The largest and main island of Tahiti is commonly referred to as the “Gateway to the Islands of Tahiti”, but it might just be the most unique of them all!
While many travelers who visit the remote paradise of French Polynesia fly into Tahiti and simply jet off to popular tourist destinations like Bora Bora & Moorea, I’d say that is a HUGE mistake!
Complete with amazing accommodation options, mystical valleys, massive waterfalls, incredible scuba-diving, world-renowned surfing, towering landscapes and wondrous coastlines – there is definitely something for everyone on the Island of Tahiti.
The majority of the island’s population lives along the shore, leaving the interior island feeling like an untouched paradise. The landscape had me feeling like I was in Jurassic Park or Avatar, and not what I expected at all when visiting Tahiti! It completely blew my mind, and while only have 3 Days in Tahiti isn’t TOO long, I believe it’s a perfect amount of time to explore the island’s top attractions, tours, and destinations.
Tahiti Itinerary Day 1: Full Day 4×4 Valley Tour
First things first – if there is one tour/ day-trip you MUST experience while in French Polynesia – THIS IS IT!
Channel your inner Indiana Jones and embark on this bumpy 4×4 adventure through Tahiti’s iconic valley with towering mountains, massive waterfalls, and lush scenery – all while learning all about the history of Polynesian culture, medicine, flora + so much more.
There are several different companies that offer expeditions through the Papenoo Valley, but I would absolutely recommend booking a trip with Iaorana Tahiti Expeditions. I was fortunate enough to spend 8 hours on a private tour with the founder and main tour guide of the company, Teuai Lenoir, and he is an absolute legend! He’s incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about everything French Polynesia, and will show you the best time imaginable!
After a brief introduction of the tour and a look at the map to understand where we’d be joining throughout the day – our crew began our expedition into the depth of the valley. Making various stops along the way to learn about different plants that were used for a variety of purposes in the past, as well as learning about the history of the Polynesian people.
Enjoy the scenery as you drive in the back of the open-air 4×4 vehicle, and snap photos of the beautiful landscape, colorful flowers, and unbelievable waterfalls in every direction.
If you book a full-day tour that includes lunch, you’re in for a real treat! The tour guide Teuai prepared (in front of us) a delicious buffet, and was a fantastic way to learn about the local cuisine.
The real highlight for me though was the final 2-3 hour drive along the winding roads offering stunning 360° views of the valley’s landscape. While the roads might be a little scary at times to some, it was an adventure that I’ll never forget.
Reach out to Teaui at Iaorana Tahiti Expeditions before your trip to Tahiti, and make sure you book one of his full-day Valley tours!
Tahiti Itinerary Day 2: Snorkeling/ Scuba-Diving & Self-Guided Road-Trip
If you’re not scuba-certified before coming to French Polynesia – you’re doing it wrong!
One of the main reasons travelers come all the way to the Islands of Tahiti is to explore the rich marine life, and I was fortunate to experience a few of the most jaw-dropping dives of my life out there.
On the main island of Tahiti, I joined Top Dive (conveniently located inside the iconic InterContinental Resort) to explore the dive site “The Spring“, and I would absolutely recommend it to every diver. The colors of the coral along the massive underwater mountains were stunning, and we were fortunate enough to encounter around 5-6 different turtles. It’s also common to spot sharks out there, as well as Humphead Maori wrasses if you do a night dive here.
It’s also a great excuse to visit the InterContintental and explore the property if you don’t stay there for a night or two.
If you’re not scuba-certified, then I’d still recommend one of the many snorkeling tours offered on the island. There are shipwrecks that are popular for snorkelers, and it’s simply awesome to get out on the water and look at the coastline from Tahiti from the sea. You’ll get a much better appreciation for the sheer size of the landscape, and the pristine waters and visibility are worth the experience.
For the rest of the day, hit the road and drive around the island! While Tahiti may be the largest island of French Polynesia, driving around the picturesque coastline only takes a couple of hours (but you’ll want to take longer than that with some stops). Here are a few fun stops you should check out:
- Papeete: The bustling capital of French Polynesia should not be missed! Boasting lively markets, unique restaurants, pearl shops and boutique stalls – spend an hour so walking around the town before you start your drive!
