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Location of the commune (in red) within the Windward Islands
Location of the commune (in red) within the Windward Islands
Country France
Overseas collectivity French Polynesia
 • Mayor (1995–present) Michel Buillard
Area [1] 17.4 km2 (6.7 sq mi)
 • Urban 299.5 km2 (115.6 sq mi)
Population (August 2012 census[2])1 25,769
 • Density 1,500/km2 (3,800/sq mi)
 • Urban 133,627
 • Urban density 450/km2 (1,200/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 98735 / 98714
Elevation 0–621 m (0–2,037 ft)
1 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Papeete (pronounced [3]) is the capital of French Polynesia, an overseas country of France in the Pacific Ocean. The commune (municipality) of Papeete is located on the island of Tahiti, in the administrative subdivision of the Windward Islands, of which Papeete is the administrative capital. The French High Commissioner also resides in Papeete.[4] It is the primary center of Tahitian and French Polynesian public and private governmental, commercial, industrial and financial services, the hub of French Polynesian tourism and a commonly used port of call.[4] The Windward Islands are themselves part of the Society Islands. The name Papeete[Note 1] means "water from a basket".[5]

The urban area of Papeete had a total population of 133,627 inhabitants at the August 2012 census, 25,769 of whom lived in the commune of Papeete proper.[2]


  • Geography 1
  • History 2
  • Transportation 3
  • Demographics 4
    • Historical population 4.1
    • Migrations 4.2
    • Languages 4.3
  • Travel and tourism 5
  • Climate 6
  • Main sights 7
  • Papeete in popular culture 8
  • Economy 9
  • Education 10
  • Gallery 11
  • See also 12
  • Notes 13
    • Footnotes 13.1
    • Citations 13.2
  • References 14
  • External links 15


A 50 centimes World War II banknote (1943), printed in Papeete, depicting the outline of Tahiti (rev).
A 50 centimes World War II banknote (1943), printed in Papeete, depicting the outline of Tahiti (rev).

The commune of Papeete is subdivided into eleven quartiers (wards):[6][7][8]

  • Manu Hoe – Fare Ute – Motu Uta
  • Patutoa
  • Taunoa
  • Fariipiti
  • Titioro
  • Tepapa
  • Faiere
  • Pic Rouge
  • Tipaerui
  • Paofai
  • Mamao


At the outbreak of World War I Papeete was shelled by German vessels, causing loss of life and significant damage.

The growth of the city was boosted by the decision to move the nuclear weapon test range from Algeria to the atolls of Mururoa and Fangataufa, some 1,500 km (930 mi) at the east of Tahiti; this originated in particular in the construction of the Faa'a airport next to Pape'ete, the only international airport in French Polynesia. In 1983, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built the Papeete Tahiti Temple here because of the large number of members in the region. On 5 September 1995 the government of Jacques Chirac conducted the first of the last series of nuclear test detonations off the shores of Moruroa. A resulting riot in Papeete lasted for two days and damaged the international airport, injured 40 people, and scared away tourism for some time.[9][10] (Similar rioting occurred after another French nuclear test in the same area in 1987.)


There are very busy streets in the town center, and sometimes traffic can be a problem since the streets are very small. There is a freeway that starts close to the town center starting with Pomare Boulevard, named after the Tahitian Royal Family dynasty of the 19th century. By air, the people would use the Faaa International Airport. From there they could either take Air Tahiti to go to another island of the territory or take a plane like Air Tahiti Nui to go international. By sea, they would either take Moorea ferries to go to Moorea or the Bora Bora cruiseline to go to Bora Bora.


The urban area of Papeete had a total population of 133,627 inhabitants at the August 2012 census, 25,769 of whom lived in the commune of Papeete proper.[2] The urban area of Papeete is made up of seven communes. They are listed from northeast to southwest:

  • Mahina
  • Arue
  • Pirae
  • Papeete (historically the most populous commune in the urban area, and still the administrative capital)
  • Faaa (which became in 1988 the most populous commune in the urban area)
  • Punaauia
  • Paea

Historical population

1956 1962 1971 1977 1983 1988 1996 2002 2007 2012
Papeete (commune) 18,089 19,903 25,342 22,967 23,496 23,555 25,553 26,222 26,017 25,769
Papeete (urban area) 28,975 35,514 65,185 77,781 93,294 103,857 115,759 127,327 131,695 133,627
Official figures from population censuses.[2][11][12][13]

Average population growth of the Papeete urban area:

  • 1956-1962: +1,107 people per year (+3.5% per year)
  • 1962-1971: +3,597 people per year (+7.6% per year)
  • 1971-1977: +2,025 people per year (+2.9% per year)
  • 1977-1983: +2,400 people per year (+2.9% per year)
  • 1983-1988: +2,158 people per year (+2.2% per year)
  • 1988-1996: +1,489 people per year (+1.4% per year)
  • 1996-2002: +1,873 people per year (+1.6% per year)
  • 2002-2007: +913 people per year (+0.7% per year)
    Papeete waterfront
  • 2007-2012: +386 people per year (+0.3% per year)


The places of birth of the 131,695 residents in the Papeete urban area at the 2007 census were the following:[14]


At the 2007 census, 98.2% of the population in the urban area of Papeete whose age was 15 years and older reported that they could speak French. 96.5% reported that they could also read and write it. Only 1.2% of the population whose age was 15 years and older had no knowledge of French.[15]

At the same census, 79.7% of the population in the urban area of Papeete whose age was 15 years and older reported that the language they spoke the most at home was French. 16.5% reported that Tahitian was the language they spoke the most at home. 1.7% reported another Polynesian language, 1.6% reported a Chinese dialect (half of whom speak Hakka), and 0.5% reported another language.[15]

19.5% of the population in the urban area of Papeete whose age was 15 years and older reported that they had no knowledge of any Polynesian language at the 2007 census, whereas 80.5% reported that they had some form of knowledge of at least one Polynesian language.[15]

Travel and tourism

Traveling tourists arrive and depart Papeete via cruise ship at Papeete Harbor or domestic airline at Faa'a International Airport, which was completed and opened in 1962.


