I do my best every Jan to head to the Carribean, usually a Disney Cruise because the kids like them and I love sitting on the fantail, drinking Pina Coladas, smoking cuban cigars, and catching up on my reading. I no longer step foot on the islands as they are so tourist oriented they seem spoiled. Each island is selling the same tourist junk, and I hate it. However the Carribean is a beautiful place, the water is very nice, there are great resorts and cruises, and most of it is easy to get to.
Tahiti is just something special, it is truly a wonderland, even if the trip is only once in a lifetime. There is a great Air Tahiti Nui flight out of NYC/Kennedy that is shorter than the LAX connection. It actually heads on a diagonal over Houston and makes the trip in 12 hours.
I am not a good flyer so the trip was hard for me. I have trouble sleeping on airplanes and I am too big to stay in coach for that long. The upgrade to Business class was a lifesaver for me, do it if you can afford it. They really take care of you in Business class - express check in, fantastic seats, great meals and service, movies etc...
Try to stay a while because the trip is long. You can find some cheaper small places to stay that are fine if the budget wont take Overwater Bungalows the whole time. Bora isnt necessary -- there are a lot more fish close by in Rangiroa, Huahine is great, and I hear Moorea is nice too.
Hi Disneygal and The WarStore Man. Your feedback is appreciated. Glad to hear that it would be different than the Caribbean. I think I would like to go more to one of the "outer" islands as opposed to the Bora Bora and Moorea islands. I really don't like the touristy thing. I have been trying to research out of the way places with great beaches and snorkelling. We don't need fancy meals or dress up days. We would rather be in shorts or bathing suits. I did get a good brochure from "Islands in the Sun" that is adding out of the way properties...not "honeymoon" type properties. Well, now to convince my husband that the flight would be worth it! Disneygal: Have you noticed the best buy packages that include air and hotel on LL? They seem interesting.
Rangiroa is THE place then. Or at least one of them :-)
Out of the 4 islands we were at Rangiroa was the one where we fell out of the OWBungalow and fell into a lagoon full of fish. All sorts of neat fish were right there almost like you could touch them. My wife went out about 20-30 feet and snorkeled to her heart's content.
We stayed at the Kia Ora, watch for stay 3 nights get one night free specials or of course anything on LL. Most of the guests were snorklers/scuba people - Japanese and European (Italian/French). We didnt find any Americans there at all. Try to explain Maple Syrup to an Italian tourist -- "uhhhhhhhhhh its like sugar, but from a tree!" Locally there are passes from the sea into the lagoon and there are companies that will take you to float in on the tide with the rest of the fish. Tons of fun! The Kia itself is a nice place too. Great staff, very pretty setting. The room was the smallest of all we stayed in, but certainly big enough for anyone's needs.
The Kia does make a big deal out of meals (it is a French place after all) but you can buy sandwiches at the bar in the afternoons to kind of economize. We found that buying a big breakfast in the AM, going for a nice late lunch and then sandwiches for any night time hunger - we were pretty set. YMMV Meals can be expensive, but it is like that all thru Polynesia. Across the street from the Kia is the Ocean side of the Island - if you need waves. We didnt go in on that side. It was a nice beach tho -- and deserted. Nice place to buy Black Pearls just up the road.
Rangiroa is about 2 hours from Papaette. We arrived in Papaette, stayed overnight cheap and took a plane the next day to Rangiroa. I hear Mahini is really nice, and I believe has some rooms on LL. I have seen some Maldives rooms here too, if you want to REALLY get away.
OK, so Rangiroa will have to be on the itinerary! LL does have some good packages, and I agree the ones including air look very attractive. I think an auction package and booking air separately might work out to be a better deal. I've also been thinking about the Star Clippers cruise - they start sailing in French Polynesia later this year. I think we talked about that a little elsewhere on the boards. with the cruise you get to see more islands, and food is included. That's another factor, as TheWarStoreMan says, the food is very expensive. My folks did the Paul Gauguin cruise, which they enjoyed very much, but for us the sailboat might just hit the spot. Of course then you're in a little cabin... Maybe the cruise and then a few days on one island (Rangiroa!) might be a good combination.
