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Taking the Circle Tour in Papeete

Looking from Papeete across the water to Moorea.

Looking from Papeete across the water to Moorea

We should have listened when our travel advisor warned us about bus excursions in tropical climates like the South Pacific. She was right. Hot, humid weather and a crowded bus excursion are not a good mix. And this was certainly the case on a Papeete cruise excursion, “Tahiti’s Natural Treasures,” operated by Regent Seven Seas when Alan and I cruised from LA to Hong Kong on Regent Mariner.

Along with 40 other passengers, we crammed onto a bus for the circle tour of Tahiti’s big island, Tahiti-nui (there is also a small island called Tahiti-iti). Note to self, next time take a self-guided walking tour around the central area of Papeete then return to the ship for a cold glass of champagne.

Double statue at Arahurahu Marae in Papeete, Tahiti.

Double statue at Arahurahu Marae

But if you don’t heed our advice about avoiding hot bus tours, here’s what you’ll see on a Papeete cruise excursion that circles Tahiti-nui.

  • You’ll stop at Point Venus, Tahiti’s northernmost point. It’s also where Captain Cook observed the transit of Venus in 1769 as commissioned by the Royal Society of London.
  • At the Arahoho blowhole, watch the surf crash through the holes in a geyser-like eruption. Restroom facilities are available near the parking lot.
  • In the village of Matalea, walk the garden paths at Valpehi Gardens to a refreshing waterfall. It’s also an opportunity to cool off in the lush gardens but beware of mosquitos.
  • Maraa Grotto sits at the base of a steep headlands. It’s actually two caves. Visitors walk through a gazebo to view the larger cave.
  • Arahurahu Marae proved to be the most interesting site on our tour. After walking up a grassy hillside, the tour begins at several stone sculptures. Our guide, who was funny as well as informative, explained the religious rites performed at Arahurahu including human sacrifice.
Take the escalator upstairs to take an overhead photo of Marche du Papeete in Tahiti.

Take the escalator upstairs to take an overhead photo of Marche du Papeete.

Although we enjoyed the sites, and the drive around the island gave us a chance to see how the Tahitian people live, our advice to others is to skip the ship’s tour, ignore the tour desk’s warnings of expensive fares and take a taxi for a circle drive of the islands. Cruise Critic recommends agreeing on a price before getting in the taxi. Renting a car is also an alternative. And art lovers should add the Gaugin Museum to their self-directed itinerary.

Notre Dame Cathedral on Papeete

Notre Dame Cathedral

If you’re cruise excursioned out, walk over to the Marche du Papeete, the main market building to browse the beautiful flowers, vegetables and crafts. Yes, you’ll find fish there, too. Then walk to Notre Dame Cathedral before strolling along the harbor. Now return to your ship for a cold drink. That’s what we did on our latest visit to Papeete.

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Do you have questions about visiting Papeete? Send us an email. We’ll do our best to help you. And if you’d like to join the conversation about Papeete, head on over to the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook.

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