Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

Tahiti | French Polynesia | Backpacking | Travel Tips


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Stacie Ussery



Welcome to Tahiti, the stunning paradise nestled in the heart of the South Pacific. With its pristine beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and lush tropical landscapes, Tahiti has long been a dream destination for travelers seeking a slice of paradise. Whether you’re a backpacker on a budget or a luxury traveler looking for a pampering escape, Tahiti offers something for everyone.


Located in French Polynesia, Tahiti is the largest of the islands in this archipelago and serves as the gateway to the rest of the region. Its vibrant capital, Papeete, is a bustling hub of activity, offering a blend of traditional Polynesian culture and modern amenities. From here, you can easily explore the other islands, each with its own unique charm.


But Tahiti is more than just its postcard-perfect beaches. The culture and traditions of the Tahitian people are rich and captivating. From traditional dance performances to vibrant local markets, there is always something to discover and experience.


Whether you’re an adventure seeker looking to hike through lush rainforests, a water sports enthusiast eager to dive into world-class diving spots, or simply a beach lover wanting to relax under swaying palm trees, Tahiti has it all.


In this comprehensive guide, we will explore everything you need to know to make the most of your Tahitian adventure. From the best ways to get to Tahiti and affordable accommodation options to the top attractions to visit and essential backpacking tips, we’ve got you covered.


So sit back, relax, and let us whisk you away to the enchanting paradise that is Tahiti.


Getting to Tahiti

Getting to Tahiti is an adventure in itself. While it may seem like a remote destination, there are several ways to reach this beautiful island paradise.


If you’re traveling internationally, the most convenient way to reach Tahiti is by air. Faa’a International Airport, located just outside of Papeete, is the main gateway to the island. Many major airlines offer direct flights to Tahiti from major cities around the world, including Los Angeles, Paris, Sydney, and Tokyo. The flight duration can vary depending on your departure location, but on average, it takes around 8 to 10 hours from the West Coast of the United States.


Another option is to reach Tahiti by cruise ship. Several cruise lines offer itineraries that include stops in Tahiti, allowing you to combine your island exploration with a luxurious cruise experience. Cruising to Tahiti provides a unique opportunity to witness the stunning beauty of the South Pacific from the comfort of a floating resort.


Once you arrive in Tahiti, transportation options abound. Taxis and rental cars are readily available at the airport, providing convenient ways to reach your accommodation. Public buses are also a budget-friendly option for getting around the island, with regular routes servicing popular tourist areas.


For those who want to explore beyond the main island of Tahiti, inter-island flights and ferries are available. The domestic airline, Air Tahiti, operates regular flights to the neighboring islands, making island hopping a breeze. Ferry services are also available, providing a scenic and leisurely way to travel between the islands.


It’s important to note that entry requirements for Tahiti may vary depending on your nationality. As Tahiti is part of French Polynesia, visitors from many countries do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days. However, it is always advisable to check the latest visa regulations and requirements before traveling.


Now that you know how to get to Tahiti, it’s time to start planning your adventure in this tropical paradise.


Accommodation options

When it comes to accommodation in Tahiti, you’ll find a range of options to suit every budget and travel style. From luxurious resorts to cozy guesthouses, there’s something for everyone in this tropical paradise.


For those looking to indulge in a bit of luxury, Tahiti is renowned for its stunning overwater bungalows. These iconic thatched-roof villas are perched on stilts above the turquoise lagoons, offering unparalleled views and direct access to the water. Many resorts in Tahiti offer these bungalows, complete with private decks, outdoor showers, and even glass panels in the floor to admire marine life below.


If you prefer a more budget-friendly option, there are plenty of mid-range and budget hotels available on the main island. These hotels offer comfortable accommodations with amenities such as swimming pools, restaurants, and easy access to nearby attractions. You’ll also find guesthouses and bed and breakfasts that provide a more intimate and local experience, with the opportunity to interact with friendly hosts and learn more about Tahitian culture.


Camping is another popular option for adventurous travelers. There are designated campgrounds on the main island where you can pitch a tent and enjoy the natural beauty of Tahiti. Just be sure to check local regulations and obtain any necessary permits before setting up camp.


If you’re planning to explore the other islands of French Polynesia, you’ll find a range of accommodation options there as well. From family-run guesthouses to eco-friendly resorts, each island offers a unique experience. For a truly immersive getaway, consider staying in a traditional Polynesian fare, a thatched-roof bungalow made from local materials.


