From rugged volcanic craters rising high from the sea to sand bars covered in coconut trees, Tahiti is a place of incredible and diverse beauty — both the land and the sea. With a population that’s just as diverse as its landscape, Tahiti is more than just a beach-goer’s dream destination — it’s a place full of rich history, good food and welcoming people.
For Michael Wilkinson, an A320 Captain at Delta, Tahiti is where he called home for two years as he served a church mission on the island. While living there, he learned French and Tahitian, traveled extensively and resided on many of the islands of French Polynesia. “I grew to love Polynesian food, culture and, most of all, the people,” he said.
Michael tries to return to the island regularly to attend special events and enjoys sharing his love of everything Tahiti with family and friends.
If you’re looking to escape the cold of the winter months, there’s never a better time to visit Tahiti, with weather that is delightfully warm and sunny this time of year due to it being in the southern hemisphere. Keep reading to see Michael’s top not-to-be-missed attractions in and around Tahiti.
BOOK | The Islands of Tahiti packages with Delta Vacations
FLYING TO TAHITI
Delta’s never-before-operated, nonstop route from Los Angeles to Tahiti begins Dec. 17 and will operate Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday on the Boeing 767-300ER. This flight will feature four experiences: Delta One suites, Delta Premium Select, Delta Comfort + and Main Cabin.
Tahiti is the main island of French Polynesia and is composed of approximately 120 islands and atolls. If you find yourself in a window seat on your flight, search outside about 45 minutes before landing.
“The aircraft will start passing over one of the island groups – the Tuamotu islands,” Michael said. “The Tuamotus are the rims of sunken volcanos and, as such, are nothing more than giant sand and coral rings barely protruding out of the ocean. At our scheduled arrival time there should be a spectacular sunset to see as well.”
SOAK IN THE SITES
From surfing and sunbathing to stargazing, trying new foods and more, there is no shortage of things to do in Tahiti. Still, if you’re looking to fill your vacation with some of the most popular activities the island has to offer, these are some of Michael’s must-not-miss favorites:
Paul Gauguin Museum: Gauguin painted some of his most famous works while residing in Tahiti and is buried in the Marquesas Islands.
Point Venus: The northernmost part of Tahiti, where Captain Cook came to construct an observatory to view the planet, Venus.
Teahupo’o: This village is a must for surfing enthusiasts. The world-famous giant wave produced just offshore is simply called ‘Teahupo’o.’ This is the site for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics surfing venue.
Papeete Market: Spend some time exploring this open-air fish and produce market, which is also a good place to buy souvenirs.
Black sand beaches: These can be found on the main island of Tahiti.
Other islands: Many famous islands, such as Bora Bora and Moorea, are easily accessible and worth a visit. If you have time, consider a day trip to Moorea, which is easy to make by air or ferry from Tahiti.
When you’re ready to wind down after all your exploring, participate in one of Michael’s favorite activities: relaxing and taking in the island. “Since you have made the ‘downhill run to Papeete,’ sit by the ocean after dark, listen to ‘Southern Cross’ by Crosby, Stills & Nash and spot the constellation with the same name – not visible in North America.”
EATING YOUR WAY ACROSS THE ISLAND
“In this magical setting, one will see ships arriving and departing, food being prepared over an open flame, and families and friends meeting up to share a meal all under an outdoor canopy of endless stars.”
If this sounds like the kind of activities you would enjoy while on vacation, Michael suggests visiting the roulettes (food trucks) in Papeete by the waterfront in the evening, where you will find dozens of family-operated eateries. “The sights and smells alone are worth a visit,” Michael said. His favorite meal to get? Steak frites with a side of poisson cru, which is a marinated raw fish salad bathed in coconut milk that Michael describes as “melt-in-your-mouth delicious.”
For a quick snack while exploring the island, Michael said that a baguette and carton of fresh pineapple juice are the way to go. “Baguettes in Tahiti are every bit as crunchy and crusty as they are in France, and they are considered a necessary food staple and their low price is regulated by law,” he explained. Other delicious food to grab on the go includes fresh produce you can find at any of the roadside stands, like mango, coconut, banana and papaya.
For the foodies with a slightly more adventurous palette, Michael suggests these delicacies:
Po’e: Fruit mixed with tapioca starch into a thick paste, baked and covered in coconut milk
Fafa: Cooked leaves of the taro plant mixed with pork
Ma’a Tinito: “This literally means ‘Chinese food’ in Tahitian, but it’s different from what you would get at home,” Michael said.
TAKE HOME A SOUVENIR
If you want to bring a little bit of Tahiti home with you, Michael recommends these classic island souvenirs:
Black pearls: Natural black pearls come from the black-lipped oyster which is only found in Tahiti. Despite the name, colors of these gems range from hues of silver, deep greens and purples, gray and black. “There are several reputable jewelry stores in the main city of Papeete where they may be purchased,” Michael advises.
Treasures from the Marquesas Islands: The residents of the Marquesas Islands, which are part of Tahiti, are expert wood carvers, crafting bowls, masks and tikis that can be purchased.
Michael says, above all else, be prepared to meet new people when visiting Tahiti. “Ia ora na, pronounced ‘your on a’ is hello in Tahitian and means ‘may you live.’” Michael said. “When you greet a Tahitian, don’t be surprised if you’re welcomed with a kiss on both cheeks. Tahitians are warm, welcoming, generous people who love to laugh and make new friends.”