Cruises to Tahiti (Papeete)

169 Reviews
Tahiti (Papeete) (Photo:sarayuth3390/Shutterstock)

About Cruising to Tahiti (Papeete)

Papeete serves as the gateway for cruise itineraries to the islands of 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.

  • More about Tahiti (Papeete)

  • Why Cruise to Tahiti (Papeete)?

  • Tahiti (Papeete) Cruise Port Facilities?

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Silver Shadow
Silver Shadow (Photo: Silversea)

22 Night
South Pacific Cruise

279 Reviews
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Regatta
Regatta

15 Night
Tahiti Cruise

422 Reviews
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Regatta
Regatta

10 Night
Tahiti Cruise

422 Reviews
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Nautica
Nautica

10 Night
Tahiti Cruise

398 Reviews
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MSC Cruises

10 Night
Tahiti Cruise

398 Reviews
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10 Night
Tahiti & Moorea Foodie Cruise Tour 7d Ppt-ppt

123 Reviews
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Cruise Critic Favorite

17 Night
Tahitian Treasures Cruise

2,219 Reviews
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7 Night
Dreams Of Tahiti 7d Ppt-ppt

123 Reviews
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7 Night
Dreams Of Tahiti 7d Ppt-ppt

123 Reviews
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10 Night
Overwater Bungalow & Tahitian Paradises Cruise Tou...

123 Reviews
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37 Night
Grand World Voyage

1,028 Reviews
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7 Night
Dreams Of Tahiti 7d Ppt-ppt

123 Reviews
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18 Night
South Pacific

2,167 Reviews
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33 Night
South Pacific Cruise

1,600 Reviews
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150 Night
150 Night World Cruise

392 Reviews
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More about Tahiti (Papeete)

Why Cruise 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
Touristy island. As a transfer point for a cruise, or as a pre-cruise stay, it is ok. I would not return to vacation on Papeete. The central Market is the draw, along with the many bars. Read More
Protseq
A bigger city in French Polynesia with plenty of shops and restaurants as the ship docks right downtown. Read More
tigervixxxen
We rented a car and drove around the island. A good day.Read More
Beagle5
Did a snorkeling excursion which was ok, but the location of it was disappointing. Would have been nice to be in a smaller lagoon area, with no other boats around.Read More
Marj d

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