Pop­u­lar in Papeete

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Papeete an­chors the is­land of Tahiti and all of French Poly­ne­sia as the hub of in­dus­try, gov­ern­ment and, yes, din­ing, shop­ping and cul­ture. It has it all – from sailor bars and shan­ty­towns to ex­quis­ite bou­tiques for black pearls.

The city it­self runs about seven blocks squared along the har­bor with plenty of French colo­nial charm to spare. A central mar­ket of­fers a cav­ernous space for fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles, raw,“catch of the day”fish, lo­cal meats, shelves of de­li­cious noni juice, and other po­tions and no­tions.

Best to find a side­walk bistro fac­ing the water and or­der up some Pois­son Cru, or“Ia Ota,”(ba­si­cally raw fish mar­i­nated with lime juice and soaked in co­conut milk). Or bet­ter yet, head to the roulottes around din­ner­time. A fleet of food trucks – Tahiti’s an­swer to street food along the water­front – of­fers a va­ri­ety of in­ex­pen­sive op­tions, from crepes to steak frites to is­land-in­spired fruits de mer, with plenty of pic­nic ta­bles link­ing the water­front.

Should art be of in­ter­est, ac­tiv­i­ties on the is­land can wax cul­tural. The Paul Gau­guin Mu­seum near the Botan­i­cal Gar­dens of­fers an in­trigu­ing col­lec­tion of doc­u­ments, pho­tos, re­pro­duc­tions, sculp­tures, en­grav­ings and sketches for a rare peek into the artist’s per­sonal life. Then, there is the Pearl Mu­seum for ev­ery­thing you ever wanted to know about pearls – and Tahiti’s lava-laced black pearls.

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