I always imagined Tahiti lined with white sandy beaches and drinks with a flower or umbrella decoration and people lounging on long lounge chairs. It’s far from that. Surprisingly the beaches are not sandy coastlines, instead the ocean floor is very rocky. The locals have no problem walking barefoot on the rocks and in the ocean but it could be dangerous to a tourist like myself. Nothing is built along the shore except local homes.
Tahiti is beautiful with a lot of culture. The Tahitian people outnumber the foreign nationals and visitors unlike the Hawaiian Islands. It’s no wonder actor Marlon Brando fell in love with Tahiti and bought his own island here. I didn’t know that Tahiti was broken up into so many little islands. The island of Tahiti itself isn’t very popular with most visitors. It’s used as a base to fly to the surrounding islands. The most islands with tourism are Bora Bora and Moorea.
During the time we were here, President Barak Obama was thirty minutes away on the island of Tetiaroa. Marlon Brando once owned this entire island. Barak Obama chose this island to stay for a month and write his memoirs. I’m sure the secret service doesn’t mind working on this job location. He was staying at the Brando Resort where room prices are $2,800.00 to $15,000.00 (USD) a night. I imagine Obama would be in the nicest suite there. It was so exciting just knowing he was in French Polynesia while we were there. Michelle stayed back in Washington DC because their daughter was still in school.
The locals spend most of their time enjoying the island itself. Every where we went there were locals swimming in hidden creeks that feed into the ocean, fishing, hanging out by the ocean having a picnic or just relaxing just looking out to sea. Most of the teenagers ride bikes and hang out in groups. The women wear beautiful fresh flowers on the side of their ear just like the movies. The women have beautiful long hair and flawless skin at every age. I also noticed no one is on their cell phone. I’ll even go a step further and say every local I saw didn’t have a cell phone. There are phone booths around town and along roads but no one was using a personal phone.
The native language is French and mostly everyone we ran into don’t speak any English. The language barrier prevented me from asking a lot of questions. I spent most of my time on Google translator showing them my phone screen to read. It worked for the most part but I really missed out in knowing more about the foods, fruits and their personalities.
None of the street lights were working on the highway so we drove in pitch black to get to Vaipahi. This is where the food trucks are set up. Vaipahi is right in the middle of downtown by the water and food trucks are set up nightly with plastic tables and chairs to sit at while you eat. These are called roulottes in French Polynesia. Even though the price is less expensive than most restaurants, the atmosphere is worth it. On the same token, Google maps isn’t updated on the island either. There are many side streets and dirt roads that don’t register on Google maps. This paired with no lights on the road could be very dangerous for tourists or people new to town. Thankfully Doug had his glasses on because there were times I couldn’t see a few feet in front of us without the brights on.
Speaking of food, Tahitians love their french baguette rolls. Every restaurant serves bread with meals. We noticed locals everywhere walking around with long french baguette rolls from the market. No one uses a bag to carry the bread and it’s sold openly without packaging. People just feel around to find the perfect loaf. This didn’t sit well with my germophobia. The idea of buying a loaf of bread that everyone could have potentially touched was a complete turn off to my stomach. But the locals don’t seem to mind. Some people were just picking up a loaf and sitting it directly in the baby seat of the shopping cart!
The national dish of Tahiti is poisson cru (raw fish). The ingredients are fresh raw fish, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, lime juice and coconut milk. This was our favorite dish to order and everyone has their own little version but still keeping the same main ingredients.
Raw tuna is also popular and sold in grocery stores everywhere. The tuna in Tahiti is so fresh and red. The alcoholic national drink is called Tahiti drink. This is a mix of pineapple, passion fruit, orange juice, vanilla and cane spirit alcohol. I didn’t try it but it’s sold everywhere.
We packed up and drove out to Vaiava Beach. It’s a local beach with small shoreline but not very pretty. At first we planned on spending the day here until we saw it wasn’t as picturesque as we imagined. We got back in the car looking for that perfect beach. We never found it here.
We then stopped at Venus Point. This sounds like it would be the perfect beach and there were plenty of locals, but this was another rough beach. People were everywhere enjoying the sea, fishing and even sleeping in their cars with the doors and windows open right at the coast. The only problem was there was no sand. The ocean was backed up to a brick wall and we would have to jump in from there.
Next was De Taharu’u Beach. This beach is covered in black sand with a rocky bottom. Most people in the water were surfing because the waves were really strong. The only way to get to the water is by climbing down rocks, there isn’t any dry land before the water. This was a surfer’s paradise. I was tempted to get wet because it was scorching hot and humid but we were worried about our belongings and leaving them in the car. Even though Tahiti has a low crime rate, we learned to watch our things no matter what. At the start of our trip we checked into a hotel on Gili Air Island. After the bellman put our bags down he said there is “zero crime, everybody happy”. The last day I went left my iPhone on the counter at a coffee stand. Within a minute of realizing, I went back and it had been stolen. That’s when I put my American guard up and kept it there this entire time traveling.
Arahoho blowhole was under construction making it easily accessible for tourist by building walkways, benches and bathrooms. We were lucky enough to still get close to the blowhole and hear this incredible sound coming from a hole in the ground that scared the crap out of us when it happened. It’s going to be really nice when they are finished.
The Municipal market in Tahiti was our first market experience in Tahiti. This is where locals go to eat, shop and meet for a day out. There are so many vendors selling Tahitian soaps, oils, souvenirs and pearls. Pearls are French Polynesia’s biggest commodity and they range in quality. Robert Wan has a lock on high quality pearls in Tahiti and the surrounding islands. His stores were all on prime real estate and they are huge. Locals selling pearls in markets are the lowest quality pearls. They are sold in different varieties ranging from loose to woven into leather and string bracelets, earrings and silver necklaces with pearl charms. The food area sold everything and most of the foods were fried with the exception of the poisson cru. We wanted to try the poisson cru here but it was sold out by the time we arrived.
The breakfast sandwiches had and entire breakfast on a baguette topped with french fries. Some had sausage, eggs, bacon and fries. A real heart attack on a roll. I ordered a steak baguette with fries and was surprised to learn that steak is hamburger meat in Tahiti. The second surprise was the fries are in the baguette as part of the sandwich. Their word for steak is entrecote which translates to rib eye. Live and learn.
So far I’m in love with French Polynesia and can’t wait to explore the other islands. This is a very special place of serenity and natural beauty. I’m already attracted to their relaxed way of life. If this is the busiest city of all the islands, I can’t imagine what the others will be like.