The people of Tahiti and French Polynesia are justly proud of their ancient culture, as well as the unique modern history that sets them apart from all other Pacific Islanders. Below are the best ways to learn about the people, their lifestyle, and their history.
- La Maison de James Norman Hall/James Norman Hall's Home (Tahiti): The coauthor of Mutiny on the Bounty and other books set in the South Pacific lived most of his adult life on Tahiti. His family maintains his former home as a fascinating museum.
- Marché Municipal/Municipal Market (Tahiti): Papeete's large, teeming market is a wonderful place to examine tropical foodstuffs as well as to buy handicrafts. It's especially busy before dawn on Sunday.
- Musée de Tahiti et Ses Isles/Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands (Tahiti): This terrific lagoonside museum recounts the geology, history, culture, flora, and fauna of French Polynesia. It's worth a stop just for the outstanding view of Moorea from its coconut-grove setting.
- Musée Gauguin/Gauguin Museum (Tahiti): The great French painter Paul Gauguin lived and worked on Tahiti's south coast from 1891 until moving to Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands, where he died. This museum has a few of his original works, but is best at tracing his adventures in French Polynesia.
- Tiki Theatre Village (Moorea): Built to resemble a pre-European Tahitian village, this cultural center has demonstrations of handicrafts making and puts on a nightly dance show and feast. It's a bit commercial, and the staff isn't always fluent in English, but this is the only place in French Polynesia where one can sample the old ways.
- Maeva Maraes (Huahine): The ancient Tahitians gathered to worship their gods and hold other ceremonies at stone temples known as maraes. More than 40 of these structures have been restored near the village of Maeva and are a highlight of any visit to Huahine.
- Taputapuatea Marae (Raiatea): French Polynesia's largest and most important marae sits beside the lagoon on Raiatea. Archaeologists have uncovered bones apparently from human sacrifices from beneath its 45m-long (150-ft.) grand altar.
- Tohua Papa Nui/Paul Gauguin Cultural Center (Hiva Oa): This small museum recounts Paul Gauguin's last days on Hiva Oa, where he died in 1903. It's worth a visit to see the exact replicas of his original paintings executed by a team of French artists.
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.