Heiva I Tahiti – Papeete, Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia

A Celebration of All Things Polynesian

At this seven-week mother of all French Polynesian festivals, locals from many of the country’s 115 islands converge upon Tahiti for singing, dancing, and sports competitions rooted in their common heritage. The excitement is palpable, and colorful tra­ditional costumes are worn by contestants and local spectators alike. When the dancing con­tests begin, be there!

Although not heavily attended by visiting foreigners, this is the local culture so sorely missing from many of the glitzy resorts that sometimes manage to misplace, overlook, or dilute the spirit of this proud Polynesian race. Some of the contests are as timeless as fire walking, stone lifting, and outrigger canoe racing, but the present day also makes an appearance in the form of golf tournaments.

Missionaries suppressed the region’s suggestive tamure dancing in the early 19th century, but it has been resusci­tated with a vengeance; check with the local board of tourism to get times for the main dance playoffs and the emotionally charged finals that determine the year’s best individ­uals and troupes. The winners often tour some of the principal hotels in August, in case you miss the boat.

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