How to Plan a Trip to Tahiti Like a Pro

The islands of Tahiti have sparked the idyllic image of a paradise on Earth ever since the first contact between European explorers and native Polynesians. These exotic islands in the South Pacific still retain much of their original allure. A vacation to Tahiti has a lasting effect on every visitor. The sheer beauty of its islands and the friendliness of its people are second to none. Learn how to plan a trip to Tahiti with this in-depth guide and experience the magic of Tahiti on a vacation that will change your life. 

Heading off to French Polynesia? In-depth island guides to all 5 archipelagos await you, including sample itineraries and essential travel tips & tricks.

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About this Guide

After many years of dreaming, I made it to Tahiti at the end of a long voyage across the South Pacific Islands in 2015. It was a life-changing experience for me, and I have since returned to Tahiti on six additional occasions, most recently on my honeymoon in French Polynesia. I have written extensively about traveling to Tahiti on this website and in other publications. My passion has led me to extensively research Polynesian history. I currently lead organized tours to Polynesia in addition to helping independent travelers plan tailor-made trips to French Polynesia.

This guide on how to plan a trip to Tahiti is a condensed version of a more in-depth travel guide for the planning stages of your adventure.

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!

Tahiti vs. French Polynesia

Just to set the record straight, Tahiti is the name often used in the travel world to refer to French Polynesia. In fact, Tahiti is just one island among the 118 islands and atolls that make up the French territory. Tahiti is French Polynesia’s largest and most populated island, home to its capital, Papeete. 

פסטיבל ה-Heiva בטהיטי - פולינזיה הצרפתית - ריקודים מסורתיים
Dancing in the Heiva Festival

Where is Tahiti

Tahiti is located in the heart of the Polynesian Triangle, an imaginary triangle running from Hawaii in the north to New Zealand in the west and Easter Island in the east. Polynesia is an immense Pacific Ocean region dotted by roughly 1,000 islands and atolls. Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia and the gateway for international travelers to the French territory. Flight time to Tahiti from the west coast of the United States is about eight hours, and from New Zealand, it is about 5.5 hours. 


Why Visit Tahiti

For most travelers, Tahiti is the furthest destination you can visit wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Due to its isolation, Tahiti is one of the last places on Earth to be discovered and colonized by humans as part of the great Polynesian migration. It is the ultimate destination for lovers of tropical islands and, in my opinion, the closest definition of a tropical paradise on Earth

I’m often asked why bother traveling so far and visiting Tahiti. There are five “ingredients” that make Tahiti such a unique destination.

the diversity of islands

Tahiti is just one island of French Polynesia’s 118 islands and atolls, which are divided into five distinct archipelagoes: the Society Islands, the Marquesas Islands, the Tuamotu Atolls, the Gambier Islands, and the Austral Islands. Each archipelago has a unique geology and vibe, so hopping from one to the next is like traveling to a new destination. Within the archipelago, every island looks and feels different as well. 

pink sand beach 4 - tikehau lagoon tour - french polynesia
Tikehau Atoll

the lagoons

Nowhere on Earth will you find such majestic lagoons as in French Polynesia. The uniqueness of these lagoons lies in how they “hug” high volcanic islands that rise in the middle of the lagoon, like in Bora Bora. The exception to this is the lagoons of the Tuamotus, where there is no high island. These coral atolls resemble giant pearls when viewed from the air. The high islands that once stood here have long since sunk beneath the waterline, and all that’s left is a ring of coral sand with an immense lagoon in the middle. 

Maupiti from motu auira - Maupiti - French Polynesia
The island of Maupiti

the people

Polynesians are among the friendliest people you will ever meet. They are very connected to their ancestral heritage and the beautiful land and sea that is their home. Flower necklaces, smiling, and saying hello when passing by are all genuine parts of life on these islands. You will find that connecting with the locals unlocks memorable experiences and life lessons.

Tahitian Dancing - French Polynesia 3
Tahitian dancing

the tourist numbers

Traveling to Tahiti was reserved only for luxury travelers in the past, but this isn’t the case today. That said, Tahiti still only gets a fraction of the visitors that Hawaii sees annually (roughly 200,000 vs. 9 million). Fewer tourists mean you’ll feel more special in Tahiti, often be the only hiker on a trail, and never have to work hard to find an empty beach. If you’re contemplating, here’s an article comparing Tahiti vs. Hawaii.   

