Indulge Your Cultural Curiosity
Every experience in The Islands of Tahiti comes from the rich heritage of the Polynesian culture. From the ancient Marae found throughout the islands to the morning canoe breakfast, to the overwater bungalow you may choose to stay in during your stay. The islands are ruled by tradition, and those looking to experience it to its fullest extent will find many opportunities to immerse yourself in the local life and historic culture.
Live Like a Local with the Locals
There are many ways to get the authentic Polynesian experience during your visit, and staying in a Tahitian Guesthouse, called Pensions by the locals, is one of the best. Tahitian Guesthouses offer travelers a laid back, off-the-beaten-path way to experience local Polynesian life. You could be staying with a local Polynesian family, often in more secluded areas of the islands. For the most remote of these, at the South head to the Austral Islands of Rurutu, Tubuai, Rimatara and Raivavae or at the North to the Marquesas Islands of Hiva Oa, Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou and Ua Huka
Join the local families and fishermen who frequent the fish parks in Tikehau in the Tuamotu Islands for a day of fishing. These underwater fenced areas allow locals to trap lagoon species that provides them their primary source of food and income.
Travel Through Time
The Islands of Tahiti offer some of the most remote, untouched islands on the planet. To experience a remote, tropical fantasy, head to Manihi. On this small island, far from the modern world, the Mana spirit thrives. Visit the a crystal clear lagoon that is home to The Islands of Tahiti’s very first black pearl farm, then explore the small village of Turipaoa where locals still live the traditional Polynesian lifestyle.
When the first Polynesians discovered and began inhabiting The Islands of Tahiti, they created carvings, temples, and other ceremonial statues to worship their gods. Many of these have remained to this day and can be found throughout the islands. The Marquesas Islands are home to a mother lode of ancient sacred sites called Marae that include ceremonial complexes, stone temples, and large tiki statues. Travel to Huahine in the Society Islands and follow a footpath carved through the rainforest to the largest concentration of Marae in Polynesia. The sheer density of historic sites here makes it a stone temple mecca of Polynesian heritage.
In 2017, UNESCO named the Taputapuatea marae on the island of Raiatea in The Islands of Tahiti a World Heritage site, making it the first cultural site in a French overseas realm recognized by UNESCO. The Taputapuatea marae is an ancient sacred site estimated to be 1,000 years old where religious and social Polynesian ceremonies were performed prior to the arrival of European missionaries. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you to experience authentic Polynesian history in a site where Polynesian ancestors arranged hundreds of stones which they believed to hold Mana, a source of power and spiritual strength that are still here today.
Authentic Polynesian Artisans
The Marquesans have kept their ancient heritage alive through the art of Tapu, meaning The Sacred. These weaving, quilting, wood and stone carving techniques, drum making, tapa, and hand-dyed pāreu have been passed down over hundreds of years. Inspired by and intended to worship Mana, these practices can still be found throughout the islands.
Find the world-famous intricate wood and stone carvings of ancestral designs on bowls, plates, and statues made of precious native woods and stone. You can visit the artists’ studios directly to watch these artisans at work and to choose the pieces that speak to you.
Then head to the bustling public market in the heart of Papeete on Tahiti for more local treasures. Le Marche is a 170-year-old local market that houses hundreds of stands filled with Polynesian-made crafts, oils, locally sourced vanilla, fruits, and flowers. Sunday mornings are the best time to soak up the vibrant local color.
Take Part in Tradition
Tradition is at the core of the Polynesian culture in The Islands of Tahiti. And there are many ways for visitors to take part in these celebrations. Polynesian give voice to their Mana through music and dance, mark their bodies with symbols of courage with Tātau, and pass on their heritage through traditional craft-making.
For the most immersive cultural experience, plan your trip to The Islands of Tahiti during the Heiva i Tahiti. It is one of the greatest Polynesian cultural events in the world, where Polynesian from all over gather to celebrate ancient traditions and competition. From late June to late July, you’ll discover daily and nightly events, celebrations of Mana, a massive showcase of traditional crafts and sporting competitions, as well as dance and musical events.
The Hawaiki Nui Va’a is the world’s largest and longest international open-ocean outrigger canoe race that covers a 77-mile stretch between Huahine and Bora Bora. The festival surrounding the race offers a grand experience of Polynesian food and music.