French Polynesia Holidays: The Ultimate Guide To Planning

Personally, I think French Polynesia holidays are something most of us only ever dream about taking. I can remember half a life ago wanting to go and thinking it would never happen and that I would have to win the lottery to go. Well, 18 years later, I am here to tell you that I am making it happen and I have not won the lottery. Some of this is born out of sheer luck and the rest out of endless research, credit card miles, reward status, etc. I want to be a resource for anyone looking to book a trip to take French Polynesia holidays and I hope this guide is useful for your planning process.

This was not an easy trip to plan for me because usually I just book the trip and show up. I knew a dream trip of this caliber was going to take a serious amount of work, and it should. It was fun planning this trip and I enjoyed every second I spent enjoying French Polynesia holidays with my husband.

So let’s get to it!

french Polynesia holidays

Four Seasons Bora Bora

French Polynesia Holidays: Where To Start

For years I have been trying to make this trip a reality, I just did not want to spend the cash to make it happen. Often when searching hotels and flights for the two week duration I wanted, I would come up with about a $25,000-$40,000 spend, not including food, activities, etc. That is a large price tag for a two week trip. Granted, I was a planning an all luxury trip with over water bungalows, but I didn’t want to do it any other way.

So here is where to start: airfare can be costly. Where I live in Washington, D.C. tickets per person in coach are almost ALWAYS over $2,000 USD and usually over $2,500! If you can get comfortable with the airline prices, you will be on board with everything else. For me, I LUCKED out with an airfare deal on Delta. Flights came up to $585.28 per person. How could I say no? The very next day I received an alert for Expedia that flights went up $2100 PER PERSON!! In my eyes, I wanted to take this trip, so I already saved $4200 on flights for what it would normally cost. That was $4200 extra dollars to spend on lodging.

My advice on the flights: LOOK FOR THOSE DEALS. I have not spent a ton of time looking for flights deals, this one just came across my Facebook and I nearly died. I said to my husband “YES OR NO? I NEED AN ANSWER NOW!” And then it was booked.

*Caveat – what I did not notice when I booked those flights was that it was the BUSIEST month of the year, which meant prices were going to be high for hotels.

If you don’t mind paying for 100% of the trip and the money has no bearing on when you go, then visit in August during the driest season. They get the least amount of rain and humidity and have the best weather. If you want to save some money, go during shoulder season when the islands see more rain. I hear its beautiful year round. Rain and weather happen to the best of us. But if you are trying to visit on a smaller budget, consider going during November-April (although Christmas tends to be higher).

But before you book anything, plan on purchasing travel insurance! When you spend this kind of money on a trip, you need to protect it if the unforeseen should arise. 

When to visit:

Most people will tell you that the islands are nice year round, but ultimately it will come down to your preference in weather and how much you want to spend. 

  • High season is May – October with small amounts of rain and humidity. Which also means high travel season for tourists and higher price tags on lodging. 
  • November to April is rainier and more humid, but this is when you are likely to score better deals. I would recommend if you go during this time to stay 4+ nights just in case you do encounter rain. 

When looking at price comparisons, I found that some of the months from November to April had room costs 50% or less than the higher months, making this trip exceedingly more affordable. 

For a month by month break down, check out this guide for Bora Bora. 

Maximizing Deals

Between my husband and myself, we pooled together our miles, points, rewards, and status to see where we could get the best deals to maximize our stay and lower our costs. Going through everything we have to see which would suit us best was the hardest part about planning the trip. Once I gathered what every status would give us, what points and miles could be exchanged for, what our credit card could give us for booking through them, and then went through the hotels booking sites to find deals, and to see if I could find deals on hotels.com (because every 10th night that you book you get a free stay), it was some serious work.

What was of great benefit to us was that we planned to move hotels frequently to get the most out of our visit. Between Tahiti, Bora Bora and Mo’orea, we planned to stay in a minimum of 5 hotels over 11 nights. Being that I am a travel writer/photographer/etc – I wanted to get as much content as possible to share with you guys and my husband was on board, because once you get to the island, moving hotels is not that hard.

Then by sheer luck, another amazing deal came across my desk. Windstar Cruise line had reduced their rates for an 8 day Tahiti Cruise from over $19K+ to just over $4800. I thought to myself, “this is doable.” By deciding to go on this luxury sailboat yacht, I was in control of food and hotel costs for 8 days (the caveat – there’s an overnight stop in Bora Bora and we took this opportunity to stay at the Four Seasons). Now we were getting 8 days of exploring the islands already on our list AND additional ones we had not even considered visiting. PLUS we would have one night before the cruise, one night during the cruise, and three nights at the end of the cruise to stay in whatever hotels we wanted.

