Heiva Festival


The Islands of Tahiti have long been renowned for their vast cultural traditions and strong sense of community that is engrained in an array of vibrant stories of love, life and their enduring relationship with nature.


From the 4th -20th July Tahiti will celebrate its largest major cultural event and one of its longest running festivals - Heiva, meaning ‘to assemble’.  This event dates back hundreds of years, with many local Tahitians travelling from all five archipelagos to compete with each other in sporting, singing and dancing events.


Heiva consists of 6 key cultural highlights:


The music: Heiva festival is an opportunity for guests to hear live music orchestrated by Pu (conch shells) Vivo (a bamboo nasal flute) and ukuleles. These sounds are often formed by up to fifty musicians all playing traditional Tahitian sounds.


Fire walking: Commemorating the official opening if Heiva, the fire walking ceremony is an ancient display with volcanic rocks from the Papenoo Valley. Locals follow the Great Priest across the burning rocks as a symbol of commencement of the festival.


Singing competition: In hope of a local being crowned the winner of the singing competition, participants sing in a cappella in the traditional Tahitian language of Reo Ma’Ohi.


Dancing competition: Every night across The Islands, dance teams compete against each other in bright and beautiful costumes. The final night of Heiva sees thousands gather in Papeete’s cultural centre to cheer on the finalists.


Mr Tahiti: Arguably the most show stopping event of the festival, this competition sees local men gather in the hope of being crowned this year’s Mr Tahiti. Competing in javelin throwing, outrigger canoe racing and traditional Tahitian events like coconutting and fruit carrying. This is a must see for anyone attending Heiva.


Ancient religious traditions: Religious and social ceremonies are a contemporary interpretation of the historic ceremonies, as traditions have been passed down orally through the generations and meticulously researched. These are generally performed in temples (maraes) by carefully selected groups.


With Heiva being the most pure form of Tahitian culture and tradition, visitors to The Islands of Tahiti during this incredible festival can expect an authentic and moving experience that isn’t to be missed.


Rob Thompson