The capital of Tahiti, Papeete makes an excellent base from which to explore the largest of the French Polynesian islands. From hiking trails leading to refreshing waterfalls to water sports in transparent lagoon waters, the options for outdoor fun are almost endless. Here are the best ways for travelers based in Papeete to get active.
Escape the city for an expedition into the dense rain forest–carpeted interior of Tahiti with a 4-wheel-drive excursion. Drive up Mount Marau, see the Arahoho Blowhole spurt into the air, and view waterfalls hidden in the forest, where you can take a dip in natural pools at the base of the cascades.
Papeete is situated on Tahiti’s northwest coast and is the setting-off point for many island cruises. Dolphin-watching cruises tend to focus on Fisherman’s Bay, where pods of cetaceans are known to congregate in the waters. Between August and October, migrating humpbacks can often be spotted here, too. Other cruises from Papeete stop at bays around the island, where participants can swim or snorkel.
Tahiti is a surfing hot spot, with well-known breaks, such as Taapuna Pass and Sapinus attracting steady streams of wave riders. The truly adventurous can tackle the gigantic waves at Teahupo’o, but be warned: The swells here are big and powerful, so it’s only for the very experienced. Go in August to watch professionals at work during the annual Billabong Pro Tahiti surf competition.
If you want to strap on your hiking boots and explore the island’s interior, you’ll find lots of trail options. Starting from O Belvédère restaurant in Papeete, follow trails up Mount Aorai, which at 6,778 feet (2,066 meters), is the third-highest peak on the island—summiting usually requires an overnight stay and is not always possible during the wet season, when trails can be treacherous. An easier option near Papeete is a hike in Fautaua Valley, where two trails lead to the top and base of Fautaua Waterfall.