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Michael R Perry

Tahiti Travel Guide

French Polynesia's main island of Tahiti (meaning 'the gathering place') stands prominently looking over her surrounding sister islands like a proud queen, her soaring interior mountains sheltering deep valleys, plummeting waterfalls, and crystal streams flowing down to the rugged coastline of black and white sand beaches and blue lagoons. Tahiti is actually made up of two islands, Tahiti-Nui and Tahiti-Iti, joined by a narrow isthmus.

Most holidaymakers will begin their island holiday in Papeete, Tahiti's capital and the commercial hub of French Polynesia. This small, busy city has a French flavour and laidback atmosphere, and is worth exploring for its vibrant Central Market, pearl shops, attractive waterfront, and selection of excellent restaurants.

Another must for visitors is to take a round-the-island tour, along the 73-mile (117km) road encircling the island, passing historic monuments, museums, beaches, ruined temples, waterfalls, gardens, and some beautiful, dramatic scenery.

The island's best white sand beaches are between Punaauia and Papara, but many visitors get more of a thrill out of visiting the famed black sand beaches on the east coast, particularly the renowned Pointe Venus.

Besides enjoying the seaside, Tahiti also offers some interesting sightseeing, including magnificent botanical gardens, museums, archaeological sites, the tomb of the royal family Pomare, a lake containing unique eels, lava tubes, and a host of other unusual experiences.

Tahiti is most famous for its surf, boasting some of the best reef breaks and barrels in the world. The waves tend to be very heavy and powerful and the shallow reefs can be dangerous so only confident and experienced surfers should test their mettle here. For those who do have what it takes, the most popular surf spots include the iconic Teahupo'o; Taapuna, which is conveniently located near Papeete; and the black-sand beach at Papara.

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