The Culture of Tahiti and Her Islands
Tahiti, the center of French Polynesia, has three outstanding cultural sites. The Tahiti and Her Islands Museum features exhibits on every aspect of Tahitian culture from fishing to tattoos to thatched roofs.
The Paul Gauguin Museum focuses on the French artists stay in Tahiti, capturing the beauty of the land and the people on his colorful canvases. It includes a model of the house he once lived in.
The James Norman Hall Home replicates the home of the author of Mutiny on the Bounty. The house provides a peek into the life an American who spent his days in this tropical paradise.
Explore Tahitian Culture at Mooreas Tiki Village
To immerse yourself in Tahitian culture, visit Tiki Village on Moorea. Olivier Briac founded this unique place twenty years ago to preserve Polynesian culture. Twenty Polynesians live on the premises, producing woodcarvings, flower crowns, appliqué quilts, shell necklaces, and baskets. Visitors can also take an outrigger canoe to a black pearl farm offshore.
But the real highlight of the Tiki Village is the Polynesian dance show, performed by a professional company that tours worldwide. Energetic native dancers in colorful costumes made at Tiki Village are accompanied by pounding drums and melodious songs played on guitar and ukulele.
The evening includes a Polynesian buffet featuring fish dishes, fei (cooked banana), uru (breadfruit), and poe (a fruit and tapioca dessert served with coconut milk).
Marae: A Peek at Past Tahitian Culture
Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora are all dotted with marae, ancient stone constructions once used for prayer or sacrifice. The finest example is Tahitis fully restored Arahurahu Marae, with a temple.
Titiroa Marae on Moorea, another outstanding marae, is on the road that leads to scenic Belvedere Point. Bora Bora has several outstanding marae: Aehautai Marae, with a restored temple; Taharuu Marae, overlooking the lagoon; and Marotetini Marae, which has also been restored.
One of the best parts of any culture is its food. In Papeete, an inexpensive way of sampling local specialities is Les Roulottes. These restaurants-on-wheels serve dinner on the wharf every evening. Inside the trucks or on grills, restauranteurs prepare delicious food at reasonable prices.
Fish dishes are plentiful, including the Tahitian specialty poisson cru, raw fish marinated in coconut milk and lime juice. There are also steak frites, pizzas, crepes, and waffles (gaufres).
Most restaurants on Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora are informal snack bars, dubbed Le Snack. Visitors will find favorites like sandwiches on baguettes, pizzas, and inexpensive beer and wine.
While in Tahiti, try Hinano, La Biere de Tahiti the beer of Tahiti. Tahiti also produces local liqueurs in tropical flavors including Vanille Crème and Coconut.
Going Native at Bloody Marys Bar and Restaurant
Bloody Marys Bar and Restaurant on Bora Bora is as much fun as its namesake, the plump Polynesian mama in South Pacific. Established in 1976 by Polish émigré Baron George Van Dangle, the huge thatched hut with its sand floor has become an institution on the island.
Locals, tourists, and an impressive roster of celebrities have made Bloody Marys a part of their Bora Bora experience, as should anyone interested in enjoying Tahitian culture in a light-hearted way.
Perched on wooden log-style stools, diners can begin with a tropical drink such as Vanilla Rum Punch, the house specialty. Appetizers and main courses are chosen from a display of the freshly-caught fish, with the host describing each preparation in seven different languages. Creatively prepared meals are served on a wooden platter. Delectable desserts include a coconut tart and a very French crème brulee.
Capturing the Polynesian Spirit at Linareva Floating Restaurant
The true ambiance of the Polynesian islands can also be found at Linareva Floating Restaurant on Moorea. The restaurant is on a boat that entrepreneur Eric Lussiez bought in 1984, a ferry that formerly shuttled between Tahiti and Moorea for 20 years.
In 1987, shortly after Linareva opened, a pipe burst and sank the ship. Lussiez persevered, refurbishing the boat and reopening after just a few months.
The food is first-rate, with specialties like parrotfish in vanilla sauce and shrimp in curry and coconut milk sauce. Linarevas Champagne Love Bird Dinner perfect for honeymooners consists of a three-course dinner with Champagne Nicolas Feuillette, flower leis, and Linareva Punch. Dont be surprised if the waitresses break into Tahitian song and dance mid-meal.