Air Tahiti Nui repas cuisine SMailion

Best restaurants in The Islands of Tahiti

This is a question that is asked often: what are the best restaurants in French Polynesia? From the Hei, one of the best restaurants in Tahiti, to La Villa Mahana, on the heights of Bora Bora, there are many good establishments to enjoy an amazing dining experience in the islands. Many famous review platforms offer a ranking of the best restaurants, but I will not replace them. But I can give you some details that will help you choose.

We have excellent French, Chinese, and Italian restaurants, pizzerias, creperies, burger places, veggies, etc. So you will always find your favorite food in Tahiti. Please note that French Polynesia is not only an international food court.

Its 5 archipelagos have developed a unique culinary identity from the available resources, and has now become a unique and difficult-to-reproduce gastronomic experience.

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The Marquesas culinary culture

In the Marquesas, good restaurants will serve you kaaku ('uru, the fruit of the breadfruit tree, braised, crushed, and topped with fresh coconut milk), ika mito (raw fish salted with seawater, garlic, and coconut milk) and, depending on the success of the hunt, a curry of keukeu (wild goat) with re'a tinito (ginger). These islands are also great producers of honey, known for its purity as for their sea products (lobsters, crabs, sea cicadas) to the delight of gourmets. 

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The orchard of Polynesia : the Australs Archipelago

The Australs are nicknamed the Orchard of French Polynesia. It is the most fertile archipelago, not only because of the quality of its volcanic land but also because of its cooler climate and wide temperature range. All these conditions help the inhabitants to grow almost all types of fruits and vegetables. In December, the lychee harvest is a celebration. They are immediately sent to Tahiti, where the vast majority of consumers live.

The Australs also have one of the best taro of the 5 archipelagos. It can be eaten in crisps, mashed potatoes, or served with goat, especially in Rapa. The kaaku of the Australs is the popoi, in which the ‘uru is replaced by the taro then sweetened by the juice from a sacred plant’s root, the auti.

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Gastronomy in the Islands of Pearls 

In the Tuamotus and the Gambiers (often associated because the last Pa'umotu atolls in the southeast are very close to the Gambier Islands) local products are Ocean’s bounty. In the lagoons (tairoto), although their surface area sometimes looks like inland sea - as in Rangiroa - family fishing and food fishery are commonly used methods. If you see a lot of to’a (coral stones) in the lagoon, you can be sure those parts are home to an incredible biodiversity. You will notice that in the Pass, fishing is more fertile. Parrot fish, 'io'io (milkfish), 'ō'iri (triggerfish), pā'aihere (golden trevally), or even uravena are kept in fish parks, which shape changes according to the atolls. They ensure a regular supply of fresh fish.

The benefits of the ocean

The reef, which separates the lagoon from the ocean and the reef flat that sometimes accompanies it, is the kingdom of shellfish. Varo (squills), 'ōura tai (sea prawns), 'ōura miti (lobsters), toetoe (crabs), but also fe'e (octopus), and various shellfish, including pāhua (giant clams), tu'a'i (cockles), mā'oa (sea snails), vana (sea urchins) represent the vast diversity of local marine life : good food coming straight from the ocean!

Moana, the Pacific Ocean, is a stretch of sea that seems infinite in French Polynesia. These waters, constantly monitored, prohibit any intrusion by fishing vessels, some of which actively participate in the annihilation of the seabed and underwater biodiversity with purse seiners and other giant trawlers.

Fishing is done sustainably by Polynesian fishing vessels. Fishermen often use trolling lines to catch the species they want. 

Deep-sea tunas, mahimahi (dolphinfish), bonito, different varieties of mullet (paua, ‘aha, nape, tehu, vete), but also roi (pronounced roï, grouper), paru (perch)… are the most common. 

Food in the atolls of the Tuamotu Archipelago

On land and on the beach, the wildlife is not that rich. Nevertheless,  you may have the pleasure of tasting the king of coconut groves during your trip;  Kaveu or Crabe of Coconut Tree, a festive dish. In Rangiroa, located in the Tuamotu islands, vines and sugar canes have been planted, allowing the production of Tahiti wine and high-quality agricultural rums. Thanks to the work of the 4 distilleries in Rangiroa, Papara, Tahiti, and Taha’a, these rums have received many prizes and became sources of pride for the inhabitants of the islands.

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Polynesian gastronomy

Finally, in the Society Islands, you will find the best culinary products of the 5 archipelagos. 

Papeete's market - which also has products from Tahiti - is full of fruits and vegetables from the Papara plain and Taravao, fē’ī or mei’a (mountain plantains or sweet bananas). There, you will also find pineapple from Moorea or Taha’a vanilla, undoubtedly the best in the world! 

All of these pure ingredients are used to cook traditional dishes (Fafa chicken, with young Taro leaves, Chinese Taro donuts, Tahitian raw fish with coconut milk, etc.) or dishes reinvented by chefs. 

You can also find fruit and vegetable stalls alongside the road where you can try some of the delicious local produce. Don't hesitate to stop when you are touring the island on the main road or on your way to the beach.

Freshwater products

These high islands are covered with rivers; full of resources, especially deed (‘ōura pape), a freshwater shrimp. At the mouth of the river, when it is the right season, the inhabitants capture the īna’a, fry of the āpiri, with big landing nets, to cook delicious fried donuts. During the year’s first quarter, ature benches come to the French Polynesian coasts and delight local fishermen. People usually eat them toasted, in filet, or marinated like herring. 

Kaaku, Ma’a Tinito, Popoi, Poe, īna’a, Kaveu, Varo, ‘ōura Miti ... Are you looking for the best restaurants? What if it is the one that makes you live a unique culinary experience with a product that you would never have imagined being on your plate?

Important : Be clear about your food allergy or intolerance, and call ahead to ask the restaurant if they can cater to it.  Tell the restaurant staff about your food allergy clearly on arrival.