Hello, hello! I am taking a quick intermission on our Italy vacation posts (if you missed those, be sure to catch up on Venice + Tuscany!), to share a few FAQ about planning a vacation to French Polynesia! Dane and I have traveled to Tahiti, Moorea and Taha’a twice over the past year and while we aren’t experts, there are certainly things we have learned along the way! I’ve gotten some really good questions about traveling there and today I wanted to break them down for anyone who might be trying to plan a trip, daydreaming about a trip or just wants to take a little bit of a virtual vacation at their desk. Before we get started, let’s cover one really important topic — It’s really easy to say you’re going to Tahiti. The reality is that Tahiti is just one island (the one you happen to fly into from international locations) when you’re traveling to the area known as French Polynesia. The islands most commonly visited are located in the Society Island archipelago that consist of two subsets of islands – Windward and Leeward. Bora Bora, Moorea, Huahine, Tahaa, and Tetiaroa are all popular island hops, but don’t miss out on the other islands of French Polynesia that offer just as beautiful sights + people 🙂 Admittedly, I was one of those people that just collectively called the islands “Bora Bora”, because it sounds exotic and tropical and fun, but really that is just one tiny part of what makes this island chain so special. Now that we’ve got that squared away, let’s jump right in with some frequently asked questions about taking a vacation to French Polynesia!
FAQ: Planning A Vacation To French Polynesia
Is it fast/easy to get between islands?
Transportation island to island is fun, easy and doesn’t always require an airplane. There are two main options for inter-island travel: 1. plane and 2. boat or ferry. There are also private charter planes and helicopter options, but I don’t fit into that category of traveler (not yet anyhow ;)), so I can’t vouch for those. We have used Air Tahiti and the Aremiti ferry between Moorea and Tahiti and both are excellent. The ferry offers food + snacks as well as panoramic views of both islands from the top deck. It doesn’t hurt that the ferry only costs $10-15 per person! If air travel is your mode of choice, be sure to arrive early, because open seating fills up quickly. I always try to snag a seat by the window, because then you can see the turquoise water from above 🙂
How much should I budget for a trip?
French Polynesia is a beautiful place, but it’s, quite literally, in the middle of the Pacific, which means that getting there, staying there and adventuring there costs more money than the average trip. For the purposes of this post, I’m breaking down the cost for experiences Dane and I have done, which includes 7 nights in an overwater bungalow, airfare and the cost of food. This is also a good time to note that when Dane and I travel, we don’t hold back. We want to be able to fully enjoy what we want while we are in any given location, because we never know if we will be back, so keep that in mind! Let’s start with airfare – for us, airfare is pretty “affordable” in comparison to flights to Tahiti from the mainland. From Hawaii, Hawaiian Airlines runs flights Saturday-Saturday for around $900 per person. Flights in between islands are around $200 per person, but sometimes cheaper depending how far in advance you book them! As far as hotels, the overwater bungalows at the resorts run $800-$1200 per night depending on what time of the year you visit and which resort/island you choose. It’s safe to say that Bora Bora is the most expensive of them all! For your food and drink budget, plan to spend around $75 for lunch and $100-200 for dinner (these prices are very much dependent upon what you order, if alcohol is included, etc.). The resorts we have stayed at included breakfast as part of the price, so we were sure to load up each morning!
I don’t have a ton of money, can we do this trip on a budget?
I know the previous answer probably gave you some sticker shock. The short answer is YES! You can! Unfortunately, it’s still going to come at a higher cost than a typical vacation, because I’ve yet to find a way around the airfare. A few ways you can save money include: booking a home rental, picking up a bottle of alcohol at the duty free store at the airport and making your own cocktails in your room, packing a reusable water bottle for water refills (this one is the BEST!), bringing RXBars (or another favorite) for snacks, eat outside the resorts when possible, pack your own snorkel gear and sunscreen (be sure to check out my guide to reef safe sunscreen), use credit card points (Chase Blue Sapphire is incredible + the reason we are able to travel as much as we do!) and prioritize excursions (relaxing in the beautiful water is FREE!). If you are determined to experience the overwater bungalow, split time between that and a home rental or beach bungalow.
What’s the deal with the overwater bungalows?
Overwater bungalows are quite literally – huts that sit on top of the water! They are individual suites/rooms that include a bed, bathroom, outdoor patio area and a platform for sunning, reading and relaxing. Typically there is a glass or see through area on the inside of the room where you can watch the fish swim below. At night, there is a light that shines underneath the hut, making it easy to spot fish and other marine life when they are more active!
Do you have wifi there?
Yes, but it’s very spotty! Connecting to hotel wifi is very easy, but even a small task like sending an email can take almost an hour. Honestly – it’s kind of amazing to just kick back and enjoy the total tranquility and relaxation. That said, if you absolutely need wifi, I cannot say enough good things about this device. I use it most times for work travel and it works like a charm.
Did you have to get any special shots before you went?
Dane and I are pretty adamant about following what the CDC states on their website before we travel to any foreign countries. We made sure we had Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations (along with routine vaccinations) and our Hepatitis B vaccination was still good from our trip to Bali. For a full list of recommendations, you can visit the CDC’s French Polynesia page.
Is the weather always nice?
The Society Islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Taha’a, Bora Bora, etc) fall into a similar climate as Hawaii (fun fact: it’s also the same time zone as Hawaii), which means it’s a tropical climate. We had showers almost every single day we were there, but they were very brief and almost always produced a beautiful rainbow!
What should I do there?
For so many that visit French Polynesia, relaxing is the number one activity of choice and the resorts make this easy with top notch ocean views, beautiful pools and soft white sand. I don’t think that relaxing has ever been easier! My activity of choice was grabbing some of my favorite books and settling onto our patio for the day. But – if you want to switch things up, there are plenty of active things you can do and sites to see on the various islands. Some activities include: pearl farms, local markets, town squares with churches, scenic lookout points, ATV rental (Moorea), fishing charters, shark diving, sunset watching, hiking, snorkeling, diving and there’s even a winery if you make it to Rangiora!
I feel like I covered all of the questions I got from you, but if I missed something, please let me know! Now let’s chat – have you been to French Polynesia? Where did you stay and what island did you visit? I would love to hear your experience!