Seriously. What is open are the food trucks by the harbor and some restaurants and bars. Also lei vendors and a couple of others just outside the market. Convenience stores a bit outside the city center at gas stations are open.


At the outbreak of World War I, Papeete was shelled by German vessels, causing loss of life and significant damage.

The growth of the city was boosted by the decision to move the nuclear weapon test range from Algeria to the atolls of Mururoa and Fangataufa, some 1,500 km (930 mi) to the east of Tahiti; this originated in particular in the construction of the Faa'a airport next to Pape'ete, the only international airport in French Polynesia. In 1983, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built the Papeete Tahiti Temple here because of the large number of members in the region. On 5 September 1995 the government of Jacques Chirac conducted the first of the last series of nuclear test detonations off the shores of Moruroa. A resulting riot in Papeete lasted for two days and damaged the international airport, injured 40 people, and scared away tourism for some time. (Similar rioting occurred after another French nuclear test in the same area in 1987.)


Papeete features a tropical monsoon climate with a wet season and dry season. However, precipitation is observed even during the city's dry season. The dry season is short, covering only the months of August and September. The rest of the year is wet, with the heaviest precipitation falling in the months of December and January. Temperatures are relatively constant throughout the course of the year, averaging around 25 °C (77 °F).

Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

Papeete, Tahiti: Port Information

Your cruise liner will dock in the center of the town.
A visitor center is available right at the cruise pier. 
Everything is within walking distance.

Get around Papeete, Tahiti

Papeete is a walking city. It's really too small to bother with any other form of transport, unless you are going out to the fringes, or would simply like to experience the famous le truck for fun (hop-on, hop-off, anywhere in the city center) Bring a water bottle: it can be quite hot and humid.

Taxis are clean and efficient although relatively expensive and may be hard to find after 6 pm. There are two dedicated taxi stands along the waterfront. Fares are prescribed by the government and are displayed inside Taxis. Hotels will know exactly what the fare is to the city center. Meters are unheard of, so confirm the fare before getting into a taxi.

Le Truck will take you to other parts of the island and around town quite cheaply. The service is infrequent or non-existent on weekends.

What to see in Papeete, Tahiti

  • The waterfront. Papeete has redeveloped its waterfront into a long park, with foods and carnival-like attractions.

There are many things to do in Tahiti and a lot to see and take pictures of. You can embark on a circle island trip (of around 70 miles), some of the must-see things will include:

  • 'Le Marché'. This is the large two-story Papeete's market place where many things can be bought. Buy your lunch here and some "Monoi". "Monoi" is the local Tahitian oil, strongly scented and worth a good price. It is used to get tanned and moisturize your skin. Also, buy a "pareu." This is typical Tahitian clothing that can be tied into many different ways (a cover-up, a dress, shorts, a shawl). It can also be spread out as a picnic cloth or a beach towel. Created with traditional designs and bright tropical colors, they are inexpensive and make the perfect souvenir. This is especially good for getting to know Tahitians as every Tahitian knows how to tie one. Le Marche is also the place where you'll find jewelry as well as many calendars, postcards, cups... Ripe fruits, scented soaps, vanilla beans, dance costumes, woven hats and bags and shell necklaces up to your ears are what you'll find in the market. It is centrally located and you can't miss it.
  • The Arahoho blowhole on the North side of Tahiti Nui. An area where a blowhole in the shore has formed on the road and whose waves crash inside the rock cliff.
  • Les Trois Cascades. Three beautiful waterfalls inside the island of Tahiti Nui. The path is presently closed by a rockfall, check with the tourist office on updates or chance going if you are close by. The pedestrian bridge is chained shut.
  • Tomb of King Pomare the Fifth. The tomb of the only king of Tahiti, when it was a monarchy.
  • Pointe Venus Lighthouse. Black sand beach and clear blue water by a fishing reef. Popular with young Tahitians.
  • Botanical Garden/Gauguin Museum. At Papeari, on the west coast, the botanical garden made by Harrison Smith lies alongside the Gauguin Museum in the magical setting of the Motu Ovini.
  • The Olivier-Breaud Golf Course. You can admire the wonderful layout of this golf course set in the magnificent Atimoana complex which was a sugar cane farmland rum in the 19th century.
  • Arahurahu Marae. A restored religious site containing various stone block structures dedicated to the old gods and where important ceremonies used to take place.
  • Museums. It is interesting to visit the Museum of Tahiti and the Islands which has a rich collection of very old pieces and reconstructed historical scenes. The Black pearl museum, as well as the Gauguin museum, are fun to see if you want to get out of the heat.
  • To'ata. A square with small restaurants (see "Eat") but also the place to be for the July celebrations with dance and traditional music, the Heiva I Tahiti.