Another option for travelers seeking a more authentic and immersive experience is to stay with a local family through homestay programs or vacation rentals. This allows you to experience Tahitian hospitality firsthand and gain insights into the local way of life.


Regardless of your accommodation choice, it’s always a good idea to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. Prices can vary depending on the time of year, so plan accordingly to find the best deals.


With a wide variety of accommodation options to choose from, you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate during your Tahitian adventure.


Top attractions in Tahiti

Tahiti is a paradise filled with natural beauty and cultural wonders. From breathtaking landscapes to vibrant local markets, there are plenty of attractions to explore during your visit. Here are some of the top must-see sights in Tahiti:

  1. Beaches and Lagoons: Tahiti is renowned for its stunning beaches and crystal-clear lagoons. Spend your days relaxing on the white sand, swimming in the turquoise waters, or snorkeling among colorful coral reefs. Some of the popular beach areas include Matira Beach, Temae Beach, and Papenoo Beach.
  2. Waterfalls and Foothills: Explore the lush interior of Tahiti, which is dotted with majestic waterfalls and verdant mountains. Take a hike through the rainforest to witness the beauty of cascading waterfalls such as the Papenoo Falls and the Fautaua Waterfall.
  3. Teahupo’o: Known as the surfing capital of Tahiti, Teahupo’o is famous for its massive and powerful waves. Even if you’re not a surfer, witnessing the incredible surf breaks and the picturesque beauty of this region is a must.
  4. Pointe Venus: Located on the northeastern coast of Tahiti, Pointe Venus offers not only beautiful black-sand beaches but also historical significance. Visit the famous lighthouse and explore the ancient Marae Temple, a sacred site of worship for the Tahitian people.
  5. Papeete Market: Immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture at the Papeete Market. This bustling market is the perfect place to shop for handicrafts, fresh tropical fruits, local spices, and traditional Tahitian products.

Aside from these attractions, make sure to explore the cultural heritage of Tahiti by attending traditional dance performances, visiting museums, and learning about the indigenous Polynesian culture. The Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands is a great place to start, as it showcases the history, art, and traditions of Tahiti and its surrounding islands.


As you explore the islands, keep an eye out for ancient archaeological sites and sacred temples known as Marae. These cultural and historical remnants offer a glimpse into the rich heritage of the Polynesian people.


Whether you’re seeking relaxation on the beach or adventure in the mountains, Tahiti offers a diverse range of attractions that will leave you awe-struck and yearning for more.


Exploring the islands of French Polynesia

While Tahiti itself is a stunning destination, there is so much more to discover in the surrounding islands of French Polynesia. With over 100 islands and atolls to explore, each with its own unique charm, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to island hopping adventures. Here are some of the top islands in French Polynesia to visit:

  1. Bora Bora: Known as the “Pearl of the Pacific,” Bora Bora is a paradise on earth. Its iconic turquoise lagoon, dotted with overwater bungalows and vibrant coral reefs, is a haven for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts. Explore the island on a scooter or take a leisurely boat cruise to fully appreciate its beauty.
  2. Moorea: Just a short ferry ride from Tahiti, Moorea is a tropical paradise with lush mountains, stunning bays, and a laid-back atmosphere. Hike through the pineapple plantations, swim with stingrays and sharks in the lagoon, or simply relax on the pristine beaches.
  3. Huahine: Known as the “Garden of Eden,” Huahine is a hidden gem with unspoiled beauty and a rich cultural heritage. Rent a bicycle and explore the small villages, visit ancient stone fish traps, and snorkel in the coral gardens of the lagoon.
  4. Taha’a: Taha’a is often referred to as the “Vanilla Island” due to its vast vanilla plantations. Take a guided tour to learn about the vanilla-growing process and indulge in vanilla-infused delicacies. The island is also renowned for its black pearl farms.
  5. Rangiroa: If diving is your passion, Rangiroa is a must-visit. This atoll is home to one of the largest lagoons in the world, teeming with marine life. Dive or snorkel in the Tiputa Pass to witness incredible shark encounters and explore vibrant coral gardens.

These are just a few examples of the incredible islands that make up French Polynesia. Each island offers a unique experience, from stunning landscapes to rich cultural heritage. Whether you choose to visit one island or embark on an island-hopping adventure, you’re sure to be captivated by the beauty and serenity that French Polynesia has to offer.


It’s important to note that transportation between the islands is primarily via domestic flights or ferry services. Air Tahiti operates regular flights, making island hopping relatively easy and accessible. Ferry services are also available, although schedules may vary, so it’s advisable to plan your itinerary in advance.


Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the enchanting islands of French Polynesia and create unforgettable memories of your tropical getaway.


Backpacking essentials for Tahiti

Embarking on a backpacking adventure in Tahiti offers a unique and immersive way to experience this paradise. As you prepare for your journey, it’s important to pack wisely to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip. Here are some essential items to consider bringing:

  • Lightweight and breathable clothing: Tahiti’s tropical climate calls for lightweight, breathable clothing. Pack comfortable clothes made from quick-drying materials to keep you cool in the heat and humidity. Don’t forget to bring swimwear and a sarong or cover-up for beach days.
  • Sturdy hiking shoes or sandals: If you plan on exploring the scenic trails and waterfalls of Tahiti, a pair of sturdy hiking shoes or sandals is essential. Look for shoes with good traction and support to ensure a comfortable hiking experience.
  • Sun protection: Tahiti is known for its abundant sunshine, so be sure to pack sun protection essentials. Bring a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin from the strong UV rays. A lightweight, long-sleeved shirt can also provide extra protection against the sun.
  • Insect repellent: While Tahiti doesn’t have a major issue with mosquitoes, it’s still a good idea to carry insect repellent, especially if you plan on spending time in the jungle or near stagnant water. Look for a repellent with a high concentration of DEET for maximum effectiveness.
  • Travel adapter and portable charger: Tahiti uses Type F electrical outlets, so be sure to bring a travel adapter if your devices use a different plug type. A portable charger is also handy for keeping your devices powered up while on the go.
  • First aid kit: It never hurts to be prepared for minor injuries and ailments. Pack a basic first aid kit with essentials such as band-aids, antiseptic ointment, pain relievers, and any necessary prescription medications.
  • Reusable water bottle and water purification method: Staying hydrated is crucial in Tahiti’s warm climate. Bring a reusable water bottle to refill throughout your journey. Consider carrying a water purification device, such as a filter or purification tablets, for times when clean drinking water is not readily available.
  • Travel insurance: It’s always wise to have travel insurance that covers any unexpected events or emergencies. Make sure your insurance policy includes medical coverage, trip cancellation/interruption, and personal belongings protection.

In addition to these essentials, don’t forget to bring your travel documents, including your passport, visa (if required), and any necessary reservations or confirmations. It’s also a good idea to have a photocopy or digital copy of these documents as a backup.


Keep in mind that Tahiti is a tropical destination, so don’t pack too heavily. Stick to the essentials and leave room for any souvenirs or items you may pick up along the way.


With these backpacking essentials in tow, you’ll be ready for an unforgettable adventure in the stunning paradise of Tahiti.


Tips for budget travelers

Traveling on a budget in Tahiti doesn’t mean missing out on the incredible experiences this destination has to offer. With some careful planning and savvy strategies, you can make the most of your trip without breaking the bank. Here are some tips for budget travelers in Tahiti:

  • Travel during the off-peak season: Consider visiting Tahiti during the shoulder or off-peak seasons to take advantage of lower prices. Prices for accommodations and flights are typically lower outside of the peak tourist months of July and August.
  • Choose budget-friendly accommodations: Look for budget accommodations such as guesthouses, hostels, or campgrounds. These options not only provide cost-effective choices but also offer opportunities to meet fellow travelers and immerse yourself in local culture.
  • Cook your own meals: Eating out in Tahiti can be expensive, so consider preparing your own meals when possible. Look for accommodations with kitchen facilities and visit local markets to stock up on fresh produce and groceries. You’ll not only save money but also get a chance to try local ingredients and flavors.
  • Utilize public transportation: Public transportation, such as buses, is a budget-friendly way to get around Tahiti. Buses are readily available and can take you to popular attractions and destinations. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the bus routes and schedules before your trip.
  • Take advantage of free activities: Tahiti offers plenty of free or low-cost activities. Spend your days exploring the beautiful beaches, hiking through the lush mountains, or visiting local markets and cultural sites. Take advantage of the natural beauty and outdoor activities that don’t come with a hefty price tag.
  • Look for deals and discounts: Keep an eye out for promotions, discounts, and package deals on accommodations, activities, and transportation. Booking in advance or during the off-peak season can often result in significant savings. Additionally, consider purchasing a tourist pass that provides discounted access to multiple attractions.
  • Engage with locals: Connecting with locals can not only enrich your travel experience but also open up opportunities for budget-friendly activities. Locals can provide insider tips on affordable eateries, hidden gems, and free events happening in the area.

