A vacation in French Polynesia is not just lying on the beach and admiring the scenery, it is also the opportunity to discover the thriving ancestral culture. Arts, tradition, archeology, sport, cuisine… There’s so much to see in The Islands of Tahiti.

Discover tahitian culture

Marae Ta'ata in Paea, Tahiti © Audrey Svoboda

The marae

Marae are the most important archeological sites in The Islands of Tahiti. You’ll find the vestiges of these open-air temples on almost every island in French Polynesia. The most important marae of all is in Taputapuatea on the sacred island of Raiatea. The best known marae in Tahiti are Arahurahu and Ta’ata, and you can visit them to learn more about the ancestral ma’ohi culture.

Top 10 sacred sites to visit
Musée de Tahiti et des îles © Tahiti Tourisme

Te Fare Iamanaha

Te Fare Iamanaha, also called the Musée de Tahiti et des Iles has been recently restored. It is dedicated to the history of French Polynesia and the Polynesian people. You’ll find it in Punaauia on the west coast of Tahiti.

Top 5 museums to visit
Soak up the local culture at Fare hape © Ra'i Mao

Fare Hape

Fare Hape is a cultural site deep in the valley of the Papenoo. As well as a marae and an area for festivities and celebrations, there are reproductions of ancient dwellings, built using the techniques of old. This open-air museum is maintained by the cultural association Haururu. It’s possible to spend the night at Fare Hape, an opportunity to immerse yourself in the Mana of this special site.

« Culture is space and time made sensitive to the heart. »

Jean D’Ormesson, French philosopher and writer

Danse Tahitienne © Alikaphoto

Tahitian culture

Tahitian culture is rich and thriving, as you’ll soon discover during your vacation. A visit to the ancient and sacred marae of Taputapuatea is an opportunity to discover the origins of this ancient culture. You can also visit the many museums to learn more about the history and traditions of French Polynesia. Try some typical dishes of Polynesian cuisine, test yourself at some of the ancient sports, learn to dance the ‘ori and perhaps even get a tattoo. Immerse yourself in the unique culture of The Islands of Tahiti.

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Experiences

There are many aspects to the unique culture of French Polynesia. You can participate in activities that are an integral part of it. Learn how to make monoï oil, have a go at sailing an outrigger canoe, wear a pareo and try to speak at least a few words of Tahitan. Immerse yourself in the Mana of The Islands of Tahiti.

More experiences
More experiences

Cultural events

The South Sea islands of French Polynesia are known to have a rich cultural heritage. Each island has its own specificities that the local populations are determined to keep alive and share with visitors from all over the world. Festivals are organized to celebrate and promote local traditions and some of them are major events in the cultural life of The Islands of Tahiti. The Heiva i Tahiti is a competition of traditional dance and song held in July each year. It is a magnificent celebration of Polynesian culture, with dance groups from all over French Polynesia taking part. The superb colorful costumes and pulsating rhythms of the to’ere drum make this an event not to be missed during your stay. Another major event in the cultural calendar is the Tu’aro Ma’ohi is a festival of traditional sports such as throwing the javelin, stone lifting, coconut tree climbing and outrigger canoe racing.

Hawaiki Nui Va’a

Huahine, Raiatea, Taha’a, Bora Bora
Hawaiki Nui Va’a is a race for the emblematic Polynesian outrigger canoes. It is held in The Society Islands each year and takes place over three days. Hundreds of six-man outrigger canoes from French Polynesia, together with a few foreign crews, partcipate in this unique marathon race.

Hura Tapairu

Tahiti
Created in 2004, the Hura Tapairu is a dancing competition for small dance troupes (less than 30 dancers on stage) presenting original performances. It is held in Tahiti each year in November.

Pareo Day

Tahiti
A special and very colorful occasion in the Polynesian calendar is the last Friday in May, when everybody is invited to wear a traditional pareo for the day.

Holopuni Va’a Hawaiki Nui Voyage

The Holopuni Va’a Hawaiki Nui Voyage is an ocean race for double-outrigger sailing canoes. The three-man canoes race between Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea and Bora Bora using the force of the wind and just a single non-fixed paddle for steering.

Heiva Tu’aro Maohi of the Polynesian Triangle

Tahiti
The Heiva Tuaro Maohi is a cultural festival that brings together cousins, brothers and friends from throughout the Polynesian Triangle. It is a celebration of the traditional Polynesian sports promoted by the Committee for the Traditional Sports of the Pacific whose head office is in Hawaii.

Matavaa Henua Enana

Marquesas Islands
The Marquesas Islands festival is a magnificent, colorful occasion, reputed for its artistic splendour, tattooing and traditional dance. The event is held every two years and is a moment of unification for Marquesans from all the islands in the archipelago. The festival is held in a different island each time.

Matari’i i raro and Matari’i i ni’a

Tahiti
The Polynesian calendar is divided into two seasons: matarii i nia, the season of abundance, which begins on 20th November, and matarii i raro, the season of scarcity, which starts on 20th May. The passage from one season to the other is marked by a ritual to announce the arrival of abundance, in the rainy…

Heiva i Tahiti

Tahiti
The Heiva i Tahiti is the most popular and important event in the cultural calendar of The Islands of Tahiti. A colorful celebration of traditional chants, music and dancing, in a competition which brings together dance troupes from every corner of French Polynesia. The evening performances are a rapturous explosion of color and movement.

Practical information

Spend a few days visiting some of the many archelogical and historic sites during your visit to The Islands of Tahiti. There is much to see and learn, beginning in the capital itself. Tahiti will give you a foretaste of the beauty and culture of these idyllic South Sea islands.

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