What to do in Papeete, Tahiti

  • All nautical activities: surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling (most resorts will provide you with the equipment for free), canyoning, stingray and shark feedings, water sports, deep sea fishing, kitesurfing... you name it. If you're going diving, get a reputable dive company, those with the far out websites are reportedly a bit low on ethics and safety, not well prepared, and do not go far past the marina.
  • On land, you also have the possibility of for example hiking, 4WD safari, and golf.
  • Deep sea fishing has been curtailed on Tahiti and is difficult to find.

What to eat and drink in Papeete, Tahiti


Do note that tipping is not a custom in Tahiti. It is beginning to be seen in some of the restaurants and hotels on the larger islands, but in general, Tahitians do not expect your tip as it is included in the final price.

"Roulottes" (snack shops on wheels) are especially popular on Friday nights to get some great Chinese food, crepes, and French-style dishes. You won't miss it since it is located along Papeete's waterfront. Unbelievably delicious meals at bargain prices in a fun and local atmosphere.
The main island dish to try is the "poisson cru" ("raw fish" in French.) It is a fresh fish marinated with lime juice and coconut mixed with vegetables. Many varieties can be found all over including Poisson Cru Chinois (Chinese style), Poisson Cru Ananas (pineapple style). Parrotfish, ahi, mahi mahi, and other fresh fish are divine in a light sauce made from Tahitian vanilla and coconut milk. Do not miss the exotic tropical fruits.

Baguettes are found all over the island at a very reasonable price. As well as baguettes, Tahitians have created the "baguette sandwich" where everything from fish to french fries is stuffed into.

Make sure you also try the very popular Chinese ma'a tinito (which is a mixture of pork, kidney beans, Chinese cabbage, and macaroni.)

Family occasions and celebrations are the time for a huge tamara'a Tahiti (Tahitian-style feasts) where a meal consisting of suckling pig, fish, breadfruit, yams, and fe'i bananas is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in an earth-dug oven over layers of hot rocks.

If you are looking for fine dining, definitely head to Paea south of Papeete to Chez Remy or Le Carre at Le Meridien. Pricey, but fantastic meals. Chez Remy definitely hits a 5 star at both meals with a large French menu and best wine and drinks selection, and very friendly, relaxed staff who also spoke perfect English. The Papaya dessert is beyond delicious. Plan $28–$45 pp USD. The Italian restaurant near the Le Meridien entrance is also divine; perfect stone oven baked pizza, divine Anchovie-Caper-Olive Spaghetti.

Tips: get French creamed cheese at breakfast on your crepes. Also, plan for your meals. Many restaurants don't open until 7 PM. Some of the hotels have multiple restaurants that serve different menus at different times of the day, and changes by the day, which made for limited selections and inability to order something you saw the day before. Some restaurants and businesses on the island close from 12-1:30 PM, some until 3 PM, which can make shopping and eating on a whim difficult. (Can't blame them, it's hottest then.)


Bottles of water are readily available. Being a French territory, wine is common and easy to find. As this is a tropical island, a multitude of fruit juices from pineapple juice to coconut milk is to be found everywhere. It is sometimes better to crack open your own coconut yourself and drain it for lunch. If you're a fan of beer, the Hinano Beer will definitely be one you will like to taste and bring a few cans home.

Music and dancing tell the story of the Tahitian people. Most hotels feature evening entertainment. Club dancing is also available in downtown Papeete. You will probably not even get out that late, so tired that you will be from spending so much time in the sun discovering the island. Have fun!

