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These days Tahiti is super easy to reach, and unbelievably, affordable too. The flight time from Auckland to Tahiti is a mere five hours, and it’s accessible to every Kiwi, whatever your budget.
….We know you don’t believe us (you’re thinking of all the honeymooners, movie stars and a certain Barack Obama who have holidayed there), but allow us to highlight Tahiti’s cheaper side.
2. Best time to go price-wise
Because May to October is hot, sunny and the most desirable time to visit Tahiti, the prices peak. The lowest prices usually fall between December and March but grey skies and rain showers are common. Then there are the months between November and April, known as the shoulder season. Prices are lower than high season and there’s still a good chance of sun. I.e. if you're on a budget, book now!
3. Accommodation that doesn't cost the world
Say Tahiti and the first thing that pops to mind is a luxurious over-water bungalow. But worry not, there are also a surprising number of options that won't depress your bank manager:
1. Stay at a family pension: Also referred to as a homestay, these small guesthouses are usually dotted in scenic locations such as verdant hillside or fronting the sea. While certainly not glam, it’s a fantastic way to meet the locals and enjoy a genuine Polynesian experience. You’ll also benefit from some fantastic insider tips from your hosts. While most pensions are simple, with basic furnishings and cold showers, ask us about those with a few more home comforts. There are many styles available.
2. Sidestep Bora Bora: Resorts in Tahiti or Moorea are often cheaper than those on Bora Bora so look at your options on these two islands first.
3. Forgo the over-water bungalow: These ocean-perching villas, albeit beautiful, are always the most expensive. Try a garden or beach bungalow instead, they’re cheaper but still swoony.
4. Deals ahoy: Ask us about special rates and packages such as all-inclusive holiday deals, all paid for upfront.
4. When an over-water bungalow isn't negotiable
So your heart’s set on an over-water bungalow and there’s no way you’re doing French Polynesia without experiencing one of these Insta-worthy, drool-inducing huts across the reef. In which case, consider the island of Moorea for your over-water fantasy. You’ll get the same bundles of luxury such as sunken baths, ladders to the reef and hammocks to fall asleep affront the sunset - but at a lower rate than those in Bora Bora.
5. Eat cheaply
Aside from seafood and fruit, which are more than abundant, food in Tahiti has to be shipped or flown in from lands afar. This really hikes up the price of meals. However, there are a few tricks you can use to keep your food bill down:
6. Island day trips
Rather than paying for pricier island stays, consider a day trip from Tahiti. Unfortunately, there are no boats ferrying between Tahiti and Bora Bora, you can only fly. However, you can take the boat from Papeete to Vai'are on Moorea. There is little within walking distance of Vai'are itself so you'll also need a hire car, but if you can squeeze out a few extra pennies, day tripping to Moorea is well worth the investment.
HOT TIP: Moorea's Opunohu Bay is one of the best-looking lagoons in French Polynesia. Surrounded by lush mountain peaks and glass-like water, use your day wisely and make a beeline here.
7. Top 5 free (ish) things to do in Tahiti
Colourful Municipal Market in the heart of Papeete boasts two entire floors of home-grown produce, chattering vendors and locals gossiping over fresh fruit, vegetables and Polynesian handicrafts. On Mondays, it opens at 5am and closes at 6pm, whereas Tuesday through to Saturday, it opens one hour earlier. Come Sunday, it's open as early as 3am, but “shop’s shut” by 9am. This is because Sunday is church day, and the day’s provisions need to be bought beforehand.
HOT TIP: When refreshment is needed, head upstairs and find Manava Café for a coffee, juice or light meal. Don’t forget to take cash.
With exotic flowers, lily ponds and small waterfalls, this very tranquil garden makes a nice change from the sun, sea and sand.
Hire a bike
Cycling around Tahiti is such a pleasure, especially when the sun’s shining. With little traffic, gorgeous coastal roads and a terrain which is rarely strenuous, it’s easy to spend an entire day stopping for coffee and beach bathing; lunch picnics and quick dips in turquoise lagoons. Bikes can be rented for as little as NZ$30 (approx.) per day, but it might not be a top of the range "Raleigh". Think charming antique.
But of course! Take your book, a towel and spend almost zilch at some of the world’s most startling beaches. Like many islands and their volcanic origins, a lot of Tahitian beaches are black sand, but if you’re looking for the quintessential ice-white dazzler, head to La plage de Maui on Tahiti’s southern shore. The shallow lagoon is calm, clear and perfectly blue, while the beach-fronting snack bar serves the most delicious seafood.
The sunset never charges
And boy does Tahiti know how to put on a show. To see one of the best sunsets on earth, we recommend Plage Vaiava (known locally as PK18). To get there, drive from Papeete to Punaauia, and two kilometres beyond the Meridien Hotel lies Vaiava Beach. By day you’ll find showers and toilets, picnic tables, snorkelling and SUP-board hire, and then come dusk, the sun slowly sinks behind the jutted peaks of Moorea.
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