Many of the inbound flights to Tahiti arrive early in the morning, allowing travelers the opportunity to spend an entire day exploring the island prior to boarding their cruise ship in the evening. Cruise companies like Paul Gauguin offer small ship (fewer than 400 passengers) itineraries throughout French Polynesia, with Papeete as the starting and ending port on the cruise.
If you’re looking to book a French Polynesia cruise, here’s how to spend a day exploring Tahiti before you set sail for other exotic islands like Bora Bora and Moorea.
If you’re ready to hit the ground running, one of the most comprehensive options is a full-day circle island tour. You’ll be treated to a variety of historical and cultural sites around the island. See a waterfall, the island’s blowhole, and stand on the black sand beach of Point Venus, where Captain Cook witnessed the transit of Venus in 1769. You’ll stop at some of the most important museums on the island.
Some of the hotels in Tahiti cater to arriving cruise ship passengers by offering day-use rates for many of the luxury rooms they offer. This will give you the option to get on island time immediately. Relax by the pool with a tropical cocktail, try the local Hinano Tahitian beer, or even catch a few hours of shuteye to help ward off jet lag later on.
Rent a car in Papeete and go exploring on your own. Just make sure you familiarize yourself with distances and ask about island traffic to ensure you get back in time to board your cruise ship. Renting a car gives you flexibility to cover as many or as few sites you want to see on Tahiti. The drive around the island is quite scenic, with many ideal places to pull off for photo opportunities.
Countless tour operators can get you out on the water if you are looking to see Tahiti from the water. Snorkel a shipwreck, kayak in the calm lagoon, ride in an outrigger canoe, or sign up for a surfing class! Something relatively new in Tahiti is barefoot skiing, but it is an activity that you should be pretty physically fit for.
If you’re going off to explore on your own versus taking a guided tour, you can enjoy a variety of museums in one day. Some of the more popular and recommended museums include The Museum of Tahiti and her Islands, the Black Pearl Museum, and the Paul Gauguin Museum. Don’t forget cultural sites like the Marae temples, ancient Polynesian stone block structures built to worship the local gods. Some are private, but a number are open to the public to explore.
It might surprise you to learn that a lot of travelers visit Tahiti with the intent of getting a Polynesian tattoo. It’s an integral part of the Polynesian culture, and one destination where tattoos are not associated with crime, gangs, or less than desirable people. Some of the artists in French Polynesia are so sought after; you’ll need reservations months in advance.
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Erin is a travel and food writer who currently splits her time between the Netherlands and Belize. She's traveled to 60+ countries on 5 continents with a passion for culinary travel, luxury hotels, and all things Disney. Her writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Gadling, BootsnAll, CNN, Art of Backpacking, TravBuddy, CBS, and more. She was the major author of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize 2013; wrote the official AFAR Guide to Belize; and is also AFAR Magazine's local Belize expert.. In addition to writing for other publications, Erin maintains several blogs, Our Tasty Travels, No Checked Bags, Pooh's Travels, and the brand new Caye To Belize. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
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