Map of Tahiti and French Polynesia

The largest of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, Tahiti is located in the Windward (as opposed to Leeward) half of that archipelago. These islands are several hours from any continent--the island of Tahiti lies roughly halfway between Sydney, Australia (3,542 miles) and Los Angeles, California (3,853 miles). Honolulu, Hawaii is 2,796 miles away.

Tahiti is shaped somewhat like a lopsided figure eight, made up of two major volcanic landmasses known as Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti, or "big Tahiti" and "little Tahiti," respectively. A small isthmus of land connects these to form a single island.

Papeete, the capital and largest city of Tahiti with 132,000 occupants, can be found on the northwest coast of Tahiti Nui. Tourists come and go via cruise ship at Papeete Harbor, or by plane at Fa'aa Airport, which was built on a reclaimed coral reef (due to the scarcity of flat land) three miles southwest of the city.

The inland regions are mountainous and sparsely populated; Tahiti is known not just for its gorgeous beaches but also its majestic, inspiring terrain. Mount Orohena in central Tahiti is the highest point in French Polynesia with an elevation of 7,352 feet.

For travelers looking to get away from it all, Tahiti is justly famous for its far-flung location and scenic beauty. The secluded island feel is balanced by a scale of grandeur and a surprisingly wide array of places to explore.

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