Planning a visit to Tahiti’s Municipal Market in Papeete? This guide will give you all the info you need about this place.

Tahiti acts as the transit hub in French Polynesia and due to that there is more economic activity here than on any other island in the archipelago. You’ll find shopping centers and marketplaces where you can get almost anything you need.

When it comes to shopping in Tahiti, one of the top places you’ll hear about is Papeete Market. It is not only a local favorite but has also become a tourist attraction.

This place is perfect for anyone looking to get a taste of local culture or want to buy gifts for their friends and families.

What is the Papeete Market?

Papeete Market is a local marketplace in Tahiti famous for its fresh produce and souvenirs. It’s one of the largest markets in French Polynesia where you can purchase all sorts of local goods, handicrafts, and food items at great prices. It’s located in the center of Papeete city near the ferry port.

The market is quite large, spanning over 75,000 square feet with four entrances and two floors. While it’s an indoor market, the sides are open for ventilation, so it’s kind of open-air. Inside, you’ll find most of the space is filled with stalls and small stores where vendors display their wares.

The market has different sections for different products like fabrics, jewelry, flowers, food, grocery, etc. On the second floor, there are more shops with mostly clothing, artifacts and jewelry items. The prices upstairs are a bit lower than those on the ground floor.

Besides everything, vendors here are friendly and not so pushy. They are mostly locals and farmers coming from Tahiti itself and other islands in the archipelago, relying on the market as their main source of income.

shopping in Papeete Market

Papeete Market is popular among both locals and tourists. It’s the go-to market for locals to buy food items such as fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, etc.

And since it’s close to the ferry terminal and the airport, it is usually a pit stop for those arriving in or departing from Tahiti. Tourists often buy pearls, handicrafts, and other local goods as souvenirs.

History

In the 18th century, Tahiti was used by European sailors and traders as their anchorage point due to its strategic location. Papeete port became a trading hub and economic activities started shifting here from Matavai Bay. As a result Papeete Market was formed in 1847.

After the French colonial administration, the market was formally organized and established. In the beginning, it mainly sold food produces along with copra, coconut oil and pearl shells. Over time, the market underwent many changes and expanded significantly. Now it’s more built up and has a wide variety of both local and imported goods.

This market was originally called “Mapuru a Paraita”. Later this became known as “Marché de Papeete” in French, and “Papeete Market” in English. Some people also call it Marché Municipa (Municipal Market) and Farmers Market.

A market in Tahitian is called “Matete”.

How to sell in Papeete Market?

Papeete Market is administered by the municipality of Papeete and is overseen by the Mayor’s office. In order to sell things in Papeete Market, you must be at least 18 years old and either a local resident, French national, or a citizen of the European Union. If you qualify these, you can apply for a location and pay the fee at Papeete Town Hall. They’ll review your application and issue a temporary land use permit (AOT) if you’re eligible.

How to get to Papeete Market?

Papeete Market is situated in downtown Papeete, in the north of Tahiti. It’s about 100 meters from the main road. There are many ways to get to the market, but the best way is by taking a taxi. While taxis can be expensive (expect to pay $20-$30 for a 5-mile trip), they are the most comfortable and fastest option.

However, if you’ve got a rental car or scooter, then forget about this question. Just hop on to your vehicle and drive on. Keep in mind that it can be busy in the city especially on weekdays. Those on scooters will manage to get through but car drivers may face traffic. But don’t worry you won’t face any major traffic jams there.

Another way to get to Papeete Market is by taking the public bus. It’s the cheapest way to get there and can cost around $2-$5 per person regardless of where you take it on the island. The problem is that buses in Tahiti are not the most viable option especially for tourists. It’s usually a challenge for them to figure out which bus to take, when to take and where to take. So I’d suggest asking locals for help if you decide to take the bus.

main entrance to Papeete Market

From airport to market

Papeete Market is about 6.5 kilometers from Tahiti Airport. The route is straightforward and takes around 15 minutes by car to reach the market from the airport.

When out of the airport, you have two options: either take a taxi waiting outside or catch a bus. A taxi ride to the market from the airport typically costs $30. The bus ride to the market will cost a dollar or two and can take 20-30 minutes depending on traffic. So, if you’re in a hurry, just take the taxi otherwise go for the bus to save money, though you might have to wait.

