A deep connection to the Earth is one of the main tenets of mana, the cultural fabric of Polynesia that weaves these islands together as a life force binding all living things. When you first step foot on The Islands of Tahiti, you’ll feel nothing less than embraced by this spirit. Through on-the-ground exploration of the islands, you’ll reconnect with yourself— and with the nature—in a deeply meaningful way. Tahiti’s gorgeous landscape is your first steppingstone to a deeper understanding of what makes this place so special.
White-sand beaches and crystal clear waters surround interiors of lush mountain scenery, images that lure travelers to The Islands of Tahiti. But once you arrive, you’ll come to fully understand that it’s more than that, it’s the soul of these islands that makes a visit here unforgettable. Through experiences that embrace the music, dance, food, crafts, culture, and natural beauty, you’ll have the vacation of a lifetime.
Here are ten earth-driven, culturally meaningful reasons to make Tahiti your next destination.
Tattoo, the word we all use to describe body ink, originated in Polynesia as tatau and is still a huge part of Tahitian culture today. The symbols inked into locals’ skin are meaningful to their personal stories. From tattoos alone, you’ll often be able to know more about a person’s job, personality, family, and passions. Tatau can also have spiritual meaning. Tahitians believe in the god of tattoo, Tohu, who created the colors and patterns on all the fish in the ocean.
Learning about the different types of tattoos and their meanings before you visit The Islands of Tahiti is an easy way to connect more deeply to the culture once you arrive, like how a tattoo above the waist represents part of the person’s personality. You may even choose to fully embrace this aspect of Tahitian culture and leave with the ultimate travel souvenir in the form of a Tahitian tatau.
Dance and music
During your visit to The Islands of Tahiti, you’ll be enchanted by the sounds of Polynesian music and the movements of Tahitian dance. Music is seen as an acoustic expression of Mana, and the rhythms and songs you’ll hear are captivating. Historically, dance was incorporated into all aspects of life here. From romantic seduction to war, Tahitians would use dance for all of life’s big moments. Traditional Tahitian instruments are centered around percussion and are typically accompanied by ukulele or guitar. Expressive dances in Tahiti include four main types, with percussion-heavy military dances among the most popular.
Sprouting out of the mountainside and tucked behind the ears of locals, flowers hold special importance in The Islands of Tahiti. One of the prettiest parts of the natural world on the islands, they’re also a key part of local culture. They welcome back returning loved ones or greet visitors to the islands. If you’re married, make sure to tuck your own flower behind your left ear as a symbol that you’re taken.
While you may have never heard of Tahitian food, let alone tried it, dining on The Islands of Tahiti is never an afterthought. Typical Tahitian food is generally healthy, delicious, and a beautiful representation of culture. The tropical climate allows breadfruit, coconut, yams, bananas, and chestnuts to thrive. Along with other local fruits and veggies, spices, and fresh fish from the waters, Tahitians create myriad mouthwatering delicacies. The fresh local ingredients and traditional cooking methods make this place one of the best on Earth for true farm-to-table dining. Serious gastronomes can find food tours on the island, including a street food tour of Moorea.
Using fibers from the land, especially from coconuts and screw pine, locals have been plaiting hats, baskets, floor mats, and handbags for generations. Like tattoos and dance, craft-making is upheld as a form of artistic expression. While women mainly work the plaiting, men traditionally turn to woodwork. Sculpting and plaiting are done with intention and passion, the results of which you’ll find throughout The Islands of Tahiti.
Beyond the shores of The Islands of Tahiti’s world-famous beaches are lush volcanic mountains, covered in cascading waterfalls and hiking trails for all skill levels. Tahiti’s waterfalls include Fautaua, one of the tallest waterfalls in the world at nearly 1,000 feet, along with a huge variety of other trails and falls. Avid hikers seeking a challenge will find it on the slopes of Mt Aora’i. For those wanting to stay closer to sea level, spend an afternoon exploring the natural pools and lava tubes that dot the coast.
Horseback riding and biking
Not up for hiking? You still have plenty of options for exploring the natural world on Tahiti. Mountain biking, 4x4 vehicles, and horseback riding are some of the more distinctive ways of exploring Tahiti. Take a horse along the dreamy beaches or steer a 4x4 through the mountains where you can stop at archaeological ruins.
A Tahitian guesthouse is more than just a place to rest your head. Operated by local families, these guesthouses, or pensions, are key to the cultural experience of the islands. Don’t be surprised if the owners cook you a traditional meal and sit down to eat with you during your stay.
You’re also likely to receive insider information on the best things to do in the area, like hikes in the mountains or walks to nearby waterfalls. Some families will play Tahitian music for their guests or teach them local dances. Accommodations at guesthouses will occasionally be in an all-in-one intimate space where you rent out one of the rooms in the family’s home, while others offer private, thatched-roof bungalows in the gardens.
When you’re on an island where the outdoors already feels like a sanctuary, a visit to a Polynesian spa will transport you to another dimension of relaxation. Seamlessly immersed in the natural gardens and beachscapes, the spas here utilize the scents, sights, and sounds of the natural landscape. Step into a spa in The Islands of Tahiti and you’ll be greeted with a wide selection of spa treatments. Wraps and masques use local products like coffee and coconut, while massage treatments incorporate healing techniques passed down through generations of Tahitians. Known as taurumi, local masseuses will use their hands and elbows to apply pressure along the energy lines of the body for an experience as sublime as The Islands of Tahiti themselves.