Papeari owes its fame for its flowers and gardens primarily to an American, Harrison Smith (1872-1947), a passionate botanist. Originally Smith was a professor of Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology but after inheriting a small fortune, he left academia and at age 37 sailed for Tahiti, where he purchased 137 hectares. He then proceeded to slowly plant hundreds of varieties of exotic flowers and trees which he imported at great personal expense and with enormous difficulty from tropical America, Asia and Africa. Before he died in 1947, Smith bequeathed his garden to a friend before the botanical collection became public. The garden is located in a 14-hectare park adjacent to the Paul Gauguin Museum, a restaurant/snack bar and “Motu Ovini”. Open daily from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. There is an admission charge.
Built near the Post Office around a statue of the French admiral and explorer, Louis Antoine de Bougainville, the park is a genuine green oasis in the heart of the city. All 5,600 m2 of this natural park, where we recommend you linger and enjoy the cool stream running through the park, provide a pleasant glimpse of Polynesian nature and culture. With its pools of water lilies, sparkling spring, bamboo, opuhi flowers and mango trees, the park is a place of peace and tranquillity in the middle of a bustling city. Throughout the year, flower shows, cultural events and art exhibits enliven the garden as the “Faré Pote'e” is big enough to host events and concerts.
Towering Tahitian chestnut trees, opuhi flowers and bamboo groves provide welcome shade and relief from the heat to members taking a break when the Assembly is in session. The queen's famous pool has a spring that empties into a pond full of water lilies and large red, white and black carp. Inaugurated in 2009, the “Queen's Footpath” is lined with more than 57 trees where several rare wood species -some of them endemic- coexist (catalogued by the Department of Rural Development). The entrance to the garden is graced by an additional rare species, Eastern Polynesian sandalwood (Santalum Insulare). There are two tour options, both free of charge, between the hours of 7.30 a.m. and 5.00 p.m. Monday to Friday: an individual walk-in tour and, if you make a request to the Assembly's Public Relations Department, an organised guided group tour.
Stretching over 4.6 hectares, this landscaped public space and recreational area has sports facilities, children's playgrounds, pergolas, footpaths, green space, fountains, restroom facilities, locker rooms and two faré pote'e (pavilions)... Protected from the sun by nearly 400 trees, this “green lung” at the heart of the city is without a doubt the island's most beautiful park today.
With 324 coconut trees, 40 royal palms, 30 large flowering trees and 2.5 hectares of lawn, the Paofai Gardens is a very diverse wooded space where endemic and medicinal plants are showcased. Each archipelago is represented by a plant symbol: the mahae fern for Huahine, the auti (cabbage palm) for Raiatea, vanilla for the Windward Islands, the kahaia (beach gardenia) for the Tuamotus, the tianina (lantern tree) for the Marquesas and the sea lemon for the Gambier Islands. The garden also boasts fruit trees, several varieties of banana, and 'uru (breadfruit).
A stop at Mataeia to visit this haven of peace is imperative. Here you'll find tropical plants (native, imported and endemic species), cool springs and refreshing waterfalls, plus a picnic area specially located by the sea. Public restrooms, a space devoted to culture and “faré” boutique can be found at the entrance to the gardens. 6 km of hiking trails wend along three routes of varying levels of difficulty, from the wetland to the Caribbean pine-forested upland, and cross the Vaipahi River, with its waterfalls and 100-year-old mape (Tahitian chestnut trees). Laid out in 2006 by the Department of Tourism and located at kilometre post 49 on the west coast of Tahiti, the gardens of the Vaipahi Valley are an unequalled site in Polynesia. Watercourses and pools with blossoming lotuses and water lilies are surrounded by a fine-gravel path lined with plants, shrubs, trees and tropical flowers. Among them you can find the lori lori: this shrub, which originates from Myanmar, has red berries which, when cooked, are delicious in pies, jams and compotes.
Open daily from 7.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.
The Museum's park extends over 4.5 hectares and was laid out to provide a striking accent to the flora exhibit in the Natural Environment Hall. Completed under the direction of the former curator of the botanical garden at the Gauguin Museum in Papeari, the park contains several endemic plant species, most of which were of great significance to ancient Polynesians and some of which are threatened. The garden includes aute (paper mulberry or Broussonetia Papyrifera), ’aua (kava or Piper methysticum), pelagodoxa, a palm tree found only in the Marquesas and threatened with extinction, autī (ti plant or Cordyline altilis) and many more. On the other side of the buildings, the parking lot is lined with young miro (Pacific rosewood trees or Thespesia populnea), ti’a’iri (candleberry trees or Aleurites triloba), mati (dye fig trees or Ficus tinctoria) and two ’ora banyan trees (Ficus prolixa). Visitors can follow a marked footpath. Admission to the park, open during Museum hours, is free.
In the Méridien Tahiti Botanical Workshop, visitors are invited to discover gardens containing more than 30 endemic plants (fruit trees, rare wood species, ferns, etc.) as they walk along a marked footpath.
Admission is free.