For those of you who have commented that you aren’t returning to Hawaii (and there have been thousands), we have another option for you to consider. Tahiti, just five hours south of us here in Hawaii is currently on sale.
Who doesn’t love exploring the islands of the Pacific? One of your editors’ favorite places, outside of Hawaii, is the islands of French Polynesia. Located just five hours south of Hawaii, and in the same time zone, it is reasonably easy to get to, beautiful, fascinating, and exotic.
Tahiti sits about 8.5 air hours southwest of Los Angeles for reference. French-speaking, but English understanding, the islands feature unique, idyllic lagoons replete with abundant sea life. Whereas Hawaii’s coasts are mostly exposed to the open ocean, French Polynesia’s are predominantly reef-enclosed. As a result, FP features world-class snorkeling and scuba diving, beyond what is found in Hawaii.
Airfares to Tahiti are normally quite expensive. And except for the two cities listed below, it still is. French Bee Airlines from San Francisco is competing with Delta/Air France from Los Angeles to create this unique opportunity to visit Tahiti for less money.
Los Angeles to Papeete is $299 each way on Delta Airlines, based on round-trip.
Available from December through March. Weekends included.
San Francisco to Papeete is $294-300 each way on French Bee airlines, based on round-trip.
Available from December through June. Saturday departures.
Hawaiian Airlines flies weekly between Honolulu and Papeete, which is the only way to get between Hawaii and Tahiti. The least expensive round trip is about $1,100 for the 2,731-mile route. It is about the same distance as flying from California to Hawaii, which you can regularly fly for just $238 roundtrip. Contrast that distance and cost with flying from Los Angeles to Papeete, which is a distance of some 4,095 miles.
For anyone who doesn’t think airline competition is important, here’s a great case in point. The current cost from LAX is about 7 cents per mile while the cost from Honolulu is about 20 cents per mile. We don’t know if any other airline would consider flying that route, but until things change, your editors at least don’t plan on spending $1,100+.
We checked for Moorea, just as an example, and found some great, top-rated accommodations fronting the lagoon for as little as $200 per night in January. We were stunned. We also found a Hertz compact car rental for just $236 for a week.
Papeete, on the island of Tahiti, is the center of all business activity and international flights. Much like with Honolulu, Tahiti island is all about Papeete. In addition to business, Papeete has resorts, great shopping, and dining. The atmosphere to us is somewhat more reminiscent of a Mexican city, rather than a Hawaiian one. There is a similarity with Tijuana, which we mean in the most complimentary way to both cities.
If you choose to stay on Tahiti (which we typically do not do for very long), there is much to explore. A top favorite of your editors is “Le Marche,” Papeete’s large and vibrant traditional daily market pictured above. By far the best day to go is Sunday. It is a feast of food and other Tahitian products, flowers, bright colors, and sounds. Le Marché is open every day daily from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm, but on Sundays it closes early at 9:00 am. We suggest getting there when it opens for every reason. But, for a much quieter side of the island, choose Tahiti Iti. And, to watch or participate in epic surfing, check out Teahupo’o among other spots.
Moorea, Tahiti’s bedroom neighbor, is only 30 minutes away by Catamaran or 10 minutes by plane. With far fewer cars, it is a better vacation choice for Tahiti travelers with limited time or budget to explore further afield. It features a gorgeous wide, shallow lagoon surrounding the island’s verdant tall mountains. Due to its proximity to Papeete, Moorea has a distinct bedroom community feel, which is quite unlike the other more remote islands of French Polynesia.
Bora Bora. An idyllic island, which in the past quarter century has been largely overrun by tourism and massive development. Nonetheless, it has Mount Otemanu at the island’s center, tropical slopes and valleys, gorgeous white sand beaches, and an exquisite emerald-colored lagoon teaming with fish and rays. We were glad to have gotten there as far back as the early 1980s, before the explosion of today’s resorts.
Huahine is far and away our favorite island in French Polynesia.
Still less than an hour away from Papeete by air, Huahine remains to this day one of the best-kept secret hideaways in the South Pacific. It is smaller and more friendly than either Bora Bora or Moorea and is far less developed. Huahine features unequaled beauty in its lagoons, beaches, bays, and a half dozen charming and quaint small villages. It is heavily agricultural in nature, and is somewhat reminiscent of Kauai, as it was 50 years ago.
These include the Marquesas, Astrals, and Gambier groups as well as Raiatea, Taha’a, Rangiroa, Manihi, Tikehau, Tetiaroa, and Fakarava.
We look forward to hearing from those of you who have been to French Polynesia or who plan to visit. And for those of you who say you aren’t returning to Hawaii, please let us know how it goes.
Filed Under: Travel Tips
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Thanks for the review of Tahiti. It definitely proves that Hawaii, and its islands, are not the be-all end-all. Plenty of other drop-dead gorgeous places to explore!
Tahiti, and its government, figured out real quick like Hawaii that things don’t run well in the islands without people working in a thriving industry – tourism. Prior to COVID, there were some telltale signs that Tahiti was becoming more of a focus on airlines, with Delta making a foray into the territory. Now it seems that the government has given sure enough signs that tourism is here to stay and that all are welcome – thus the rapid expansion of service to Tahiti by American-based airlines and even French operators. It will be interesting to see how they better manage the tourist volume, as we in Hawaii are having open forum debates about that, now.
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