Written by catsholiday on 13 Dec, 2010
TahitiTahiti is the largest of the French Polynesian islands and is a volcanic island with black sand not the lovely white sand you imagine on a South sea island. The island is 45 km across at its widest point and covers an area of 1,045…Read More
TahitiTahiti is the largest of the French Polynesian islands and is a volcanic island with black sand not the lovely white sand you imagine on a South sea island. The island is 45 km across at its widest point and covers an area of 1,045 km2, so it is not huge. We were staying on Tahiti Nui (big Tahiti) which is the bigger part of the island which has a thin bit about half way down the island. The smaller southern part is called Tahiti Iti or small Tahiti.When we booked our trip to the South Sea islands we were both very keen to see Tahiti as this was the island the epitomised the South Seas through Gauguin’s beautiful paintings. His paintings were full of bright colours and exotic people and this is what I was expecting. I was hoping to see colourful tropical gardens and friendly smiling local people rather like we had seen in Samoa, Fiji and then later in the lovely Cook Islands. How wrong can you be?Tahiti is miles from anywhere except the other French Polynesian islands and even these are often an hour or so flight away. To give you an idea Tahiti is 4,400 km to the south of Hawai'i, a whopping 7,900 km from Chile and a good six hour flight and 5,700 km from Australia.We arrived at Faa’a airport which was quite tiny and were welcomed with singing and all the formalities like passport and collecting luggage went very smoothly. Once outside we found our name on the board for our meeting and the person took us to check in and gave us lovely fragrant leis to wear then we waited while they sorted out which car would take us tour hotel which was the Radisson this time. After about ten minutes sitting in the mini bus with another couple they finally decided to take us to our hotel. This was a bit disorganised and as we were quite tired from a night of travel we were a bit peeved at the wait as we had paid some decent amount for an airport transfer to save us fussing at the airport in the middle of the night. As I said it was very late at night and we were feeling quite tired so I can’t say I noticed too much on the way to the hotel. We passed through or by Papeete (pop 131,695) which appeared to be quite a small town beside the sea and not a large capital city by most standards. The road pretty well followed the coast all the way to the hotel and we discovered later that this was because the middle of the island is not inhabited at all. It is quite hilly being a volcanic island and most of it is still overgrown vegetation. The majority of people live on the fringes of the island of Tahiti and very few live inland or on the southern blob of Tahiti Iti. The entire population of the island is only about 180.000 so it is a very small island in so many ways.Tahiti is part of French Polynesia and the citizens and French; they have all the benefits of being French with none of the downs sides it seems but more of that later! They are part of France but not part of the EU. They have their own currency which if called the French Pacific Franc (CFP) and this is fixed to the Euro at 1 CFP = EUR .00838. The main language spoken by all is French and the Tahitian language is definitely a second language. During the 1960’s it was forbidden to teach Tahitian in schools but today it is taught once again. All this seems to have removed a lot of the feeling for a Tahitian culture from the people which I found quite sad. I felt that Tahiti was exactly that, France in the South pacific, the people have full political and civil rights of French citizens.This is the part that we found staggering. They pay no income tax at all yet their education is free through to university. They pay only 20% of any medical costs and there is brand spanking new hospital just built in Papeete. Tahiti has its own assembly, president, budget and laws and the previous president of Tahiti was pushing for independence from France but obviously only about 20% of the population were supporting this. I am amazed that 20% supported it as France is keeping the country afloat. Franch money pays for the roads, the education and most of the health care of Tahitians. Presumably it must also pay for the assembly and the President as well as the police as the local people pay no tax so this is the only funding coming in. The only industry producing much income is tourism and that is mainly on the islands of Bora Bora and Moorea which is adjacent to Tahiti.We looked in to spending a couple of nights on Bora Bora until we found that the cost of two nights and the flights was in the region of £3000 for the two of us. So this is a destination for the seriously wealthy as we found Tahiti itself expensive enough. Once we were in Tahiti we enquired about getting to Moorea. It appears that there is a ferry between the islands which goes hourly but there were no trips organized from Tahiti to get to Moorea picking you up from your hotel. The shuttle from the hotel to Papeete only left at 9am or 1pm returning at 5pm so we would have had to catch a local bus and no-one was very helpful about times. Trips around Moorea could be arranged from the ferry port in Moorea but you had to get there. In the end it was going to be so complicated and also quite expensive as every time you did anything in Tahiti it was expensive so we decided not to bother.I think considering how much the people rely on tourism as an industry it is appalling how poor it was. Nothing was easy and transport was also unreliable. We had a spent a morning on our island tour of Tahiti and been monumentally unimpressed so we were reluctant to spend more money getting to Moorea to find that it was another disappointment. The other main industry in Tahiti or French Polynesia is the farming of black pearls and these were eye wateringly expensive. Most of the pearls are exported to Japan, Europe and the US. Tahiti also exports vanilla pods, fruits,( not sure which as we didn’t enjoy many fresh fruit while we were there) flowers, monoi, which is an infused oil made from soaking the petals of Tahitian gardenias (tiare) in coconut oil. fish, copra oil, and noni fruit which is supposed