***This is a very image heavy post***
A few months ago my wife emailed me about a deal to French Polynesia. Admittedly I had no idea where geographically this was. I of course had heard of Tahiti and Bora Bora before. We actually had been watching a show that was based out of French Polynesia and I thought how gorgeous it was. On a whim, I though “why not?” and we booked the trip.
After doing some research, I learned this set of islands was in the south Pacific (essentially directly south of Hawaii) and only an 8 hour flight from LA (not bad!). So a few months later in the middle of May we made our way to these tiny islands by way of LAX (stopped to see some family before).
Unfortunately our trip there (and back) were both redeye flights and I’m terrible at sleeping on airplanes. We had moved seats to the bulkhead thinking we’d have more legspace but in reality I couldn’t extend my legs fully and it was uncomfortable. I ended up sleeping maybe 30-60 minutes total and arrived exhausted. We landed around 5 am when it was still dark out. Luckily going through customs was smooth and our baggage came out quickly. They did have a small band set up as you walked to customs (they were just setting up when we deplaned).
We walked out of the gate area and saw our name on a whiteboard (our package deal included all transfers from airports/pier to our hotels and vice versa, which was nice that we didn’t have to think about those things). We had leis placed over our neck and soon were whisked away to our hotel (only about 1.5 miles away).
Upon arrival, the hotel lobby was an open concept where you could walk right through the entrance to a balcony overlooking the main part of the resort (pool and ocean and island of Moorea in all its splendor). There was also a bar set up next to reception at the Intercontinental Hotel Tahiti.
The second setback (after the lack of sleep on the plane) was that we arrived so early that our room was not ready. They were kind enough to give us a cell phone that they said they would call when our room was ready (which allowed us to roam the property in the meantime). We were so sleep-deprived that initially we just sat on some chairs in their open lobby but did end up walking around a little bit to get the blood flowing. After a few hours, I checked back in with reception but they said the room was still not ready. We settled in some chairs for the long haul and eventually fell asleep. Finally after about 6 hours total, our room was ready.
The room was nicely set up. Strangely there was a door separating the bathroom/closet area from the bedroom area (maybe for sound?). The amenities were what you’d expect from a nice modern hotel (I could not complain). The 2 best things were the air conditioning (which I would soon learn to love so much) and the view from our private balcony.
During our earlier wait time I had set up the concierge to rent a car as we wanted to explore the island. The rental car was back at the airport so not that long after we got situated in our hotel room did we get driven back to the airport to get our car. I rented a little Kia Piccanto (not anticipating needing a 4×4 to do any crazy inland treks and hikes).
We decided to head into the main city of Papeete since it was lunch time. Deborah wanted to checked out the Marché Papeete (Papeete Market). The blazing sun and humidity definitely started to get to us just from us walking around for a few minutes. After walking through the market we found a nearby restaurant (Lounge N’ Grill) and settled in for some food. D had the Hawaiian Queen Burger (chicken and pineapple) and I had the Poulet Pané (fried chicken) and fries. Luckily D knows some french, which turned out to be extremely useful on our trip.
After lunch we went back to the hotel and crashed for a few hours. We got up and made our way down to the Tiki Bar (situated next to the pool) and had a few cocktails and enjoyed the sunset.
Then we headed back out to Papeete to check out the Roulottes (similar to the food trucks we have here in the US) at Place Vai’ete (near the market we had visited earlier that day).
We settled on trying the national dish of Tahiti called Poisson Cru (au lait de coco), which is raw fish (tuna was the main fish we had in most of the ones we tried) with lime and coconut milk and some vegetables.
It was definitely a tasty dish. We also had bread (we learned that basically anytime you sat down to eat they would automatically bring you some bread and butter…must be a French thing). For dessert we went to a different roulotte that specialized in crepes and had a wonderfully delicious Chamellow (chocolate and marshmallow) and Nutella crepe.
And that concluded our very long day 1.
The next day (after a night of decent sleep), we enjoyed the breakfast buffet with a lovely view.
We decided to drive down the west coast and southern coast of the island to explore. We made it all the way to Teahupoo (see below). Our hotel was basically where the Lagoonarium is on the map.
All 3 islands we visited were relatively small (I think most of the islands are actually) and can easily be driven in a day (a few hours). There weren’t many cars on the road and the driving was all on a two lane road with a max speed of 60 kmh (37mph). What we found was that once you left the city area, it was mostly nature and every so often you’d run into a small town with a few stores. Spread throughout were houses that were mostly blocked by the vegetation.
We had packed up a backpack anticipating to hang out on a beach during our drive. I had read about one of the only white sanded beaches on the island called La Plage De Maui. Much to our surprise, we drove right by it the first time because while it is a white sanded beach it is miniscule (the beach was maybe 3-4 feet in width). So we drove back towards our hotel to check out a few places on the way. The first place we stopped at was the ‘Ārahurahu Marae. A marae is a sacred place in Polynesian culture where they held ceremonies.
We then grabbed some lunch at Blue Banana in Puna’auia. We had thus far had zero success getting cash from the banks so ended up just exchanging some from the hotel, which I know didn’t give us the best exchange rate but it wasn’t too bad overall. We shared a plate that consisted of various types of fish and some grilled shrimp. Overall I give it an A.
Our final stop was at the Musée de Tahiti et des Îles (Tahiti museum). They were unfortunately going through a major renovation so only had one exhibit hall opened so we toured around and learned a little bit about the islands. It was mostly just checking out the artifacts as the explanations were all in French.
After this we decided to return the car and hang out at the hotel. We went to check out their sand bottom pool, which was neat and had a nice infinity edge looking out towards Moorea. There was also a swim up bar but I did not indulge.
Our hotel actually had a Lagoonarium on the property (butting up next to the main pool) so we then walked over there after I had a swim in the sand bottom pool and I got to swim with the fishes (I had only brought goggles instead of the snorkel so it was a lot more work to watch the fishes swim).
We concluded our last night on Tahiti by having dinner at the hotel. Rather than the buffet, we elected for a regular meal where you order a dish. I had a dish with fish on skewers and some sort of banana/starch paste like thing that was sweet. D had a chicken dish that she really enjoyed. I also had the french onion soup, which wasn’t bad either.
The next morning we woke up and had our breakfast buffet before we had to check out and then wait around again until it was time to catch our shuttle to the pier for the next stop on our island adventures.
Some pictures of Tahiti below: