1 Day In Tahiti Itinerary

Tahiti is often the name used to describe the 118 islands and atolls that make up French Polynesia, though it’s actually the biggest island in this dreamy French territory. Chances are you’ll spend some time on the “big island” just after your arrival or just before heading back home. Despite not being as exotic as some of the outer islands, Tahiti is beautiful enough to deserve a few days of exploring. If you only have 1 day in Tahiti, here’s an itinerary to help you make the most of your time.

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Tahiti, Tailor Made!

The Islands of Tahiti are among the last places to be colonized by mankind, 118 islands, each with its unique personality.

Get expert advice and assistance with planning your trip to the destination where tropical dreams come true!

Additional Tahiti Travel Guides

Check out these additional resources for planning a trip to Tahiti.

How To Spend 1 Day in Tahiti?

This itinerary highlights three main ways to spend one day in Tahiti. Additional options include heading on a DIY or guided hike, or joining an organized tour and exploring the island.

  • Option 1: Papeete walking tour
  • Option 2: Papenoo Valley 4X4 Tour
  • Option 3: Roadtrip Around Tahiti

1 Day In Tahiti Itinerary Map

All places mentioned in this Tahiti itinerary can be found on this map. Simply click on the image to open in Google Maps:

1 Day In Papeete Tahiti Itinerary Map - French Polynesia
Quick Finds

Where to Stay in Tahiti?

As you would expect from French Polynesia’s main island, Tahiti has a large variety of accommodations in all categories. The resorts are all located outside Papeete, primarily along the sunnier and drier west coast just west of the airport. Few hotels exist in Tahiti, and the “proper” ones are centered in Papeete, as are hostels. Pensions (bed & breakfasts) and vacation rentals are spread throughout the island. I highly recommend checking out the Tahiti Travel Guide for specific recommendations and information.

Pro Tip

Here’s a list of all Tahiti accommodations available on Booking.com.


Option 1: Papeete Walking Tour

If you’re pressed for time, focus your one day in Tahiti on the colorful capital city – Papeete. This is the only real city in French Polynesia, though small enough to feel like a town. You can easily explore the best that Papeete has to offer in a one-day walking tour.

Pro Tip

If your one day in Tahiti falls on a Sunday, most places will be closed and the market only operates from about 4:30-9:00 am. Therefore, I recommend options 2 & 3 or taking a bus/taxi to one of the pretty beaches near Papeete (Plage Vaiava or Point Venus).

Street art in Papeete - Tahiti
One of Papeete’s famous works of street art


There’s no better way to start our walking tour of Papeete than at the colorful Papeete Market. The largest market in the country, this is the best place to stock up on some souvenirs before heading home. Enjoy some live music before checking out the local specials: scented monoi oil, soap, vanilla, woodcarving, black pearls, and of course – colorful pareo. It’s also a good place to buy some snacks for the day, whether fresh fruit and vegetables or local snacks such as breadfruit chips (uru).

papeete central market tahiti french polynesia
live music outside papeete market tahiti french polynesia
Bags and hats Papeete market Tahiti French Polynesia

Locals love this place too, with lots of exotic fruits & vegetables, freshly caught fish, and Polynesian specials – like the taro and breadfruit.

Papeete Central Market - Tahiti - woman selling fish

Here’s what it feels like to stroll around the Papeete Market

From the market, head a few blocks north and have a look at the Papeete Town Hall. The building was inspired by the old palace of the Tahitian Queen Pomare, and you can stroll around the grounds.

papeete town hall tahiti french polynesia

Back towards the market, check out the garment, pearls, and specialty shops in the streets around the market – before joining up with the busy intersection that’s home to the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s the oldest Catholic church in Tahiti, around since 1875. You can step inside through the side entrance.

Notre Dame catholic church Papeete Tahiti - French Polynesia

A few blocks away is the French Polynesia Assembly. It also doubles as a botanical garden. Follow the footpath and have a look at native plants and a few imports over the years. The path leads to the Queen’s Pond – the quietest spot I’ve found in Papeete. It is where Queen Pomare of Tahiti used to bathe in the morning.

Queen Pomare's Pond - Papeete - Tahiti

Next up is the Presidential Palace just up the road. Though you won’t be able to meet the president, you can ask the guards nicely if you can peek into his lovely residence.

Presidential home - Papeete - Tahiti - French Polynesia


For lunch, head to Patachou, a cafe that is tucked inside a narrow pedestrian alley. They serve delicious local dishes and the usual favorites. The portions are big, and the price is very reasonable. Another solid option is Cafe Maeva. The original restaurant is on the upper floor of the market, but it has since branched out and now has another location in the adjacent streets. For a quick and cheap meal, you’ll find many options inside the market that offer food-to-go. If you want lunch with a view, head to one of the lagoon-front restaurants in Place Jacques Chirac.