- Plage de la Pointe Venus & Lighthouse: A beautiful black sand beach with stunning panoramic mountain views, and would also be a fanstic spot to watch the sunset!
- Faarumai Waterfall: Located on the Northeastern Coast, this is a perfect stop along your road trip offering easy hiles to three different waterfalls. There’s free parking at the entrance, and the first waterfall can be found within walking far at all!
- The Maraa Grottos: Located in Paea on the western coast, there are two scenic Grottos that make for an ideal road-trip stop! Bring your bathing suit and take a dip in this beautiful lava cave with hanging ferns! Complete with free parking, a toilet, and a gift shop with some cool local and handmde goods.
- Taharuu Beach & Restaurant: Another iconic Tahitian black sand beach with perfect for swimming and photo opportunities, with an incredible restaurant serving up French & Polynesian cuisine.
- Teahupoo: This is the main focus for the 3rd day of this Tahiti Itinerary, but wanted to include is as well on the road trip. While there’s not all THAT much to do here when arriving as a stop on the road trip, it’s still a nice destination to drive to.
Tahiti Itinerary Day 3: Teahupoo Surfari Full-Day Tour
Come and explore the “wild side” of Tahiti!
For the third and final day on Tahiti, venture down to the quiet surf town of Teahupoo for the incredible “Teahupoo Tahiti Surfari Tour“!
I had never heard Teahupoo before making my way to Tahiti but it ended up being another HIGHLIGHT of my trip! Known around the world in the surfing industry for its massive waves ideal for big surf competitions, visiting Teahupoo and getting out on the water to sail along the coastline is a Tahiti must-do!
It’s one of the wettest areas in French Polynesia though! Locals love to explain to visitors that they have their own “sub-climate” – so make sure you bring a warm rain jacket!
Unfortunately on my scheduled day, the weather was a bit too rough to do the complete tour which includes various waterfalls & swimming stops, cliff jumping, a lava tube, a blow-hole, coastline sails, and lots more. There are a few different tours to choose from, but take a look at all their Teahupoo Excursions for an idea of what to expect. I had the pleasure of meeting the owner of the company, Cindy, and she’s such a joy to be around! If you can, I’d do the Full 8+ Hour Day Trip, but you could also the half-day trip if you’re short on time on the island
While I didn’t get to explore everything Teahupoo had to offer, my day sailing along the Tahitian coastline was truly spectacular! Starting off our day, we cruised out just a few minutes to witness the iconic Teahupoo swells that surfers travel from all over the world to experience! The view of the powerful waves with the Tahiti mountains as a backdrop is a sight you need to see with your own eyes to understand its magic!
From there, we continued past “the end of the road” – the Southwestern tip of the Island of Tahiti that is only accessible by boat making the valleys, mountains, and beaches remain untouched.
The sheer size of the landscape is jaw-dropping and will have you feeling you’ve journeyed into the fictional land of Avatar. You can even spot dozens of epic waterfalls flowing from the mountainsides in the distance.
During my Teahupoo Surfari excursion experience (which ended up being a customized private tour), we did a 2km walk through the jungles and rivers, and then had enjoyed a delicious lunch near the water that had a massive picnic area. The food was all local Tahitian food prepared in front of me, and definitely felt like a proper home-cooked meal that I absolutely loved!
The real highlight of the day (which was a huge surprise to me), was that they organized a masseuse to meet us at the picnic area! We started off the treatment by preparing our own body scrub using local ingredients like coconut, turmeric, vanilla, and lots more (it smelled so good)! I thoroughly enjoyed a 30-minute body scrub/ massage and then rinsed it off by taking a dip in the nearby river, followed by a heavenly 4-Hands (two masseuses) 90-minute massage that I’ll truly never forget. While this portion of the tour is not included in the normal package, I’d recommend reaching out to Cindy at Teahupoo Excursions to see if you can organize a similar experience.
Teahupoo is not on every Tahiti traveler’s radar, but is 100% should be! I actually spent a couple nights down here at an Airbnb homestay experience, and I had such an incredible experience. If you’ve got 3 days in Tahiti, PLEASE make sure you head down there and book one of the excursions. It was such an unbelievable and unique part of the island, and an adventure that I’ll never forget. I know when I make it back to Tahiti, I’ll be making a return visit to experience all the things I didn’t get to.