to have health benefits but tasted disgusting, a cross between molasses and vinegar.We didn’t see much evidence of anything being farmed at all and a lot of food is imported from Australia and New Zealand. I am sure more could have been grown as the soil is fertile and the weather perfect for growing but I think the people have got used to being kept by France. They will have a big shock if France decided to give them independence and cut off their funds. I was quite shocked that a nation could be allowed to sit back and just take with no encouragement for them to do something about their own up keep. This ‘handout’ receiving is not good for self esteem and the lack of pride was evident as we drove around. There was graffiti everywhere on every flat surface someone had scrawled untidy graffiti and it looked awful. All the houses had walls or corrugated iron fences so you could not see in and all that was visible were ugly scribbled on walls I various states of repair. This was not how I had imagined this tropical island was going to look, I was very disappointed.Hope this has been of some interest to you and save you spending the money to find out for yourself how underwhelming this island is. Close
Written by lovethecaribbean on 07 Jun, 2009
Star Flyer CruiseLuckily our ferry came in right next to where the Star Flyer was docked. When we arrived they took our luggage and we were given a welcome drink and checked in. I told my husband before the cruise that the room would be…Read More
Star Flyer CruiseLuckily our ferry came in right next to where the Star Flyer was docked. When we arrived they took our luggage and we were given a welcome drink and checked in. I told my husband before the cruise that the room would be small (I had been on it’s sister ship, but he hadn’t), but it was smaller than he expected, especially after the huge room we had at the Hilton. But we got used to it after the first day. After checking out our room, we went straight up to the library to sign up for excursions. I wanted to make sure that things didn’t fill up and we miss out on any of the ones we wanted to do. Typically I don’t book excursions through a cruiseline- I book independently for smaller groups and better prices, but I had heard that the port dates and times could change so I didn’t want to chance it. All of our tours ended up being pretty small groups anyway so this was fine. Ship and CruiseThis is a small sailing cruise ship that carries only about 170 passengers. There is one restaurant and 2 bars (one indoors and one outdoors). There are two small pools and lots of deck space for lounging. There is also a library and a shop. We had a Category 3 room, #331. It was towards the middle/aft of the ship near the dining room (but not too close to the dining room that it was loud) The room and bathroom were quite small compared to other cruise ships I have been on. But the space was sufficient and well organized. The bathroom just has a drain on the floor, so the floor gets quite wet after taking a shower—especially when we were underway. On my previous star clipper cruise we were in a category 1 room and the bathroom and room were a bit bigger. We enjoyed sitting on the loungers on deck after getting back from our port activities. They had a few tarps for shade as well. One of my favorite parts of the cruise was the sailaway. It often happened close to sunset and provided gorgeous views of the islands. It was the perfect time to have some tropical drinks too! PeopleWe met a lot of interesting people on the cruise. This was a nice change after being pretty solitary at the resort. Most of the Americans were from California, but we met people from Texas, Oregon and New York to name a few. There were also a lot of Europeans on board and even a fellow who had come all the way from Japan for the chance to sail. We really enjoyed getting to know the other passengers and hearing about all their travel adventures. We even swapped emails with a few people so we can share our pictures from the trip.Food on the cruiseThere was an early bird breakfast and a large breakfast buffet a little later every morning. There was a pretty good selection (much better than we experienced later at the breakfast buffets in the Pearl resorts). I really enjoyed the omelete station. The lunch was also buffet and had a different theme every day. Personally I would prefer just to have a sandwich or burger for lunch, but the buffets were fine. I did get my sandwich one day—when they had a beach barbeque on the motu in Tahaa, so I enjoyed that. They had a snack at 5 pm and it varied each day. My husband did enjoy a lot of it. I think his favorite were the tacos one day and the waffles they had another day. I thought that the dinners were very good. Better than other cruise ships I have been on. There was a choice of a couple appetizers, 4 or 5 entrees, and 2 desserts. If there wasn’t an entrée that you liked each night you could order steak and fries or pasta (I did this one night and the steak was pretty good). Also, one night I didn’t see an entrée that I really liked, but I loved the tortellini appetizer—so I was able to get that as my entrée. On the desserts— Some of the ones I really enjoyed were taro ice cream, baked Alaska, and straticella ice cream. The service at dinner was generally good, and the food came out pretty quickly. They also had a midnight snack—but we were in bed every night by then, exhausted from our island explorations, so we never made it there. Close
Written by RSchoettger on 12 Sep, 2005
After we have visited all six Marquesas Islands aboard the Aranui 3, we came upon a Sunday of true rest and bliss at Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva. Although the "main" island in the Marquesas, this spot is almost unreachable other than by sea.…Read More
After we have visited all six Marquesas Islands aboard the Aranui 3, we came upon a Sunday of true rest and bliss at Anaho Bay, Nuku Hiva. Although the "main" island in the Marquesas, this spot is almost unreachable other than by sea. Located on the northeastern shore of the island, the location has no roads or other access other than a hiking trail, which is not easy to do. In a wonderful gesture of preservation, the mayor of a neighboring town, Hatiheu, has requested that this area remain pristine as God intended.