A mountain pass in Tahaa


Polynesians believe their islands were blessed with a supernatural power called mana, and many believe it can still be felt around various sites throughout the islands. After a few days in Tahiti, you, too, will feel the mana. I kid you not. The combination of the reasons listed above plus a mysterious “x-factor” casts a spell on you, only fully realized when you return home.  

three headed statue Hikokua archeological site - nuku hiva - marquesas islands - french polynesia
An ancient temple in Nuku Hiva

Video Tour of the Islands of Tahiti

Here’s a relatively lengthy but (I guarantee) enjoyable video that takes you across all five archipelagos in French Polynesia. You might need to disable your ad blocker for the video to load. 

Quick Finds

The following section highlights the different stages of how to plan a trip to Tahiti.

When is the Best Time to Visit Tahiti

Weather is the most important factor when planning a trip to Tahiti. Being in the tropics, Tahiti has two distinct seasons: a dry season and a wet season. That said, since we’re talking about small specks of land in the world’s largest ocean, this isn’t an exact science. 

The dry season

The dry season in French Polynesia usually runs from June to October, which is considered the best time to visit Tahiti. This period is marked by trade winds sweeping the region, bringing cooler temperatures, less humidity, less cloud cover, and less rain. July also sees the Heiva Festival in Tahiti, a celebration of traditional Polynesian culture, with minor festivals on other islands throughout June and July. From August to October, humpback whales visit French Polynesia. Due to the cooling trade winds, choppy lagoons can make things uncomfortable during high swells.

Tahiti’s Papara Beach

the wet season

Running from December to April, the wet season is a time of abundance during which the islands are lush and the fruit is plentiful. It doesn’t rain all the time, and cyclones are rare. A typical day starts with a dry and cloud-free morning, afternoon rain (often only on the “wet” side of the island), and a perfect sunset. That said, there are prolonged periods of rain, especially during December. Humidity levels and cloud cover are high during this period, but accommodation rates are lower. Another bonus is generally calm and flat lagoons, perfect for snorkeling and photos.

Tahaa’s Motu Tautau

the shoulder season

November and May are also good times to visit. The weather might be slightly unstable but you’ll enjoy lower visitor numbers in the popular islands.

How to Get to Tahiti

It shouldn’t be surprising that flying is the best way to get to Tahiti. You can fly to Tahiti from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Auckland, Seattle, Paris (with a stopover in North America), Japan, and the Cook Islands. Prior to the COVID pandemic, LATAM operated a route between Papeete and Easter Island. Many cruise lines also visit French Polynesia, either commencing in Tahiti and island hopping or passing through on a much more comprehensive itinerary.

Flower necklace welcome - Fakarava - French Polynesia
A typical welcome in Fakarava

How Much Does a Vacation in Tahiti Cost

Costs always come up when thinking about how to plan a trip to Tahiti. Tahiti is often perceived as a luxury honeymoon destination, where you either need to take a loan, win the lottery, or break a savings account to pay a visit. This might also be true if you’re looking to stay at an overwater bungalow for the entire stay.

However, suppose luxury isn’t the sole purpose of your trip to Tahiti. In that case, you’ll find that traveling in French Polynesia is very reasonably priced (considering its location), roughly equivalent to traveling in Western Europe during peak tourist season. It’s much more affordable than Hawaii.

Moreover, it is now much cheaper to fly to Tahiti from Europe and North America thanks to new airlines, such as French Bee, Delta, and United Airlines, entering the market.

Average Costs in Tahiti

Here’s a high level overview of price ranges in Tahiti (based on 2023 prices):

  • Night in a luxury overwater bungalow: starting from 800$ (low season)
  • Night in a pension/boutique lodge: 90-300$
  • Car rental: 60-110$ per day
  • Scooter rental: 50-70$ per day
  • Full-day lagoon excursion: 80-130$
  • Two-tank scuba dive: 100-140$
  • Beer in a restaurant: 6$
  • A meal in a local restaurant: 15-30$
  • Cultural show: 70-120$

    How to Save on Costs in Tahiti

    Here are a few basic tips on how to reduce the overall cost of a trip to Tahiti:

    • Low/shoulder season: though more humid and with a higher chance of rain, traveling off-season in Tahiti is less expensive by about 15-20%. 
    • Resorts: reduce the number of nights spent at a luxury resort and/or in an overwater bungalow, book well ahead to enjoy reduced rates, and stay in the same resort chain on multiple islands to unlock possible discounts. 
    • Accommodation: stay in family-owned pensions that range from simple stays to boutique-style inns. Rates are often based on a half-board stay, including breakfast and dinner. 
    • Car rental: rates are lower on manual cars (vs automatic gear) and for multi-day rentals.
    • Interisland flights: purchase air passes that include the islands you wish to visit. 
    • Scuba diving: if you plan to dive on multiple occasions and islands, a dive pass is recommended.
    • Excursions: some land-based and most lagoon-based excursions offer a cheaper half-day itinerary. The half-day tour will usually not include a picnic lunch and perhaps (but not always) less sightseeing.  
    • Food: eat in local snacks (simple local restaurants) during the day and in roulottes (food trucks) in the evening. You can also stay in self-catering accommodations and cook your meals.  
    Pro Tip

    Get in touch and let’s plan a trip that’s tailored to your needs. Special resort discounts of up to 30% that aren’t available online can be attained in some cases.

