To many, Tahiti Island is just a stopover before heading to Morea, Bora Bora or the other islands. The capital of the French Polynesia, Papeete is a more of a commercial district and less of the tranquil beach resort that comes to mind when we think of Tahiti. Nevertheless as Papeete is the main hub for flights as well as cruise ships to the other islands, one should take the opportunity to explore the city and enjoy the scrumptious fare that it is famous for. Papeete is a compact city and can easily be explored on foot.
Le Marche or the Municipal Market is the heart of bustling activity and the perfect place to soak up the local culture. This market is easily a traveler’s and a photographer’s favourite with the colorful sellers with their attractive Tahitian produce and products. You will be mesmerized with the vividly colored pareos, lustrous strings of Tahitian pearls in an array of colors and local handicrafts on the first floor. While the ground floor also houses handicrafts, it is also filled with fresh produce from exotic spices and tropical flowers to fruits and vegetables sold by friendly locals. There is also a Tahitian band that performs traditional music, which adds a touch of festivity to the air. A visit to Le Marche is not complete without buying ‘monoi’, the Tahitian oil that has a heavenly smell and perfect for tanning or moisturizing.
Fancy a little adventure? Then head out to Mount Marau in a SSV. Savor the lush, unspoilt vegetation and fresh air as you are surrounded by nature at its best. Be prepared to be astounded by the scenery from the summit. You will be blown away by the view from the top, as it is simply stunning. Let your eyes feast on the shades of turquoise and cerulean of the ocean, Ponte de Venus and even Moorea island. You will also get a fabulous panorama of the West Coast and the Tamanu plateau. From Mount Marau, you will have an exceptional view of the central crater of Tahiti Nui.
For those who seek a relaxing stroll and some people watching, head out to the Waterfront. In the day, you can enjoy the warm sunshine and cool ocean breeze as you walk along the waterfront. As you walk further away from the central part you will find a nice park with fountains, ponds and tropical flowers, complete with inviting benches for you to sit and just stare out into the sparkling blue horizon or have a little picnic. The scene changes in the evening as the famous food stalls known as ‘les roulottes’ line the waterfront with local dance performances to complete your dining experience. These stalls are basically caravans that whip up succulent treats of various kinds of cuisine ranging from Tahitian to French and Italian at very reasonably prices frequented by tourists and locals alike. You can choose to eat at a roulotte or hit several for a wider variety of food. Either way you will definitely find yourself having a delectable feast.
The next time you have a short stopover at Tahiti, do not miss the local flavor and colors that the main island has to offer. While it’s beaches may not rival that of Moorea and Bora Bora, the warmth and hospitality of the locals and the mouthwatering delicacies will certainly make this a memorable experience and who knows, you may just want to stay a few extra days.
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