French Polynesia,  Oceania,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Papeete (French Polynesia): more beautiful than expected

It still took us 6 hours to do Auckland – Papeete. We left on November 24th and arrived on November 23rd, one day earlier. We gain in efficiency I tell you! Doesn’t that remind you of another very famous round-the-world trip?


AirTahitiNui takes good care of its customers


On all the forums, everyone advises to leave Tahiti Nui island, limited as soon as you arrive at the airport (lol), to go to Moorea, Bora Bora… so I didn’t have a lot of expectations for this island. In the end, it is much more beautiful than expected.

Part 1: Travel Diary

Day 1 :

The arrival in Papeete corresponds to all the prejudices we have about Tahiti: flower necklace given by travel agencies, music from the islands with a Tahitian band on the spot when we arrive just before midnight. On the plane, we are even given a flower to put in our hair
We are however hyper disappointed not to have stamps on our passport, but hey, French Polynesia is France, no stamp
The owner of our airbnb arranged for a driver to wait for us at the airport. In 20 minutes, he brings us to a beautiful house in a residential area, where a swimming pool is waiting for us. The kitchen is half-open, there are ceiling fans, the shower gels smell of monoi oil, in the garden, ripe mangoes are waiting to be picked. A corner of paradise

Day 2 :

We spend the first morning exploring the market in the city center on foot and buy a SIM card. We understand very quickly, since it is 31 degrees, that we don’t need a bike or a scooter but a car. Luckily, we came across a flyer from Ecocar which offers cars from 35€/24h with delivery anywhere in Tahiti. A phone call later, the appointment is taken for 6:30 pm. In the meantime, we continue our walk to visit the Pearl Museum, the marina, and the market again

We discover with amusement some local expressions: “snack” for the sandwich; and “500CFP the pile” for “500CFP the basket” of mangoes or pineapples


Other culinary discoveries: bluefin tuna sashimi, at a derisory price (500CFP for a huge piece, or 4€). We are told that in general the tunas are super fresh here, to be sure they are, check that the piece of tuna is shiny. For 500CFP, you can also get a big basket of mangoes, pineapple or carambola. And for 300CFP, 1L of coconut water or lemonade

There is a kind of “food court” at the market, very popular with the locals. I buy for 800CFP a dish that looks like nothing but is DELICIOUS

It is too hot to continue the visit, we return to our airbnb to enjoy the swimming pool and the super aperitif between travelers and owners. To get used to the right hand drive and the manual gearbox, around 9pm JB makes a small tour on the deserted streets. Not so easy as that since our last driving experiences go back to South Africa in June and New Zealand in December: that is to say with an automatic car, a right hand drive while driving on the left

Day 3 :

The next day, we leave early to go around the island. We are so happy to have taken a car. The tour of the island = 200km, so much to tell you that on foot or by bike, it’s impossible for us

We are also very happy that JB practiced right-hand drive yesterday because we are no longer in New Zealand and there is traffic

We start with the black sand beach at the tip of Venus. We were advised to swim where there is sand, because the part without sand has a very deep whirlpool


This is the first time we have seen a lagoon of this type. The beach is protected by rocks forming a circle, we see very strong waves at the rocks, but inside there are very few waves. It is as if we have the sea within the sea. The water is super transparent and not too warm. Only disadvantage: the black sand, not wet, burns the feet

We turn around to go to the beach PK18 (km 18 compared to km 0 on the east of the island). This beach isn’t indicated anywhere on the maps but everybody knows it. Fortunately for tourists like us, a red sign clearly indicates the parking of the beach


The lagoon effect can be seen even more on this dream beach where the ocean is as far as the eye can see. The sand is white but not as fine as the one at the tip of Venus, there is some algae as well. But the bonus is the rental of the paddles at 1500CFP per hour. We saw a brave paddler near the rocks protecting the lagoon

Continuing our way eastward, we stop on a beach in front of the caves of ?? (again not indicated on the maps). The caves do not interest us too much, but this beach is beautiful! From the edge, we can see corals and small fishes swimming around. I even saw a thin and 1m long fish, which looks too much like the one we saw in the Philippines. At the beginning, I thought it was a piece of wood. Not having seen panels, we decide not to swim in it, you never know. Maybe there is a hidden whirlpool or some nasty jellyfish


A quick visit of Marae Arahurahu (the marae are sacred places of prayer) is a must


There are two replica statues that give us a foretaste of Easter Island

Dead of hunger, we arrive near the town hall of Papara where there is a market and food trucks advised by the owner of our Airbnb. The bluefin tuna sashimi at 10000CFP doesn’t look too much like what we are used to see (the presentation & the sauce used) but it is DELICIOUS. We take the opportunity to buy two “snacks” (sandwiches) with meat cooked on the BBQ


Should I add that everywhere we go, people are nice, smiling and Zen? Cars let pedestrians pass by, everyone takes everyone as a stop sign (buses are rare), everyone we met is smiling with us, the familiarization is de rigueur. They have a very zen life also, we often cross them resting in the shade at the edge of the beach, at any time of the day

We take the car to the small island Tahiti Iti, but nothing is interesting so we go up via the other side to see the blower hole (to visit absolutely, the waves are very strong so the blower hole projects water like an angry volcano). On this side of the island, we see a lot of surfers and kite-surfers

The waves near the blowhole


We quickly pass by Carrefour to buy food in the evening (and for Moorea). We have never felt so much at home 😃 Only the fish section is different: tuna sashimi is sold here at a ridiculously low price, there is coconut water, but also lobster water..


Nice little view from Belvadere, you can see the lagoons, isn’t it ?


The next morning, we take the Amirity ferry early, without reservation, to Moorea

Part 2: Practical Tips


  • Airport Taxi – Airbnb : 3000CFP (25€)
  • Airbnb : 50€/day with swimming pool, door with code, tip top for a night arrival
  • 24h car rental at Ecocar: 4500CFP/24h -> 9000CFP in total
  • Food

    • to market: 1500CFP/meal
    • food truck: 1900CFP/meal
    • at the supermarket: 5500CFP (3 meals, it is better not to cook)

  • Telephone: Vodafone 750CFP the SIM card kit (15 minutes call time) + 1000CFP charge for 30mn call time in total (we really need it to call rental companies, excursions etc.)


  • Cabs are expensive here (20-25€ to go to the city center), if you arrive before 10pm, rent a car immediately at Ecocar (35-45€/24h). Your bank details will be noted on a piece of paper but don’t worry, it will be destroyed 1 month later and you can, as soon as you leave the island, ask your bank to block any movement coming from French Polynesia
  • Restaurants are expensive, prefer food trucks along the road, or the market in the center of Papeete (open at noon)
  • The telephone is essential for any activity reservation on Tahiti or the other islands.

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