Since Captain Samuel Wallis "discovered" Tahiti in 1767, the allure of this pearl of the South Pacific has attracted many visitors. Where is Tahiti? Almost halfway between South America and Australia, due south of Hawaii. It's directly on the main air route from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand.
Air Tahiti Nui and other carriers land at Faaa International Airport, just six kilometers west of French Polynesia's capital Papeete, as indicated on our Tahiti map. Tahiti cruises depart Papeete frequently for the honeymoon island of Bora Bora, and most Tahiti vacations include a road trip around or across the island.
The road around this hourglass-shaped island is 117 kilometers long, not counting sidetrips to Tautira and Teahupooo on Tahiti-iti. A drive around Tahiti-nui can fill an entire day, with stops at Mahina to see Point Venus, at the Gauguin Museum between Taravao and Mataiea, and at the Museum of Tahiti in Punaauia.
The more adventurous visitor can join a four-wheel-drive safari across the center of this high island via the Relais de la Maroto. On this tour, Tahitian guides will point out hidden archaeological sites and endangered plant spacies, while 2,000-meter mountains tower above. The vehicle will be forced to ford the Papenoo River many times, something you wouldn't wish to try in a rental car.
Most Tahiti beaches are black, and some of the best are at Punaauia where several large Tahiti hotels and resorts offer sunset views of Moorea (where the beaches are usually white). The Tahiti surf will be up from November to March at Papenoo and from April to October at Papara. Tahiti island is the travel gateway to French Polynesia.