Shopping in Papeete, Tahiti

Black pearls abound. There is just about every kind of store here, including some (particularly near the Marché) who have no problem selling you imitation balls of black glass or fiberglass at market prices. Be sure to look for a certificate of authenticity on the wall of the shop, and trust your guidebook for recommendations.

Many of the shops around the center of town near "Notre Dame" have great buys.

If you are dreaming of a tattoo, do make sure that you get it in Tahiti since the patterns are so special and reflect the spirit of the island. There are lots of places to get tattooed around Papeete including the market. You may also want to buy a black pearl to take it back with you. You will get some at very affordable prices on the market too.

The local currency is the Pacific Franc (XPF).

Safety in Papeete, Tahiti

Tahiti has one of the lowest crime rates within France and its territories. However, petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching occurs.

Medical treatment is generally good. Two major hospitals, as well as several private clinics, provide 24-hour medical service.

As an overseas territory of France, defense and law enforcement are provided by the French Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force) and Gendarmerie.

Be sure to bring jelly-type sandals for walking amidst coral in the water and along the beaches or either old sneakers so you don't cut your feet on the coral or don't step on a stonefish.

Encounters with sharks in the lagoon will be most likely when scuba diving or even snorkeling but they are totally inoffensive. So are stingrays. However, be aware of moray eels which hide deep in the corals and whose bite can cause serious injury.

No vaccines are required.

Language spoken in Papeete, Tahiti

French and Tahitian are the most spoken languages, but English is widely understood in the tourist areas, but not in less frequently visited areas (such as the remote islands of the Tuamotus). Most signs are in French, very few of them in Tahitian.

Brush up on your Tahitian and French:

  • Iaorana (E-yo-or-ahna) = Hello
  • Mauruuru (ma-rou-rou) = Thank you
  • Vahine (vah-heen-ney) = Woman
  • Tane (tah-ney) = Man
  • Nana (nah-nah) = Goodbye
  • Maeva (ma-ay-va) = Welcome
  • Fare (fa-ray) = House/bungalow
  • Salut/Bonjour (sal-oo)- (bon-jour) = Hi/Hello
  • A bientot (ah-bee-yen-toe) = See you soon
  • Femme/Fille (fam/fee) = Woman/Girl
  • Homme/Garçon (ohm/gare-sohn) = Man/Boy
Many Tahitians end up mixing up words in French and Tahitian. An example would be a Tahitian asking where his "vini" is instead of using the French word for cellphone. "Où est mon vini?" "Where is my cellphone?" This is very common.


6:29 am
August 12, 2022


25.37 °C / 77.666 °F
light rain

25.17 °C/77 °F
light rain

25.68 °C/78 °F
light rain

25.2 °C/77 °F
light rain

24.37 °C/76 °F
moderate rain



Travelers recommend visiting the following places of interests

Teahupo'o, Papeete, Tahiti
Average: 10 (10 votes)

Teahupoʻo (Te-a-hu-po-o, popular pronunciation is CHO-PO) is a village on the south-west coast of the island of Tahiti, French Polynesia, southern Pacific Ocean. It is known for the surf break and heavy, glassy waves offshore, often reaching 2 to 3 m (6.6 to 9.8 ft), and sometimes up to 7 meters (23 feet). It is the site of the annual Billabong...
Paul Gauguin Museum, Papeete, Tahiti
Average: 9.4 (10 votes)

The Paul Gauguin Museum is a Japanese-styled art museum dedicated to the life and works of Paul Gauguin in Tahiti, French Polynesia. It is located at PK 51, 2 Papeari, Tahiti, directly across from the Botanical Gardens. French Polynesian and Marquesan cultural aspects are represented in its exhibits, which include original Paul Gauguin documents,...
Papeete Market, Papeete, Tahiti
Average: 9.8 (10 votes)