Hi WarStore Man. Rangiroa does sound like my type of place. Doesn't the Kia Ora have a "sister" property relatively close by? I had done some reading. It sounds like more of a deserted island with really no electricity. Did you visit? How bad were the meal prices? Are there small restaurants closeby to walk? Could you go visit villages? Did it seem "touristy" or more natural? Thanks in advance
The Kia Ora does have a sister hotel on a motu called the Kia Ora 'Savage'. I wouldnt be too scared by the named -- I think it is french for 'primitive' :-). Sort of a Robinson Carusoe type place with no phones, I think maybe even no eletricity, I am not sure. We were going to stay there for two days but we could not get back in time for our flight to Huahine so we stayed at the Kia Ora for all 4 days. I still think the Savage would be cool - ultimate getaway.
Rangiroa was great. It is an atoll, so it is very diffeerent in look from the rest of Tahiti. No high mountains, all sand and palm trees. Of course the water is crystal clear and nice and warm.
Kia Ora meal pricing - Pretty much anywhere in Tahiti you are going to pay about $30-35/person for the kind of breakfast I like - room service with eggs, bacon, fruit, breads etc.... the good news was that filled us up thru lunch for sure. At the Kia if you are on the meal plan (or you can pay as you go) you can hit their breakfast buffet, which we found to be very nice. All of the food we had at the Kia was good. I enjoyed their local fish for late lunch, good salads etc... but once again meals were expensive. Low teens for appetizer or small salad, 20's for entree and for lunch I am only talking about local fish in a sandwich type meals. Tasty but pricey. The problem in Tahiti is there is no cheap local cuisine. If you go most anywhere else in the world and eat like a local you can find cheap meals. There is none of that (at least none we found) in Tahiti.
Kia Ora does a big job for dinner, I am not sure if there were price fixed meals as we werent on a meal plan. Dinner is very European in style - several courses, leisurely pace, and of course wines. The tables were filled with large European parties, you can get lonely there if you only speak English :-) We mostly skipped dinner as the price was high - easily $75-100/person. They did have a barbecue buffet one night with a Polynesian floor show -- that was colorful and fun and didnt feel touristy. I think the local group practices there weekly as they have competitions in July.
Kia had these cool motorized cycles and mini cars you could rent right on the property. Turn right and go a little ways and there is a village. Turn left and go a little ways and there is the Black Pearl place. Very fun day can be had running about. The village is not much but it is fun to tool around. Not touristy, tho they know tourists are about so there is some of the touristy shopping but not a whole lot. Bread is the only cheap thing in Tahiti (govt subsidized with grain from France) so you can find tasty hot and cold sandwiches ("Panini"). Still expect to pay double to triple US 'deli' rates. For instance a can of Coke is $4. You would think local stuff would be cheaper but no, a local beer is still $3.50. Bottled water was high, but not quite as much.
We had a boat trip scehduled to see some local pretty spots but it was too rough on the lagoon the day we were supposed to go out. The only rough day weather wise we had the whole trip.
The real attraction here is the snorkeling at least, the scuba is considered world class if you are into that kind of thing.
Hi again. Thank you for the wonderful update. I am ready to go! It does concern me about the prices. I might have a hard time relaxing spending the money but I know it is worth it!! On Rangiroa, are there villas or apartments to rent? From my research, it only looks like resort properties. Are there any other options? We would have no problem cooking in some of the time. Also, what did you think of Hahine? Where did you stay?
There are a few other places on Rangiroa, tho I will admit I didnt do mcuh research in that area. I was doing the whole 'once in a lifetime honeymoon', overwater bungalow thing. I know there were other vehicles that were picking tourists up at the airport, and I remember passing a few other places. Maybe a good guidebook would have other properties - in home type stuff or small hotels. I would be careful, the place is mostly scuba tourists and on land a lot of them will sleep almost anywhere - as long as they can be in a dive boat fast the next day!
