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Golf

Tahiti's mountainous interior provides a spectacular backdrop to the 27-hole Olivier Breaud International Golf Course of Atimaono, PK 40.2 (tel. 57.43.41), which sprawls over the site of William Stewart's 1860s cotton plantation. A clubhouse, pro shop, restaurant, bar, locker rooms, showers, a swimming pool, a spa pool, and a driving range are on the premises. The club is open daily from 8am until dark. Greens fees are about 5,500CFP (US$69/£35) for 18 holes. The hotel activities desks can book all-day golf outings for about 24,000CFP (US$300/£151) for one golfer, 35,000CFP (US$438/£222) for two, including greens fees, equipment, lunch, and transportation.

Hiking

Tahiti has a number of hiking trails, such as the cross-island Papenoo Valley-Lake Vaihiria route. Another ascends to the top of Mount Aorai, and another skirts the remote and wild eastern coast of Tahiti Iti. This is not the Shenandoah or some other American or New Zealand national park with well-marked trails, and the French gendarmes do not take kindly to rescuing tourists who become lost trying to scale one of Tahiti's peaks. Downpours can occur in the higher altitudes, swelling the streams that most trails follow, and the nights can become bitterly cold and damp. The side of the island that's rainy can shift from one day to the next, depending on which way the wind blows. In addition, the quick-growing tropical foliage can quickly obscure a path that was easily followed a few days before. Permits are required to use some trails that cross government land.

Accordingly, always go with a guide or on organized hikes such as those offered by Tahiti Evasion (tel. 56.48.77; www.tahitievasion.com). This Moorea-based company has all-day treks into the Fautaua valley, home of Loti's Pool; the Orofero Valley on Tahiti's south coast; and to the top of Mount Aorai, the island's third-highest peak. The treks start at 5,200CFP (US$65/£33) per person. Hikes along the wild, uninhabited east coast of Tahiti Iti take 3 days and 2 nights of camping (call for prices). All except the Mount Aorai climb are rated as easy walks. Tahiti Evasion will also organize hiking-and-watersports trips of up to 3 weeks throughout the islands.

You can also check with the Tourisme Tahiti's visitors bureau in Papeete (tel. 50.57.12) for the names of guides and hiking clubs.

Watersports

Based at the InterContinental Resort Tahiti, Aquatica Dive Centre and Nautical Activities (tel. 53.34.96; www.aquatica-dive.com) offers the most comprehensive list of watersports activities, and you don't have to be an InterContinental guest to partake. Some sample prices: snorkeling gear rental, 2,000CFP (US$25/£13); snorkeling trips, 4,000CFP (US$50/£25); water-skiing, 6,500CFP (US$81/£42); and kayak rental, 1,800CFP (US$23/£12) per hour. A two-tank dive including equipment and a guide costs 12,000CFP (US$150/£76); and introductory dive, 7,000CFP (US$88/£44). Aquatica also has tours by jet ski and all-terrain vehicles for 19,400CFP (US$243/£123) and 20,600CFP (US$258/£132) per person, respectively. Also contact them about dolphin- and whale-watching tours.

Scuba Diving -- Tahiti is not in the same diving league as the other French Polynesian islands. You can see plenty of smaller fish here, but don't expect daily encounters with sharks, rays, and other large creatures, which are plentiful around the other islands. The popular dive sites are on the west coast of Tahiti Nui, from Papeete down to Punaauia, and off the southern coast of Tahiti Nui. The Aquarium, near the end of the Faaa airport runway, and in clear view of Moorea, attracts both divers and snorkelers to see fish swimming around coral heads and several wrecks, including a small aircraft (it didn't crash; it was moved here in the 1990s). Nearby are another aircraft and the hulks of two cargo vessels.

With the exception of Aquatica Dive Centre and Nautical Activities, at the InterContinental Resort Tahiti, and TOPdive Tahiti, based at the Sheraton Hotel Tahiti Resort & Spa (tel. 83.51.26; www.topdive.com), Tahiti's dive operators cater primarily to local residents, which means you should bring your own equipment. It also helps if you can speak French. Go to Eleuthera Plongee Tahiti's website, www.dive-tahiti.com, for more information.

Snorkeling & Swimming -- Most beaches on Tahiti have black volcanic sand, not the white variety most of us expect in the South Pacific. The most convenient of these is the public beach in front of Hotel Le Royal Tahitien (tel. 50.40.40), in Pirae 4km (2 1/2 miles) east of downtown. There is some white sand among the pebbles at the PK 18.5 Plage de Publique (Public Beach), on the west coast at the Punaauia-Paea border. It has a restaurant and snack bar. The best beach of all is Plage de Maui on Tahiti Iti. It's a long haul, but its white sands, clear lagoon, and snack bar make it worth the trip.

Surfing -- Tahiti is famous for world-class surfing, especially Teuhupo'o on Tahiti Iti, home of the annual Billabong Pro championships in May. The best big waves crash on jagged reefs offshore, however, so you could be turned into hamburger meat if you've never surfed before. On the other hand, Tahiti is the only major South Pacific island where surf breaks on sandy beaches, upon which Ecole de Surf Tura'i Mataare (Tahiti Surf School) (tel. 41.91.37; www.tahitisurfschool.info) teaches a half-day of surfing and bodyboarding courses for 4,800CFP (US$60/£30), or you can take private lessons for 12,000CFP (US$150/£76). It's a good way to find out if you have what it takes to "hang ten."

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.