Papeete, the bustling city in tropical Tahiti

Tahiti’s small, secluded islands are like heaven on Earth, but don't be too hasty to leave the main island - there's plenty of pleasure to be found in the big city too.

While Papeete is the largest city and capital of French Polynesia, this Tahitian city is often just a stopover point for tourists making their way to one of the smaller islands. But travellers shouldn’t be in such a rush to leave as there’s plenty to experience in this small, lively city.

The recently-redeveloped waterfront is home to a relaxing tropical park, with many food stalls and carnival-inspired attractions. It becomes particularly lively after dark, when many locals join in the festivities after work.

Shopaholics will be drawn to Le Marché, the bustling municipal market in the city centre. Here you’ll find small stalls selling all the best French Polynesian produce, including vanilla beans and monoi oil, a fragrant coconut oil infused with Tahitian gardenia petals. If your wardrobe isn’t tropical enough, you can also pick up a few colourful pareos, the bright wraparound skirts favoured by locals.

Even if you don’t intend to splurge on one of the region’s famous black pearls, you should still make the trip to the Robert Wan Pearl Museum. This privately-owned museum explores all aspects of perliculture, providing a fascinating insight into the people and legends of this industry. You can also view Robert Wan’s personal collection, which includes the largest pearl ever discovered.

Travel in July to see the entire city transformed as the locals embrace Heiva I Tahiti, a festival celebrating Polynesian culture. The streets are decorated with colourful flowers and the air becomes thick with the sound of throbbing drums, as many of the events centre around the hip-shaking, drum-driven traditional dance. Outside of Heiva I Tahiti, you can still witness similar mesmerising performances at dance shows held in the resorts.

Once you’ve experienced Papeete, venture into the less-populated areas of Tahiti to discover lush tropical landscapes, magnificent towering waterfalls, intriguing black sand beaches and tall volcanic mountains.

Nearby Teahupo’o is a surfing mecca, and even those who don’t know how to hang ten should visit to see the professionals take on some of the largest and most intense waves in the world.

RACQ Travel can help you plan your ultimate pacific island holiday. Contact one of our friendly travel consultants on 1300 096 166 or visit RACQ Travel to browse our range of holidays.