Moreover, you can rent a car or scooter if you plan to stay in Tahiti for extended period.

From ferry terminal to market

Tahiti Ferry Terminal is situated about 700 meters east of Papeete Market. The best way to go to the market from the ferry terminal is by walking, which takes just 10 minutes.

If you’re in a hurry or don’t want to walk for whatever reason, you can grab a taxi and it’ll get you there in a few minutes.

Hilton Tahiti to Papeete Market

Hilton Tahiti Resort is in the west of Paeepete Market, approximately 1.5 miles (2.5 km) away. It’s normally a 5 minute drive from the hotel to the market.

If you don’t have a car/scooter, you can book a taxi or ask the hotel concierge to arrange a ride for you. You can also take the bus from the bus stop near the hotel.

What products are sold at Papeete Market?

Papeete Markets sells both local and imported items, but most of the items are local coming not just from Tahiti but also from the islands of Tuamotu, Marquesas, and Austral. Some items are seasonal, some are Sunday specific, and some are changed daily. So you might not see everything every day.

Tropical fruits, vegetables, and fish such as tuna are some of the top selling items at Papeete Market. Fishes and meats are usually the first items that get cleared up from the stalls. Tahitian pearls and artifacts are also hot especially among tourists.

Following are the list of products that you’ll find in the Papeete Market:

  • Fruits: Pineapples, guavas, breadfruit, watermelons, mangoes, soursops, granadilla, limes, fe’i bananas (a type of banana natural to French Polynesia), mape fruit, abiu, pumpkins, lychee, citrus, etc.
  • Vegetables: Yams, taro, sweet potatoes, beans, carrots, eggplant, bitter melons, cabbage, lettuce, ginger, and more.
  • Meat & Fish: Tuna, mahi mahi, parrot fish, salmon, bonitos, mullet, swordfish, beef, pork, chicken, etc.
  • Flowers: Tahitian tiaré, tipanier, pitate (local jasmine), taina, etc.
  • Oils: Tiare oil, tamanu oil, coconut oil, monoi oil (considered sacred), and some other essential oils.
  • Vanilla: Fresh vanilla
  • Handicrafts: Woven bags, woven hats, woven baskets, woven fans, peues (woven floor mats), wood and stone carvings, and many other local crafts.
  • Jewelry: Pearls and shells in jewelry and in loose, earrings, beads, and much more.
  • Cloths: Pareos (Tahitian sarongs), tifaifai (quilts), and other Polynesian dresses.
fruits, vegetables, clothings and crafts stalls in papeete market

When to visit Papeete Market?

The market is open almost all days of the week except for public holidays. The best time of the day to visit Papeete Market is early in the morning around 6 am. You’ll not only find a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and meat, but also get a glimpse of the locals’ morning life.

And if you ask what’s the best day of the week to visit the market? Sundays are the best days of the week to visit Papeete Market. This is when the market is at its best with a lot more options especially in food items. You’ll find all the fresh produce and experience local gastronomy. There are more locals on this day than you’d find any other day of the week. It’s kind of become a ritual among locals to go to Papeete Sunday market.

Not only inside of the market will be crowded, but you’ll also see many food stalls outside. Even there’ll be lines of people at some stalls, showing just how busy it can get on Sundays.

Papeete Market hours

  • Monday to Friday from 5:30 am to 5 pm
  • Saturday from 5:30 am to 1 pm
  • Sunday from 4:30 am to 10 am
many outside the tahiti local market
Morning scene outside the market

Hotels near Papeete Market

Boutique Hotel Kon Tiki Tahiti

It’s a modern hotel located at a perfect location near Papeete Market and ferry port. It’s about 10 minutes walk away from the market. It’s not just the location that makes it a great place but also its affordable price.

Hilton Hotel Tahiti

Hilton Tahiti is a 5-star hotel that’s about 5 minute drive from the Papeete market. You can also choose to walk which would take half an hour to get to the market. The hotel is also close to the airport about 2 miles away.

Tahiti Nui Hotel

Tahiti Nui is a nice hotel with clean, comfortable rooms, and friendly staff. It’s a great option for anyone wanting to stay near Papeete Market or the ferry port. It’s only a 10 minute walk away from the market.

