When travelling to Tahiti from New Zealand, Kiwis are lucky there are direct flights, but sometimes the flight schedule makes a layover in Papeete a good idea. The mainland is vast – it takes a day to travel around the island – so here’s the top 5 mainland must-do’s on your Papeete pit stop.

1. Marché de Pape’ete

The public market is literally the heart of the city. Located one block back from Papeete’s busy port, this is a great place to experience authentic day-to-day living in the island city.

On the ground floor you’ll find food of every kind – fresh fruit, fish mongers, patisseries (they make a mean chocolate éclair) and coconut stalls. The produce is inexpensive – you can eat like a king for about $NZ22.

Upstairs is the place to buy your Tahitian memorabilia and trinkets. Flower crowns, dancing dolls, Monoi oil, woven beach bags – there’s a huge selection at reasonable prices.

Le Marché is open daily from 7.30 am to 6.00 pm (Sundays until 9 am)

2. Try The Local Ice Cream

Ice cream in Papeete is a Big Deal. There’s a vendor on every street corner with each providore offering interesting variations on the famous treat. Available in both crème (ice cream) or glace (sorbet), my favourite flavours are coconut, salted caramel and Tahitian vanilla.

At $NZ2.20 for a cone – you will not be able to stop at one.

3. Buy A Black Pearl

Tahiti is famous for its black pearls and Papeete is the place to buy one. The family-owned and operated Tahiti Pearl Market (23 rue Colette, Papeete) sells loose pearls and will whip them into a setting of your choice within hours (so you can do this in one day). Also well regarded is the Robert Wan Pearl Museum (Boulevard Pomare, Papeete). This place provides the full experience – you can learn about the history of farming and harvesting the precious gem and then shop up a storm.