Tahiti Cruise Stopover: 7 Best Things to do in Papeete

By Tiare ∘ Posted 18th April, 2024 ∘

Heading to Papeete on your Tahiti Cruise Stopover and got no idea what to do?  In all honesty, the best thing to do in Papeete is probably to leave Papeete and go somewhere else.  I live in Papeete and I find the city can be crowded, dusty and underwhelming.

My advice would be to stay in Papeete half a day for souvenirs and a bit of sightseeing and then checkout the rest of the island.  Here’s a list of my 7 favourite things to do in Papeete. The blue underlined links will take you straight to the google maps location for each place, so you can’t get lost!

1. Papeete Central Market

Tahiti cruise stopover Papeete Central Market

Smack bang in the middle of the city is Papeete’s central market, and the best place to shop for local souvenirs such as black pearls, pareo (sarongs), monoi (scented coconut oil), traditional wood carvings and handwoven hats and bags made of pandanus.  There is also a section for fresh flower bouquets, leis and crowns, as well as fresh produce and fish.  Keep in mind that mornings are the best time to visit, as by 4pm in the afternoon many of the vendors are already done for the day.  

Note that the best time to visit the market for food and fresh produce is early on Sunday mornings, as this is the day when you can buy traditional Tahitian food such as pua’a roti (Chinese style pork), poisson cru (raw fish marinated in coconut milk), cooked taro, breadfruit and firifiri (Tahitian donuts made with coconut milk).  

Opening hours: 

Mon to Fri:  6am to 3pm

Saturday: 6am to 1pm

Sunday: 4:30am to 10am 

2. Papeete self guided Street Art Tour

Street art in Papeete, Tahiti

I know I said that Papeete is underwhelming, but the street art is an exception – the random giant murals scattered around the city are my favourite part of living in the capital. 

French Polynesia hosts the Ono’u street art festival once a year, during which local and international artists brighten up Papeete and other towns with incredible artwork.  The result is that around every other corner you’ll find an unexpected masterpiece. 

Find a street art map here and do your own walking tour or just explore the city and see what you find.  Avoid doing this around midday – its not fun to walk around Papeete when it’s too hot!

4. Late afternoons at Parc Paofai

Park Paofai is Papeete’s largest public park and is pleasantly situated on the waterfront.  Late afternoons and evenings are the best and busiest times to visit the park, as it’s not too hot. 

It’s great for people watching, having a picnic, watching the sunset over Moorea or letting the kids play at one of the three playgrounds dotted throughout the park.  There’s also a beach soccer field that’s free to play on and if you’re lucky there’ll be a free event on, like an outdoor movie.

5. Have brunch or afternoon tea at a café

Papeete can get hot and sweaty so it’s always nice to stop at a cafe somewhere and have a drink and a bite to eat. 

Cafè Roti on the Rue Paul Gaugin has delicious local food and drinks, perfect for brunch.  For a fresh tropical fruit smoothie try Café Maeva on the second floor of Papeete’s central market.  For a decadent French pastry or dessert I recommend Les rêves de Lucie on Papeete’s main (only) shopping strip.

6. Papeete Catholic Cathedral

Cathedral and PK sign Papeete, Tahiti

You can’t miss Papeete’s big yellow cathedral, the cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, located on the city’s main thoroughfare.  Go inside and have a look at the stained glass windows, which depict typical religious scenes in a unique Tahitian style. 

In front of the cathedral, by the footpath is the famous P.K 0 sign, which you should definitely take a picture with. P.K stands for ‘kilometre point’ in French, and these PK markers are visible along the main road around the island, marking the distance you are from Papeete (PK0).  In Tahiti, when giving house directions people will say for example that they live at PK18 on the west side.    

7. Eat dinner at a Roulotte (food truck) at Place Vaiete

Food Truck (roulotte) in Papeete Tahiti

At around 6pm, food trucks start opening for business at Place Vaiete, next to the cruise ship terminal.  Eating there is a great opportunity to eat big portions of local style food on the waterfront, such as poisson cru (raw fish), steak frites and chow mein.  Definitely come hungry.

The Roulottes also sell dessert items and my favourite are the crepes, which come with your choice of fillings and/or toppings.  I always get a crepe with nutella, banana and whipped cream – yum!

Bonus:  Keep an eye out for local events and shows

Local show in Papeete, Tahiti

If you’re staying in Papeete overnight, chances are you might be able to catch a local show or event.  Check the website for La maison de la culture, which often hosts traditional dance shows, local comedians, and plays for upcoming events. The Tahiti agenda site or the Papeete city site also list upcoming events in Papeete. 

Note that these sites are in French.  If you don’t speak French, try the tourist office in Papeete and ask if there’s anything happening on the day you’re there.


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.