It’s possible to do a circle drive around the island of Tahiti. Despite the fact that all the small towns along the route look the same, I recommend this drive. It takes about 2 hours without stopping, but there are at least 5 things worth seeing so that it’s best to devote one entire day during daylight hours to driving it. Ruth and I have done this circle twice, starting from Pape’ete, the capital of French Polynesia. This is the biggest town in the Society Islands, and it will take an additional day to see its attractions. Lonely Planet gets it perfectly right when it says about Pape’ete, “You’ll get its compact chaos and colorful clutter or you’ll run quickly from its grimy edges and lack of gorgeous vistas.” It makes no serious difference if you go clockwise or counterclockwise around Tahiti, but what follows is clockwise.
The 1st stop should be the house of James Norman Hall in the Pape’ete suburb of Arue. One of the 2 authors of Mutiny on the Bounty and other books, Hall’s home has been turned into a very personal museum by his daughter Nancy. I wrote about it on February 18, 2019, under the title “the House of James Norman Hall” if you want more info.
The 2nd stop should be Pointe Venus and Matavai Bay. Captain James Cook made 3 journeys to Tahiti. On his first, he came here to personally witness the transit of Venus. This planet was scheduled to travel across the face of the sun, and scientists hoped to determine the distance from Earth to the sun as a result. Cook got the top spot, going to Tahiti, to see it while others went to Norway and Canada. Cook loved it here. His observatory was on this promontory. There’s a monument, a black-sand beach, trees and flowers, and a lighthouse. This is such a fine spot that some scenes of Marlon Brando’s ponderous version of Mutiny on the Bounty were shot here.
Also on this side of Tahiti is the Arahoho Blowhole, which is a little further on down the circle road, well-marked, and impossible to photograph. The evidence is below. The stop is quite scenic and the last time a decision about staying on the ring road must be made until you come to Taravao. Here you have to choose whether to go on or see a bit of Tahiti Iti, which is like a peninsular balloon attached to Tahiti Nui, because the main highway curves west here. There is no road all the way around Iti, but I highly recommend going to Teahupoo, a surfers’ hangout and the scene of international competition. You can read more about it in my January 19 blog called “Tahiti Iti’s Teahupoo”. This is my favorite spot on the entire island.
On the west side of Tahiti Nui, which is more affluent than the east, there are some notable resorts and the Mara’a Grotto, The grotto is worth stopping for but not, in my opinion, a great attraction. It does have lush ferny greenery, a not difficult path, and a large natural pool that, despite one sign saying “no swimming allowed”, was being used by 3 people. It was tempting. The popular and posh Intercontinental Resort Tahiti is a worthwhile stop. Lonely Planet calls it “the best luxury resort on the island”. It is. You can see Mo’orea from many vantage points as you wander around it.