Since it’s located near the main road, it can get noisy espacially in roadside rooms. But being close to restaurants, markets, airport and ferry port is one of its key selling points.

Mahana Lodge Tahiti

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly stay near Papeete Market, then Mahana Lodge is your place. It’s just 2 minute walking distance from the market and about 5 minute walk away from the ferry port.

Rooms are small and simple with bookings available for both private and shared rooms.

Papeete Market Tours

Papeete Food & City Tour

This is a small tour typically limited to 4 people will allow you to explore Papeete Market and taste local flavors with your guide. You’ll not only do food tasting but also learn about local cuisine and culture.

Your guide will first take you to the market where you’ll try local food from different vendors and hear about the market’s history. You’ll also have the opportunity to do some shopping. Afterward, you’ll visit an old church (Notre Dame Cathedral in Papeete) and the Polynesian presidential building to learn about the history and stuff.

Bring your appetite and wear comfortable shoes as there will be plenty of eating and walking.

Papeete Walking Tour

If you’re in Papeete for a short period and want to get a good overview of the city and Tahiti Island, this 2-3 hours guided tour is for you.

Your guide will take you through the streets of Papeete and point out the key sites. You’ll learn about Polynesia’s history, culture, and external influences shaping it. You’ll visit Papeete Market and local government buildings such as Mairie de Papeete and Assemblee De La Polynesie Francaise.

What to know?

What language do they speak?

In Papeete Market, the majority of the vendors speak French with a mix of Tahitian. The good thing is they can speak and understand English too, although not proficient but more than enough to communicate.

You’ll also hear some Hakka which is spoken by Chinese merchants.

What currency do they use?

CFP franc (XPF) is the main currency that is used in Papeete Market and throughout French Polynesia for daily transactions. Product prices are listed in XPF and can be bought not only in local currency but also in US Dollars and Euros.

Since Tahiti and its islands are tourist destinations, cash in USD is widely accepted. Still, it’s a good idea to have some local currency on hand as some places might not take dollars.

Do they accept cards at Papeete Market?

Things have changed quite a bit after the COVID and now most of the vendors in Papeete Market do accept credit cards, which wasn’t the case before. However, do not rely solely on your card and definitely bring some cash with you.

If you need cash, you can withdraw it from the ATM right in front of the market.

view of papeete market's 1st floor in from upstairs

Can you haggle/bargain?

Haggling is not common in Tahiti, so vendors typically won’t negotiate prices unless you insist. It’s okay to haggle a bit for some discount especially if you’re buying multiple items or think that they are overcharging.

But don’t expect big discounts. Sometimes vendors would give you a small discount while other times they might offer something extra like an oil bottle instead of lowering the price.

Is it busy here?

Since this is the biggest open-air market on the island, it’s usually bustling here in Papeete Market. Not only locals from Tahiti Island but many from Moorea Island come here. Each year, around 500,000 people visit Papeete Market with the majority being locals.

Sundays are the busiest, packed with both locals and tourists. Mornings are also busy with locals coming in to buy fresh food for the day. The crowds thin out gradually as the day goes on.

Is it expensive?

There’s a misconception that Papeete Market is expensive, but that’s not true. It depends on what you’re buying. Food items are actually cheaper here as there are so many vendors competing on price. Items like artifacts, jewelry, etc. are priced similarly to what you’d find anywhere else on the island, if not cheaper.

Most of the time, you’ll find prices on Tahiti lower compared to other islands.

Is parking available?

Papeete Market doesn’t have a designated parking lot for shoppers, but you can park on the street. Keep in mind that street parking fills up quickly which makes it hard to find a spot near the market.

If you come early, you’ll find parking easily. Otherwise, you’ll have to park farther away or use paid parking. The nearest options are by the Vaima Center and Mairie de Papeete.

Can you eat at Papeete Market?

Of course you can eat at Papeete Market. One of the things that this market is known for is the food. Besides organic food, you’ll find local specialties like poisson cru and pua roti. There’s a food court near the escalator for fast food items like burgers, pizzas, etc.

Keep in mind that there aren’t any sitting tables, so you’ll have to pack your food or eat while standing. But the second floor has a cafe with tables to sit at.

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