Organized Tours around the Coastal Road
Several companies offer tours along the coastal road around Tahiti Nui. They are a good way to see the island without hassling with traffic. I find them to be an especially fine way to recover from jet lag.
I prefer English-speaking William Leteeg's Adventure Eagle Tours (tel. 77.20.03). William takes you around in an air-conditioned van and lends his experiences growing up on the island to his commentaries. Others include Tahiti Tours (tel. 54.02.50; www.tahiti-tours.com), Tahiti Nui Travel (tel. 42.40.10; www.tahiti-nui.com), and Marama Tours (tel. 50.74.74; www.maramatours.com). They have reservations desks in several hotels. Expect to pay about 4,400CFP (US$55/£28) for a half-day tour, 5,100CFP (US$64/£32) for all day, plus entrance fees to the museums and other attractions and lunch, usually at the Restaurant du Musée Gauguin.
For a spectacular bird's-eye view of Tahiti or Moorea, take a sightseeing ride with Polynesia Hélicoptères (tel. 54.87.20; www.polynesia-helicopter.com). The flights are anything but inexpensive, but if you can afford it, they are well worth the price of about 16,300CFP (US$204/£103) for a flight over Tahiti Nui, 33,700CFP (US$421/£212) for a flight over Tahiti Iti, or 26,300CFP (US$329/£165) for a spectacular view of Moorea. Those fares are per person, with a minimum of four passengers required. The flights last between 20 and 45 minutes, depending on where you go. Reserve as far in advance as possible.
Touring Tahiti from Moorea . . . & Vice Versa
You can take a circle island tour or safari expedition of Tahiti even if you're staying on Moorea. Catch an early flight or ferry to Papeete, go on the tour or safari expedition, and return to Moorea in the late afternoon. Let the tour companies know you're coming from Moorea when you make your reservation so they can meet you at the airport or ferry dock. If you do it yourself, the rental-car companies can have a vehicle waiting on Tahiti.
By the same token, I would spend a day on Moorea even if I had a short layover on Tahiti. You can easily arrange it yourself by ferry or plane, but you will need a rental vehicle on Moorea (Avis or Europcar will have one waiting for you at the Moorea airport or ferry dock). An alternative is to take a Moorea day tour, such as those offered by Tahiti Nui Travel (tel. 54.02.00; www.tahitinuitravel.com) and Marama Tours (tel. 50.74.74; www.maramatours.com). They charge between 15,000CFP and 28,500CFP (US$188-US$356/£95-£180), depending on whether you fly or take the ferry and whether you simply take a circle island tour or go on a picnic on a small island, an inland safari tour, or a dolphin-watching excursion. Call or book at any hotel activities desk.
So-called safari expeditions into Tahiti's interior allow for a very different view of the island -- and some spectacular views at that. Riding in the back of open, four-wheel-drive vehicles, you follow narrow, often unpaved roads through Tahiti's central crater, usually via the breathtaking Papenoo Valley. Weather permitting, you'll reach altitudes of 1,440m (4,800 ft.) on the sides of the island's steep interior crater, and in clear conditions you may even cross the island (on the full-day versions of the trip, that is). The cool temperatures at the higher elevations are refreshing, as is a swim in a cold mountain stream.
Tahiti Safari Expedition (tel. 42.14.15; www.tahiti-safari.com) has been around since owner Patrice Bordes pioneered the concept in 1990. He charges about 5,500CFP (US$69/£35) per person for a half-day trip, 9,500CFP (US$119/£60) for a full day. Another good operator is Arnaud Lucioni of Natura Exploration (tel. 43.03.83 or 79.31.21). Both Patrice and Arnaud speak French and English. They usually stop for lunch at Relais de la Maroto (tel. 57.90.29), or you can bring your own picnic. Don't forget your bathing suit, a towel, hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, and camera. These are popular trips with limited space, so reserve as early as possible at any hotel activities desk.
Pick a Clear Day -- The safari expeditions do not go into the mountains when the weather is bad, and even if it's not raining, clouds atop the mountains can obscure what would otherwise be some fantastic views. It's best, therefore, to pick as clear a day as possible for this thrilling outing. Your best chance for that will be during the drier austral winter, June through early September.
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.