SUGAR AND SPICE

If there was one spice to capture the taste of Tahiti it would be vanilla. The intense aroma flavours coffee, traditional fish dishes and desserts and is steeped in local rum. The untamed island of Taha'a, a 30-minute flight from Papeete, produces 80 per cent of the sought-after pods. Visit the plantations for guided tours and learn how vanilla is grown and the place to shop for the best deals.

PAUL GAUGUIN MUSEUM
The beauty of Tahiti has drawn travellers for decades but few people have done as much to show its charm to the world as artist Paul Gauguin. The French post-impressionist, who moved to the islands in 1891, was intoxicated by the vibrant colours, vegetation and Polynesian culture and spent the last 12 years of his life producing some of his best-known works.

Tahitian women on the beach, 1891, by Paul Gauguin. Photo / Getty Images
Tahitian women on the beach, 1891, by Paul Gauguin. Photo / Getty Images

Today, visitors come to share in Gauguin's vision of paradise and often start by visiting the Paul Gauguin Museum dedicated to his life and art. Located in the quaint town of Papaeari on Tahiti's south coast, the museum is next to stunning Botanic gardens established by American Harrison W Smith in 1919. Take a stroll through the grounds laden with tropical plants, lagoons and a great picnic spot for lunch after visiting the museum.

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STREET EATS
One of the best ways to dine in Tahiti is pulling up a stool in front of the many "Les Roulottes" or food trucks. One of the hot spots is Place Vai'ete in Downtown Papeete, where colourful food trucks draw in tourists and locals alike. Walk along the waterfront and watch the main square transform into a buzzing dining area from 6pm till the early hours of the morning.

Crepes, Chinese, and pizza are on offer at bargain prices. Search out authentic dishes such as Ota'ika, a polynesian dish made of raw fish to really taste the culture and the ocean.

Food trucks that are very popular throughout Tahiti. Photo / Getty Images
Food trucks that are very popular throughout Tahiti. Photo / Getty Images

SUNDAY BEST

The spirit and warmth of the French Polynesian community is perhaps best evoked when the people are dressed up in their Sunday best.

Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral in Papeete on a Sunday morning and see churchgoers arrive in flowery clothing and fill the space with hymns. Built in 1875 and restored in 1987, the buttercup-yellow Catholic Church sits pretty just a block behind the markets.

On a hot day it makes a peaceful escape from the crowds to reflect on life and history of the local people.

TAKE A HIKE
It would be all too easy to spend your Tahitian holiday on your back with a tropical cocktail in hand, but if you start to itch for some adventure take a hike into the wilderness that Tahiti has to offer.

There's plenty to choose from on each island but the forest paths of Moorea are popular.

Pass through fragrant pineapple plantations and enjoy panoramic views from the volcanic crater.

SHAKE IT BABY
Impress those back home on the dancefloor by learning how to sway, shake and move your hips to the sound of Tahitian drums. Polynesian culture would not be complete without the lively movements of dance, which is used as an expressive method of storytelling.

Book in for a private or group lesson and you'll learn the rhythmic groove of this traditional art all while looking the part in a skirt.

CHECKLIST
Getting there
Air New Zealand flies non-stop to Tahiti from Auckland, with one-way Economy Class fares starting from $455.