Yes, it is possible to visit Tahiti on a budget. Not a backpacker-type budget, but one that leans toward frugality rather than frivolity.
If you have looked into a Tahiti vacation or honeymoon before, you may have been scared off by the prices when you plugged dates into an online reservation system. Did that really just say $900 a night? Yes, it did.
So, if you want to keep things as affordable as possible in this South Pacific paradise—and you can, so long as you have about $3,500 to spend for five nights and $6,000 for a full week—here are some tips for getting the most bang for your XPF (that's Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique, the local currency) when you visit the main island of Tahiti and its photogenic siblings Moorea and Bora Bora.
Book a Package Deal
Air Tahiti Nui, Tahiti's official carrier, partners with a variety of packaged travel providers to offer some pretty good deals (prices are per person) on multi-island visits that include round-trip airfare from Los Angeles (which on its own averages about $1,000), inter-island air, accommodation at three- and four-star resorts, and some meals.
Take the Ferry from Papeete to Moorea
The Aremiti 5, a high-speed catamaran, takes just 30 minutes to cross from Tahiti to nearby Moorea and costs only about $15 per person (versus $60 per person for a 10-minute flight).
Take Only Two Inter-island Flights
With an island combo of Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora, you can see all three and only have to take two inter-island flights on Air Tahiti. Take the Aremiti ferry from Papeete to Moorea, then fly Air Tahiti from Moorea to Bora Bora and later Bora Bora back to Papeete.
Use Your Points
If you are a member of a hotel frequent stay program, check into cashing in your points. Starwood, Hilton, InterContinental, and Sofitel all have resorts in Tahiti.
Skip the Overwater Bungalows or Book Them Wisely
Tahiti's iconic overwater bungalows are prime real estate—with nightly rates of $500 to $1,000 to prove it. While it's a romantic fantasy to stay in one, at about triple the cost of a hotel room (which can start at around $175) and double the cost of a garden or beach bungalow (often available for about $350), they may be out of the question for some couples on a budget. Here are some suggestions if you must sleep overwater:
- Since Bora Bora's overwater bungalows command the highest prices, stay overwater on Tahiti, where rates at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort and the Le Meridien Tahiti can be booked for as low as $400 a night (during low season).
- Or, save big on Tahiti by booking a standard room rather than a bungalow—rates start at around $175 a night at great properties such as the Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti and the Manava Suite Resort Tahiti—and use the savings to splurge on an overwater bungalow for a night or two on Moorea or Bora Bora.
- Overwaters on Moorea are pricier, but you can sometimes find good rates (about $550 a night) at the Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa and the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa.
- On Bora Bora, spend one night overwater and the other nights in a garden or beach bungalow, which can be one-third to one-half as costly. On Bora Bora, you'll find the best values on overwater bungalows, plus a selection of garden and beach bungalows, at the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa, Le Meridien Bora Bora, the Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach and Private Island, and the InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora.
Spend Just a Night or Two on Bora Bora
There's a reason Bora Bora gets away with it's budget-busting rates: It is unbelievably gorgeous. So as tempting as the prices are on packages combining stays on Tahiti and Moorea, it's hard to imagine anyone flying all the way to French Polynesia (an eight-hour flight from Los Angeles) and not seeing the crowning jewel that is Bora Bora. Do it—just spend one or two nights there and save by booking a garden or beach bungalow at one of the resorts listed above.
Make Sure Breakfast is Included
Do yourselves a big favor and make sure the rate you book includes breakfast daily. If not, you'll have sticker shock when you're handed a bill with an extra $40-$60 per person for the resort's buffet breakfast. This especially comes in handy for families traveling with small children.
Visit a Market and Stock Up on Snacks
On Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora, take time to visit a local market and stock up on affordable snacks, fresh fruit, and even wine and beer to enjoy in the privacy of your room.
Eat Lunch Late and Make it Your Biggest Meal
Prices on a resort's lunch menu are generally one-third to one-half less expensive than dinner menus. To save, eat lunch just before service ends (typically around 3:00 p.m.) and then make dinner a more casual (and affordable) meal of cocktails and light snacks.
Visit in November or April-or Gamble on December through March
As with most destinations, prices in Tahiti jump in high season (May to October) when the weather is driest and sunniest. You'll reap some savings in November and April, when the weather is still generally fine, and find the lowest prices during Tahiti's summer from December to March, when high humidity and afternoon showers are more common.