Party, French Polynesian Style

26 August 2016

If you are planning a trip to the South Pacific French Polynesian region, beyond the white beaches, azure waters and Island lifestyle, there is the additional attraction that this part of the Pacific really enjoys celebrating events and traditions. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a cultural tradition, a sporting event or an arts festival, the French Polynesians love to celebrate, all year round - these events can be a lovely bonus to your Pacific experience. So no matter what time of year you are heading to this beautiful part of the world, there will be a party, somewhere.

Chinese Dragon New Year. Chinese New Year Dragon chasing away last year's bad spirits. Picture: Getty Images

Chinese New Year

The year’s celebrations kick off with Chinese New Year, an important festival for the large Chinese community that makes up five percent of Tahiti’s total population. Most are the descendants of migrant workers who came from China to work on the island’s cotton plantations in the 1860s. This early to mid-February event opens officially at Papeete’s town hall, followed by a traditional lantern march through the palm-lined streets of Tahiti’s capital, the evening finishing with Chinese cultural performances, including the Chinese Dragon dance to ward off evil spirits for a prosperous New Year. A great opportunity to experience the colourful blend of Asian and Pacific culture.

Billabong Surfing Pro

Come every April and May, the Tahiti Iti community of Teahupoo proudly hosts one of the world’s most prestigious surfing competitions, the Billabong Surfing Pro. The location provides some of the world’s highest and most challenging waves. Competitors are towed across Teahupoo’s lagoon on jet skis, before taking on the 10 metre waves -  this is a thrilling spectator sport.

Teahupoo waves. Teahupoo serving up some waves. Picture: Getty Images

Tahiti Pearl Regatta

The Tahiti Pearl Regatta attracts an average of 30 yachts, both local and international, racing in and out of the numerous islands and lagoons. Taking place every year around mid-May, sailing is over three stages and three days between Tahaa, Bora Bora, and Raiatea. Although the main Tahiti Pearl Regatta race is open to sailing boats of all sizes, a separate race called Défi Pro is open only to professional and sponsored crews. These idyllic locations are great spots to watch this exciting and fast yacht race.


Looking for more on French Polynesia? French Flavours in the South Pacific


Heiva i Tahiti

Heiva i Tahiti, is the biggest of all Tahitian festivals and begins on June 29, the day of French Polynesia‘s Autonomy celebrations, and finishes on July 14, with plenty of fireworks for the Bastille Day celebrations. Papeete’s To’ata Square provides the main spot where much of the action takes place. People from across French Polynesia’s five archipelagos take part in Heiva i Tahiti’s many sporting competitions, parades, and food tastings - ideal to give visitors the opportunity to sample a big range of the French Polynesian culture.

Bastille Day fireworks with palm trees. Vive La France - Bastille Day fireworks with palm trees. Picture: Getty Images

Tahiti International Tourism Day

This annual September festival celebrates the United Nations' (UN) World Tourism Day, which is on September 27 each year. The day aims to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values. Celebrations are held in all five of the country's archipelagoes, where residents and visitors alike partake in traditional song, music and dance, like the traditional Tamare. It is a great day to include in your itinerary, if you are intending to travel around this time, as tourists receive discounts at popular attractions on this day.

Tamare dancers Tamare dancers dancing their magic. Picture: Getty Images

Hawaiiki Nui Va‘a

No sporting event in French Polynesia attracts more spectators than this annual six-man canoeing race held between October 19 and 21 each year. The outrigger canoe race provides the competition forum where for three days, more than 100 traditional canoes compete between Huahine and Bora-Bora. Canoe racers from Tahiti, and from across the Pacific and France, all claim to be the best canoe racers in the World, so competition is intense. All competitors are supported with flower leis and Polynesian drums and singing, all part of the party atmosphere.

Tahiti Carnival

Like Rio or Venice, Papeete also has its own carnival. At the end of October, it is a collection of brightly coloured floats followed by a gigantic parade of nearly 10,000 participants. All of Papeete is filled with street parties, and colorful dancers. All across Tahiti, carnival party-goers build their own floats in great secrecy before the big reveal on the night of the Carnival. You won't be disappointed with the colour and life of this spectacle.

Note that events listed above are by no means exhaustive, if you want to know more on what is happening in the South PacificVisit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals.

Tara Young

The experience of travel changes a person. I see my job as highlighting what amazing travel opportunities there are to broaden your knowledge of that great big world beyond your doorstep and what you may learn about yourself on the way.