It is my humbled opinion that French Polynesia is one of the most beautiful places on earth! I had the great fortune to return to the islands for a 6th time in the last 14 years and was this a trip of a life time!
Our Tahiti vacation started the minute we boarded the flight. My husband and I flew Air Tahiti Nui on their newest outfitted aircraft, an Airbus A340-300, which features the new “RAVE” system from IMS. This new efficient audio and video system offers entertainment and information with great quality and is quite simpler to use as it is a touchpad tablet. There is even an individual “port” to keep your own devices charged. Passengers in Poerava Business class have 12" screens and passengers in Economy Moana class have 9" screens. Our 8-hour flight was complimented with a light snack early in the red-eye flight, with breakfast served about 2 hours prior to landing.
Our itinerary had us first arrive to Papeete, Tahiti, met and “lei’d,” and then a private car transfer to the port of Papeete for a 30-minute ride to Moorea on the Terevau Catamaran. The port is only 15 minutes from Fa’aa airport, making the ferry a very convenient mode of transport between the two islands. After the 8-hour flight the rush of warm sea air on the ferry was so refreshing! Tip: once outside customs/baggage claim, take a minute to walk to the ATM to exchange some money. ATM’s have less of a fee than the hotels on currency exchange.
Once on Moorea, we were transferred to the Intercontinental Moorea, which was about 30 minutes further around the island. Intercontinental Moorea is as beautiful and “Tahitian Style” as it was three years ago on my last visit. The pool area was renovated about four years ago and still looks as fresh as it did then. Our junior suite overwater bungalow was located on a small motu with a few others and faced the island and sunrise.
Our afternoon snack and coffee (coffee provided free in the bungalow) was the perfect compliment on our deck, shaded by the palapa! Tip: I recommend sunrise views vs. sunset views because #1, we tend to get up early coming from the US and the sunrises are spectacular and, #2, the afternoons can be quite warm (hot), making your bungalow and deck bit warm too.
Do not forget to visit the Turtle Rehabilitation Center and see the Dolphins at the Dolphin Encounter. Reservations for various dolphin experiences can be pre-booked.
There are many restaurants located within close proximity of the Intercontinental. Mayflower and Le Tapaniers and a little further around the island is Rudy’s. The specialty at Rudy’s, which earned them accolades from TripAdvisor, is the “parrot-fish stuffed with fresh crab.” Both my husband and I ordered that as our entrée and never looked back!
There are several excursions available on Moorea, and this trip my husband and I participated in the ATV island excursion and the Shark & Ray Lagoonarium + Motu picnic lunch. For the ATV trip, options for vehicles on this excursion are the 4x4 ATV’s (shared by 2 persons) and the “side-by-side seat” buggy that my husband and I drove.
With a guide and several other guests, we drove all around Moorea for over 2 ½ hours. Our stops included the center of the volcano crater, peak top views of both Cooks and Opunohu Bays and a refreshment stop to savor the local grown fruit and jams. Our guide explained about the history of the island of Moorea, which means “Yellow Lizard”.
Our second day we were picked up by 8:30a and driven to the “Moorea Lagoon Tour” boat launching area. Our guide that day was “Siki.” He has been a guide on this excursion for over 10 years and he certainly can entertain! Siki explained the island's history and then we boated over to the shallow waters where the stingrays were waiting for us!
This tour operates nearly every day, so the rays have become somewhat acclimated to humans coming to feed them squid. In addition, black tip sharks ply the shallows as well. These sharks are not aggressive, very tame and Siki always has a watchful eye on all his guests. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for many tourists. Soon enough our time with the rays and sharks is up and we motor over to our private island (motu) for the most delicious BBQ lunch! We are treated to a hands-on cooking class on “poisson cru,” the famous raw fish salad (lime and coconut milk) and then chicken, mahi-mahi and short pork ribs. Finishing up with fresh cut pineapple and coconut. All the while with an open bar with ice cold water, juices and the famous Tahitian Hinano beer. Oh, and while lunch is being cooked, we all snorkeled in the coral gardens! Tip: make sure to bring underwater cameras.
After three nights on Moorea we headed to Taha’a. The unique thing about Taha’a is that it shares the same lagoon with its sister island, Raiatea. The airport is on Raiatea, and after a 35-minute flight we arrived and were greeted by staff of “LE Taha’a Private Island.” They assisted with our luggage and we took just a few steps and boarded a boat launch for the 30-minute ride through the lagoon.
If you imagine the light aqua and dark blues of the sky, that is what we found in the lagoon as we approached the private island resort! The resident manager and a few staff greeted us and after a short tour of the resort, my husband and I were escorted to our overwater “Taha’a” view bungalow! Again, we had the best sunrise view which afforded us shaded comfort in the afternoon downtime.
The main restaurant is located above the reception area, and looks like it is built in the trees. A couple of times per week a special buffet is offered along with a local Tahitian show with traditional and fire dancers!
One of the most memorable activities here is snorkeling in the coral gardens. Only steps from the resort, this perfect natural pass between the motus offers a snorkeler's paradise. It is as if YOU are in an aquarium. It is free for all the guests and you can snorkel all day if you like!
We heard of a local restaurant on the main island of Taha’a and arranged for the boat to take us the 8 minutes across the lagoon and then a car was waiting for us to take us to Chez Louise. Louise is the proprietor and resident as the 5- tabled restaurant is located on the covered patio of her home. The view is of Bora Bora in the distant background! We had our drink order taken and ice cold Hinano beer was served, but we never received menus. We waited and shortly Louise and her assistant brought out carved our bamboo branches filled with delectable treats that included two garlic/buttered lobster halves, grilled mahi-mahi, poisson cru (famous raw fish salad), grilled shrimp, rice and French bread. There is no menu because this is the ONLY menu item Louise serves! My husband had had lots of lobster in his time, but never as tasty as this! Tip: Chez Louise only accepts cash in Polynesian Francs. Convert at hotel lobby before going.
After three wonderful nights we transferred back via boat launch for the 15-minute flight to Bora Bora. Le Meridian Bora Bora resort staff met us at the airport and guided us and our luggage to the boat launch for the 20-minute transfer to the resort. Our sunset view beach bungalow was comfortable and had the most glorious view of the main island of Bora Bora with the towing cliffs.
Just outside beyond our small patio was a very large mobile hammock. Quite comfy, I might add. Unique feature of this resort is the “safe” snorkel lagoon that lines the beach bungalows and restaurant. We picked up snorkel gear from the snorkel shack and enjoyed several hours gazing at the sea life, including a 3-foot eel! Tip: Do not miss the daily 10:30am turtle feeding at the Turtle Discovery Center. See the animal life and learn about the endangered sea turtles life and history. The discovery center is quite fascinating also.
Our final sunset evening was spent at the Sofitel Private Island. A “Romantic Soriee” was prepared for us. Private viewing area of the incredible sunset with champagne and canapes and then a table for two on the beach for a lovely five-course dinner and Tahitian dance/show.
My husband and I will never forget where we spent our 23rd wedding anniversary and we hope one day to return to the beautiful islands of Tahiti!