Wow! The first word that comes to mind when I think about our trip to French Polynesia.
French Polynesia is a group of over 100 islands in the South Pacific owned by France, sort of between Hawaii and Australia. Stunning black sand beaches, towering green mountains and beautiful blue lagoons protected by coral reefs are what French Polynesia is most known for. The most well known islands you’ve probably heard of are Tahiti and Bora Bora.
It’s been our dream to visit this place. I remember looking at the overwater bungalows as a kid and wishing to go there for my honeymoon, but always thought it was just a dream. Ironically COVID was the reason we got to have our dream honeymoon after our first two had to be cancelled. It was a journey to get there, but usually it’s much easier when there isn’t as much going on in the world. It’s not just for honeymooners either, we are already planning a trip back with friends to explore even more of the islands. Also, make sure you check out my other blog posts that go into more detail about each island!
Islands we visited:
Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora
- French Bee, United and Air Tahiti Nui are the most common airlines flying to Papeete, Tahiti which is the “home base” airport of the islands. The cheapest flights tend to be out of San Francisco, LA and Paris.
- We flew United out of San Francisco because that’s where I found our crazy good flight deal from. We were impressed with the cleanliness and safety especially during COVID, we were handed packaged hand wipes to wipe our area down and middle seats were blocked on all flights.
- Depending on what islands you are going to, you usually don’t need a car. We rented one for Tahiti since we wanted to drive to see some beaches and the famous surf wave but it’s not a must. Moorea is also popular for renting a car but we chose not too. There are taxis but they can be a little expensive.
- To get to any of the other islands from Tahiti you usually have to fly with Air Tahiti, the only island you can get to without flying is Moorea. We took a 30min ferry ride from Tahiti to Moorea which was only $15!
- If you plan to fly to two or more islands I recommend getting the “pass” that air tahiti has on its website. It will most likely save you a decent amount of money.
Know before you go:
- French Polynesia is in the same time zone as Hawaii, which is helpful since you don’t have to worry about crossing the international date line.
- They drive on the right side of the road which is helpful if you are American! If you are renting a car, make sure to do it ahead of time as most of the cars are stick shift and the automatics go fast.
- Their currency is CFP France, I recommend getting a conversion app to make things easy when purchasing things. Also make sure you have some local currency on hand as most taxis and small local restaurants/fruit stands only take cash.
- The main language is French with a lot of English and some Tahitian thrown in. It’s best to have a translation app as many restaurants and shops outside your hotel will be in French.
- The seasons are switched! They are in the southern hemisphere so their seasons are backwards from ours. I actually didn’t realize this one until after we booked our trip but it ended up working out great. Their winter is the best time to go as it’s their dry season, it’s not as hot and humid plus its Humpback whale season! The summer season can be decently cheaper to visit during, just be prepared for more rain.
Where to stay:
- Intercontinental Resort Tahiti- This is where we stayed for two nights when we first arrived on the islands. Great proximity to the airport and the ferry port and it’s beautiful! Cheaper room options than other hotels on the island but they technically don’t have a beach. You can swim in the protected lagoon they made off the ocean or one of their great pools. We didn’t want to spend as much on Tahiti since we were mostly here as a stop over before being able to go to Moorea.
- There are a ton more hotel options on Tahiti, many of them being close to the airport but a little farther away from the hustle and bustle if you plan on staying on Tahiti longer than we did.
- There are also airbnbs on a lot of the bigger islands. We didn’t explore any of those options but were told by locals they are a great cheaper option!
- Hilton Moorea- We stayed here for 4 nights, 5 days and loved every minute of it! This was our first experience with overwater bungalows and our expectations were exceeded x10! All the bungalows either have a great sunrise/sunset view of the island or look out over the lagoon and ocean. We had a large porch that was covered and then a smaller deck closer to the water with a ladder. The water is decently shallow here and great for snorkeling off your bungalow! They also have on land rooms, some bigger for families and with private pools. The proximity to the excursions we wanted to do was great as well.
