I just got back from ten days in Tahiti, and this trip has really changed how I think about the destination.

As a honeymoon specialist, I’m well aware of the lure of the overwater bungalow. Clients will come to me looking for something exotic, remote, and Instagrammable…with visions of Bora Bora dancing in their heads. They know it’s far away, and that those OWBs can cost upwards of $1000 per night, but they don’t care, because this is a “once in a lifetime” trip. And that’s fabulous. But I’m here to tell you that Tahiti does not need to be a one and done vacation. And it can be done more economically than the typical honeymoon, if need be.  In fact, it can even work for {gasp} families.

Hilton Moorea overwater bungalows
Overwater Bungalows at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui

Let me explain.

French Polynesia includes more than 100 islands in the South Pacific.The best known and most-visited are Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, but there are dozens more, spread across more than 2,000 kilometers of ocean, and there is literally something for everyone. You can stay in a local guest house, a 3-, 4- or 5-star resort, or even an airbnb. You can cruise from island to island on ships from Paul Gauguin or Aranui, or you can charter your own boat (bareboat or crewed). If this is a honeymoon splurge, by all means let’s include some time in a luxurious and romantic overwater bungalow. But if you’re trying to be more budget-friendly, we can get creative and do charming little garden bungalows, or some time in a guest house, to meet the locals.

Beach Bungalow at the Bora Bora Pearl

Ah, but what about how FAR away it is? In reality, it’s two hours further than Hawaii, and most Americans are more than willing to fly there for a week’s vacation. For me, coming from the East Coast, it was a six-hour flight from Boston to Los Angeles, followed by an eight-hour flight from LA to Papeete. One long day of travel, but I arrived before midnight, fell into bed in a nearby hotel, and woke up in paradise.  

Sunrise, beachfront views

While we’re talking about flights, there’s some good news on that front. Air Tahiti Nui, which used to have a lock on the US-Tahiti routes now has some competition from Air France and United Airlines (which is flying from San Francisco).  A low-cost French carrier (French Bee) has recently joined them as well, with round trip fares starting in the $700 range! 

Okay, so it’s not as far away or as expensive as you thought, but what’s the allure of Tahiti? Well, beyond the gorgeous blue water and white (and black) sand beaches, and the bragging rights (“you’re going where?”) the islands offer so much more than I ever knew.

White sand beach at the Sofitel in Moorea

Black sand beach at the Tahiti Pearl

They are uncrowded and unspoiled (Tahiti receives as many visitors in one year as Hawaii receives in one WEEK).  They are very safe and have very little crime (Moorea does not even have a jail). The people are warm and welcoming, and you’ll be greeted by smiles and “Ia Orana” everywhere you go. Getting around is super easy – ferries run between Tahiti and Moorea, and the other islands are connected by quick flights through tiny little open-air airports (no long lines, no security checks). You can easily rent a car and explore on your own on the larger islands like Tahiti and Moorea. And if you are a nature-lover,you’ll be in heaven. There is surfing, sailing, kayaking, hiking, biking, whale-watching,jet skis, snorkeling, diving, and swimming with sharks/rays/dolphins/whales/etc  We toured pineapple and vanilla farms, learned about Tahitian pearls, shopped in local markets, dined on gourmet French cuisine(and at casual food trucks) and watched Polynesian fire dancers. The whole experience was absolutely amazing.

Learning about fruits and flowers on Moorea
Our guide from Moana Adventures, en route to a party at Bloody Mary’s
Pearl farm on Taha’a

On this trip, we visited four different islands (Tahiti, Moorea, BoraBora and Tahaa). I met with dozens of local suppliers (hoteliers, tour operators, cruise lines and more), toured ten resorts,enjoyed three evenings of Polynesian song/dance (all totally different), and ate at least a half a dozen different versions of “poisson cru” (the delicious national dish of French Polynesia). I rode in a four-by-four on steep mountain roads, and sailed silently across the lagoon on a solar-powered catamaran. I stayed in a garden bungalow, a beach bungalow, a lagoon-view hotel room, and two absolutely stunning overwater bungalows. I showered outdoors, took a dip in my private plunge pool, watched fish swim underneath my bed, stargazed on my deck, and snorkeled in a coral garden. And this was a business trip!! Imagine what you could do on vacation 😊

Poisson Cru
Marquesian dancers

When you’re ready to make your own trip to paradise, let me know. I feel like an “evangelist” spreading the gospel of Tahiti, and I would be more than happy to put my newfound knowledge to good use.

And if you’d like to see photos of the various hotels I toured, here are the links:

Manava Suites Tahiti

Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora

Hilton Moorea

Intercontinental Tahiti

Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort and Spa

Conrad Bora Bora Nui

Le Taha’a Island Resort