For most people, visiting The Islands of Tahiti is a “bucket-list” destination. I was lucky to check this one off my list relatively early, when I was invited on a recent Tahiti Tourisme press trip. For years, I carried constructed notions of what Tahiti would be like, only to find out upon my arrival that I was quite wrong; but as is turns out, having those myths busted turned out to be a good thing – a very good thing.
Before You Go to Tahiti Here’s What You Need to Know
It’s Not Just Bora Bora
Prior to my visit, I thought Tahiti and Bora Bora were one and the same, when yet there are in fact 118 islands making up the Islands of Tahiti, each with their own unique quality. I understand the desire to see Bora Bora; it’s everything you’ve ever seen in pictures and more. But when you go, take the time to investigate other islands. Before you book, consider splitting your stay between at least three of them.
I spent time on the big island of Tahiti, as well as Bora Bora, and Moorea. I fully expected Bora Bora to be my favourite, but it was Moorea that stole my heart. Called “The Magical Island,” Moorea is the perfect mix of blue lagoons, lush green vegetation, Polynesian hospitality, and French culture; essentially, it’s paradise. Of course, it probably helped that the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora was an absolutely flawless resort to take it all in. The trip left me insatiable, and I’ve been positively obsessed about getting to know even more of Tahiti, and I’m feeling the call of Rangiroa and the Marquesas for my next visit.
Transportation between islands is easy with Air Tahiti. Pro tip: get in line early so you can get a window seat to capture that perfect Instagram shot. Boat transportation is also available, and while it may take you a bit longer to get to your destination, you won’t regret the time you spend taking in the natural beauty around you.
An Overwater Bungalow May Not Be for You
You’ve probably built a magazine-worthy idea in your head about arriving in Tahiti where you will stay in an overwater bungalow. But let me pull out a reality check: an overwater bungalow in Tahiti starts at roughly $1000 CAD a night, with the higher end resorts running between $2000 to $3000 per night. If you have the bank for that, then book away. And if you’re looking for a roomie for the week, I’m all in.
The reality is that many people scrimp and save to book an overwater bungalow and then have no money left to actually do anything. I’ve stayed in an overwater bungalow and while beautiful, yes, I can also assure you that after a day, it’s just a room.
Look into booking other rooms at the resort which cost less but still offer the same amazing amenities. The Pearl Beach Resort and Spa in Bora Bora has bungalows on the beach and those with garden views that are identical on the inside to those on the water. Added bonus: you’ll have some coin left for other things.
It’s Only For Lovers
Sure, sun, sand and surf are conducive to a little romance, but they are also three things your kids love too. Why would you deny them this? Tahiti and the islands ARE for kids!
The lack of furry or costumed characters walking around signing autograph books is refreshing and brings family travel to new levels of sophistication. You won’t find water parks on resorts, and resort kids’ clubs will be sparse, but what you will find is the opportunity to try unique activities with your kids and create lasting memories.
Highly recommended for families: book a va’a lesson. A va’a is an outrigger canoe and a national sport and obsession in Tahiti. Every person in a va’a must work together to get anywhere, so it’s a great exercise in family team building.
And be sure to bring your snorkeling gear. The waters surrounding Tahiti are teeming with life. From just about anywhere, visitors can wade into the water and see spectacular sea life. There is no better place to introduce your kids to the wonders of the ocean.
There is no doubt Tahiti can be expensive, but there are many great options for accommodations that won’t cost you your retirement savings. But don’t panic; even budget-conscious options are far from “hostel with a backpack’ levels of accommodation.
The Le Meridien Tahiti, conveniently located near the Papeete airport, offers a room with two queen beds for roughly $350 a night; a third of the cost of an overwater bungalow. Still making you break out in a cold sweat? No worries. Tahiti is well known for the large number of family pensions it offers throughout the islands. At around $150 a night, with some places including breakfast in the price, your dream trip just turned into a reality.
The Food Truck craze is not just a North American phenomenon, and Tahiti boasts a huge assortment of Roulettes (French for food truck), most notably at Vaiete Square near the ferry to Moorea. Go for the gourmet food and budget-friendly pricing, but stick around for the cool vibe and dining under the stars.
I recommend you also check out Little Bangkok, a food truck in Puna’auia, not far from the Merdien Tahiti. I’m still thinking about the delicious Pad Thai I had there.
For some people the thought of lying on a lounge chair with an umbrella drink is a form of torture. Do an image search of Tahiti and it’s not hard to see why some people may think that’s all there is to do.
But adrenaline junkies can take heart: You can take surfing lessons, hike through the jungle to secluded falls on Tahiti, snorkel with sharks and rays in Bora Bora, and ATV up practically vertical terrain in Moorea. There’s plenty to keep an adventurer busy.
The Polynesian people, aside from being incredibly warm and inviting to guests, also have a fascinating culture. Be sure to take the time to immerse yourself in it.
In Tahiti, book a full day excursion with Ia Ora Na Tahiti Expeditions. The owner, Teuai Oliver, is nothing short of a superman, who can lift large rocks, climb impossibly tall coconut trees and whip up a killer Poisson Cru in a single bound.
Also on the island of Tahiti, you’ll find no warmer welcome than with Tupuna Kultur. A completely immersive experience, guests here will learn about Tahitian dance, music, massage, food, basket weaving, and lei making. I’m still trying to figure out how to make wearing a hei (aka floral crown) acceptable in my daily life at home.
It’s Hard to Get To
There is no doubt that getting to Tahiti takes some time, but it’s not hard or complicated. Simply get yourself to Los Angeles from anywhere in North America, and then hop on an Air Tahiti Nui flight.
The flight from Los Angeles is long at eight hours, but most definitely a pleasure on Air Tahiti Nui. The staff on board welcome you with French Polynesian hospitality, making the journey there delightful. If you can, I recommend booking a night flight. I had night flights to and from Tahiti and I blissfully slept for most of it.
I think most surprising to me now, as I reflect on what I’ve learned about The Islands of Tahiti, is that it doesn’t have to be a once in a lifetime trip. The Islands of Tahiti are not hard to get to, they can be done on a budget, and there’s enough to do in order to easily justify a return trip (or two!)