If you are headed to French Polynesia from any international destination, you will be first be flying into Papette airport that is located on the main island of Tahiti. Most people just stay here for a few hours or a quick overnight before flying out or taking a ferry to the to the other islands such as Bora Bora, Moorea and so on. If you are going to be in Tahiti for a few hours before or after your island hopping adventure I wanted to quickly round up what we did for 24 hrs in Tahiti.
Where to stay ?
The Intercontinental Tahiti Resort and Spa is the best resort on the main island of Tahiti. It is conveniently located 10 min from the airport. You may find yourself on an international flight that either arrives to Papette late in the evening OR departs from Papette super late at night; so this resort is ideal especially for this reason. It is a beautiful resort for a complete stay in Tahiti, but also a great option if you just want a place for a few hours with clean basic rooms, a hot shower, food and other amenities if you have time.
You can also opt to do an Airbnb in Papette or in another part of the island. Since we were staying in resorts in Bora Bora, we opted for an airbnb for the 1 night in Tahiti to get a feel for the local life. We also planned to spend an entire day in Tahiti, so this was a great option for us. This is our exact airbnb, located right next to Papette market and we loved it!
Our airbnb in Papette
How to get around?
Europcar was the best way to explore Tahiti!
The island of Tahiti is pretty big and you would need a car to get around if you plan to explore like we did. We rented a small car from Europcar which is located right at the Tahiti airport. If you have a valid US license, you are all set to drive in French Polynesia. Thinking back, I am so glad we did this cos it gave us the freedom of exploring the island at our own pace instead of joining any other tours (which is also something to avoid especially during the pandemic). Europcar also has locations in Moorea, Bora Bora and other locations and you can easily book them online.
Things to do :
Since we only had a few hours in town here is what we did and a few other things that we couldn’t do but I had researched on my list :
1 ) Drive around the island
Most people just visit Papette and may be not be impressed with Tahiti. You HAVE to drive around the island cos Tahiti is so much more than Papette! There is one main road that circles all around the island and we absolutely loved driving on this road, exploring spots along the way and discovering hidden gems like this epic palm tree grove that we stumbled upon.
Epic Palm tree grove that we stumbled upon!
We drove from Papette to La Plage De Maui, a restaurant in the Southeast of Tahiti. The food here was excellent and the beach here is so quaint and picturesque.
La Plage De Maui beach
View from the restaurant and the delicious meal
2 ) Explore the Black sand beaches :
The island of Tahiti is famous for its stunning black sand beaches and one of my favorite ones that we stopped at was Taharuu beach. This vast beach is located on the south coast and is perfect for perfect for families, tourists and surfers alike. Love the stark contrast of the waves against the black sands.
Taharuu beach at sunset
Tip : If you go here you will notice on one end it’s usually super crowded with people but if you walk to the far left ( facing the water) it’s usually as empty as this !
Other black sand beaches to visit : Pointe Venus, Papenoo Beach
3 ) Visit Papette Market :
A must visit in Papette is the Papette market! Strolling through this sensory market is such a sensory delight and you will find everything here from crafts, fresh flowers, produce, souveniers and more.
Postcards from colorful Papette market
If you are looking for a beautiful floral crown you can buy it from the locals here! I pretty much wore my “Hei Upo’o” (traditional Tahitian floral crown) throughout my trip. We got multiple ones throughout our trip and I was beyond floored by how incredibly ornate, beautiful and fragrant these headpieces were. They are given to visitors as a sign of welcome and also worn by locals in order to celebrate a special occasion or simply to celebrate the beauty of everyday life.
4 ) Adventure at local Waterfalls & Gardens :
We did’t have the time to do either of these but they were on my list :
- Waterfalls : Faarumai Waterfall, Fautaua Waterfall
- Gardens : Water Gardens of Vaipahi, Harrison Smith Botanical Garden
5 ) Feast at the Papette Roulottes :
Roulottes are traditional Polynesian food trucks and having a meal at the Papette Roulettes at Place Vaiate is a culinary experience you must add to your itinerary! They are cheap, delicious (different cuisines) and authentic. We did this on the one night that we were here and loved the delicious food!
Hope this guide helps you plan your stay in Tahiti. Check out my travel guide to Bora Bora as well.
Thanks for stopping by! xoxo