with Chief Purser Maiana TunoaChief Purser - Maiana Tunoa rt

Hibiscus-laden islands, infinite shades of blue, overwater
bungalows and sultry breezes – French Polynesia is quite possibly the most beautiful place on the planet and has inspired incredible tales of exploration throughout the ages. So how do you even begin to plan for your voyage to this Garden of Eden? You ask a local, of course.

We caught up with French Polynesian native and Oceania Cruises’ Chief Purser Maiana Tunoa to get the inside story on what to eat, some secret spots only locals know about, and a few top Tahitian phrases. Read on for the best of Moorea and Tahiti.

What Do People Eat in French Polynesia 

The cuisine in French Polynesia is all about fresh fish, suckling pig, local vegetables, and fruits like coconut, pineapple, and mango. Dishes are often drizzled with fresh coconut oil, sweet coconut cream is used liberally and the results are always best enjoyed with your feet dangling in a blue lagoon, says Tunoa. You’ll also find plenty of Chinese and French dishes on offer at local restaurants due to their respective influences on the islands.

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Tunoa shared that the most typical dish is centered on fish and fresh island ingredients. “Our favorite dish, which we have on our table every day, is called poisson cru.” Tunoa said. “It’s raw tuna prepared with lime, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, and coconut milk – you have to try it while you are here.” She also recommends a sweet dessert called Po’e, which is a Tahitian fruit pudding made with banana and coconut cream. “It’s traditionally wrapped in banana leaves and baked in a fire pit,” Tunoa said.

Food Spots in Tahiti for Locals

Where do the locals go to eat? Les roulottes, Tunoa tells us. Tahiti’s take on food trucks, les roulottes line the dock in Papeete. “You can find many different choices of food, from traditional Tahitian and Chinese to French crêpes, barbecue, and pizza,” she said. With live music most nights, it’s a festive slice of local cuisine and culture. Vendors are typically cash only.

Beyond the culinary scene, there is a hidden gem on Tahiti’s southern coast called Bain de Vaima where locals go on weekends, according to Tunoa. It’s a beautiful natural mountain spring located about 30 miles from Papeete, with clear cool water perfect for a refreshing dip. She also recommends the nearby Vaipahi Gardens, which are filled with lush plants and archeological relics. There are three nature walks that traverse the gardens, showcasing exotic flowers, lily ponds, waterfalls and streams. “This is a natural site open to everyone, but the majority of people that go are locals because others don’t know about it,” she said.

Speak Like a Tahitian

A few words of the local language go a long way in Tahiti. Tunoa shared the most common words that will make locals smile wherever you go.

Welcome

Maeva (mah-yeh-vah)

Hello

La Orana (yo-rah-nah)

How are you?

Maita’i oe? (may-tay oh-ay)

Thank you

Maururu (mah-roo-roo)

Bye

Nana (nah-nah)

Cheers / To your health

Manuia (mah-nwee-ah)

And don’t forget – maeva I te parataito, welcome to paradise!