- Hotel Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort- This was another option we looked at and most reviews we read found it comparable to the Hilton. They also have overwater bungalows and are closer to the ferry harbor but farther from the corner of the island that we wanted to be close too.
- Four Seasons- Okay here is where we splurged for our honeymoon. Honestly it’s so dang worth it though, wow! The bungalow was amazing and so large, you can sit in the bathtub and look at the mountain through your open window. They all have either a beach view, Lagoon view or mountain view but honestly they are all amazing. They are super private and some even have pools on the deck. The resort itself is also beautiful. The beach and pool area is huge so you always feel like you have a private area to yourself, the spa is backed up to the ocean side so you can watch the waves or look through the jungle to catch a glimpse of the mountain. In short- it’s a must do bucket list but it’s definitely pricey.
- There are a ton of other options in Bora Bora, some a lot cheaper than others so don’t feel like you have to shell out $$$ to visit! It was our honeymoon so we made an exception, usually we travel pretty frugally.
Where to eat:
We ate at our hotels most nights since it was easiest, since we didn’t have a car in Moorea and in Bora Bora it’s pretty expensive to get a water taxi to take you to the mainland to eat (unless you are staying at one of the hotels on the mainland). I recommend bringing non perishable snacks with you and trying to only eat out for dinner depending on your budget. Food there is very expensive, even worse than Hawaii, but there are supermarkets and roadside fruit and bread stands where you can get delicious snacks or things for a picnic at the beach.
- Les Roulottes Food Trucks- These trucks, which serve everything from traditional island fare to cheeseburgers, pizza, and Chinese food, can be found all around Tahiti, but the greatest concentration is in Papeete, where dozens of the colorful trucks congregate at Vaiete Square. Unfortunately when we were there they were closed because of COVID but we’ve heard great things about them so make sure to try and check them out!
- Restaurant at Plage de Taharuu- I can’t remember the exact name of the little eatery but we ate there when we went to the black sand beach which is Plage de Taharuu. The restaurant is right on the beach and has great food and drinks.
- Honestly we didn’t love the restaurant at our hotel here. One of the restaurants was closed at the time so we only got to try one of them but compared to everything else we’re on our trip it wasn’t our favorite.
- ROTUI GRILL & BAR- A great place for lunch and dinner at the Hilton. You can order drinks and food from here while at the pool and beach or come back in the evening to have a nice dinner watching the sunset on the beach. Everything we had here was amazing and the frozen strawberry daiquiris were to die for.
- TOATEA CRÊPERIE & BAR- Such a unique dining experience at the Hilton! This restaurant is built between the bungalows so you are completely over the water, every table has a view down below and we saw 4 sharks and a leopard stingray while we ate dinner. They have a mix of sweet and savory crepes to satisfy anyone.
- Moorea Beach Cafe- Right on the water only a few minutes down the road from our hotel. They run a shuttle service with the hotels on the island which makes it easy to go for cocktails at sunset or enjoy dinner. It’s not as cheap as some other local eateries but it’s cheaper than the hotel restaurants.
- Arii Moana- An amazing asian restaurant at the Four Seasons. This actually was the only place we ate dinner at the hotel because it was so good (also a little cheaper than the other options). The other restaurants sounded amazing, they offer French cuisine and a seafood restaurant.
- Tere Nui- The breakfast buffet at the Four Seasons was great. Because of COVID it wasn’t a buffet anymore and was instead “made to order” which we enjoyed a lot more as it was hot and fresh every day. We had breakfast included in our room price which was a good deal, plus they have options for vegan, gluten free and had lighter options if you didn’t want a full meal.
- Fare Hoa Beach Bar and Grill- The best pizza i’ve ever had! They serve lunch and drinks during the day for the pool and beach area and will custom make you any drink you want.
- Bloody Marys- We had lunch here during one of our executions that took us to the main island. It’s a cute restaurant right across from the water so you can be dropped off by boat and the floor in the whole place is sand. Their frozen strawberry Margarita was the best i’ve ever had and the food was great too.
Things to do:
- Visit the black sand beach! Plage de Taharuu was the most recommended black sand beach on the island, great for surfing and has a little restaurant as well. It was about 40min south around the island from the main hub of papeete but a beautiful drive!
- Go see the famous surf wave Teahupoo! We both love surfing and watching surf movies so of course we’ve heard about the famous reef break here in Tahiti. The wave is a little far off shore so it’s hard to see from the beach but there are boats that you can hire to take you out to see it when they aren’t having competitions there.
- Swim with humpback whales! Honestly this was the highlight of our trip and probably the most memorable thing we’ve done to date. French Polynesia is one of the only places in the world that it is legal to swim with these beautiful creatures. We went twice with Moorea Moana Tours and they were incredible. Even if you don’t see whales on your trip they make sure you have the best time by swimming with sharks and rays and they teach you a lot about how to respect them which I really appreciated. It was obvious how much appreciation and respect they have for the ocean and its creatures. Also if you book with them make sure to add the photo and video package, it’s so worth it! Kori is an amazing photographer underwater and we appreciated getting footage of ourselves and still being able to enjoy the trip.
- Visit StingRay Alley! We did this a number of times with Moorea Moana Tours and also by ourselves. It’s a shallow sandbar on the north west corner of the island where the black tipped sharks and stingrays love to hang out. It’s a memorable experience and not scary at all since you can stand the whole time. Please dont chase the animals and respect their space, accidents can happen if you aren’t careful.
- Rent a little motorboat! We spent some time at this beautiful beach across from stingray alley called Les Posaniets hotel beach which i highly recommend for swimming and hanging out but they also rent small motorboats. We got one for $120 for 3 hours, it was really easy to drive and didn’t go very fast so pretty safe! We cruised over to this little island that has a restaurant on it called Coco Beach Moorea and had a great lunch! We also visited stingray alley for a third time for fun.
- Scuba dive! Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to do this since we waited to book excursions once we got to the island because we were afraid we wouldn’t make it to the islands because of covid which in turn meant we ran out of time. So book your excursions ahead of time and make sure you give yourself at least 12 hours before and after your dive before you get on a plane.
- Go hiking! We also did not try any of the popular hikes on the island as we personally wanted to spend more time in the water. Here is a list of some of the most recommended ones to try and I also recommended downloading the app AllTrails to use.
- Do a jet ski tour around the island in the lagoon! I found an all day excursion bundle deal on GetYourGuide for a jet ski excursion plus snorkeling which i’ll talk about below. It was with the Moana Adventure Tours, they picked us up from our hotel which was a nice bonus. It was a 2.5 hour jet ski ride in the lagoon all the way around the main island which was beautiful. I cant even explain all the shades of blue in Bora Bora, it truly is spectacular. We also got to do two stops to enjoy swimming and taking pictures in the lagoon.
- Go snorkeling to see the coral gardens plus sharks and rays! Also with our all day jet ski tour, it included lunch at Bloody Marys and an afternoon of snorkeling. We visited some sharks and rays on the sandbar, snorkeled at the beautiful coral garden with so many colorful fish and just swam and enjoyed the lagoon while always getting to see the beautiful view of the mountain.
- Relax! Honestly Bora Bora is the island to just relax and enjoy yourself. We enjoyed our day of excursions but we were so excited to relax the next day and a half at our resort. Excursions are more expensive in Bora Bora so my tip is to do a lot at the other islands and then use Bora Bora to unwind
Honestly I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect honeymoon. If you have any questions about the trip please feel free to email me or message me on Instagram! Keep a look out for my blogs that will go more specifically in depth of each island and hotel we stayed at.