    Two dolphins jumping in the air - Rangiroa - French Polynesia
    Dolphins in Rangiroa

    Which Islands to Visit in Tahiti

    With 118 islands and atolls, choosing the right mix of islands is very challenging. The “classic” itinerary usually starts in Tahiti, continues to Moorea, and ends in Bora Bora, but French Polynesia has much more to offer. Here’s a list of what I consider the best islands in French Polynesia, and below is a general overview of how to choose which islands to visit in Tahiti. 

    Choosing the Right Island

    Here’s a general overview of where to go based on your dreams and preferences:

    Moorea’s lagoon

    Video of the Top 10 Islands in French Polynesia

    Here’s a video that showcases the top 10 islands in French Polynesia. You might need to disable your ad blocker for the video to load. 

    You may also like

    How to Island-Hop in Tahiti

    Flying from one island to the next in French Polynesia is the most optimal choice unless you charter a yacht or join a cruise. Cargo ships take passengers, but this method of island-hopping is more suitable for backpackers with a flexible schedule.

    Domestic flights

    Air Tahiti is the leading domestic carrier in French Polynesia. The airline flies to all the islands of interest for tourists and remote off-the-grid islands and atolls. Once you know the mix of islands you wish to visit, purchase the corresponding air pass and save on costs. Newcomer Air Moana is slowly expanding its network and currently serves several exciting islands, including stops in the Marquesas Islands.

    Air Tahiti flight in Tikehau French Polynesia
    Air Tahiti flight landing in Tikehau


    You can skip the 10-minute flight between Tahiti and Moorea in favor of the scenic 30-45-minute journey between the two neighbors. The Apetahi Express connects Tahiti with Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Bora Bora. The Maupiti Express connects Maupiti with Bora Bora and perhaps Tahaa and Raiatea as well.

    Where to Stay in French Polynesia

    The big island of Tahiti has the widest range of accommodations, including business hotels, resorts, and simple accommodations. Once you leave Tahiti, options narrow but remain plentiful in Moorea and Bora Bora. 


    French Polynesia is known for overwater bungalows in luxury resorts. You’ll find four and five-star resorts on several islands, even on lesser-known gems such as Tahaa and Tikehau. While the resorts have a high capacity relative to the destination, they aren’t anything close to mega resorts.

    The five-star Hilton Moorea


    Papeete boasts a few “classic” hotels, the kind of which you’re used to from back home. Beyond Tahiti, three-star hotels are lightly sprinkled across just a few islands. These hotels are essentially on the lower end of the resort experience. They have most of the resort’s amenities but are much simpler, not as pretentious, and more affordable. It’s a great way of maintaining a high level of service and comfort without spending too much, especially if you’re traveling with children.

    The three-star Hotel Le Mahana in Huahine


    Lodges are a rare category in Polynesia, mostly found on the main Marquesas Islands of Hiva Oa and Nuku Hiva. They are essentially hotels offering additional services, primarily running guided excursions.


    Think of pensions of bed & breakfasts. This category primarily includes simple family-owned businesses with just a small number of rooms and an authentic atmosphere. Beyond Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora, pensions usually offer half-board stays, including delicious communal breakfasts and dinners. Some pensions resemble boutique hotels.

    Communal dinner - Pension Tautiare Village - Maupiti
    Pension Tautiare Village in Maupiti


    Almost every island, apart from the most remote, boasts self-catering accommodations. These range from studio apartments to lagoonfront villas.

    The Legends Residence in Moorea

    Backpacker & Camping

    Dorm rooms are hard to come by in French Polynesia. Naturally, Papeete has at least one good hostel, but beyond the big island, it’s tougher to find, though it is possible. Camping is available on almost every island, whether at a dedicated private site or as part of a pension.

    Pro Tip

    Here’s a list of all available French Polynesia accommodations that can be booked online on

    How to Get Around the Islands

    Apart from the island of Tahiti, most islands in French Polynesia do not have a public transportation system that tourists can count on. Unless you’re visiting for the resort experience, it is quite frustrating to stay on a beautiful island without the means of exploring it on your own. Join guided land and lagoon tours to explore the islands, rent a car or a scooter, and explore the main island at your own pace, or use a bicycle to explore.

    renting car - Road trip Hiva Oa Marquesas Islands French Polynesia
    Road-tripping in Hiva Oa

    Things to Do in Tahiti

    A vacation in Tahiti does not have to solely be a beach vacation, though French Polynesia does have its fair share of breathtaking beaches. Here are a few ideas. 

