Located on kilometer 15 traveling south on the island road, this museum was a memorable experience. I visited during my first day on the island. Having a car definitely helps unless you are with a tour group; the museum is off the main island road and a bit out of the way but not impossible to find (like the Pomare V Tomb). The few extra minutes it takes to get here is quickly forgotten when you see that it’s on a prime location overlooking the sea with Mo’orea in the distance.
Admission was free the day I visited although I’m fairly certain this isn’t the norm. The museum is arranged chronologically into five main areas. First, the beginnings of the islands and the associated migrations of plants, animals, and humans are covered under the topic of “diversity.” I learned how an atoll is made among other tidbits of information including the spread of culture and language through the Pacific. With human presence confirmed, the next section deals with the daily life of the native islanders. Topics as diverse as navigation, fishing (with very cool fishing lures!), and utensils used in cooking were covered among many others. Third, the spiritual/religious element of Polynesian pre-historic society is covered with various statues and weapons. The fourth area gives a nice overview of the post-European era of the islands while the fifth and last spot is an outdoor exhibit of canoes.
I spent over two hours here and it was well worth it. The museum flows in a logical order and covers all the areas of French Polynesia (Gambier, Marquesas, Tahiti, etc.) fairly comprehensively, even showing that there is diversity within the area as the different island groups have different cultures and other populations have migrated here over time. My knowledge of the islands, the people, and their traditions was enhanced by coming here which is the ultimate stamp of approval for any museum. As a bonus, after you are done there is a beautiful promenade overlooking the ocean that you can visit as well as a well stocked gift shop. The only downside to my time here was the lack of English signage at some locations (which would have probably doubled my time spent); additionally, some of the exhibits seemed a bit dated as well. Fortunately neither of these proved to be a major problem.
If you make one stop on Tahiti be sure it is this one. Thumbs up!
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