Pape’ete, the capital of French Polynesia, is on its largest island, Tahiti. Over the past several years, its harbor has been redone. It’s now a major Pacific Ocean port unlike anything nearby. This busy harbor accommodates cruise ships, ferries, yachts, and oversized cargo ships. A ferry from this port regularly takes tourists 12 miles to its excellent neighbor, Mo’orea, which can be seen from many vantage points on Tahiti.
The port has been vastly improved since I, dreaming of South Pacific adventures, first saw this harbor that has become a tourist lure without official recognition. There is a new, walkable promenade where strollers are likely to see fish in Pape’ete’s harbor, which has become a place for many local festivals. While Ruth & I were there, for example, we enjoyed gatherings and firework displays to celebrate Miss Tahiti, the gorgeous local who is headed for international beauty competitions. There are new facilities, like floating piers and berths for 90 yachts. The catamaran I took to Tetiaroa left from here as do voyages to many other places, like the Marquesas and the Tuamotu Islands. One of this harbor’s more popular attractions is the mobile food vans called Place Vaiete that appear each evening. They are gone by morning and dispense pretty fine local specialties like Tahitian poisson cru, raw tuna in coconut milk and lime juice, French crepe, etc. There’s even a Nutella and banana waffle available. If you time it right, you can save a lot of money by eating here because the prices can be a lot less than local restaurants. There is free parking too and entertainment on the weekends. Pape’ete’s best tourist information office is also part of this port scene, and all of the harbor opens easily onto scenic Boulevard Pomaré. Several Pacific cruise lines like Wind Spirt and Paul Gauguin use berths in this thriving port.
Captain James Cook visited Tahiti on all 3 of his voyages. He came here on his first with orders from the Royal Society to watch the transit of the planet Venus as it moved across the face of the sun. On his 2 subsequent voyages he apparently came here for pure pleasure. He moored his ship a few miles east of what is now Pape’ete, and this event is noted in a pretty park with a lighthouse. Cook would find the Society Islands very different from what they were like when he experienced them.