Tahiti is the largest island in the Windward group of French Polynesia; an overseas collectivity of the French Republic, sometimes referred to as an overseas country. The island is located in the archipelago of the Society Islands in the central Southern Pacific Ocean, and is divided into two parts: The bigger, northwestern part Tahiti Nui and the smaller, southeastern part Tahiti Iti. The island was formed from volcanic activity and is high and mountainous with surrounding coral reefs. The population is 183,645 inhabitants (2012 census), making it the most populous island of French Polynesia and accounting for 68.5% of its total population.
Tahiti is the economic, cultural and political centre of French Polynesia. The capital of the collectivity, Pape'ete, is located on the northwest coast with the only international airport in the region, Fa'a'ā International Airport, situated 5 km (3.1 mi) from the town centre.
Tahiti was originally settled by Polynesians between 300 and 800 CE. They represent about 70% of the island's population with the rest made up of Europeans, Chinese and those of mixed heritage. The island was proclaimed a colony of France in 1880 although it was not until 1946 that the indigenous Tahitians were legally authorised to be French citizens. French is the only official language although the Tahitian language (Reo Tahiti) is widely spoken. It was part of the Kingdom of Tahiti until its annexation by France in 1880.
Tahiti is the highest and largest island in French Polynesia lying close to Moorea island. It is located 4,400 km (2,734 mi) south of Hawaii, 7,900 km (4,909 mi) from Chile and 5,700 km (3,542 mi) from Australia.
The island is 45 km (28 mi) across at its widest point and covers an area of 1,045 sq km (403 sq mi). The highest peak is Mont Orohena (Mou'a 'Orohena) (2,241 m (7,352 ft)). Mount Roonui, or Mount Ronui (Mou'a Rōnui) in the southeast rises to 1,332 m (4,370 ft). The island consists of two roughly round portions centred on volcanic mountains and connected by a short isthmus named after the small town of Taravao, situated there.
The northwestern portion is known as Tahiti Nui ("big Tahiti"), while the much smaller southeastern portion is known as Tahiti Iti ("small Tahiti") or Tai'arapū. Tahiti Nui is heavily populated along the coast, especially around the capital, Papeete.