What you should know before booking a trip to Tahiti

15 March 2014

Let it be known that I encourage everyone to travel to as many places as possible—regardless of my opinions, posts or previous experiences. We all anticipate and experience each destination differently. Sometimes places exceed our expectations, others meet them, or—unfortunately for us in Tahiti—still others fall short. Personally, I don't recommend vacationing to Tahiti, and I'm just being honest.

Now grab yourself a drink, this one's a novel.
What you should know before booking your trip to Tahiti
Although I don’t want to deter travelers from jetting off to French Polynesia (though it’s no secret in Tahiti that tourism is on the decline) I do want to offer my best advice on how to see the very best French Polynesia has to offer.
What you should know before booking your trip to Tahiti
What you should know before booking your trip to Tahiti
Now, how can I tell you I don’t recommend vacationing to Tahiti when photos like these are less than convincing? Let’s be honest. This is paradise, the quintessential Tahiti, and exactly how we imagine this dream destination.

But that’s not Tahiti.

It’s Moorea, Tahiti’s lesser-known sister island and a crucial detail missing from the big picture.

But that photo is precisely what the BF and I envisioned when we booked TravelZoo’s recent Air Tahiti Nui deal, offering one hell-of-a deal: a 5-day Tahiti getaway for just $1298. It wasn’t until we settled into our hotel at Le Meridien Tahiti that we learned otherwise.
What you should know before booking your trip to Tahiti
It’s no secret that the way you choose to travel greatly impacts how you experience, and ultimately judge, a destination. Personally, I like to travel for culture. I get by on local suggestions, local tours, and local fare. We prefer a slower, more mainstream lifestyle to up-scale, excursion-packed trips. And that’s exactly how we traveled Tahiti, truly trying to sink our teeth into the real Tahiti. But for one reason or another, we came up short.

To us, Tahiti did not live up to the hype. And yet, Moorea blew us away!

We absolutely loved beaching ourselves on a remote island in the middle of the South Pacific for six days straight—don’t get me wrong! Our getaway was lovely. It’s just that our expectations of Tahiti were more on par with Moorea, and we wish we would have known that before we booked.
What you should know before booking your trip to Tahiti
The city of Papeete, Tahiti’s capital, is a cruise port visited regularly by both commercial and private ships. But unlike so many island cruise ports I’ve visited during my travels, especially small island ports, Papeete didn’t have the same charm. For a luxury destination, I was really surprised. Boutiques were lacking in quality, cuisine was just so-so, and we there was little entertainment to pass the time. We mostly toured the market, but quickly learned a few hours downtown was far too much time. And we weren’t the only ones to feel this way. Many travelers at our hotel shared our sentiment.

Having read great things about lagoon tours in the area, we booked a day trip on a whim through local operator Paradise Tours. They picked us up at the hotel the next morning and dropped us at the ferry, where we cruised 30 minutes to Moorea. (And by cruise I mean flew—those high-speed ferries do not mess around.) This is where our vacation truly began.
What you should know before booking your trip to Tahiti
From Moorea’s port we were shuttled to a small dock where two Albert Moana’s Lagoon Tour boats and plenty of other travelers awaited us. The rest of the day was pure bliss, and we enjoyed every second of it sailing and swimming through those gorgeous, pristine blue waters our hearts were set on. It was our very favorite day in French Polynesia—and yet Tahiti was nowhere in sight.
We were disappointed with Tahiti. We hoped what it lacked in attractions (and aqua-blue shores) it would make up for in local experiences or cultural cuisine. Sadly, we didn’t feel taken by any of them. That is, until we reached Moorea. Moorea boasted a gorgeous coastline, beautiful scenery, incredible resort offerings, lively coral reefs perfect for snorkeling, delicious food, and a never-ending list of exciting excursions.
What you should know before booking your trip to Tahiti
In our final days of the trip, we learned from a local guide that tourism in Tahiti and Bora Bora continues to decline. Hotels are closing their doors, companies are losing business, employment is suffering, and the people are growing frustrated. This was pretty obvious, yet equally unsettling. French Polynesia’s greatest money maker is tourism.

Although we weren’t overwhelmingly impressed with Tahiti, we absolutely fell in love with Moorea. In fact, I haven’t stopped talking about this island gem since we left. I highly recommend to friends dreaming of a Tahitian vacation to book the bulk of their trip on Moorea, where endless blue lagoons (with incredible resorts and bungalows to boot), a long list of excursions, and jaw-dropping scenery will just blow them away. I urge you to do the same.
What you should know before booking your trip to Tahiti

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