Where To Stay in Tahiti For 3 Days
Now that you know what to do in Tahiti, let’s talk about my top accommodation recommendations (but there’s a clear winner in my book).
Ninamu Pearl Resort Tahiti
During my three weeks in French Polynesia, I got to stay at some really awesome places – but the Ninamu Pearl Resort was my absolute favorite! Seriously – stop what you’re doing and book your stay there because it’s the perfect place to stay in Tahiti! It’s luxurious yet affordable, has marvelous views, welcoming staff, and an incredible restaurant.
Located just a 4.5-mile drive from the Fa’a’ā International Airport near the top of a mountain, Ninamu Pearl Resort offers sweeping views of the ocean, coastline, and Moorea in the distance (with incredible sunsets dipping behind Mooraa). The drive up the hill to reach the resort can be a bit steep, but my cheap car rental was able to manage it pretty easily.
There are several different types of rooms available, but I’d highly recommend booking one of their suites on the top level of the resort because it includes a Santorini-inspired bathroom that leads to your own private infinity pool! The bedding is super comfortable to ensure a good night’s sleep, and the suites come with a fully-equipped kitchen if you’d like to do any grocery shopping and cook for yourself.
Teahupoo Airbnb Homestay Experience – A Hi’o To Mou’a
Looking for an unique Tahitian homestay experience and have some extra time in Tahiti? Then I’d encourage you to spend a couple nights down in Teahupoo (after your Surfari excursion) and stay with Aimatarii and her family!
They were such excellent hosts with a beautiful property and comfortable private room they open to travelers. Read some of their reviews on their Airbnb listing, and you’ll be ready to book immediately.
This experience was so quiet and relaxing, and really taught me a lot about the local way of life down in Teahupoo. The property is just steps away from the ocean, with a ton of animals running around, and fantastic hikes to waterfalls on the property. This is ideal for solo travelers or couples looking for an unique and budget-friendly experience!
InterContinental Resort Tahiti
Last, but certainly not least – the InterContinental Resort would be my choice for travelers looking for a 5* luxury resort on the island.
It has a lush garden setting with a fantastic pool and gorgeous turquoise lagoon (that you can even snorkel in). The food is pretty tasty (although on the expensive side), and it’s proximity to the airport makes it wildly popular for traveler’s beginning or ending their French Polynesia adventure.
The InterContinental Resort Tahiti is one of the only accommodation options on the island that offer overwater bungalows too, so if that’s something you want to experience but don’t want to pay Bora Bora prices – you can make that dream come true on Tahiti! If you do decide to stay in one, make sure it has a sunset view looking out towards Moorea!
Tahiti Travel Tips
To conclude this article, I’m going to share just a few essential travel tips to help you out before you embark on your journey.
- Rent A Car – While car rentals in French Polynesia can be on the expensive side, there are budget options/ deals available. It makes the trip so much more enjoyable when you have freedom to explore and get places easily. While two of the days on the Tahiti Itinerary are for guided tours, afterwards you’ll be glad you had your car for making your way to dinner, sunset drivess, etc.
- SIM Card/ Internet – For those travelers who don’t have an international phone plan, you’ll want to make sure you pick up a local SIM Card at the airport. I used the company Vini, and was happy with their services.
- Mosquito Repellant – Just a friendly reminder to use bug spray everryday, as this is a tropical destination and mosquitos are prevelant. While mosquitos were MUCH worse Moorea, they’re still everywhere on Tahiti.
- Cash/ ATM – A lot of people told me to bring local currency (CPF) from home, but I don’t think that’s necessary at all. There were plenty of ATM’s on Tahiti, but I found that most places accepted credit-card so I rarely paid for things in cash.
Am I Missing Anything From My 3-Day Tahiti Itinerary?
Have you recently visited Tahiti and think there’s something important that I didn’t mention? Please, do let me know! I had the time of my life in French Polynesia, and already planning a return visit next year so would love hear from you guys!
You might have noticed though that I didn’t include visiting Moorea as a day-trip, and that’s because Moorea needs several days on it’s own (as it became one of my favorite places in the world.
Be sure to read my guide on the 28 Best Things To Do in Moorea, French Polynesia if you plan on taking the ferry over there after Tahiti — which I personally believe is MUST!