Saturday, June 12, 2010

Honeymoon in French Polynesia

We were so thankful that we got the chance to go to French Polynesia for our honeymoon. Ever since I saw the pictures of overwater bungalows, I knew that's where I wanted to go for my honeymoon (even prior to meeting Dan :p). Thankfully, Dan agreed to go to French Polynesia too! Yay!

Intercontinental Thalasso Bora Bora - our favorite hotel during our honeymoon!

French Polynesia is a collection of islands in the South Pacific, about 8.5 hours flight from LA. We decided to go to 3 different islands: Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora. Bora Bora was most recently featured on the movie "Couples Retreat".

If you need help booking your travel package for Tahiti/Bora Bora, you can contact me for a free quote - I am now a travel advisor! I realized now after comparing prices that for South Pacific, travel agent prices are much better than booking independently. This is because 90% of South Pacific business is from travel agent, so the hotels give the best prices to the agencies that send the majority of their business.

We decided to go for 11 days/10 nights. Here's our trip report :)

Our flight from SFO was delayed and we were worried that we would miss our connecting flight in LAX. Thankfully the flight from LAX was also delayed, so we were able to catch it :) We got into Papeete (Tahiti airport) around 1 AM. We stayed at the Intercontinental Tahiti hotel, which was actually super close to the airport.

Arriving in Tahiti airport

The hotel was a little older, but still in good condition. We got upgraded from the garden view to lagoon view room due to our Ambassador club membership (totally worth it! See tips below).

Our hotel room in Tahiti
Beautiful view from our room
Intercontinental Tahiti

Day 2: Tahiti
We had breakfast at the hotel, and as we mentioned previously, we're so glad that we had breakfast included since it would be super expensive otherwise. After breakfast, we took the shuttle from the hotel to downtown Papeete and visited the market. Downtown was not very big at all and we were done in an hour or two, so we just took the shuttle back to our hotel.

Us at the Tahiti market in downtown

Day 3: Tahiti - Moorea
We were off to our next destination: Moorea. During our trip research, we noted that a lot of people recommended this island (we'd never heard of it before). We took the ferry from Tahiti to Moorea (which was about 40 minutes). We stayed at the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Resort, which was highly rated on TripAdvisor. The resort was really nice and quaint. We booked the Garden Bungalow to save some money instead of the Overwater Bungalow. We figured we'll stay in an Overwater Bungalow in Bora Bora.

Sofitel Moorea open air lobby
Our Garden Bungalow
Our bungalow room

Huge modern shower
Tropical rainshower bathroom

It was raining really heavily when we arrived. Thankfully the rain stopped at night so we were able to go to the Tiki Village (Polynesian center). We did the dinner & show at Tiki Village. I would imagine this is very similar to Luau. They did a demonstration of the unveiling of the "Tahitian Oven", coconut demo, and dance performance.

Our welcome reception @ Tiki Village - Moorea
Unveiling of the Tahitian Oven, similar to Luau

Day 4: Moorea
It was raining on/off throughout the day so we didn't book any excursions. We went swimming at the Infinity pool and then rested at our resort.

Day 5: Moorea
Thankfully it wasn't raining so we were able to do the ATV tour. This was probably our most favorite excursion of our whole trip. This was our first ATV experience for both of us, and it was so much fun! We went up the mountains, visited pineapple plantations, agriculture school, and went to the top of the mountain where the view was just breathtaking.

Ready for our ATV ride
Loving every minute in paradise!

Day 6: Moorea - Bora Bora
We were excited to finally go to Bora Bora! The view from the flight was absolutely gorgeous. You could see the coral reefs that surrounded Bora Bora and the multiple shades of blue water that looked so unreal. We were picked up by the resort and the boat ride was just so surreal! Couldn't believe we're finally in Bora Bora. We stayed at the Intercontinental Thalasso Bora Bora and the resort was so beautiful!

View from the airplane, the turquoise-blue water was so unbelievable!
Arriving @ Intercontinental Thalasso Bora Bora Resort & Spa
The lobby/reception area
Our overwater bungalow
Huge comfy bed with an unbelievable view
The BEST view to wake up to!

