“Some place with lots of sun. And maybe those huts over the water.”
It turns out if that’s what your fiance wants for her honeymoon, there’s really only one place in the world to go: Tahiti.
Even though I’m not usually a big fan of the sand & surf, I have to admit I loved it. I fell in love with the islands, especially Moorea.
I got a lot of good advice before the trip. In the spirit of paying it forward, here’s my advice to anyone having the good fortune to be traveling there as well.
Overwater Bungalows (OWB) are totally worth it, but not all are created equal. Some are half on land, half over an inch of water. The good ones are over at least a few feet of water, with a view into the lagoon below. The bad ones are over just a half foot, or worse, half on land.
Before you book your room, find out how deep the water under your bungalow will be. Better yet, find a map of the resort & ask for a specific room.
If you take my advice & go to Moorea, I highly, highly, highly recommend the Hilton Moorea.
Here’s the resort map.
I recommend requesting rooms 75 or 87.
Most (all?) rooms have a DVD player. Bring DVDs. Pay-per-view didn’t seem common & most TV is in French. The only exception was ESPN & Fox News (no joke), which didn’t go over well with my new wife.
Bring anti-fog for your snorkel mask. If you forget, use spit. Seriously. Spit on the interior of the mask & use your fingers to rub it around. It’s not as good as anti-fog, but it’ll help.
Without question, get an underwater camera. Some of your best shots are coming to come when you’re wet.
Pre-order cash at your local bank. Do this at least a week or so in advance, as they may need some lead time. You’ll get a better exchange rate than on the island. If you run low on cash, switch to using a credit card & avoid the hotel front desk. Hotels tended to have the worst exchange rate & credit cards seemed to offer the best.
If you rent a car and do an island tour (and I hope that you do), get the insurance. It’s a total scam in the states, but when you’re international, it’s well worth it. Coverage, laws, and everything all changes when you leave the country. Even if you get into a minor fender-bender (as we did), you don’t want to have to waste time on your honeymoon dealing with it.
Tahiti is expensive. And I say this as a man living in one of the most expensive parts of the US.
I don’t mean the flights & room (although they are too), but the everyday items, like food & drinks. The “normal” price of things is going to be what would be considered expensive in LA. E.g., a typical drink is going to be $15. A can of Diet Coke is $4. Hamburgers are $30. And, of course, things go up from there.
You can’t really escape, but you can try to minimize the pain. Things are the most expensive at the resort. If you can find a local market, you’ll save a bunch. Bring what you can. This includes things like sunscreen & bug spray.
Still, plan to spend $100-$200/day. If you can’t bear the thought of that, don’t go. It’s pointless to shell out so much for the trip & then be miserable each day at the cost of everything.
Another smart thing to do is to opt for a package with a breakfast buffet. It’s usually a combination of French & American breakfast. Packages with it usually are much cheaper than getting it individually ($72/breakfast). It’s a good way to start to start the day and less strain on the wallet.
The ATV tours through the interior of Moorea are amazing & totally worth it. Wear pants (not shorts) to keep the bugs at bay. Make sure your tour includes Magic Mountain. A few don’t and it’s one of the highlights of the tour.
Speaking of excursions, don’t book solely through the hotel. Cheaper & more variety can be found by going direct to some of the local companies. Some research here ahead of your trip can pay dividends. (We used Albert’s.)
If you are fortunate to find yourself in an OWB, steal a few pieces of bread from the buffet each morning to feed the fish near your bungalow. Do it at a regular time each morning and after a few days, they’ll anticipate your arrival, and rush to greet you.
Sunburn sucks. If you’re a guy, bring a rash guard (or two).
Good for hoping in & out of the water too.
If you’re on a honeymoon, casually mention that fact as much as you can. Free upgrades, bottles of wine, rose petals, and chocolates will mysteriously appear.
I highly recommend Tahia Pearls. Pearl shopping is one of the “things” to do while there, and it’s a great way to get something for the love of your life to remember your trip by. Some places in Tahiti haggle on price, but Tahia doesn’t. No hard sell, no worry about getting ripped off on price.
The first time we entered a Tahia shop, I pushed my wife to get a more expensive necklace than the one she was looking at. (She doesn’t like to spend money on herself.) I thought the sales lady would take my side (as I wish pushing for one 3x the price), but she interrupted me & said my wife had to pick the pearl that spoke to her. She then told us she would hang on to the one she liked for the day, but before buying, she should also look at the other shops too & find something she really loved. #customerforlife
You’ll need to bring a power adaptor. I’ve had good experiences with this guy.
Rather than buying a few, I brought just one adapter & simple/lightweight power strip.
Also consider bringing a lightweight router with you. This lets you share the Internet connection (between laptops, ipads, iphones, kindles, etc.) instead of paying per device.
Also, don’t spend all your day online, but it’s worth getting an Internet connection. For at least some of the time, anyway. Using the Internet for phone calls or video chats is a good way to get in touch with people back home & it’s also help helpful for doing research on local options.
I also recommend picking up a luggage scale. Much easier than scrambling at bag check-in & cheaper than paying overage fees.
If you’re using air to travel between the islands, keep in mind the international airline is Air Tahiti Nui & the domestic carrier is Air Thaiti. They are different airlines. And, more importantly, they have different baggage allowances.
Unless you want to get hit with overweight fees, make sure your bags are under the limit of both.