Somehow, we lucked out and got the best of both worlds. We got to experience so much of French Polynesia by boat and we got to stay overnight on the islands we had originally picked. And for significantly less than we had planned.

Here is what we had to work with before paying cash:

  • 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points (we ultimately did not use these)
    • The only Marriott properties were on Bora Bora.
      • The St Regis
      • Le Meridan
  • 114,856 Points with our Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
    • In addition to our points, we also have a service on our card that allows us to book certain luxury hotels that come with various perks.
      • Staying at the Sofitel in Mo’orea would get us: full breakfast for 2 people daily, 7500 XPF food and beverage credit per stay for lunch or dinner (excluding beverages), VIP check-in, fruit basket, early check-in, late check-out, and a room upgrade based on availability.
      • Staying at the St. Regis in Bora Bora would get us: daily breakfast for 2, round trip airport transportation, 20% discount at the spa, late check out, early check-in, and upgrades if available on request.
        • Since we ended up not staying at either of these hotels, we did not need to use the perks on our credit card. 
  • Hilton Honors Gold Status
    • We knew we could get free breakfast by staying at Hilton Properties – both the Conrad in Bora Bora and the Hilton in Mo’orea honored this. 

Choosing Islands to Stay On:

If you are going to go all the way to French Polynesia, I highly recommend visiting a few islands. For me, Bora Bora was always on the top of my list. More so than Tahiti and Mo’orea. However, I knew I wanted to visit all three islands so I made the plan to do so, outside of what we would be visiting on our eight day cruise.

FRENCH POLYNESIA HOLIDAYS

Here was my thought process:

  • Arrive in Tahiti on August 7th very early in the morning after nearly a full day of travel. Go to Bora Bora for the night at the Conrad for one night. One of my bucket list dreams has always been to see Bora Bora from the air on a flight. This would be my only option to do this based on the rest of my itinerary.
  • August 8th-15th exploring the islands of Mo’orea, Bora Bora ,Taaa, Raiatea, etc with Windstar.
    • we did purchase an overnight stay at the Four Seasons Bora Bora during our cruise because it was over 24 hours for the stop. This is not an uncommon practice for those who take this cruise. I think its rather genius since a lot of people who go on French Polynesia holidays WANT to stay in an over water bungalow in Bora Bora.
  • August 15th-17th Mo’orea
    • I was really torn about staying in one or two hotels for these two nights.
      • I ended up booking the Hilton Mo’orea for two nights and stayed one night in an over water bungalow and one night in a villa with a pool on land. 
  • August 17th – return to Tahiti and stay the night since we have a very early flight out of Papeete the next morning.

This was a feasible and doable schedule for us. We would most likely show up exhausted and tired to Bora Bora, but we would just go to sleep early.

We picked Mo’orea last because the ferry is only a 45 minute boat ride from Tahiti. It would not take us long to get there and we could enjoy those two days on the island since we had already spent two nights in Bora Bora.

French Polynesia Holidays: Where To Stay

After narrowing down hotels through everything we had together, we knew we wanted luxury hotels and over water bungalows. Now we could have run the risk of booking a regular room that was not on the water and hoped we would get an upgrade BUT when we bought our flights in March, hotels were already over 65% booked for the two weeks we were going to the islands in August. It was a very slim chance we would ever get an upgrade. So we did not take the chance to save a few bucks.

Seeing as how our cruise would be taking up the majority of our French Polynesia holidays, we only needed to secure a few nights in hotels.

Bora Bora

For me, I always knew that the top of my bucket list would be staying at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora. Even if I only got to stay one night, my life would be complete! So I booked one night during the middle of my cruise when we had an overnight in Bora Bora. It made sense to go this route because 1: I would not have to pay to fly to the island which would have cost over $900 round trip for both of us and 2: I would not have to pay the fee for a taxi from the airport. Hands down, this is the BEST hotel I have ever stayed in. 

For Bora Bora, we stayed one night at the Four Seasons in an over water bungalow. Before we found the cruise deal we were going to stay 5-6 nights in Bora Bora.

We also stayed at the Conrad and booked the two story Penthouse Suite at the front of our trip, because why not! We loved the room but if you don’t want to splurge, all the other rooms are just as lovely. 

french polynesia holidays

Conrad Penthouse Suite

There are some other luxury properties and non-luxury properties to stay at on the island. I would recommend getting an over water bungalow at the Four Seasons or Conrad if you visit the island. I would not come all the way here and not. You would be doing yourself and your French Polynesia holidays a disservice.

