- Black-sand beaches, true-blue sea
- Coast life
- Big-wave surfing, food-truck feasting
Surfing was born in French Polynesia, and you'll find the biggest waves at Tahiti, backdropped by volcanic black-sand beaches, aqua lagoons, verdant mountains and buzzy capital Pape'ete.
The economic and social heart of the country, the town may be pint-sized and rough around the edges, but it's home to vibrant food and handicrafts market the Marché de Pape'ete, top-notch pearl shops, happening bars and restaurants, and the rocking roulottes, or food-trucks, assembled nightly on Place Vaiete. Actually two co-joined circular islands, Tahiti Nui (Big Tahiti) and Tahiti Iti (Little Tahiti), with high peaks at their cores, this dreamy destination in the Society Islands' Windward Islands is best known for its stellar surf scene, including mega-wave Teahupoo, location of the Billabong Pro. While romantic nearby islands Moorea and Bora Bora may be bigger draws, all international flights touch down on Tahiti, so it's a shame not to explore its natural charms. Hiking, waterfalls, lava caves and >marae (archeological sites) await on land, while snorkelling, diving, whale-watching and sailing beckon offshore. And given this is part of France, expect Gallic language and cuisine mixed in with laid-back Polynesian culture and spectacular local seafood.
- Do go/don't go
- You'll usually get the best weather in the dry, cooler winter period from May to October. November to April sees hotter summer temperatures, rising humidity, cloudier skies and heavier rains, although storms are usually brief. Peak season falls in line with the northern school holidays, especially July and August, and Christmas; the island also books up for the July Heiva festival, so get in early or look for off-season bargains. Surfing and diving are good year-round.