Port of Tahiti (Papeete)
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Tahiti serves as the gateway for cruisers traveling to the Society Islands and other South Pacific destinations. Because passengers land at Faa'a International Airport, Tahiti is the jumping-off point for embarkations.
Tahiti is also the urban hub of the region, with the port of Papeete at its very center. It feels a lot more French -- and 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), 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 -- with just a few villages and small beaches -- and sparsely populated. A day's trip along its quiet coastal roads awards views of clear waters, waterfalls, archeological sites and caves -- and a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of tourist-heavy Tahiti Nui. From Tautira, where the main road ends, you can walk along the stunning Pari Coast to spy petroglyphs and sacred marae, or temples.
Ultimately, Tahiti offers more activities, resorts and restaurants than its neighboring islands. Beyond Papeete are museums, beaches and water sports options; even if your ship overnights in Tahiti, it's worth arriving a couple of days early to explore or simply relax at a hotel perched at the edge of the water. 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.
Top Tahiti (Papeete) Itineraries
Wind Spirit10 Night South Pacific CruiseTahiti , Tahiti , Rangiroa, Huahine, Bora Bora, Bora Bora, Moorea, Tahiti , TahitiNow
Paul Gauguin11 Night South Pacific CruiseTahiti , Huahine, Rarotonga, Bora Bora, Bora Bora, Moorea, Moorea, Tahiti , TahitiNow
Wind Spirit11 Night South Pacific CruiseTahiti , Tahiti , Rangiroa, Raiatea, Huahine, Raiatea, Bora Bora, Bora Bora, Moorea, Tahiti , TahitiNow
Paul Gauguin10 Night South Pacific CruiseTahiti , Huahine, Bora Bora, Bora Bora, Rangiroa, Tahiti , Moorea, Moorea, Tahiti , TahitiNow
Silver Whisper12 Night World CruiseTahiti , Bora Bora, Bora Bora, Raiatea, Auckland, AucklandNow
Where You're Docked
Cruise ships dock in the heart of Papeete, Tahiti's capital city, alongside a waterfront esplanade. A new, two-story cruise terminal is planned for completion in 2020. The building will streamline the entry from the ship to the port along the Grand Boulevard near the downtown market.
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 just beyond will.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The local currency is the French Pacific franc. A good rule of thumb is that 100 francs equal US$1 -- but you'll want to check XE.com for the latest exchange rates. In Papeete, vendors in the market and shops generally accept U.S. dollars. Be sure to ask about their exchange rate. There are several banks on the main drag in Papeete with ATMs, and there's also an ATM at the airport.
Although French and Tahitian are the official languages, locals in the touristy areas and shops speak some English. If in doubt, bring an English/French phrase book.
Bring home local products and crafts from the city's famous market, Le Marche du Papeete, such as intricate wood carvings, coconut oil, monoi oil, coffee and mother-of-pearl shells. If you visit the market before your ship sets sail, pick up a gorgeous fresh floral arrangement for your cabin; they're surprisingly reasonable (about 2,000 francs, or US$20). Just remember to leave it behind after your voyage as plants can't be brought back into the United States.
Editor's note: Haggling is considered rude.
Be sure to order an ice cold Hinano beer at your first opportunity. This bitter, golden lager is made right on the island in the Punaruu Valley.