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Cruises to Tahiti (Papeete)

Tahiti (Papeete) (Photo:sarayuth3390/Shutterstock)

About Tahiti (Papeete)

Papeete serves as the gateway for cruisers travelling to the Society Islands and other islands in French Polynesia. All passengers land at Faa'a International Airport, which is the hub and jumping-off point for Tahiti cruise embarkations.

Two nearby volcanoes erupting from an emerald sea created Tahiti, the largest and most populated of the French Polynesian islands. Tahiti Nui (meaning big) is the largest section of the figure-eight shaped land mass, while Tahiti Iti (little) forms the smaller area. Though connected by a narrow strip of land, from the air they almost appear to be two separate islands.

Tahiti is also the urban hub of French Polynesia, with the port and capital, Papeete, (pronounced pa-pa-et-tay) at its very centre. It feels a lot more French -- and a bit more cosmopolitan -- than the other islands, with sidewalk cafes along the main boulevard and a colorful, busy municipal market. The vibe is bustling (and traffic congested at times), with locals hopping on and off city buses on their way to and from work, and tourists ducking in and out of shops selling jewelry, French wines, fabrics and crafts.

That's the atmosphere, at least, on Tahiti Nui. Tahiti Iti is much more rural -- sparsely populated with just a few villages and small beaches, and only two roads, each about 11 miles (18 kilometers) long, skirting the north and south sides of the island. A day's trip along these quiet coastal roads awards views of clear waters, waterfalls, archaeological sites and caves -- and a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Papeete.

From the town of Tautira where Tahiti Iti's north coast road ends, you can walk along the stunning Pari Coast to spy petroglyphs (rock carvings) and sacred marae or Polynesian temples. Where the road ends on the south coast is Teahupo'o, the surf capital of French Polynesia. Massive waves as high as seven or eight meters draw competitors for the Billabong Pro Tahiti surfing championship in August.

Ultimately, the island of Tahiti offers more activities, resorts and restaurants than its neighboring small islands. Beyond busy Papeete are museums, beaches and water sports options located on or just off the island's one coastal road. Even if your ship overnights in Tahiti, it's worth arriving a couple of days early to explore or simply relax at a resort perched at the edge of the lagoon. After your cruise, if you haven't done everything you intended to do in paradise, you can make up for it here on a post-cruise stay.

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Grand Princess
Grand Princess (Photo: Princess Cruises)

27 Night
Transpacific Cruise

1,552 Reviews
Leaving:Vancouver
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
ItineraryShipReviewsFull Details
Sep 23, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Majestic Princess
Majestic Princess TA Listings Page Image

25 Night
Transpacific Cruise

652 Reviews
Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Sep 24, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite
Norwegian Spirit
Norwegian Spirit

12 Night
Hawaii - Other

2,054 Reviews
Leaving:Honolulu
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Oct 19, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Norwegian Spirit
Norwegian Spirit

12 Night
Hawaii - Other

2,054 Reviews
Leaving:Honolulu
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Nov 26, 2022
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36 Night
Transpacific Cruise

1,552 Reviews
Leaving:Vancouver
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Sep 26, 2022
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29 Night
Transpacific Cruise

652 Reviews
Leaving:Vancouver
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Sep 20, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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23 Night
Transpacific Cruise

1,552 Reviews
Leaving:Vancouver
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Sep 23, 2023
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12 Night
Hawaii - Other

2,054 Reviews
Leaving:Tahiti
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Nov 14, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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42 Night
World Cruise

383 Reviews
Leaving:Sydney
Cruise Line:Oceania Cruises
Mar 10, 2024
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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19 Night
Transpacific Cruise

695 Reviews
Leaving:Honolulu
Cruise Line:Royal Caribbean International
Oct 9, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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20 Night
Transpacific Cruise

1,704 Reviews
Leaving:Honolulu
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Oct 2, 2023
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26 Night
Transpacific Cruise

652 Reviews
Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Oct 8, 2023
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Cruise Critic Favorite

18 Night
Tahiti, Moorea & New Zealand

1,859 Reviews
Leaving:Honolulu
Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
Oct 3, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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12 Night
Hawaii - Other

2,054 Reviews
Leaving:Tahiti
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Apr 12, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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24 Night
Transpacific Cruise

1,552 Reviews
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Sep 26, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Why go to Tahiti (Papeete)?