Marché Papeete ("municipal market") or Papeete Market is an extensive market place in Papeete, the capital of Tahiti. The market sells fruit, vegetables, fish, oils, handicrafts, including hats and handbags, and various souvenir items. Vendors also sell local textiles and handcrafted items such as shell necklaces.
Musee de Tahiti et des Iles, Papeete, Tahiti
Average: 9.3 (10 votes)

The Musée de Tahiti et des Îles ("Museum of Tahiti and the Islands"), Tahitian Te Fare Manaha ("the Museum"1), is a Polynesian ethnographic museum in the village of Punaauia on Tahiti. The museum was founded in 1974 to conserve and restore Polynesian artifacts and cultural practices. It has signed cooperation agreements with the Musée du quai...
Robert Wan Pearl Museum, Papeete, Tahiti
Average: 9.7 (10 votes)

The Robert Wan Pearl Museum is the world's only museum dedicated to pearls. It is located in Papeete, Tahiti, the capital of French Polynesia. Overview The Museum of the Pearl in Tahiti recounts at the same time the history of the pearl throughout the world, the fascination it aroused to important persons, the legends, the habits and the...
Tautira, Papeete, Tahiti
Average: 9.3 (10 votes)

Tautira is a Polynesian beach village, valley, and point on the south-east coast of the island of Tahiti in the Pacific. It is part of the commune Taiarapu-Est. With a population of 2338 (in 2007), it is located 49 kilometres southeast of the Tahitian capital of Papeete on the coast of Tautira Bay, at the end of what is the largest valley of the...
Notre Dame Cathedral, Papeete, Tahiti
Average: 9.6 (10 votes)

Notre Dame Cathedral (French: Cathédrale de Papeete Notre-Dame de L'Immaculée Conception) is a late 19th-century church that serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Papeete. It is located close to the waterfront esplanade of the capital city on the rue du Général de Gaulle. The construction of the cathedral began in the...
Afatauri, Papeete, Tahiti
Average: 9.1 (10 votes)

Afatauri is a beach village on the south-east coast of Tahiti.    
Paul Gauguin Cultural Center, Papeete, Tahiti
Average: 9.4 (10 votes)

The Paul Gauguin Cultural Center (French: Le Centre Culturel Paul Gauguin) was finished in 2003, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the death of Paul Gauguin, in Atuona, on Hiva ‘Oa, in the Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia). Atuona was Paul Gauguin's home for the last three years of his life, and he is buried in the cemetery (Calvary...
Paea, Papeete, Tahiti
Average: 9 (10 votes)

Paea is a commune in the suburbs of Papeete in French Polynesia, an overseas territory of France in the southern Pacific Ocean. Paea is located on the island of Tahiti, in the administrative subdivision of the Windward Islands, themselves part of the Society Islands. Tahiti's west coast freeway runs through Paea and ends in Teahupoo down south....

Latest travel blogs about Papeete, Tahiti

Flying Over Tahiti

I was ready to fly over Tahiti on a helicopter, but it turned out that the company that had provided this service was closed as of the time of my visit. I found a paragliding club (!) Aairevasion in a short time. They are completely informal: had no club room, they gather at an agreed time in an...

Here you can find the first part of this review. Tahiti is a country of surfers. On the map, the island of Tahiti is similar to the eight of two fused volcanoes. The most part is called Tahiti Nui (nui in Polynesian means big), and the smaller one is Tahiti Iti (iti: small). The locals live...
This is a review about magical Tahiti. Tahiti is about 1045 of volcanic mountains overgrown with jungles, and 180 kilometers of coast consisting mainly of corals, pebbles or dark volcanic sand. Men have their own, special tattoos on each Polynesian island. Many people love Papeete, the...
We continue our tour around French Polynesia. After Bora Bora, we went to  the island of Tahiti . Local pigeons were constantly flying onto our veranda. This crab had gotten into the pool. Going to the remote island of Tahiti, passing by exotic Japan, we thought that we would arrive in...
Papeete  is the capital of Polynesia. The island is large and the beautiful city is home to the Notre Dame Cathedral . We were there until midnight, so after dinner, we went for a walk and accidentally stumbled upon the Cathedral. People going there were well-dressed. We also went there...