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Tahiti's 9 Most Iconic Experiences

3rd August 2016

Tahiti is one of the most exclusive, sought-after and mystical destinations on the planet. It's the largest and most populated island in French Polynesia, which itself is the size of Europe, comprised of 118 islands across five archipelagos. Whether you snorkel or scuba, the glorious underwater scenery is not to be missed. You'll be enchanted by the vibrant culture and the diversity of food, be it delivered by outrigger canoe or served by a bow-tied waiter. Plan your stay with plenty of time to visit outlying islands, for each has unique charms and attractions, with several stand out experiences that should not be missed.  

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Overwater bungalows in turquoise waters
Find your private piece of paradise in an overwater bungalow. Photo: Getty Images

1. Stay in an overwater bungalow

The iconic image of French Polynesia is the overwater bungalow in an azure lagoon. The photos don't lie: - the water is a rich aquamarine, the bungalows nestle serenely atop the crystal clear oceans, and a stay in a bungalow with a window in the floor is not only an option but a must. 

2. Le Marché de Papeete

The Public Market in Papeete in the heart of the city – aka Le Marché – offers tropical fruits and vegetables, oils and scented soaps, as well as shell necklaces, pareos, carvings, tifaifai wall hangings and more. Open daily from 7:30am to 6:00pm (Sundays 4:00am until 9:00am), a liesurely stroll through the stalls is a celebration of local colour and a great place to pick up some souvenirs. 

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Colourful sarongs and a woven hat at a market stall
Le Marche Papeete is the perfect place to pick up a colourful pareo. Photo: Getty Images

3. Below the surface

Tahiti offers exceptional snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities, with  reef sharks, dolphins, Napoleon fish, and manta rays making regular appearances. Try The Aquarium to get started, The Wrecks to check out the submerged ruins of a ship and and airoplane, and St. Etienne Drop-Off for a dive into a deep blue abyss teeming with neon fish species and moray eels. 

4. Fautaua Waterfall

Located just outside of Papeete, Fautaua Waterfall is the stuff of fantasy. Whether you drive to a vantage point or make the trek to get up close and personal, the water’s spectacular 250-metre drop from the mountainside will deplete your memory card.

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Fish swimming in turquoise Tahitian water
An amazing world of colour waits just below the surface. Photo: Getty Images

5. Grotto Caves of Maraa

Just across the road from the beach, the Grotto Caves of Maraa in Tahiti are cold, freshwater pools so clear that it is impossible to judge their depth. The entrance is covered with lush ferns, which reveal a swimming hole so refreshing that you'll be walking with a spring in your step for the rest of the day. 

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6. Inner islands

The stunning beauty of the lagoons is no reason to eschew the islands’ interiors. There are fascinating hiking, cycling, driving and 4WD adventures simply awaiting your pleasure. You can glimpse insights into local village life, explore WWII relics and ancient temples, and discover traditional sacred meeting places known as marae.

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A ruins of an ancient Tahitian temple
The ruins of an ancient Tahitian temple. Photo - Getty Images

7. Les Roulottes, Papeete

The Roulottes are food vans that appear in a dedicated area by the wharf every evening. They offer mainly Tahitian and Asian cuisine but also a variety of Western fare. It's a charming way to sample the local tucker at a reasonable price while enjoying the sunset. 

8. Belvedere Point lookout, Moorea

Great views of Moorea’s bays and adjacent hiking tracks make this a go-to part of the island. It's a popular stop for cruise ships and the lookout is often busy with people drinking in the spectacular views. 

9. Moorea Juice Factory

Another Moorea gem at the end of Cook’s Bay, this factory was originally dedicated to pineapples but now also processes fruits including grapefruit, guava, and noni into liqueurs, fruit juices, and chocolates. Take a tour, wander around yourself or sample the taste-testers at your leisure.