Tahiti. No other word immediately conjures up visions of a tropical paradise! I was lucky enough to fly to French Polynesia in March to explore a trio of these dreamy islands in the South Pacific. I divided my time between Tahiti, Huahine and Moorea. If you’re thinking of planning a Tahiti island hopping trip, here are some ideas to help get you off the ground.
Many people make a strategic stopover on the journey from Europe to French Polynesia, but I was short on time, so I flew straight through. First, I travelled from London to Los Angeles, which took 11 hours 30 minutes. After a couple of hours in Los Angeles, I changed planes for the second leg to Papeete, which took another 8 hours.
Suffice to say that, at the end of my long journey, I couldn’t wait to set foot off the plane! As soon as I did, I stepped into the warm, tropical night and was instantly transported to into paradise, with the scent of flowers floating in the air. My memories of the frosty, snow-covered Europe I’d left behind instantly melted away!
While I took the fastest route to Tahiti from London via Los Angeles, I certainly recommend making the most of the journey and building in some stopovers along the way. It’s straightforward to include a stop in California as well as Tokyo and Auckland, New Zealand. For more information about flight routes and options to Tahiti, read my blog about planning flights to Tahiti from the UK.
I spent my first couple of days in the beautiful Manava Suite Hotel on the west coast of Tahiti, the central hub of the Society Islands and the commercial heart of French Polynesia. The hotel is only ten minutes from the airport by road, making it the perfect place to recover after a long flight before you head out to explore the other islands.
The Manava Suite Hotel boasts the largest infinity pool on Tahiti Island, so it’s THE place to sip an afternoon cocktail at the lovely swim-up bar. There are all kinds of room types available, including Studio Suites, Deluxe Suites, One Bedroom Duplexes, and Standard Rooms, so there really is something to suit everyone. I had amazing views of Moorea from my room and I saw some phenomenal sunsets during my stay.
It’s crucial to know that Tahiti Island is not a dreamy paradise in its own right – it’s more of a jumping off point to visit the other islands. While you’ll probably need at least one night here to shake off the jetlag and recover from the journey, Tahiti won’t end up being the focus or highlight of your French Polynesia holiday. The island is relatively densely populated, so it’s best to treat it as a stepping stone into a tropical paradise.
Tahiti’s interior is mountainous, so the resorts are dotted about around the coastline. However, Tahiti is volcanic, and most of the beaches are made of fascinating, black, volcanic sands. You'll find French Polynesia’s pin-up white beaches on its other islands, so after some post-flight downtime, I went in search of barefoot bliss.
A short flight from Tahiti took me to my next island destination, Huahine. One of the Society Islands, Huahine is only a short flight from Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea and Bora Bora, so it’s an easy spot to include on a Tahiti island-hopping trip.
The flight itself is world class and totally unforgettable. In good weather, there are incredible views of the island below – so be sure to bag yourself a window seat! The journey really took my breath away. In fact, if you’re planning to visit a few islands in French Polynesia, it’s best to look into an air pass that includes several flights. This is definitely the most cost-effective option and, at Travel Nation, we can get this organised for you.
Known as the ‘Garden Island of Polynesia’, Huahine has a deep green interior, dotted with bright blue lagoons and lush forests. Overlooked by many tourists, it has retained its wild, original character and Polynesian charm. You’ll find ancient villages and church ruins across the island, often densely overgrown by the jungle. On top of all that, Huahine is beach heaven! The island is fringed with glorious white beaches and turquoise waters that are perfect for relaxing, swimming and snorkelling.
I stayed in the fantastic Maitai Lapita Village Resort which has several charming bungalows set between a lake filled with water-lilies and a tropical lagoon. The setting is breath-taking, and I would recommend the resort to anyone. The 32 garden bungalows are simple and stylish, providing a real sense of privacy. The onsite restaurant overlooks the beach, and the whole place feels like a little slice of paradise.
My next stop was Moorea. I flew from Huahine, but Moorea is just a 2-hour ferry ride from Tahiti and very close to Bora Bora, making it very easy to access.
Moorea is undoubtedly the most dramatic of the islands that I visited. The spectacular mountain ranges in the interior of the island tower above the crystalline waters and the pure white beaches, offering fantastic photo opportunities along the numerous bays. For me, Moorea is about as close to paradise as it gets.
I spent 5 days in the lovely Manava Beach Resort & Spa. My days were jam-packed with adventures because there’s so much to see and do, so if you’re someone that can’t sit still on a beach, it’s perfect. I could easily have spent far more time here, exploring and relaxing in equal measure.
First, I rented a scooter to discover the lush, tropical interior of Moorea. Next, I went out snorkelling over the breath-taking coral reefs. Of course, I made sure to leave myself lots of time to laze on the beautiful beaches, enjoying the pace of Polynesian life. Overall, my stay on Moorea could not have been more perfect. I didn’t want to leave!
Many people are shocked to hear that I skipped Bora Bora on my Tahiti island-hopping trip. This is because almost every holiday in French Polynesia includes a stint on sun-drenched Bora Bora, set in its iconic blue lagoon. The media darling of the islands, it’s a regular bucket-list topper. Although I’m sure it’s stunning, I opted to miss Bora Bora because I was short on time and I wanted to discover the less touristy, more authentic islands around Tahiti.
Being the island most in demand, Bora Bora is also the most expensive island in French Polynesia. Scattered mostly with exclusive luxury resorts, it’s perfect for honeymooners, families making the trip of a lifetime and couples on big anniversary adventures. I was travelling alone this time, so it didn’t make sense for me to blow my budget on Bora Bora and – even better – it gives me an excuse to go back someday!
It’s true that most people consider French Polynesia to be a luxury destination and with that comes with a hefty price tag, but if you know where to look, there are hotels for every budget here. So whether you’re planning a celebration holiday, seeking out a romantic 5-star overwater bungalow on Bora Bora, or looking for a small, quaint guesthouse (‘pensions’) that offers traditional Polynesian hospitality – you should find something up your street.
French Polynesia is surprisingly easy to include in many round the world ticket types and we can help you to put together an itinerary that includes a few other destinations along the way. We can recommend hotels on each of the islands and put together an island-hopping itinerary to suit your budget.
There are so many activities you can include and we can also help arrange diving or snorkelling excursions. See our tailor-made Tahiti holidays for inspiration itineraries, resorts and French Polynesia cruises. To start planning your trip, you can contact Stefanie at Travel Nation directly, give us a call on +44 1273320580 or submit a quote request by email.