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Over time, Tahiti has gained a reputation as a beautiful vacation spot, popular with everyone from honeymooners looking for luxury to scuba divers looking for an off-the-beaten-path dive. The city of Papeete is the heart of it all, where you can find most sectors of industry, government, and commerce working together in this bustling capital. On cruises to Papeete, you’ll quickly see how this stop on a New Zealand cruise keeps Tahiti’s pulse steadily beating.
Papeete cruises offer a taste of everything the South Pacific has to offer. No matter what kind of traveler you are, you’ll find an activity to enjoy here, whether you want to see historic sites, chase waterfalls, or go golfing at a luxurious Tahitian result. It goes without saying that snorkeling, surfing, swimming, and jet-skiing are among the top things to do here on vacation. While Papeete is more urban, much of Tahiti provides a break from the hustle of life beyond the islands.
If you like attractions like the Ernest Hemingway House in Key West, you’ll love the James Norman Hall House in Papeete. See Hall’s expertly preserved colonial homestead where he lived and wrote in the mid-20th century. Enjoy a tour and learn all about Hall’s life and career
If you don’t know much about Tahiti before visiting on one of our Papeete cruises, that’ll quickly change after a trip to the Museum of Tahiti, which is dedicated to thousands of years of history and artifacts from pre-European settlements. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday.
The dramatic landscape of Tahiti makes for challenging yet great hiking opportunities. At the Three Faarumai Waterfalls, lava tubes and grottos, not to mention stunning lookout views from a higher elevation, make it all the more worthwhile to get active during your vacation.
One enduring symbol of Papeete is the city’s very own Cathedral of Notre Dame. Though not as ornate as the one in Paris by any means, it’s a testament to Roman Catholicism on the island. Enjoy a quick tour of the brightly painted church before continuing a day of swimming or leisurely lunch on the waterfront.
The energy of the Papeete Market makes it a must see for visitors looking to buy local food, street eats, or souvenirs to bring back home. Buy a coffee at the Maeva Cafe if you’re there early, or enjoy lunch as vendors fire up the barbeque grill. On Sunday, the general market becomes more of a farmer’s market where locals buy their food for the week ahead.
Tahiti’s best view is from the stunning Matavai Bay lookout point, where you can ascend to the summit for a photo op while you breathe in the island air. It’s particularly beautiful in the summer, where the lush vegetation contrasts with the deep blue sea below.
No traveler to Tahiti would dream of leaving the island before scuba diving in its warm, shallow waters or enjoying a few rounds of golf at the exclusive Olivier Bréaud Golf Course, which is one of the only courses in all of French Polynesia. It’s well publicized that Tahiti has some of the best ecosystems for scuba diving and biodiversity in the world.
There are all types of cuisine available in this part of French Polynesia. Le Belvédère offers an upscale experience located on a winding pathway up the Fare Ape Valley, over 2,000 feet above the rest of Papeete. It’s recommended that you make a reservation and book the restaurant’s transportation up to your destination. Cocktails and glasses of wine flow while a three-course dinner awaits you, along with incredible views of Tahiti below. For a more laid-back dining experience, head to Jimmy’s Restaurant, whose specialty is Chinese food. Or, try one of Papeete’s les roulottes, a system of traveling food trucks that set up shop after 6pm and offer affordable, delicious Polynesian dishes without any of the pomp and circumstance.
The first European to explore Tahiti and many other South Pacific islands was Captain James Cook in the mid-18th century. However, native populations have lived on the island of Tahiti for centuries prior to any European presence. The harbor of Papeete wasn’t built until the 1960s, and by that time the island had become a French overseas territory, which we now know as French Polynesia. The culture of the native Polynesian groups influenced the arts, including handicrafts and tattooing, that remain prevalent in the area today. Tahiti is now known as one of the world’s most beautiful travel destinations.
The port accommodates an ever-increasing amount of traffic from Papeete cruises each year. A new terminal is in progress to make the process more seamless for cruise passengers while they’re docking on cruises to Papeete. In terms of amenities, there’s a tourism information office located right next to the terminal.
Note that the Papeete port limits the hours that taxis can pick up and drop off from the cruise port, typically between 8pm and 6am, so you might see higher fares if you’re trying to get a late evening or early morning taxi. Taking a tour or renting a car is the most efficient way to get around the island of Tahiti, but taxis can be expensive if you’re roaming from one side of the island to another.
Most of the area’s shopping is in downtown Papeete, though there are some supermarkets and local markets available near the cruise port. In general, Papeete isn’t the spot for luxury or high-end shopping.
The official currency of French Polynesia and Tahiti is the Pacific franc, or CFP. ATMs are available if you need to pull out cash. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in larger businesses, restaurants, and attractions, but it doesn’t hurt to carry cash, either. There is typically a minimum purchase on each transaction with a credit card when you travel internationally. Tipping isn’t common practice in Papeete.