Huahine was our third stop (main island overnight, then Rangiroa). Real 'Tahitian' island with the big former volcano and lots of lush surrounding 'jungle'. Really lovely and I think it is considered some of the best surfing in Tahiti. We did see some surfers.
We stayed at the Te Tiare, which has LL offers. One neat thing is there is no road service to the Te Tiare - you go by powerboat from the local village! 15 min ride is lots of fun. Te Tiare is a really beautiful place - well landscaped with all sorts of good smelling, flowering things. The Te Tiare is a bit different from the Kia Ora as even the regular 'garden' rooms have a really nice beach area and there is a pool. We saw a lot more families here. Our OWB was huge, with a great porch/balcony - wonderful. No bugs, we didnt really suffer from bugs at all in Tahiti but since the Te Tiare is built right into the side of a mountain there are a few small lizards running around :-)
Great service here, good food, this place has a very homey feel with a very helpful staff. We were pretty much on a 2 meal schedule by this time as they certainly give you enough whenever you eat. We alternated between in room breakfast and breakfast buffet, both were grea, both were expensivet. Such is Tahiti. After a while you get a sort of philisophical acceptance of it, esp if like me you have to have a coke at least once in a while. Dinner was yummy too, and we had some menu favorites before we left. They had a tomato salad a tomato lover would die for and some other things I cant remember anymore but If I could see a menu I could still pick them out still! My wife had a massage which she enjoyed and we went out one day with "Captain Claude". He is a local captain with a great big sailboat who knows the island very well. I highly recommend a day trip with him - great views, no engine (as long as the wind holds!), and he can take you to nice snorkeling spots. We also went to the village (Faro?) one day - Huahine definitely has more people than Rangiroa and for sure some other places you can stay - probably some with kitchens here too. In the village is an ex pat American (you can pick him out as a Californian within about 5 seconds) who gives tours of the island. He has a pickup with benches in the back and a canvas roof. Sounds primitive but it actually works great and that was a fun trip around the lsland.
Less fish in the water than Rangiroa but the lagoon isnt as empty as Bora's. Of course the normal Tahitian things apply -- crystal clear water, fantastic views and sunsets, great sun. The view at the TeTiare was a bit different from Kia Ora as at the Kia you are on the inside of the atoll looking across the lagoon. At the Te Tiare (and most other Tahitian Islands) you are looking out to a place where the ocean breaks on the reef. Beautiful. Te Tiare was probably our favorite place of all.
Oh one other thing about Tahiti that makes the trip almost worthwhile by itself - the wonderful French coffee! Dark but sooooooo smooth and yummy! I cant find anything like it here at home. Even the native French liked it, so it had to be authentic. I loved it, made me feel like I was in Paris or something :-)
Another thing on Tahiti in general - the flights between islands on Air Tahiti were great. Prop planes, but not like some tiny Cessna or something. The planes probably seated about 100, 2 rows of 2 seats. The planes looked new, well maintained, professional staff etc... They also leave on time and the airports themselves are fairly hassle free.
Air Tahiti has this special pass ticket that lets you hop between a few islands. At first it looks like Greek, but if you study it a bit you can figure it out and the passes help you save money. Seeing several islands is the way to go, in my opinion.
We didnt use a travel agent and I think that saved us money. Planning a trip using LL, making your own flight arrnagements etc... -- it is not that hard to do.
Hi WarStoreMan. Your update on the reqion was quite helpful. Just for fun, I priced out Te Tiare, Huahine through LL's a la carte pricing. I was quite surprised. The prices actually looked pretty good!! They had so many deals for example, every 3rd day, you would get one free!! I couldn't believe it. I had never actually tried the a la carte pricing option but it shed light on packages, free nights, etc. Please tell me again, did you fly direct from New York or LAX? I would also try to plan this by myself andhopefully with LL propertieslike you did. So far,I haven't seen any auctions for 1st quarter 2008. Iwill keep watching though.