Beach Vacations to Tahiti, French Polynesia

Tahiti beach
Tahiti beach (Willie Holden/iStockphoto)

Tahiti Beach Travel Tips

  • Tahitian beaches can be more crowded in July and August, when the weather is driest. Not only do French and European tourists flock to Tahiti at this time, but locals vacation on the outer islands as well.
  • Time your stay to coincide with a full moon. A bright moonlit stroll on a Tahitian beach, watching the ocean sparkle qualifies as one of the most romantic experiences in the world.
  • Although Tahiti is covered with excellent beaches, be sure to check out the curving powdery Matira Beach on the southern tip of Bora Bora. Not only is it undeveloped, but it has great snorkeling and views of surrounding isles.
  • On the island of Tahiti, be aware that most beaches have stunning volcanic black sand that can be very hot to walk or lay on in the bright sunshine.
  • On the isle of Rangiroa, it's worth the long boat ride to discover the marvelous Pink Sands Beach at a remote corner of the island's lagoon.

Tahiti is one island group within the sprawling 100-plus islands that make up French Polynesia. Tahiti's main island is located in the windward group of the Society Islands and is, confusingly, also named Tahiti. The sophisticated capital of Papeete is home to over 70 percent of the island chain's population. Most travelers touch down and spend time in Papeete or more often head to the well-branded isles of Bora Bora and Moorea. All three destinations have well-developed tourist infrastructures, with a good dose of nature to break up the modernism. The islands are home to some of the best black, pink, yellow, and white sand beaches in the world, mostly arranged around incredibly blue lagoons, as well as jagged mountains, lush groves of coconut palms, and casual, friendly islanders. No wonder writers like W. Somerset Maugham, Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Jack London all sang Tahiti's praises.

Some tourists are surprised to find the capital city of Papeete on Tahiti's northwest corner a bustling place with bad traffic, but it's still a fascinating French outpost with chic shops, fine museums (including The Gauguin Museum), an outdoor Municipal Market, a gorgeous promenade along its storied South Seas port, and a lively mix of European, Polynesian, and Chinese cultures. Tahiti's east and south coasts are more rural and virgin, especially its peninsula Tahiti Iti.

Moorea is only a 30-minute ferry ride away from Papeete. There's a wide range of budget accommodations here, moreso than in Bora Bora, and Moorea's hotels and resorts are spread out enough that you don't feel like you're in a tourist trap. The isle's dramatically jagged and green-covered peaks and spires—including the cathedral-like Mount Mouaroa, Moorea's trademark "Shark's Tooth" or "Bali Hai Mountain"—are the remnants of a huge volcano that eroded into the heart-shaped island you see today.

Many travelers head to Bora Bora's dozen-plus luxury resorts, made up of posh bungalows built over the lagoon. Most of Bora Bora's residents live on the flat coastal strip that rings the island, easily toured on bicycle or scooter. If you are unlucky with wildlife sightings, there's the outdoor Bora Bora Lagoonarium where you can encounter turtles, sharks, and rays. Join in on a Teremoana Tours outrigger canoe tour to a remote beach or go shopping for Tahiti's famous black pearls at Matira Pearls. James Michener considered Bora Bora to be the world's most beautiful island, and few travelers would argue the claim.

Published: 11 May 2009 | Last Updated: 30 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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