The capital of Tahiti is the only big city in all of French Polynesia. Come get your city fix here after exploring the tropical Islands of Tahiti or use it as your introduction to the Tahitian way of life.

Papeete provides an urban experience that’s unique for the region. It’s a vibrant city with a multicultural population, bustling malls and markets, and a busy boat harbour. You even get traffic jams here. Not that Tahitian traditions are forgotten in this modern capital. Those coming by cruise ship are greeted by Tahitian dancers and singers in Place Vai’ete. Maeva! Welcome!

Frequently Asked Questions about Papeete

What's the deal with these Tahitian black pearls I keep hearing about?

French Polynesia is the world's largest producer of 'black pearls' and the Robert Wan Pearl Museum in Papeete can tell you all about these precious gifts of nature. Despite their name, these pearls are not actually black, just not very white either. You can get pearls at Le Marché, the downtown market or on the street, but it's best to visit a real bijouterie (jewellery shop). Look for a larger, symmetrical one with hints of colour that has few blemishes. Found one? You're on to a winner! IF you're happy to fork out thousands of dollars, that is. Pearls in Papeete tend to be cheaper than on the outer islands. Note that there is a government tax on all pearl sets. It's passed on to you in store, but you can claim back with a form after clearing customs at the airport.

What are those peaks I can see from Papeete?

Mount Orohena, at 2,206 metres, is the highest volcanic peak on Tahiti Island. Next up is Mount Aora, at 2,045 metres. Both can be seen towering high above downtown Papeete, providing splendid backdrops to your holiday snaps. Another peak, the raggedy Mount Te Tara O Maiao, is nicknamed Diadème (tiara) and reaches 1,308 metres up to the sky. The best view of the Diadème is from the eastern suburb of Pirae.

Where to stay in Papeete?

The suburbs northeast of downtown Papeete have volcanic beaches and clear waters. The black sandy beach of Lafayette is a highlight, but you can find other beaches here too, all the way up to Point Venus. Stay in downtown Papeete for a cheaper accommodations and a more urban and cultural experience. Apart from the downtown Paofai Gardens, Le Centre Vaima mall and Le Marché (Central Market), you can visit many cultural attractions on foot or by taxi. Or, join a 'Circle Island Tour' to also visit La Maison de la Culture, the ONO'U Tahiti Museum of Street Art, the Paul Gauguin Museum, Robert Wan Pearl Museum, and the house of James Norman Hall, who wrote Mutiny on the Bounty. Consider staying on the west coast, in Faa'a or Punaauia, if you only have one or two nights here on your way to any of the other islands of Tahiti. Faa'a is closest to the airport and has motels. Punaauia has fancy resorts with infinity pools for unforgettable sunset views of Moorea Island.