The Islands of Tahiti isn’t just a destination of beautiful beaches and warm turquoise lagoons . It is also a land with a unique and thriving ancestral culture. Here are five of the best museums to visit in order to get a better understanding of the history and development of French Polynesia.

Le Musée de Tahiti et des îles © Tahiti Tourisme

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Le Musée de Tahiti Et des îles, à Tahiti

This ethnographic museum is in Punaauia, south of Papeete. Also called Te Fare Iamahana , it is the ideal place to learn about the history of French Polynesia, and the evolution of its culture and customs from the early settlers to the modern era. Recently renovated, the museum is on a superb site with a vast garden, right next to the sea.

Le Musée James Norman Hall - Tahiti Tourisme © Kristiyan Markov

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James Norman Hall Museum, Tahiti

The house where the American novelist lived in Arue is now a museum. After falling into a state of disrepair, it was recently restored with funding from the government of French Polynesia. It was in this house that Hall wrote his most successful novels, including the Bounty trilogy.

L'écomusée Fare Natura de Moorea © Grégoire Le Bacon

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Fare Natura ecomuseum , Moorea

The Fare Natura ecomuseum in Opuhonu on the island of Moorea, offers the opportunity to learn more about the flora and fauna on land and at sea, in The Islands of Tahiti. The museums motto is, ‘Understand, Preserve and Transmit’ and it is an interesting and instructive place to visit after a hike in the valley of Opunohu.

Le Centre Culturel de Paul Gaugin à Hiva Oa © Tahiti Tourisme

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Paul Gauguin culturel center, Hiva Oa

Paul Gauguin fell in love with the Marquesas Islands and spent his last years in Atuona on the island of Hiva Oa. His house, the ‘Maison du jouir’, has been reconstructed and is home to a permanent exhibition, with paintings and artefacts from his time on the island. He is buried in the local cemetery next to the internationally famous singer, Jacques Brel.

L'espace culturel de Jacques Brel à Hiva Oa © Tahiti Tourisme

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Jacques Brel cultural center, Hiva Oa

Somewhat amazingly, there are two internationally famous artists buried in the tiny cemetery of this remote Marquesan island: Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel. Brel fell in love with Hiva Oa on one of his epic sailing voyages and decided that he wanted to end his days here. The museum houses a photographic exhibition as well as Brel’s cherished light aircraft, ‘Jojo’.

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