Pros:

A rugged island with plenty of adventurous activities and shopping

Cons:

Beaches are black sand or too far from the port for a swim

Bottom Line:

A mix of French and Tahitian culture makes this a perfect stopover before or after a cruise

Tahiti (Papeete) Cruise Port Facilities?

Cruise ships dock in the heart of Papeete, Tahiti's capital city, alongside a waterfront esplanade. A new, two-storey cruise terminal is planned, and completion is expected sometime in 2020. The building will streamline the entry from the ship to the port along Boulevard Pomare, which incidentally was the family name of the island's kings and queens, when it was ruled by a royal family until the late 19th century.

Good to Know?

In Papeete, trying to cross the multiple lanes of traffic can be tricky; there are pedestrian zones and a few traffic lights, but we recommend exercising caution. Just because a car has slowed down or stopped for you does not mean scooters, cruising down the same road, will. Traffic jams with significant delays around Papeete are common during rush hour because only one road accesses the city.

In Tahiti, places of interest are identified by a 'number' location, rather than a street address. Locals us the PK, or "point kilometre" system on the main road that circles the island. Papeete is located at PK 0. The distance marker numbers increase from that point as you drive along either the west or east coast. The PK numbers climb to PK 55 on the west coast road and to PK 60 on the east coast road until they join at the junction with Tahiti Iti, at a town called Taravao. The PK numbering on Tahiti Iti restarts at 0. It then climbs to about PK 18 on the south coast road and PK 19 on the north coast road.

Getting Around?

On Foot: Numerous shops, attractions and restaurants are within easy walking distance from the cruise ship dock at Papeete. The municipal market, a post office and a tourist information centre are all located within a few hundred metres of the port.

By Car: Europcar, EcoCAR, Avis and Hertz have offices in Papeete. It's best to hire a car at the airport, which is 6.6 km south-west of the cruise terminal, as you can then drive it to your accommodation if you're staying overnight or for a few days before your cruise leaves.

By Bus: A modern (though not air-conditioned) bus system has all but replaced the open-air Le Trucks. During the day, you can catch buses about every 20 minutes at official stops (called arret le bus in French). The bus terminal is located a few streets behind Boulevard Pomare. Ask for directions at the tourist office near the port.

By Taxi: Taxi fares are set by the government and are posted on a board at the Centre Vaima taxi stand on the main boulevard. Make sure you and your cab driver agree on a price before setting off; few have meters.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

The local currency in Papeete is the French Pacific franc. On currency exchange sites, it might be referred to as XPF, while local shops often use the abbreviation CFP. In Papeete, vendors in the market and shops may accept U.S. dollars, but be sure to ask about their exchange rate. The airport and several banks on the main street in Papeete have ATMs. Look for Banque de Tahiti ATMs, which are compatible with the Cirrus networks; the other two main banks are Banque de Polynesie, and Banque Socredo.

Language?

Although French and Tahitian are the official languages, locals in the tourist areas and shops speak some English. If in doubt, bring an English/French phrase book. Greetings of "bonjour" or "ia ora na" (Tahitian) are usually met with a smile, and thank you ("merci" or the Tahitian "mauruuru") goes a long way.


Tahiti (Papeete) Cruise Reviews
the big island, great restaurants, food stores and friendliest people this side of TEXAS.Read More
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grandpacobra
This big island is bustling with people and traffic but we had a fun day at the market. The colors and sights were amazing. It was pouring buckets of rain the day we were in port so the market was a perfect hideout. Read More
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CnC1633
We spent 4 nights in Papeete pre cruise organised by us not Oceania and thoroughly enjoyed it. Recommend Tahiti Peal Beach Resort.Read More
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trippingtraveller
We stayed at the Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort for 3 days. It was lovely.Read More
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janetglas

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