Any visit to Papeete has to start at the market, the heart of the city. It’s a great place to shop for a colorful sarong, grab a bite (fruit on the lower level and fish in the upper one recommended) or simply watch local people go about their lives. The market is located in the center of the city, which is rather small and easy to walk around. Because we had flown in the previous night from Raiatea, where we returned our catamaran, and we were flying out to Tonga that night, we decided to stay at a hotel by the airport. It was quite convenient! To get to the city center, we simply took the public bus that stops right in front of the terminal and takes 15 min, for CPF 130 ($1.5). We do recommend renting a car to explore the rest of the island of Tahiti, as we did on our first day.
After the market, we checked out the cathedral of Notre Dame, which had some fascinating stained glass windows, mixing Christian and Polynesian images. The other cool part of the church was the massive graffiti on its wall. In fact, the whole city was full of lively graffitis, and we enjoyed wandering around and discovering new ones in every corner. Papeete doesn’t have much more to see… there are some interesting shops in the central streets, particularly if you’re looking for pearls, some modest parks, and a couple of small museums.
The highlight for us were the roulottes at Place Vaiete. These local foodtrucks set up every night, and Tahitians and tourists alike gather to relish local and French-influenced specialties. My personal favorite was poisson cru, raw tuna marinated in lime and coconut milk, somewhat similar to Hawaian poke. If you visit in July, Papeete is also an excellent place to enjoy Heiva, the traditional Polynesian festival that we had already experienced in Bora Bora.