The coastal road that circles the exterior of both Tahiti Nui and Iti is measured in pointe kilometrique markers, known as PKs. PK0 begins in Pape'ete and markers go in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions, meeting in Taravao, which is PK60 counterclockwise and PK54 clockwise.

The west coast has the most sights and the most traffic; it's wise to set out early on a driving tour to avoid peak-hour traffic. Grab a map so you know whether a sight is at PK10 clockwise or counterclockwise. While the distances are not far, there is quite a lot to see on the west coast—beaches, surf breaks, museums, gardens and an excellent golf course—and it may take much longer than you think.

Tahiti Nui also has a handful of short interior roads. While a standard car can access the roads to the Belvedere lookout, the Three Waterfalls, and the start of the walking and 4WD trails in the Papenoo Valley, it's not possible to cross the island from north to south, or south to north, without a 4WD.

The PK marker system also operates in Tahiti Iti, beginning in Taravao, the town at the isthmus. There are two roads: the north road of 18 km (11 mi) from Taravao to Tautira and the south road, also measuring 18 km (11 mi) from Taravao to Teahupoo. The southeast and east coasts of Tahiti Iti can only be accessed by boat, bicycle, or foot. There is one inland road, leading from near Taravao up onto the Taravao Plateau and Taravao's lookout, also called the Belvedere.

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  • 1. Arahoho Blowhole

    Tiarei | Nature Sight

    Look out for the signs denoting the French name trou du souffleur. However, you won't miss it because the blowhole is right on—and under—the...Read More

  • 2. Gauguin Museum and Botanic Gardens

    Taunoa | Museum/Gallery

    These two sights are side by side. The museum has 25 small original works by the famous artist who lived in Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands...Read More

  • 3. Maison de la Culture

    Pape'ete | Arts/Performance Venue

    The nation's cultural center is housed in a traditional Polynesian design, octagonal building which has a theater, cinema, exhibition space...Read More

  • 4. Maraa Grotto

    City Park

    This park, with meandering pathways leading to ferny grottoes (caves), has lovely gardens and crystal clear pools. You can walk into the caves...Read More

  • 5. Marae Arahurahu

    Paea | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    Beautifully restored and maintained, this ancient religious site is the most spectacular on the island and is used as a backdrop for historical...Read More

  • 6. Notre Dame Cathedral

    Pape'ete | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    This is the center of the Catholic community in Pape'ete, as well as a quiet and cool retreat from the hot and sticky city. Built in 1875 and...Read More

  • 7. Paofai Temple

    Pape'ete | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    This pale pink church with white timber filigree work and a clock tower topped with green steeple is right on the main road a 100 yards or so...Read More

  • 8. Pape'ete Public Market (Marché de Pape'ete)

    Pape'ete | Market/Bazaar

    You could spend hours wandering around this lively market, which sells almost everything from fruit and vegetables to fish and handicrafts to...Read More

  • 9. Place Tarahoi

    Pape'ete | Plaza/Square

    Once the compound of Tahiti's 19th-century royal family, today it's the center of French Polynesia's territorial government. The square houses...Read More

  • 10. Place Vaiete

    Pape'ete | Plaza/Square

    This open space, in front of the cruise dock and next to the tourist office, is the heart of Pape'ete. The square comes alive when cruise ships...Read More

  • 11. Pointe Vénus and Lighthouse

    Nautical Site/Lighthouse

    This point on Matavai Bay has major significance: it is the place where Captain Samuel Wallis landed in 1767 and where James Cook watched the...Read More

  • 12. Robert Wan Pearl Museum

    Pape'ete | Museum/Gallery

    Pearl pioneer Robert Wan's lovely museum is one of a kind. Here you'll see a pearl-encrusted prayer book that belonged to Charles II of France...Read More

  • 13. Tahiti and Her Islands—Te Fare Manaha Museum

    Puna'auia | Museum/Gallery

    Located at the Pointe des Pecheurs (fishermen's point), this is one of the best museums in the South Pacific. Situated on the site of an ancient...Read More

  • 14. The Three Waterfalls

    Body Of Water/Waterfall

    It's an easy walk of about 100 yards from the carpark to the first of these three waterfalls (also known, collectively, as the Fa'arumai Waterfalls...Read More

  • 15. Tomb of Pomare V

    Arue | Memorial/Monument/Tomb

    The tomb of Tahiti's last king—Pomare V (1839–1891)—is built of coral stones in the shape of small lighthouse, which has a red door and is topped...Read More

  • 16. Centre Vaima

    Pape'ete | Store/Mall

    Pape'ete's first shopping center houses 65 stores over three levels. The red-roofed building has stood on Boulevard Pomare, almost directly...Read More

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