Papeete Travel Guide
Introduction to Papeete
Situated on the well-known island of Tahiti, Papeete is the capital of French Polynesia. While there are greater delights elsewhere in this vast archipelago, there is plenty to see and do if you plan on spending time here at the start or end of your trip to this special part of the world.
Cultural Attractions in Papeete
Gain an appreciation for the richness of the seabed surrounding the islands of French Polynesia by visiting the Robert Wan Pearl Museum while in Papeete. At this moment, it is the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to pearls.
In addition to displays showing off Robert Wan’s personal collection (including the largest Tahitian pearl ever recovered), there are also exhibits which explain their appeal to the rich and famous over the course of history, as well as the process by which they are harvested.
Conveniently, there are plenty of flashy bits of pearl-studded jewellery available for sale upon exiting, so if you have some cash to burn, you’ll have the chance to pick up some authentic pearls on your way out.
While it is far from the gaudiest church you’ll ever see, the Notre Dame Cathedral of Papeete is worth a brief visit during your time in town. Featuring a red steeple and painted in a brilliant yellow, it beckons visitors to come closer.
Within, its stained glass windows stand out from the more subtle aspects of this cathedral, making it a peaceful place to be on a sunny day.
While it is open to sightseers and those seeking to pray on most days, do try to attend a service, as it will allow you to connect with the locals on a personal level.
During the cold war, the world collectively walked on eggshells, paranoid in the knowledge that any standoff, war game, or accidental launch could touch off a full-scale thermonuclear war.
While most in the developed world feel like they dodged a bullet given all that went on between the 1950s through to the 1980s, those in the South Pacific bore the brunt of atmospheric nuclear tests.
Intended as a way the United States and their allies to show off their atomic might without crossing the doomsday threshold, the fallout resulting from 193 detonations over the decades had negative effects on Polynesians who were in harm’s way.
The Memorial Site for Nuclear Testings remembers those who were poisoned or killed by radioactive fallout, as well as those displaced from their homes as a result of the contamination caused by these tests.
Located in a small park on the waterfront in Papeete, swinging by for a few minutes and contemplating everything that happened here in years past will give you an appreciation for how dangerous and disruptive these weapons truly are.
Other Attractions in Papeete
Get up close and personal with the sea in a raw way by making a trip out to Trou du Souffleur de Arahoho. A former underwater lava tube which has since become a blowhole, it is best to come here on a day when the surf is up.
On quiet days, the violent explosions dampen to small squirtings of mist, so try to time your visit the best you can. Even if you are disappointed by what you find, a nearby black sand beach will provide with a place to while away a few hours on a beautiful afternoon.
Take a peek into the everyday lives of people in French Polynesia by dropping by the Papeete Municipal Market. Over two floors, you’ll find vendors selling a wide variety of tropical fruit, seafood, meats, flowers, and handicrafts.
If you are looking to pick up gifts for your family, this is the perfect place to come before heading to the airport.
Looking for a break from the frenetic pace of life in the streets of Papeete? Head over to Paofai Gardens, a public park filled with a variety of tropical plants and beautiful water features. Here, you’ll find plenty of locals getting in their daily jog, walking their pets, or paddling outrigger canoes.
Close by to the cruise ship terminal, it is a great place to soak in the greenery of Papeete before getting back on board your boat.