We’ve seen the Catholic church, now time for the Protestants. The Paofai Temple is one of the cutest churches around, with its bright pink color radiating in the sun. Sunday service is the best time to visit.

Here’s what it looks and sounds like during Sunday church service in Tahiti.

Just across the church is the Tahiti Pearl Museum. It’s the work of Robert Wan, the ‘father’ of the Tahitian black pearl industry. The museum is free to enter, and you can learn how black pearls are made followed by a bit of shopping.

Robert Wan Tahiti Pearl Museum

Cross the street from the Paofai Temple and enter the Paofai Gardens – the ‘central park of Papeete’. Grab a bench or a shady spot on the grass and watch locals killing a few hours, and super-fit Tahitians heading out to the lagoon on outrigger canoes. After major renovations, Papeete’s waterfront has received a major facelift. Its boardwalk, near Place Jacques Chirac, features a few cafes and restaurants where you can pause and enjoy the city vibe. 

Papeete Lagoonfront - Tahiti
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paofai gardens tahiti park french polynesia

If you haven’t had lunch yet, head to Place Toata at the far end of the Paofai Gardens. There are several good restaurants here that might also be open during the daytime.

Relax in the gardens or head back to town via the waterfront boardwalk and Bougainville Park. Go back to your hotel, rest, pack and get ready for the night! Need to do more shopping? Head back to the market. It’s open until 5 pm.


If you don’t want to leave Papeete, the big city offers a variety of dinner options. The most “local” option is the legendary evening food market at Place Vaiete. Every evening starting at 6 pm, food trucks dot the square, cooking anything from Chinese food to traditional Tahitian dishes. On a recent visit, I saw for myself what local friends have been telling me for years, the evening market has seen better days. If you’re looking for a restaurant setting, head to Place Jacques Chirac for lagoon-front dining or the lively Place Toata. Otherwise, inquire with your hosts about a recommended restaurant.

evening food market Tahiti French Polynesia

To help digest some of that delicious food, walk along the beautifully lit waterfront. The sun should be well on its way to New Zealand, and the yachts should be back after a day out in the warm ocean.

Overwater restaurant - Papeete waterfront promenade at night - Tahiti

If that wasn’t enough, head to Les 3 Brasseurs to wash things down with a glass (or a five-liter pitcher) of Tahiti-made brew. Choose from five different flavors and mingle with the young local crowd. A recently-opened rooftop bar is now a happening nightlife spot in Tahiti. You might need to book a table in advance but try your luck if it’s not too busy this evening. Other nightlife options include Cafe Maeva (not their market branch) and Le Retro, by Place Vaima shopping center. These spots should have live music on most evenings, but if it’s a party you’re looking for, perhaps Au Piment Rouge is for you.

Les trois brasseurs pub Papeete Tahiti

If you want to experience the thrills of a traditional Polynesian dance show, inquire with your hosts if any shows are taking place tonight in one of the resorts and book your tickets. The ticket might include a buffet dinner or just the show itself.

Intercontinental Tahiti - Friday Night Polynesian Dance Show - dancers

Option 2: Papenoo Valley 4X4 Tour

If you imagine that Tahiti is scattered with giant waterfalls cascading down from lush volcanic peaks – imagine no more! Venture into the uninhabited interior of Tahiti and you’ll never forget this day. The drive takes you along the Papenoo River, crossing streams, climbing up to gorgeous vistas, and down to waterfalls that are straight out of a magazine cover. If you opt for the full-day tour, you’ll also visit the secluded Lake Vaihiria. This is paradise folks, and there’s hardly anyone around to share it with! This trip has a half-day and a full-day version. I recommend booking the full-day experience with Olivier Lenoir from Ia Ora Na Tahiti Expeditions (tell him that Avi from Israel sent you). 

Papenoo Valley - Tahiti - French Polynesia
crossing river in Papenoo Valley - Tahiti - French Polynesia
מפל בעמק Papenoo בטהיטי

Option 3: Roadtrip Around Tahiti

Guided or with a rented car, spend your one day in Tahiti exploring the coastal areas of the island. Several itineraries exist, but I recommend hitting the road early and driving along Tahiti’s sunnier and drier west coast from Papeete to Teahupo’o.

Pro Tip

If the weather is nice, prepare a picnic lunch before hitting the road. Buy groceries in Papeete or in the large shopping complex in Puna’auia.