Papeete features a tropical monsoon climate with a wet season and dry season. However, precipitation is observed even during the city's dry season. The dry season is short, covering only the months of August and September. The rest of the year is wet, with the heaviest precipitation falling in the months of December and January. Temperatures are relatively constant throughout the course of the year, averaging around 25 °C (77 °F).

Climate data for Papeete
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 30.3
Average low °C (°F) 23.4
Average rainfall mm (inches) 315.2
Mean monthly sunshine hours 215.5 199.2 226.0 230.3 228.6 220.0 235.2 251.1 241.6 232.1 208.7 196.6 2,684.9
Source: NOAA[16]

Main sights

  • The waterfront esplanade
  • Bougainville Park (once named Albert Park), in honour of a former Belgian king and World War One hero, is now named for Louis Antoine de Bougainville, the first French explorer to circumnavigate the globe.
  • Cathedral of Notre Dame of Papeete
  • The Territorial Assembly is the heart of the Polynesian government and contains the Territorial Assembly building, the High Commissioner's residence and also a once popular clubhouse of Paul Gauguin. It was also once the site of the royal residence and palace of Queen Pomare IV of Tahiti, who ruled from 1827 to 1877.
  • Presidential palace
  • The Papeete Tahiti Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • The Monument to Pouvanaa a Oopa (a decorated World War I hero, Tahitian nationalist, and deputy to Paris for the Tahitian Territorial Assembly)
  • The Mairie (town hall)
  • Papeete Market

Papeete in popular culture

  • The film El pasajero clandestino deals with several persons trying to take control of the inheritance of a recently deceased English film magnate who travel to Papeete to look for the heir.
  • Papeete is mentioned in the songs "Southern Cross" by Crosby, Stills & Nash; "Somewhere Over China" by Jimmy Buffett; and "A Warm Summer Night" by Chic.
  • Papeete is mentioned in the Bruce Brown's groundbreaking surf film The Endless Summer as one of the surf sites visited by the two longboarders chasing the summer season around the world. The beach at Papeete is dubbed "Ins and outs" because the steep shore causes waves to break in both directions—toward the beach and out to sea.
  • Papeete is where Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Ebb Tide" begins.
  • Papeete, a schooner built by Matthew Turner, who had extensive business interests in Tahiti, was known for a fast passage from San Francisco to Tahiti of 17 days.[17]


Immeuble Dexter, the head office of Air Tahiti Nui

Air Tahiti Nui has its head office in the Immeuble Dexter in Papeete.[18]


The Lycée Paul-Gauguin is located in the city.


See also



  1. ^ The name Papeete is sometimes spelled Pape’ete in Tahitian, using the apostrophe (in fact a variant of it hard to differentiate from the regular apostrophe when using small fonts) to represent the glottal stop, as promoted by the Académie Tahitienne and accepted by the territorial government (see [5] ). This apostrophe, however, is often omitted. Archived June 26, 2006 at the Wayback Machine


  1. ^ "R1- Population sans doubles comptes, des subdivisions, communes et communes associées de Polynésie française, de 1971 à 1996". ISPF. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Population des communes de Polynésie française". INSEE. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Kay, p. 106
  5. ^ Kay, p. 102
  6. ^ [6]
  7. ^ [7]
  8. ^ Arue – 12A Arahiri/Rimapp
  9. ^ ''New York Times'' coverage of Atomic tests resumption in Tahiti. New York Times (1995-10-08). Retrieved on 2011-07-03.
  10. ^ ''New York Times'' coverage of riot at Tahiti's international airport. New York Times (1995-09-07). Retrieved on 2011-07-03.
  11. ^ Jean Fages (1975). "Punaauia-Paea - contact ville-campagne et croissance urbaine de la côte ouest de Tahiti" (PDF). ORSTOM. p. 21. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  12. ^ "Population statistique des communes et communes associées aux recensements de 1971 à 2002". ISPF. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  13. ^ "Population des communes de Polynésie française au RP 2007". INSEE. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  14. ^ "Recensements de la population > 2007 > Données détaillées > Migrations". ISPF. Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  15. ^ a b c "Recensements de la population > 2007 > Données détaillées > Langues". ISPF. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  16. ^ "Tahiti FAA Climate Normals 1961-1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved May 12, 2013. 
  17. ^  
  18. ^ "[8]." Air Tahiti Nui. Retrieved on 7 November 2012. "Tahiti – Siège social Immeuble Dexter – Pont de L’Est – Papeete BP 1673 – 98713 Papeete – Tahiti."


  • Kay, Robert F. Hidden Tahiti. Berkeley, California: Ulysses Press, 2001. ISBN 1-56975-222-2.

External links

  • Papeete Official Website
  • Papeete City Tour, over 30 tourist attractions to discover
  • Papeete City Tour for mobile
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