Tahiti Best Shore Excursions : 5 recommendations from a Local

By Tiare ∘ Posted 24th April, 2024 ∘

Tahiti offers a variety of shore excursions, and I recommend taking one!  They’re a great way to see and do as much as possible in the short amount of time you’ll have on shore. 

Most cruise tourists that come into Papeete book half day or full day bus tours that go around the island, usually through their cruise line. If you like sitting on an air conditioned bus most of the day, and taking a whirlwind tour of the island then they’re great! I even worked part-time as an English speaking tour guide on those buses for a while.

But just know that that’s not the only way to see the island and there are plenty of other options out there.  Here are my 5 favourite Tahiti Best Shore Excursions:

1. Go hiking

Fautaua Waterfall Hike Tahiti best shore excursions
Fautaua Waterfall hike- the picture on the left is at the top of the falls

Tahiti is not so well known as a hiking destination, but the island is home to some of the most stunning and adventurous hikes I’ve ever been on.  If your idea of fun is ditching the crowds and hiking to a hidden waterfall or canyoning through lava tubes, then I’d definitely recommend going on a hiking tour. 

Always go with a guide here:  hikes can be difficult to find and access on your own.  **Note: NEVER go hiking in Tahiti during periods of heavy rain. Rivers can become torrential without warning and hiking paths can turn into heavy streams.

Best Hikes:

  • Fautaua waterfall hike (really close to Papeete)
  • Lava tubes (my top choice!)
  • Mt Aorai (Tahiti’s highest mountain – very challenging hike)

Local hiking guides: 

2. Take a Papeete Culinary Tour

Tahiti best shore excursions culinary tour
Locals preparing bulk Poe, a sweet Tahitian dessert, for the Sunday market

Tahiti is a melting pot of incredible French, Chinese and Polynesian cuisine, but it is also one of those places where it can be hard to find good food if you’re not with someone in the know.   If you’re someone whose love language is food I really recommend taking this tour to discover the best hidden treats Papeete has to offer. 

The company was built from scratch by a passionate local foodie with a desire to share the islands’ culinary legacy with the world, and that comes through in the tours.

3. Hire a car or a scooter and do your own island tour

A potential stopover on your island tour: Les trois cascades

The advantage of hiring your own wheels is that you can go at your own pace, and do the island tour your own way!  Another bonus is that it is almost impossible to get lost driving in Tahiti, as it’s mostly just one main road that goes around the island. 

My advice would be to start driving one way, and stop whenever you see something that interests you.  Tourist sites are marked with red signs on the side of the main road.  

Car and Scooter Hire:

Top places to visit:

  • Les trois cascades 
  • Grottes de Maraa
  • Beaches – Point Venus, PK 18, Taharuu

4. Papenoo Valley safari tour

Papeeno Valley Tahiti
A misty day in the Papeeno Valley

Papenoo Valley feels like Jurassic Park minus the dinasours:  it’s majestic, lush and full of history.  The valley is only accessible by 4×4, and just getting there feels like an adventure.  You can do either half day or full day small group tours of the valley.  I think it’s best to get into it without expectations- it’s always better when you don’t know what’s coming!  I recommend these two:

5. Private Island Tour

Going for a private tour with a local guide might be the best way to see and learn the best of Tahiti in a short time frame, catered to your group and interests.   Having a local guide really does make all the difference!  This is a great option for all ages, and particularly for older travellers. 

These can be booked through your cruise line, on sites like viator or even on the day you arrive – often tour operators will be waiting at the port when your cruise ship arrives to offer their services.

In a nutshell, the 5 Tahiti Best Shore Excursions I recommend are:

  1. Go hiking
  2. Take a Papeete Culinary Tour
  3. Hire a car or a scooter and do your own island tour
  4. Papenoo Valley safari tour
  5. Private Island Tour

I hope this was helpful in planning the perfect shore excursion on you cruise stopover in Tahiti!

If you’d rather hang around the capital city, Papeete, check out this post I wrote:

Top 7 Things to do in Papeete


Tiare is a successful freelance writer and travel blogger, focusing on French Polynesia. Her work has been featured in National Geographic and The Guardian.

This travel blog is is her newest project with her twin sister. Their mission is to give everyone the confidence to explore the beautiful islands of French Polynesia.

Tiare has been living in Tahiti for over six years now.