Papeete is the bustling capital of Tahiti and her islands, and contains the Government offices, hospitals, banks, telecommunications centres, airlines, travel agencies, boutiques and black pearl shops. Though it is growing rapidly, Papeete is still intimate and is designed for walking. The sleepy Papeete town of years gone by is today a modern municipality. Cargo freighters, copra ships, luxury liners and sailing yachts share the harbour where "people watching" is still one of the most popular pastime carried out by tourists and residents alike.
The social set like to linger at lunch, share the latest gossip and watch as gaily painted "pareu" bed covers are sold at sidewalk tables, amidst the laugh jests of the Tahitian artisans.
Reputed as the South Seas heart of hedonism, Papeete by night is when nightclubs swing into action and the sounds of disco and jazz compete with the pulsating rhythm of the "tamure", Tahiti tantalising national dance.
Renowned for their natural grace, innate pride, gentle beauty and warm hospitality, the Tahitians are artists in the enjoyment of living. Music, flowers, dance and song interpret their lives and their love of life overflows during the annual Tahiti festival. This festival is held in July and combines traditional Polynesian dance with European sports and Asiatic arts so that the carnival atmosphere reigns supreme in Papeete for the entire month.
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Papeete public market is in every sense the heart of the city, for it is where Tahitian families come to shop. Take your camera as there is a profusion of flowers, shell necklaces, woven hats and baskets. The upstairs section is reserved for artisans selling quilts, cushion covers and other handicrafts. Luscious ripe fruits are on show, together with Chinese vegetables, strings of brightly coloured fish, farm fresh meat, squealing pigs and noisy ducks.
From Papeete you can take helicopter tours above the island to the isthmus of Taravao and join day trips to Moorea and Bora Bora. Or you can choose to swim at one of the many breathtaking waterfalls or visit the ancient Polynesian temples. While in Papeete, discover the tropics of a bush walk past giant ferns at an altitude of 1,400 metres and climb Mount Marau for a spectacular view of the island scattered as far as the eye can see.
For the active tourist, there is hang gliding, bowling, tennis, fishing, sailing, surfing, windsurfing, jetskiing, scuba diving, driving a lagoon jet or peddle boat and trimming the sails on a hobie cat. Other adventures include airplane and helicopter tours of Tahiti and nearby islands. There are challenging and unusual trekking tours into the interior valleys, and up the mountain, or you can walk across the island and investigate old lava tubes, burial caves and hidden grottoes.