The capital city of French Polynesia, Papeete is the ideal place to experience all the wonders that the island of Tahiti has to offer. This island paradise’s landscape is sensational, featuring volcanoes, deserted beaches, thriving rainforests, and stunning reefs and lagoons.
The city of Papeete itself is the country’s urban hub, complete with cafés, boutique shops, markets, health spas, and cultural sites. It is here that renowned artist Paul Gauguin gained the inspiration to create some of his most lauded pieces of work. It is also home to Faa’a International Airport.
The terminal for cruise ships, Quai D’Honneur, leads directly into the heart of the city’s hustle and bustle. Papeete also serves as a popular embarking point for cruise passengers travelling around the South Pacific region.
Papeete’s port sits in the harbour and many of the city’s attractions, shops, and other sites of interest are within easy walking distance. Papeete is located on the north-western coast of Tahiti.
Papeete’s port has a central location, meaning a number of facilities are all near the pier.
Facilities nearby include:
- Supermarket (1 block away)
- Visitor information centre
- Post office
- Market including food stalls (called roulottes).
How to Get Around
For many visitors, walking is the only transportation method needed during a day in Papeete.
Car rental, public buses and taxis are also available. The city’s public bus system operates on a frequent timetable. Taxis can be a little expensive.
There are also boat, bus, and even helicopter tours on offer for those wanting a broader exploration of Papeete’s surrounding area.
Visiting the island of Moorea is a popular choice for those stopping in Papeete. Ferries depart from a wharf right next to the cruise terminal and the journey takes approximately 30 minutes.
Travel times from the port:
- It is a 7 minute walk to the Notre Dame Cathedral
- It is a 5 minute walk to Papeete Market.
- It is a 18 minute journey to the Museum of Tahiti
- It is a 46 minute journey to the Gauguin museum
- It is a 12 minute journey to Faa’a International Airport.
- Currency - The currency used in Papeete is the Cour de Franc Pacifique (or just the franc). Denominations are as follows: 500CFP, 1,000CFP, 5,000CFP, and 10,000CFP banknotes, as well as coins that come in 1CFP, 2CFP, 5CFP, 10CFP, 20CFP, 50CFP, and 100CFP. There are ATMs available if you need to withdraw cash.
- Time Zone – Papeete operates on Tahiti Time, which is 10 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Tahiti does not have any daylight savings periods.
- Weather – Papeete is generally humid and sunny, with an average temperature of around 27 degrees Celsius. Tahiti’s wet season occurs from late November to early March, while you’re much less likely to encounter showers between May and September. Humidity is also more tolerable during these months.
- Shops and Markets – Tahiti’s most well-known marketplace, Marche du Papeete, is very close to the port and offers flowers, seafood, fresh fruit, and a wide range of handcrafted souvenirs. Meanwhile, the Vaima Centre is one of Papeete’s largest shopping centres and is also home to the enchanting Pearl Museum.
- Beaches – The iconic Tahitian experience isn’t complete without an hour or two swimming in crystal clear waters, snorkelling amongst delightful coral, or simply relaxing on a pristine white-sand shoreline. Mahana Park Beach and Venus Point Beach are two popular options.
- The Lagoonarium – The Lagoonarium features some of the most colourful and interesting species of fish you’ll find in the South Pacific, including reef sharks and sea turtles. The aquarium is open daily, from 9am to 5:30pm and admission for adults is 500CFP.
- Museum of Tahiti and her Islands – A cultural highlight for visitors to the area, the Museum of Tahiti has a number of exhibits and collections showcasing the island’s history, art and natural environment. The museum is open from 9am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday. A weekly guided tour takes place on Tuesdays at 9:10am.
- Faarumai Waterfalls – Situated on the island’s northeast coast, the beautiful Faarumai Waterfalls is composed of three different waterfalls, each as beautiful as the next. Vaimahuta is the most well-known. The falls are a 30-minute drive from the port and well worth the effort.
- Gauguin Museum – Dedicated to the life and artworks of Paul Gauguin, who moved to Tahiti in 1891, the Gauguin Museum is a popular attraction and a must-see for art lovers. Along with prints, drawings and carvings, there are photographs of and letters from the great artist himself.