Just a few kilometers down from the beach there are two ancient Polynesian temples, known as marae. The first one is Marae Maraetaata à Paea, consisting of three large stone structures. The second is Marae Arahurahu, complete with its restored sacred ahu (the marae’s altar) and tiki statues. During the July Heiva Festival, Marae Arahurahu hosts a lavish cultural show that includes singing, dancing, and reenactments of ancient religious ceremonies. 


Further along the coast, you’ll reach the Maraa Grotto. Two cave pools are emerging from the moss-covered mountain, and the color of the water is out of this world. It’s a shame you can’t go for a dip here, but it’s still worth the quick stop.

Maraa Grotto - Tahiti

If you’ve been wondering where the heck are those famous black sand beaches of Tahiti – wait no more. Papara Beach, also known as Plage de Taharuu – is one of the prettiest black sand beaches in Tahiti. It’s long, it’s wide, and the black sand is scorching hot under the afternoon sun!

Papara Black sand Beach - Tahiti - French Polynesia
Hungry at this point?

If you didn’t prepare a picnic lunch and are hungry by now, look for a spot at the Atimaono Golf Course’s Te Matie Club House or slightly further west at the excellent Restaurant Hoanui. The next recommended lunch option is at Plage Maui in Tahiti Iti (keep reading).

We still have two more stops to make before crossing over to Tahiti Iti. The first is at the Vaipahi Gardens (Bain de Vaima). It’s free to enter these magical gardens, so well kept and even with their own waterfall! Fancy a hike? You have three options here ranging from one to two hours of walking. If you head up the hill, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the lagoon, and on the way back down, you’ll get to see the mape trees – with their incredible roots!

Vaipahi Gardens Tahiti - waterfall
Vaipahi Gardens Tahiti - view of lagoon from hiking trail
Vaipahi Gardens Tahiti - mape tree on hiking trail

From one garden to the next, you must pay a visit to the Harisson Smith Botanical Garden (600F per adult, though not always collected). The garden’s highlight is its mape forest, an enchanting dense cluster of large Tahitian chestnut trees that feels like the set of a Harry Potter film. The mape forest is also dotted with a few wild lotuses and giant bamboo.

Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens Tahiti French Polynesia - mape chestnut tree

Time to cross over to Tahiti Iti in the busy town of Taravao. If you’re making good time, head up the mountain to the Belvedere de Taravao. On a clear day, you’ll be treated to fine views of Tahiti Nui’s impressive skyline. This is also a great spot for a picnic lunch and several hikes in the nearby planted forest depart from the scenic lookout.

Belvedere de Taravao - Tahiti

The final stop on this Tahiti road trip is at Teahupo’o, one of the most famous surfing sites in the world. The scenery on this leg is of lush mountains meeting the lagoon. Stop at Maui Beach to stretch your legs, and if you haven’t had lunch, La Plage de Maui is one of the best restaurants in Tahiti, especially for fish and seafood (they stop serving food early so time it right).

Maui Beach - Tahiti - French Polynesia

Teahupo’o is not only the surf capital of French Polynesia, it’s also the end of the coastal road. Park your car, watch the young surfers practicing, and don’t forget to check out the breathtaking view behind you. I also recommend crossing the bridge and walking through the small village to the rocky beach from where the best views can be enjoyed. Every August, this place is packed with the best surfers in the world and their fans. Why? The waves are simply massive, all part of the Billabong Pro championship. 

PK0 at Teahupoo - Tahiti - French Polynesia

The drive back to Papeete is an attraction on its own as the setting sun paints the lagoon and lush mountains in colors that can only be seen in the South Pacific. Take it slow and enjoy the view, especially the leg from Teahupo’o to Papara. Time your drive so you’ll have enough time to enjoy the final minutes of sunset in Punaauia. This is an affluent district in Tahiti that’s perfectly positioned in front of Moorea. Park your car in Parque Vaipoopoo and start thinking about moving here. If you’re after sunset drinks, you can head to the Intercontinental Resort’s famous Tiki Bar or Te Moana Resort’s Taapuna Beach Bar.

Sunset over Moorea from Tahiti - French Polynesia

If dinner is on your mind, head to one of the park’s cafes or to other options in the affluent suburb of Punaauia. The Poke Bar II is next door, the Blue Banana has excellent food, and the upscale Tahiti La Plage is one of the best restaurants in Tahiti. More options are found in nearby Marina Taina (reservations highly recommended).

The Blue Banana restaurant - Tahiti

What’s Next?

This 1 day in Tahiti itinerary gives you a small but well-worth taste of Tahiti’s urban scene. For more information about Tahiti, check out these recommended travel guides. 

Tahiti, Tailor Made!

The Islands of Tahiti are among the last places to be colonized by mankind, 118 islands, each with its unique personality.

Get expert advice and assistance with planning your trip to the destination where tropical dreams come true!