The island of Tahiti, the largest in the chain that makes up French Polynesia, is one of the most beautiful and exotic locales in the world. Synonymous with romance and luxury, it evokes visions of sapphire-blue waters, isolated ivory beaches and lavish overwater bungalows.

The reality of Tahiti is somewhat different. The island is the primary landing point for the many international flights that bring visitors to the region, and it’s the economic center of the island chain, which means you’ll find more traffic and development here than secluded paradise. Busy Papeete serves as French Polynesia’s capital, and it is as crowded and chaotic as any center of business. Beyond this vibrant city atmosphere, though, Tahiti is also a scenic island with lush tropical landscapes and cascading waterfalls. Leave the more developed areas behind and you’ll discover pleasant beaches and calm waters. This unique juxtaposition makes Tahiti one of the most diverse islands in French Polynesia.