An amazing retrospective on the life of Paul Gauguin, the famous French artist who spent his final years in Polynesia. Gauguin's art had a profound influence on the primitive and exotic painters and sculptors of the 20th century.
2: Discover the Marae Temples
The marae or "pagan temples" of the ancient Polynesians were built to worship their gods, which sometimes differed from one island to another. There are several kinds of marae; some are public and others are private. These religious sites contain various stone block structures that were dedicated to the old gods.
3: Black Pearl Museum
This is the only museum in the world dedicated to pearls. Multiple displays will show you the various aspects of art, history, mythology, philosophy and religion that are associated with pearls, as well as technical explanations.
4: Ride in an Outrigger Canoe
The sparkling surf gently rolls in to caress the sandy beach and the sun is bright in the blue sky. The Polynesian style canoe is uniquely designed with a single-hull and attached outrigger. This type of canoe has been in existence for more than 1,000 years and is capable of traveling across the open ocean, then maneuvering to the shore over the shallow reef.
5: Visit the "Tikis"
Religious Tahitian art. Tikis are anthropomorphic ancestor images in stone or wood. You can see several tikis at the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands and there are a few stone tikis at the Paul Gauguin Museum. These statues were used in the ancient Polynesian society as intermediaries between man and the world beyond, guardians of sacred sites and properties, as well as for land markers, tutelary spirits for houses and canoes, and as the right hand for sorcerers.
6: Discover Giant Eels with Blue Eyes
Tahiti's giant fresh water eels are a big attraction. These creatures have grown to six feet long from all the food and musty canned fish that has been tossed at them by villagers and visitors alike. Eels can live up to 30 years.
7: Visit the Papeete Market
An amazing array of fruit, fish, meat and lovely traditional arts and handcrafts can be found at the market in the heart of Papeete. "Le Marche" public market is in every sense the heart of the city. Open daily 5 am to 6 pm, the market reaches its peak of activity very early on Sunday mornings, when Tahitian families come to shop for their Sunday lunch and dinner. This is the perfect place for photographers.
8: Dare to Walk on Fire
This is a spectacular traditional Polynesian ceremony that remains from a distant past. Calling on the mysterious power of the divine superior spirit, there is magic, or perhaps a powerful suggestion by the master of ceremonies, who is a Tahitian "tahua" (high priest). The volcanic rocks are heated by a wood fire, and the "tahua" is the first to walk across the white hot rocks, as he chants and beats the rocks with branches of "ti" leaves. He is followed by his assistants and some of the spectators who dare to walk barefoot across the burning coals.
9: Explore Lava Tubes
The Lava Tubes of Hitiaa are underground galleries with water running through them, and they are fascinating to explore. It is preferable to go with a guide by four-wheel drive vehicle and then by foot. Situated on the rocky east coast, the lava tubes are of volcanic origin and are enclosed by channels or eroded sections of a narrow gut or cave that have been penetrated by water.
10: Point Venus
Walk in the footsteps of early explorers, such as Captain Cook and Captain William Bligh, on this historic landing site located at the tip of a peninsula fringed by volcanic black sand beaches. This is the spot where Cook observed the transit of the planet Venus in 1769.
11: Overwater Bungalows
Unlike any other hotel room you've stayed in before, these traditional thatched roof bungalows are perched above the turquoise lagoon waters. In many of the overwater bungalows, tropical fish swim below as you look through the glass floor or coffee table. With all the amenities of a first class hotel room, here on your private balcony surrounded only by water and sky, you can enjoy both breakfast, often delivered by canoe, and the sunset, seemingly delivered by the heavens.
12: Snorkeling & Diving
World class snorkeling and diving in Tahiti is one of the South Pacific's best kept secrets. Both experienced and beginner divers and snorkelers are amazed by how clear the waters are and how close they can swim to the marine life, such as the gigantic manta rays. With hundreds of dive sites throughout the islands, divers can choose from the amazing drift dives, oceanic drop offs, sunken ships, and lagoon dives with infinite marine life.
13: Polynesian Spas
Tahiti is a world class spa destination with many of the resorts offering new luxurious spas. Surrounded by a backdrop of natural beauty and floral fragrances, there is no better setting for relaxation. Enjoy fresh flower baths, herbal rain showers, or even a body wrap in banana tree leaves. You can also rejuvenate your romance at the spas aboard the cruise ships including the Parisian influenced private Spa Villa for two on the m/s Paul Gauguin.
14: Cascades de Faarumai
Easy walking trails lead to some of Tahiti's best waterfalls, such as the Cascades de Faarumai, which plunge 200m into a large pool. Elsewhere, Haamaremare Iti and Haamaremarerahi Falls are easily reached after a 45 minute climb up a rugged track. Along the way, pass humble wood dwellings surrounded by gardens of breadfruit and banana plants that provide a small insight into how ordinary Tahitians live in rural Tahiti.
15: Arahurahu Marae
Explore the only fully restored marae (ancient temple) in Polynesia, located 22km west of Papeete. Maintained like a museum, this is arguably Tahiti's best example of an ancient Polynesian temple. Check out stone pens once used to house pigs that were to be sacrificed to the gods and don't miss a re enactment of old Polynesian ceremonies at Arahurahu, held during the annual Heiva Nui celebrations in July.
Tahiti's main island offers some of the best hiking in French Polynesia, with a range of easy walking trails leading to lush valleys, plunging cascades and a dramatic coastline. Try the cross island Papenoo Valley Lake Vaihiria Trail and the track leading to Te Pari Cliffs. Or hike to the summit of Mt Aorai (2000 m), a 10km hike with accommodation along the way should you wish to overnight and enjoy a sunset or sunrise from the mountain heights.
17: Horseback riding
Ride trails through lush jungle clad mountains, perhaps stopping along the way for a picnic lunch overlooking a spectacular cascade. Choose from a number of world class riding stables, which generally offer horses to suit all levels of riding ability including lessons for the beginner.
18: Plage de Mahana Park
Discover this gorgeous white sand beach located on the west coast near Paea. This public beach is well known for its friendly games of beach volleyball and soccer in the park, where everyone is welcome to join. Swim and snorkel the sheltered waters of the turquoise lagoon, savour a tasty snack at the beachside restaurant or enjoy a picnic in the beachside park.
19: Plage de Pirae
Discover another fine black sand beach located on the east coast near the Royal Tahitian Hotel, where you can enjoy a range of creature comforts.
Tahiti is famous for world class surfing and hosts the annual Billabong Pro championships in May at Teahupoo on the south coast of Tahiti Iti, just an hours drive from Papeete. 'Chopes,' as the break is affectionately known, sits off a 100m drop off just 50m away from a half moon shaped reef and breaks 700m out to sea.
21: Musee de Tahiti et Ses Isles
Get an insight into Polynesian history, religion and culture as it was before the arrival of western explorers and missionaries at this fascinating showcase of paintings, sculptures, ancient canoes and rare, historical artifacts.