Mo’orea

At the end of our cruise we had two nights to stay in Mo’orea. We went back and forth about staying in one or two places and ultimately decided to do one. While this was our vacation and we were self funding it, it was still something I was going to showcase on social media and planned to write about. We ended up staying two total nights at the Hilton Mo’orea. One night in an over water bungalow and one night in a King Garden Suite with Private Pool. We opted to not stay in an over water bungalow both nights because the room we picked was about 1,700 square feet with a private pool and I wanted to give a different perspective about the hotel room categories on the islands. Which by the way – we loved both options. Don’t be afraid to stay in a land villa because it will not ruin your vacation. 

FRENCH POLYNESIA HOLIDAYS

Hilton Mo’orea

Tahiti

Tahiti was pretty much booked when we got our flights and there was slim picking on the hotel front. We wanted to stay at the Intercontinental but it was full. We ended up booking one night at Manava Suite Resort Tahiti and paid cash for it. We needed a hotel for our last night because the following morning we needed to be at the airport by 5:35am for our flight back to America. The hotel was nothing to write home about – it was a transit hotel for us. 

French Polynesia Holidays: Getting To The Islands

The longest haul flight you will take is getting to Tahiti from wherever you start. For us, this meant three flights and nearly a full day of travel. Once you arrive in Papeete, getting to Bora Bora and Mo’orea is easy.

Getting to Mo’orea:

  • Air Tahiti runs flights to the island daily
  • You can take a boat that takes about 45 minutes and costs $26 per person round trip – this is considered much easier.

Getting to Bora Bora:

  • Air Tahiti runs multiple flights per day from Tahiti, etc. This flight is about 50 minutes long and easy to navigate. 

Take a Cruise:

We had not considered taking a cruise until I came up on the deal with Windstar, but quickly realized it would be the easiest way to get around the islands without having to catch flights and move our stuff every day. When you are planning your French Polynesia holidays I strongly urge you to consider a cruise. It is one of the best cruises we have ever been on.

French Polynesia Holidays: Actual Costs For This 2 Week Trip

french polynesia holidays

Now that my trip is over, I can share with you all costs associated so you can plan your French Polynesia holidays and decide how to use points, miles and where to save and where to splurge. 

*Keep in mind, these are the rates I paid. You may not find the same deals, have miles/points, status, etc.

  • My first big break in this trip: Scoring airfare from Washington, D.C. for $585.28 per person X 2 = $1170.56
  • On the flight home we upgraded at check in for $632.44 per person X 2 = $1264.88
  • Flights to Bora Bora from Tahiti were 36,010 Chase Sapphire Reserve points and $300.73 = $300.73
  • My second big break was lucking out with a deeply discounted cruise with Windstar for 8 days (normally priced over $19K!!)  which cost $2406 per person X 2 = $4812
    • Extra expenses on board which included drinks, excursions, gratuities, and my husband needed to see the doctor = $897.88
  • We decided to stay at the Conrad in Bora Bora and book the only two story Penthouse Suite in all the land = $5,537
    • Meals= $251.45 (just lunch and a dinner)
    • Transportation from the Bora Bora airport was $150 per person round trip X 2= $300.00
  • I used Hotels.com (because every 10th night is free and this will drive up the costs of my average of the 10 nights) to stay at the Four Seasons for 1 night in an over water bungalow + free breakfast = $1865.34
    • Breakfast was included in the room and I did partner with the hotel to showcase lunch and dinner, however the prices for those meals were:
      • Lunch = $257.57
      • Dinner = $239.17
      • Canoe Breakfast = $229.97
    • Transportation from the Bora Bora airport 1 way = free because we had a credit with the hotel due to maintenance being done (if you book a room while they are renovating you will get a credit based on how long you stay and your room category).
    • Transportation to Viatape to go back to our cruise= $50 
  • I used 23,084 + paid $451.65 to stay at the Hilton Mo’orea in a King Garden Suite with Private Pool =$451.61
    • Getting to the hotel from the ferry = $25.00
    • Getting back to the ferry from the hotel for two = $35.00
    • Food costs = full disclosure, I made a last minute partnership with the hotel for exchange of photos, so they covered 3 meals and we had breakfasts covered by hotel status. However, I have left the prices here just to gauge for reference. 
      • Lunch – $103.39
      • Dinner at the Creperie – $72.21
      • Lunch – $107.17
  • I used 55,762 Chase Sapphire Reserve points to stay 1 night at the Hilton Mo’orea in a King Overwater Bungalow =$0.00
  • To stay one night at Manava Suite Resort Tahiti for our last night I paid $362.56
    • Getting to the hotel from the ferry for two = $22.00
    • Getting to the airport for two = $30.00
    • Food costs = $40.00 at McDonald’s + a $20.00 round trip taxi 

 

Total cost spent for 2 weeks in French Polynesia for two people: $17,436.01

 

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