Being the largest island in French Polynesia, Tahiti, is also the most populated as well with 178,133 inhabitants. Tahitians are by law considered French citizens and use both French and Tahitian languages when speaking. Tourism is a booming industry that provides the island with much of its income.
In July, in the capital city of Papeete, the Heiva Festival is celebrated. This festival is held in honor of Polynesian culture and to commemorate the storming of the Bastille in France. Costumes play an integral role in the festival with the men taking their lead from traditional tribal garments. Roots, seeds, nuts and feathers are all used in decorating the costumes, along with a staff and an ornate headdress. Women on the other hand, take their inspiration from flowers, birds and bouquets. The highlight of the festival is the competition for the Miss and Mr. Heiva Festival. The competition is not only centered around the best looking, but also observes the use of ancient Polynesian skills, like cracking coconuts, climbing palm trees and lifting heavy stones in a show of strength. Each year this festival draws in tourists from every corner of the globe who flock to partake in the parties, parades and competitions.
The north coast of Tahiti has some of the greatest surfing in French Polynesia. There are both beach breaks and reef breaks, and as a result of the winter storms in Antarctica and New Zealand, there are tremendous large waves that makes it the best time to surf. Some of the most popular reef breaks are; Taapuna Pass, Paea and Papara.
Another popular place for tourists is to visit the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands. The museum is located on the site of what used to be a marae, a major pagan religious structure. The exhibits cover archaeological artifacts, Tahitian culture and environmental, technical and agricultural displays.
The island of Tahiti is also famous for its pearls. The Black Pearl Museum is the only one in the world dedicated entirely to pearls. There are many displays that show visitors the history, art, mythology, and philosophy surrounding Tahitian pearls. Visitors will also find a rare collection of pearl producing oysters and shells.
The artist Paul Gauguin spent the last years of his life in French Polynesia. For an amazing retrospective of his life and works, tourists are invited to tour the Paul Gauguin Museum. The museum contains the largest collection of his later works and gives visitors a chance to experience his amazing talent.
The Grotto Caves at Mara are a natural wonder of the island. The caves are bordered by ferns and set deeply into the side of the mountains. The Grotto is most famous, not for its location or beauty, but from the memory of those who swam in the chilled waters, both Queen Pomare IV and Paul Gauguin were said to have dove into the grottoes and swam in the lake surrounding the caves. There is even local legend that states it is famous for the optical illusions that are said to occur there.
Tahiti is a very popular destination for honeymooners and people seeking a breathtakingly beautiful place to get away from it all. The Moorea Pearl Spa and Resort, have both guest rooms and bungalows , situated on 7.5 acres of lush landscaping complete with white sand and a beach front. This is a traditional Polynesian style hotel two boutiques, with one especially devoted to the sale of black pearls. There are two restaurants, a bar and Cooks Bay and Opunohu, both beautiful sites where guests can swim and snorkel within the confines of the resort. There are over two-hundred hotels on the island which means that no matter where one travels, they can always expect to find comfortable accommodations and top-notch hospitality.