Huge bathroom with dual sinks
Complimentary Champagne from the hotel
Day 7: Bora Bora
We went on a 4x4 jeep safari. We had to take the boat to the main island to get picked up for our tour. The safari was VERY bumpy. We went to the top of the mountains to take pictures of the beautiful scenery, saw some old cannons (from WW II), and visited a pearl farm.

Afterwards we went back to our hotel and swam in the lagoon, with direct access from our overwater bungalow! It was so surreal! It's like having a giant swimming pool in your backyard.

Direct lagoon access from our deck

Day 8: Bora Bora
We went into town (Vaitape) to get some snacks and water. The town was super small! We came back to our resort just in time for a cooking demonstration of poisson cru (tuna sashimi with coconut milk). Afterwards, we ordered room service for lunch so we could eat on our deck. It was wonderful!

Best seat in Bora Bora :)

Day 9: Bora Bora
We went jet skiing! It was a lot bumpier than we expected, but was fun! We made a stop to swim, and then went to a private island where the guide cracked open coconuts for us. They were so good! We came back (again) just in time to view and paint in the pareo making demonstration.

Jet ski adventure
Dan making pareo

And later that night...we had dinner at the highly acclaimed restaurant, Villa Mahana. This restaurant had been constantly rated as the #1 restaurant in Bora Bora, and they did not disappoint. This was definitely the best meal of our trip! We booked the "top table", and it was so romantic since we had the top "floor" all by ourselves. I made reservations about 3 months in advance!

View from the Top Table
Us at the top table
Seared Ahi Tuna with Vanilla Oil - very fresh!
Steak with Creamy Gnocchi - SO GOOD!
Mahi Mahi in Curry Banana Crust with Mango Sauce, Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Royal King Lobster and Prawns Risotto with Old Parmesan Cheese
Sorbet - palate cleanser
Banana Flambe with Old Rum and Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream
Chocolate Lava Cake - compliments of the Chef!

Day 10: Bora Bora
We kayaked in the morning around our resort (it was free :p).

Dan kept checking whether I was actually pedaling :p

After that, we went to our spa appointment! Yay! The spa facility was amazing. There were different rain showers, jacuzzis (where you could order in food), and various other saltwater pools. As long as you booked a treatment that day, you could spend the whole day at the spa. We booked the 20 minute bath + 50 minute couples massage, and our treatment room was also over water!

Spa at the Intercontinental Thalasso Bora Bora
So relaxed!

Our last day in paradise :( I guess we had to come back to reality.
We went to the famous Bloody Mary's for lunch, but we were both unimpressed with the food and the Bloody Mary drink. The lunch menu was very simple and nothing special. Hey, at least we tried. :p

Here are some tips from our experience:
  • If you are staying at the Intercontinental Hotel, enroll in the Gold Ambassador program. For a fee of $150, you get a guaranteed room upgrade and free bottled water every day (water is expensive in Bora Bora :). The room upgrade alone per day would pay for itself in just one day.
  • Make sure you let your credit card companies know that you will be traveling outside of the country. Once you do, you do not need to bring a lot of cash. We only exchanged $300 in cash and charged everything else to credit card.
  • If you are interested in doing activities, then visit Moorea and do the majority of your activities there, since it's a lot cheaper than Bora Bora. If you really just want to relax and enjoy the beautiful view, then you can mainly stay in Bora Bora. We would suggest visiting both Moorea and Bora Bora though, and splitting your time evenly: Moorea for activities, Bora Bora for relaxing. 
  • If you want to save money, we would recommend only staying at an over water bungalow for part of your trip, since they cost a fortune! We would suggest staying at a regular hotel room in Tahiti, a garden or beach bungalow in Moorea, and splurge on the over water bungalow in Bora Bora. Also save Bora Bora for your last leg of the trip since it is truly the best!
  • A lot of resorts now including breakfasts as part of the package. If you can, try to get this, if not, breakfast buffet alone costs around $45 per person! Our package came with breakfast included which saved us a ton of money. For the Bora Bora hotel, the package even included dinners which saved us even more!
  • Bring books and DVDs with player. One of our favorite "free" activities was reading on our deck with the view of the lagoon.
  • Order room service one time and eat lunch or dinner from your deck with the view of the lagoon :)
  • Research free activities at the hotel. Our resort in Bora Bora has daily sting ray feedings, and various activities free of charge: kayaking, pareo making demonstration, poisson cru cooking demonstrations, etc.
  • You can book your activities once you arrive in Moorea/Bora Bora. No need to book in advance, especially since the weather can be unpredictable.
  • You do not need to book activities through the hotel concierge. It is more convenient, but also may cost more as compared to a local tour/activity company.
  • Book dinner at Le Villa Mahana. Totally worth it!