Remember to keep track of your expenses and set a daily budget to ensure you stay on track. It’s also helpful to exchange currency before arriving in Tahiti to avoid unfavorable exchange rates at airports or tourist areas.


By implementing these budget travel tips, you can enjoy the beauty and magic of Tahiti while keeping your wallet happy.


Safety tips for backpacking in French Polynesia

French Polynesia, including Tahiti, is generally a safe destination for travelers. However, it’s always important to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings while backpacking. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind during your trip:

  • Stay informed about weather conditions: French Polynesia is prone to cyclones and tropical storms, especially during the rainy season from November to April. Stay updated on weather forecasts and heed any warnings or advisories issued by local authorities.
  • Protect yourself from the sun: The South Pacific sun can be intense, so make sure to protect yourself by wearing sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and lightweight, long-sleeved clothing. Stay hydrated and seek shade during the hottest hours of the day.
  • Practice water safety: While the waters of French Polynesia may be inviting, it’s important to exercise caution, especially if you’re not an experienced swimmer or diver. Follow any safety guidelines provided by tour operators and be aware of potential hazards, such as strong currents or coral reefs.
  • Take precautions against mosquito-borne illnesses: Mosquitoes are present in French Polynesia, so pack insect repellent and consider using bed nets or mosquito screens in your accommodations. If you are concerned about mosquito-borne diseases, consult with a healthcare professional before your trip.
  • Protect your belongings: While French Polynesia is relatively safe, it’s always important to take precautions to protect your valuables. Keep your belongings secure and be mindful of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas. Use lockers or safes provided by accommodations to store passports, cash, and other important documents.
  • Respect the local culture and customs: French Polynesia has a rich Polynesian heritage, and it’s important to respect their cultural customs and traditions. Dress modestly when visiting sacred sites or attending traditional ceremonies, and always ask for permission before taking photos of individuals or their property.
  • Use reputable tour operators: If you’re planning on participating in any excursions or activities, choose reputable tour operators who prioritize safety and follow regulations. Research reviews and ask for recommendations to ensure a reliable and enjoyable experience.
  • Stay in touch with loved ones: Inform your family or friends about your travel plans and keep them updated on your whereabouts. It’s helpful to have a way to communicate with them, either through a local SIM card or Wi-Fi access, in case of emergencies.

As with any travel destination, it’s important to use common sense and trust your intuition while exploring French Polynesia. By taking these safety tips into consideration, you can enjoy a worry-free backpacking experience in this tropical paradise.


Cultural etiquette and customs

As a visitor to French Polynesia, it’s important to respect the local culture and customs. The people of Tahiti and the surrounding islands have a rich Polynesian heritage, and understanding and observing their traditions will enhance your travel experience. Here are some cultural etiquette and customs to keep in mind:

  • Greetings: The Tahitian people are known for their warm and friendly nature. When meeting someone, it’s customary to offer a “maeva” (hello) or “ia orana” (welcome) with a smile. Handshakes are common, but don’t be surprised if you receive a friendly embrace or cheek kiss.
  • Dress modestly: While French Polynesia is a tropical destination, it’s important to dress modestly out of respect for the local culture, especially when visiting sacred sites or attending traditional events. Cover your shoulders and avoid wearing revealing clothing in these settings.
  • Remove shoes indoors: It is customary to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home, as well as certain public buildings and sacred sites. Pay attention to cues and follow the lead of the locals around you.
  • Show respect for elders: Polynesian culture places great importance on respecting elders. When interacting with older individuals, show deference and listen attentively to their wisdom and advice. Use appropriate language and avoid interrupting or speaking over them.
  • Ask permission before taking photos: Politeness is highly regarded in Tahitian culture, so it’s important to ask for permission before taking photos of individuals or their property. Be respectful if someone declines your request, as they may have personal or cultural reasons for doing so.
  • Participate and observe local customs: Tahitians take pride in their traditional customs and ceremonies. If given the opportunity to participate, embrace the experience with an open mind and willingness to learn. Observe and follow the lead of locals when it comes to rituals, dances, and other cultural practices.
  • Support local artisans: French Polynesia is home to talented artisans who create beautiful handicrafts. Show appreciation for their craftsmanship by purchasing locally made souvenirs and supporting the local economy. However, be cautious of purchasing items made from protected or endangered species, such as coral or black pearls.
  • Keep noise levels low: Tahitian culture values tranquility and serenity. Keep noise levels to a minimum, especially in residential areas and public spaces. Avoid loud conversations, excessive music, or any behavior that may disturb the peaceful atmosphere.

