Tahiti, the heart and soul of the South Pacific, is often used as the first or last night stop before heading to the outer islands. However, the Island of Love, is a wondrous gem that shouldn´t be overlooked.
Crowned by a circle of soaring peaks and adorned with towering waterfalls, lush volcanic landscapes and verdant deep valleys, Tahiti offers infinite possibilities for adventure and relaxation. Visitors should definitely extend their stay in order to enjoy the exquisite museums, art galleries, pearl shops and boutiques the island houses.
Le Marché (Public Market)
Located a block behind the lively waterfront in Papeete and founded more than 170 years ago, a visit to the bustling Le Marché (also known as Maparu a Paraita)is definitely the best way to immerse yourself in the Polynesian culture and feel the warm nature of the Tahitian people.
The best time to enjoy the market is in the morning or at around 4pm when the local fishermen bring the fresh fish. So, as soon as we landed at Faa International Airport (approximately around 5.45 am), we rented a car and headed to Le Marché which was already in full swing.
From the early hours, the entire market teemed with life. All around the marketplace, countless stalls of colorful pareos and dresses vied for space while Tahitian women and young girls made fragant leis and delightful crowns of flowers.
On the ground floor, every stall was a delight to the eyes. Never in my wildest imagination thought the whole array of new aromas, flavours, sights and sounds would captivate me the way it did.
Time seemed to stop as I wandered around in breathless excitement. Ananas, breadfruit, pineapples, limes, taro, guavas, mangoes, fe’i bananas (a type of banana that grow in and around Polynesia), yams, sweet potatoes…An amazing kalidoskope of shapes and colors dominated the fruit and vegetable stalls providing excellent photography opportunities.
From there, the sensory overload went on as we headed towards the stalls selling fresh fish. Tuna, mahi-mahi, bonito fish, mullet, swordfish…it´s hardly impossible to list them all.
The turquoise-Parrot fish really caught my attention. With an open smile, the vendor explained us this colorful reef fish is greatly appreciated and considered a delicacy in many parts of the world.
Papeete market houses hundred of stalls with every kind of souvenir imaginable from all the islands. While on the ground floor tourists and residents alike are tempted with vanilla beans, delicious fruit preserves, handmade jewery, infinite monoï oil products, traditional costumes, woven hats and bags….The upstairs section is reserved for artisans selling floral printed pareos, colorful tropical shirts, wood carvings and tifaifai (patchwork bed-coverings).
There are also a few cafes where you can relax tasting local dishes as the sound from guitars and ukele serenade you. I highly recommend Café Maeva Coffee House & Juice Bar where we had a fabulous Iced Vanilla Coffee and free Internet access to check our emails, read the newspaper and contact our family and friends.
Le Marché is the best place to find the perfect gift or souvenir to take back home. Here you have some of the most popular ones:
Monoï de Tahiti
Since time immemorial, the sensual Tahitian women called Vahines, known for their lustrous hair and hazelnut soft skin, have been using it to enhance their natural beauty.
This exquisite blend comes from soaking the freshly picked petals of Tiare flowers (the Tahitian Gardenia) in refined coconut oil.
Intrigued by the precious perfumed oil, I asked a Tahitian vendor about the properties and virtues of it. Crowned with tropical flowers, she was happy to share their ancient beauty secret with us.
According to her, Monoï de Tahiti Oil has been used for generations in the daily care. Its purifying and soothing properties make the beauty of the hair and skin sublime leaving a sensuous feel on them.
She also talked about the Taurumi ancestral massage which is deeply spiritual and therapeutic practice in which Monoï Oil is expertly used to heal the body, mind and spirit at the same time.
A young Tahitian boy who was listening to our conversation added in perfect Spanish, which really surprised us, Monoï Oil has also been a natural remedy in Polynesian traditional medicine in order to cure earaches and certain types of eczema.
I have to confess I totally succumbed to this prodigious elixir. During our long trip through the Polynesian Islands, I treated myself to this cult natural product and I can tell, it´s been an authentic antidote to my dry hair and skin.
Aside from Monoï Oil, deliciously scented soaps made with pure essential oils are sold everywhere in Tahiti. At Le Marché you will find a great variety of them like Monoï Tiare Tahiti, Tiki Tiare Tahiti, Monoï Vanilla, Monoï Coco, Monoï Santal…
Monoï soaps are ideal holiday gifts from the island. Their subtle frangance will instantly transport you to a tropical garden filled with tiares, pitates (Tahitian Jasmine) and Ylang-Ylang flowers.
Traditional Tahitian Dance Costumes
The enchanting beauty of Tahitian dances is utterly indescribable. At Le Marché you will find “grass skirts” as well as a wide array of intricate accessories.
Woven Hats, Handbags and Shell Necklaces
Tahitian women use pandamus and coconut leaves in order to weave fabulous hats, fans, peues (woven floor mats) and baskets.
These beautifully decorated handbags for instance, are very popular among the locals who use them for a lovely day at the beach or a nice breezy walk in the evening .
- Le Marché opens everyday except holidays from 6am to 5pm. The market is especially lively early in the morning and also at around 4pm when fishermen bring in the fresh fish. On Sunday mornings, locals come to buy fresh products for a day of family gatherings.
- Credit cards are not accepted in the market, so make sure you take cash with you.