Hotel Recommendations:

We have received questions about hotel recommendations in Tahiti/Bora Bora. Of course we can only vouch for the hotels we stayed, but I did plenty of research beforehand so here's the compiled list of hotels that are highly rated.

  • Intercontinental Tahiti: This is the hotel that we stayed in. Although we loved the location and the traditional feel of the hotel, we felt that the hotel was a little tired and probably in need of a renovation.
  • Radisson Tahiti: Located on a stretch of black sand beach, this hotel is relatively newer and have good ratings in Trip Advisor.
  • Manava Suites: One of the newer hotels in Tahiti. The decor is very modern.
  • Hilton Moorea: The garden bungalow comes with a plunge pool and the hotel has been recently renovated. The bathroom has a large bathtub which is nice.
  • Sofitel Moorea: This is where we stayed. The hotel is located close to the ferry terminal, but it is far from the main town. The garden bungalow was a good size and the hotel is still in good condition. The pool area is relatively small, but it never felt crowded. We love the quaint feel of the hotel - even though the size of the hotel is pretty big. Unlike the Hilton and the Intercontinental, the garden bungalow category does not come with a plunge pool, which could be a disadvantage. Also to note, there is no bathtub (only rain shower). The breakfast at this hotel was probably our favorite. The chocolate croissant is the best! We had a great time at this hotel and would recommend it.
  • Intercontinental Moorea: This hotel was recently renovated in May 2011. They added the plunge pool to the garden bungalow. There's also an on-site dolphin sanctuary, which tends to attract more families to stay in this hotel. Also to note, the over water bungalow category is not all truly over water (only some are all over the water, the rest are partially over the water/on the beach).
Bora Bora
  • Four Seasons Bora Bora: This hotel is the #1 rated hotel in Bora Bora. It is located on a motu - an island off of Bora Bora main island, so it could be a little bit of hassle if you want to go to town. They charge for shuttle transfer into town. The decor of the room is Tahitian style with modern touches.
  • St. Regis Bora Bora: This hotel is where Nicole Kidman honeymooned :p The decor is more Asian style and there's an onsite Jean Georges restaurant which is supposed to be wonderful! This is where Couples Retreat was filmed.
  • Intercontinental Thalasso Bora Bora: This was our favorite hotel during our trip! It was the most expensive though compared to our hotels in Tahiti and Moorea, by far. The location of the hotel was probably had the best view of Mt. Otemanu in my opinion. It is also located on the motu, but the hotel does not charge for boat transfers to the main island. The decor of the hotel is modern (see pictures above) and pricewise, it's a little bit more affordable than the Four Seasons or St. Regis.
  • Hilton Bora Bora: The Hilton is probably the most economical compared to the other three hotels mentioned. It is still a great option. This is where the Bachelorette was filmed, as well as Keeping up with the Kardashians.
We had such a wonderful trip to Bora Bora, and if you have ANY questions at all, feel free to ask :)

Dan & Marcela


  1. Dear Dan,

    Thank you for your superlative report on Tahiti and Bora Bora. Your photography had be jumping out of my seat lol.

    I know everything is great between you and Marcela and will continue to be a beneficent union. Therefore its never too late to say congratulations!

    Sincerely yours,

    George Anthony Perez

  2. thank you so much for this!! I literally wanted to fly there after seeing your pictures, and sent my mom and fiance the pics immediately lol. I'm looking to honeymoon in August 2014, so Im trying to start my research early. I think I'm going to go the timeshare route to try and save money.

  3. thanks for your tips at the end! We are going to duplicate this trip (by coincidence) in a few months and the info will come in handy. Thanks again for publishing this.

  4. Could you talk more about where to eat and price of food?

  5. By the way, how did you get the room+dinner package? Is it something offered by the hotel? Do you recommend booking through Costco travel?