By showing respect for the local customs and observing these cultural etiquette tips, you will forge meaningful connections with the Tahitian people and gain a deeper appreciation for their traditions and way of life.


Recommended local cuisines to try

French Polynesia, including Tahiti, is not only a paradise for natural beauty but also a culinary delight. The local cuisine of Tahiti reflects the unique blend of Polynesian, French, and Asian influences, resulting in a vibrant and flavorful culinary experience. Here are some recommended local dishes to try during your visit:

  • Poisson Cru: Poisson Cru is a Tahitian specialty and a must-try dish. It is a refreshing raw fish salad, similar to ceviche, made with fresh local fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk, then mixed with diced vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. The combination of flavors is truly delightful.
  • Vanilla-infused dishes: French Polynesia is famous for its vanilla production, and many local dishes feature this fragrant spice. Indulge in vanilla-infused desserts like crème brûlée, ice cream, or fruit tarts for a unique and delicious treat.
  • Po’e: Po’e is a traditional Tahitian dessert made from mashed root vegetables like taro and sweet potatoes, mixed with coconut milk, and steamed to create a soft pudding-like texture. It is often served with a fruit sauce or caramelized banana, offering a delightful blend of flavors.
  • Firi Firi: Firi Firi is a popular Tahitian snack, similar to a donut or churro. These deep-fried doughnuts are made from a dough of flour, water, and coconut milk, then shaped into small sticks and served warm. They are perfect for a quick and indulgent treat.
  • Po’e Mautini: Po’e Mautini is a traditional Polynesian dish that combines ripe bananas, arrowroot flour, and coconut milk. It is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in an underground oven, resulting in a delicious steamed pudding with a subtle sweetness.
  • Raw Fish with Coconut Milk: Known as “I’a Ota,” this dish showcases the freshest local fish, diced and marinated in lime juice, onions, peppers, and coconut milk. The combination of tangy citrus flavors and creamy coconut milk creates a truly delightful taste sensation.
  • Grilled Mahi-Mahi: Mahi-Mahi is a popular fish in the South Pacific, and it is often grilled to perfection and served with a flavorful sauce or salsa. The tender and flaky flesh of Mahi-Mahi pairs perfectly with the tropical flavors of Tahiti.
  • Po’e Haari: Po’e Haari is a unique dish made from the pulp of taro leaves, mixed with grated coconut, sugarcane syrup, and various aromatic spices. It is then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed, resulting in a savory and slightly sweet treat.

When dining in Tahiti, be sure to also explore the fresh local produce and seafood. Enjoy tropical fruits like papaya, mango, and pineapple, as well as seafood specialties such as lobster, shrimp, and octopus. Don’t forget to pair your meals with a refreshing local beverage like Hinano beer or a fresh coconut.


Immerse yourself in the flavors of French Polynesia and savor the unique culinary delights that this tropical paradise has to offer.



Tahiti, the jewel of French Polynesia, offers a truly magical experience for travelers from around the world. With its pristine beaches, turquoise waters, lush landscapes, and rich cultural heritage, Tahiti is a paradise like no other. From the moment you step foot on this idyllic island, you’ll be captivated by its beauty, warmth, and charm.


Whether you’re seeking adventure in the mountains, relaxation on the beach, or immersion in local culture, Tahiti has something to offer every traveler. Explore the breathtaking natural wonders, from majestic waterfalls and rainforest trails to vibrant coral reefs and turquoise lagoons. Immerse yourself in the captivating Polynesian culture, with its traditional dance performances, vibrant markets, and ancient Marae temples.


As a backpacker or budget traveler, you’ll find a range of accommodation options to suit your needs and preferences. From budget-friendly guesthouses and hostels to the iconic overwater bungalows, there’s no shortage of choices to cater to your budget and travel style.


While exploring Tahiti and the surrounding islands, it’s important to respect the local customs and traditions. Engage with the warm and friendly Tahitian people, sample the delicious local cuisine, and embrace the serenity and tranquility that this tropical paradise exudes.


Whether you choose to relax on the pristine beaches of Bora Bora, hike through the lush valleys of Moorea, or dive into the vibrant underwater world of Rangiroa, your time in Tahiti will create memories that last a lifetime.


So, pack your bags, prepare for an adventure of a lifetime, and let the enchanting paradise of Tahiti transport you to a world of awe-inspiring beauty and unforgettable experiences. Bon voyage!