Day 2: Road Trip Along Tahiti’s West Coast
The second day of our 3 days in Tahiti involves renting a car and exploring the island on a self-guided road trip. We’ll focus on Tahiti’s drier and sunnier west coast. There’s a lot to see on this day so try and get an early start. You might not be able to see everything highlighted in this itinerary, but if you time things right and skip the short hikes, you should be OK. Of course, can also join guided tours of the island. They’re pretty comprehensive but won’t take you to all the spots described here.
If you fancy a picnic lunch, buy something at the central market in Papeete or at the Moana Nui shopping center in the affluent suburb of Punaauia, just outside Papeete. For a sit down meal, make reservations at the Atimaono Golf Course’s Te Matie Club House or slightly further west at Restaurant Hoanui. The next recommended lunch option is at La Plage de Maui in Tahiti Iti.
Fancy an early morning swim or snorkel? Just 18 kilometers outside Papeete is Plage Vaiava, also known simply as PK18 Beach. The sand is definitely not black, and the snorkeling is surprisingly good. There’s lots to see on this day so don’t spend too much time working on your tan.
Just a few kilometers down the road you’ll find two ancient Polynesian temples, known as marae. The first one is Marae Maraetaata à Paea, hardly visited by tourists. The second is Marae Arahurahu, complete with its restored ahu (the marae’s altar) and tiki statues.
Fifteen minutes further down the coast is 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.
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! This is also a very popular surfing spot in Tahiti.
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!
The last stop before crossing to Tahiti is at the Harisson Smith Botanical Gardens (600F per adult though not always collected). The garden’s main highlight is its enchanting mape forest, a dense cluster of Tahitian chestnut trees that appear to have been taken from the set of a Harry Potter film.
Time to cross over to Tahiti Iti in the busy town of Taravao. If there’s time, follow the signs up the mountain to Belvedere de Taravao. This scenic lookout also doubles as a picnic spot and several trails in the planted forest depart from here. On a clear day, Tahiti Nui’s majestic skyline will keep you speechless.
Teahupoo or Tautira
The coastal road does not wrap around Tahiti Iti entirely, so you need to decide which side of the island you wish to road trip along. On the east coast of Tahiti Iti, Tautira is one of the most scenic spots on the island. Stop at Tautira Beach and admire the views.
Along Tahiti Iti’s west coast, stretch your legs at Maui Beach before driving to the end of the road at the legendary surfing village of Teahupoo.
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. Teahupoo is also the host of the surfing competition in the 2024 Olympic Games.
Driving Back to Papeete
Begin driving back to Papeete about 1.5 hours before sunset. The drive 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 Seas. 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 Parque Vaipoopoo, perfectly positioned in front of Moorea. 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.