Papeete is the capital of French Polynesia, an autonomous overseas collectivity of France. It has a population of 26,000, but every day 80,000 people descend on the town for work. A cosmopolitan community, Papeete brings together Polynesians, Europeans and Asians, who live side by side in harmony. Languages heard in the town include Tahitian, French, Hakka and even English.
Although shipping activity stretches back as far as 1790, the creation of Papeete was linked to the foundation of an English mission in the hamlet of Paofai. Papeete became the capital of the new royal dynasty around 1827 when Queen Pomare IV established a royal residence on the lands known as ‘Papeete’.
Papeete houses the headquarters of many national institutions, including the presidential palace, the Polynesian government, and the Assembly of French Polynesia. The town hall of Papeete is notable in that it is an exact replica of Queen Pomare’s former palace.
Papeete is one of the Pacific region’s most prominent cultural centres. It stages the annual Heiva, a major cultural festival featuring prestigious Tahitian traditional dance (‘ori Tahiti) competitions. The town also organises FIFO (International Festival of Oceanian Film), an event with international appeal and resonance.
The economic capital of the country, Papeete boasts an international port renowned for its large harbour that allows yachts and liners to drop anchor before heading off again for other destinations.
There are some beautiful sights worth a visit in Papeete: the Queen’s pond, Bougainville Park, Fautaua Valley and more. The Paofai Gardens are the ideal place to take a relaxing stroll or enjoy stunning yellow and red sunsets by the sea, against a backdrop of Polynesian sculptures. Sporty types are ubiquitous on the beach, especially rowers, who take to the water in their ‘va’a (traditional canoe).
A 30-minute boat ride away lie the white-sand beaches of the nearby island of Mo‘orea, whose wild and natural beauty guarantees a day in paradise for visitors.
Papeete is famed for its shopping, particularly for those in search of unique Polynesian crafts or jewellery (such as Tahitian black pearls). And who could forget the bustling local market, where authentic Polynesian goods abound, including music, flowers, clothing and much more.
The Tahitian capital comes to life at night. Diners have a wide array of gastronomical options to choose from. There are Tahitian, French, Asian and American restaurants, or visitors might enjoy eating from roulottes, a type of small truck converted into a moving food outlet. There are a range of different nightclubs to suit tourists’ mood and musical tastes, from local, traditional to international.
Tahitians are reputed for being a welcoming, smiling, party-loving people, something you will have the chance to discover for yourself during your visit to Papeete.
Football in Papeete
Football was introduced to French Polynesia in 1906 by Royal Navy sailors, and the first teams began to appear in Papeete from 1909 onwards.
In 1923, the first two football clubs in Tahiti to be officially recognised were AS TAMARII TAHITI (later known as AS Jeunes Tahitiens) and AS FEIPI, based in Papeete. With 20 Tahitian league titles and 18 Tahitian Cup triumphs, AS CENTRAL SPORTS, another side from Papeete, is the most successful team in the history of football on the island.
The most recent Tahitian championship was won in May 2012 by AS DRAGON, one of Papeete’s many football clubs.
With close to 900 players attached to clubs or the town’s FUTSAL association, football is today, along with the Va’a, one of the two most popular and developed sports in Papeete.