    Pro Tip

    Here’s a great menu of guided excursions and unique experiences that you can book online for several islands.

    Exploring the islands

    The forces of nature beautifully sculpt French Polynesia’s high islands, while coconut palms are the tallest objects on the coral atolls. Join guided island tours, rent a car/scooter, or use a bicycle to explore the islands. Along the way, take a break on the shores of deep bays, visit botanical gardens and pearl farms, and stop for a bite to eat at local restaurants. Guided tours offer the added benefit of connecting with locals and learning about local legends. Some islands, such as Maupiti, can be circled entirely on foot.

    crossing river in Papenoo Valley - Tahiti - French Polynesia
    Exploring Tahiti’s Papeno’o Valley

    exploring the lagoons

    Join guided lagoon tours or spice things up with a jet ski tour to visit interesting sites in the lagoon. Some boat tours head to stunning remote beaches, especially in the Tuamotu Atolls. Lagoon tours are often offered on a half-day or full-day basis. The main difference between the two formats is the BBQ lunch served in a dream location. Note that lagoons are often choppy during the dry season, so come prepared if you might feel discomfort.

    Rangiroa’s Reef Island


    Polynesians in Tahiti still wear flowers in their hair and love to sing and dance. This isn’t a show for tourists. You’ll experience Polynesian culture if you leave the resort and explore the island at your own pace. If you aren’t around for the Heiva Festival, inquire about special dinners at resorts that include Polynesian dancing for dessert. In Moorea, head to the Tiki Village for a buffet dinner and a spectacular fire and dance show.

    Tiki Village - Moorea - breathing fire
    The Tiki Village in Moorea

    Snorkeling & scuba diving

    The Tuamotu Atolls are the best islands for scuba diving in French Polynesia, but you’ll enjoy diving in the Society Islands and even the Marquesas Islands. Snorkeling is possible from just about anywhere, so always have your mask and snorkel on hand. The best snorkeling sites are usually reached on boat tours from the main island.


    Between July and October, swim with humpback whales in Rurutu or some of the Society Islands, catch sight of jumping dolphins in Rangiroa’s Tiputa Pass, and visit tiny islands home to nesting birds, such as Bird Island in Tikehau or the Tetiaroa Atoll.

    swimming with humpback whales - rurutu - austral islands - french polynesia 6
    Swimming with humpback whales in Rurutu


    From surfing of just about any kind to deep sea fishing in the Society Islands and Tuamptu Atolls to rock climbing in remote Makatea. French Polynesia’s islands and lagoons have so many ways to thrill visitors.

    Bora Bora - French Polynesia - Wind Surfing in Lagoon
    Windsurfing in Bora Bora

    What to Pack for Tahiti

    Be conscious of weight restrictions on domestic flights when packing. In a nutshell, pack light and sweat-repelling clothing, and if traveling in the dry season, also something warm as evenings can be chilly. Always be prepared for wet weather with proper (but light) gear and protect yourself from mosquitos and the sun.

    If you plan to spend a lot of time in the water, bring your mask, snorkel (get fins from your hosts), and a rashguard to protect against sunburns. Be sure also to buy a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide to French Polynesia. It will be useful during the planning stage and for a quick reference on the ground.

    the diademe from Mount Aorai hike Tahiti French Polynesia
    Hike to Tahiti’s Mount Aorai

    What to Buy in Tahiti

    Polynesian souvenirs are second to none, as there’s only a slight chance that your friends have ever seen their likes. Here are a few ideas on what to bring back home from a vacation in Tahiti. 

    • Crafts: available in the most visited islands, the best crafts are made by locals in the Marquesas Islands. These include tapa, woodwork, and crafts carved from the bone of local animals.  
    • Black pearls: ranging from simple jewelry to fine necklaces, tourists can purchase tax-free pearls in French Polynesia. 
    • Monoi products: scented coconut oil always reminds you of the islands.
    • Island fashion: sarongs (pareo), Tahitian flower shirts, and trendy Hinano fashion
    • Vanilla: the world’s best vanilla is produced in French Polynesia, and the finest originates from the island of Tahaa. 
    Robert Wan Pearl Farm in Aukena Gambier Islands French Polynesia 3
    A pearl farm in the Gambier Islands

    What’s Next?

    You now have a solid idea of how to plan a trip to Tahiti. Be sure to check out an extensive list of related travel resources and in-depth information about planning a trip to the islands of French Polynesia!

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