Papeete, French Polynesia

Papeete is not a tropical paradise. It is a typical government centre and industrial port with small doses of French and Polynesian charm. It has shopping, eating, and drinking, but very little sightseeing for a capital city and even fewer top-class hotels. The residents speak French and Tahitian, although English is spoken by many in the tourist trade.

Everything here is expensive. There are some fine restaurants but expect to pay US$30 for a hamburger at a hotel restaurant or other proper sit-down establishment. There are a lot of midrange places where you can expect to pay US$20-30 for your whole meal.

Papeete is the capital of French Polynesia, an overseas country of France in the Pacific Ocean. The commune (municipality) of Papeete is located on the island of Tahiti, in the administrative subdivision of the Windward Islands, of which Papeete is the administrative capital. The French High Commissioner also resides in Papeete. It is the primary centre of Tahitian and French Polynesian public and private governmental, commercial, industrial and financial services, the hub of French Polynesian tourism and a commonly used port of call. The Windward Islands are themselves part of the Society Islands. The name Papeete means "water from a basket". The urban area of Papeete had a total population of 133,627 inhabitants at the August 2012 census, 25,769 of whom lived in the commune of Papeete proper.

The growth of the city was boosted by the decision to move the nuclear weapon test range from Algeria to the atolls of Mururoa and Fangataufa, some 1,500 km to the east of Tahiti; this originated in particular in the construction of the Faa'a airport next to Pape'ete, the only international airport in French Polynesia. In 1983, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built the Papeete Tahiti Temple here because of the large number of members in the region. On 5 September 1995 the government of Jacques Chirac conducted the first of the last series of nuclear test detonations off the shores of Moruroa. A resulting riot in Papeete lasted for two days and damaged the international airport, injured 40 people, and scared away tourism for some time. (Similar rioting occurred after another French nuclear test in the same area in 1987)

Anyway, ours not to linger in Papeete. We took the (expensive) Silversea bus to the airport to pick up a Hertz car. Then headed off round the south side of the island to get to our booked accommodation at Villa Mitirapa, where we arrived about 1pm, having managed to kill a bit of time along the way.

The villa and its owner were both charming. The villa was great, and had its own little private pool. And there was a large Carrefour within 5 minutes drive. We loaded up with food for 2 days, as I had negotiated a deal with the villa to stay the next day and leaving only in the evening to get our middle of the night flight to Auckland.

We had a drive further south along the coast, but mainly stayed and enjoyed the villa and its surroundings. The villa is comparatively easy to find, though I would not like to try after dark! The only small negative was the small sand flies, rather than mosquitoes , which were endemic.
We found it a very relaxing place to stay for the short while we were here, so much so that we never ventured out to any restaurants, being happy to cook for ourselves

Click on any of the small photos to get a larger version of that photo

When we left the villa , it takes about an hour and a half to the airport (not well signposted, the airport), and we got to the airport about 8pm and had to wait 2 hours until the Air New Zealand check in desk opened. Papeete airport pre-check in area is not a conducive place at that hour of the evening. After that it was Auckland, change planes for Brisbane, change planes for Cairns, arrive Cairns a long time after leaving Tahiti

The boys enjoying the view at Auckland Airport, en route to Cairns

On to Cairns

South Seas Holiday