Our visit started with a beautiful sunrise while we were within the enclosed bay completely protected from the ocean. After breakfast, all passengers and crew went ashore via the trusty whale boats for a shore landing. Since it was Sunday, it was nice to have the crew also relax and join us for an entire day while we explored the area. One of the great assets of the Aranui 3 is the openness between the passengers and crew which added pleasure to the experience.
Once landing on shore, several of us proceeded on a hike along the entire length of the shoreline and up and over a small hill to Haatuatua Bay and its archaeological site. As if out of Jurassic Park (better back drop than the movie!), this site contains some of the oldest artifacts dating to around 95 BC, which when discovered recently, completely startled historians and has revolutionized some of the theories for how the entire South Pacific was settled. Although I appreciated this, I still savored the landscape with its windswept isolation and dramatic volcanic presence.
Once we returned along the 1.5 miles of unspoiled beaches to the picnic site, many enjoyed relaxing by swimming and snorkeling. There are not many places in the Marquesas for swimming and since Anaho Bay is so enclosed (no rip tides) and uninhabited (no sewage as in some ports), the swimming was excellent. We also enjoyed a very good meal prepared by the Aranui chef, such as local dishes of Poisson Cru (raw fish in coconut milk), octopus and banana pudding, among other "normal" items as barbequed chicken, fish and pork. During the meal, and for some time afterwards, the crew brought out their musical instruments and sang many native tunes. They were actually quite good.
For about 1 hour I sat on the beach and gazed about this place and hoped it never changed. Already two new 1,600-passenger cruise lines are starting to frequent Nuku Hiva (although in the capital of Taiohae) and I am concerned that places as this will soon become "civilized"--I really hope not. As Robert Louis Stevenson stated upon his trip here on the schooner, the Casco, in 1888: "I have watched the morning break in many quarters of the world, and the dawn that I saw with most emotion shone upon the bay of Anaho."
Written by RSchoettger on 11 Sep, 2005
Fatu Hiva: Being the most remote and southern island in the Marquesas Islands, the only way to get here is on the Aranui 3, unless you own a yacht. It is not an island you want to miss, as the locals are so friendly…Read More
Fatu Hiva: Being the most remote and southern island in the Marquesas Islands, the only way to get here is on the Aranui 3, unless you own a yacht. It is not an island you want to miss, as the locals are so friendly and the landscape so dramatic. This comma-shaped island is only 3.5 miles wide and 9 miles long and formed by two extinct volcanoes. Approximately750 people live on the island in only two towns on the island’s west end.
Omoa: After sailing from Hiva Oa overnight, we arose the next morning anchored several meters off shore near the township of Omoa, Fatu Hiva. Using the whaleboats, Omoa was one of the roughest trips to shore, as the coast was rough and the get-off point is located among the rocks. It was fascinating watching the crew strategically wait for the heavy swell to shift while coordinating the lifting of the chained cargo from a flat boat to shore using a small Caterpillar. It often took three or four times to actually get the cargo ashore.
Once on land, we walked about 10 easy minutes along the coast to the town center, admiring the dramatic shoreline within a small bay surrounded by shell of an old volcanic crater. Upon arriving at the center, we went to a small handicrafts market geared towards the passengers of the Aranui 3, who arrive every 3 weeks. This was one of the best locations in the Marquesas to buy crafts, as their artwork is superb. Here is one of the better places to buy quality tapa cloths, a Marquesas custom of stripping the bark from a variety of trees, then pound, soften, and roll out prior to an artist applying a local dyed pattern. In addition, they are known for the wood carvings and shell jewelry.
What made this so special was the serene, gorgeous setting and absolutely wonderful locals who greeted us very kindly. The Aranui crew pointed out that these people have more of the traditional Marquesan way of life than the other islands, again due to their isolation.
Vanavave: Upon returning to the ship from Omoa and having lunch, we embarked along the western Fatu Hiva shoreline and enjoyed the dramatic crevices and cliffs indenting the island. Timing is everything, as we are in the later parts of the afternoon, as the sun is shining along the coast and casting wonderful shadows. In only 30 minutes we came to Vanavave.
Originally, due to tall pillars or basalt spires among a plantation of coconut tress, the early explorers called this location "Baie des Verges" or Bay of the Phalli (rather obvious reasons!). The missionaries followed and promptly added one letter to the name: "Baie des Vierges," or Bay of Virgins, therefore resulting in the more common, but inappropriate name.
After taking quite a few pictures, we set ashore and walked easily towards the inland valley through town, which lasted only about 15 minutes one way. Amongst the simple homes along the single cement road were beautiful gardens full of hibiscus, red ginger, jasmine, and gardenias. Several more basalt pillars rose around the village, which offered constant dramatic vistas. The very friendly locals provided some entertainment with dances, and as in most spots, offered their artwork.
After getting back to the Aranui, timing was such that my wife and I were offered a unique trip on the whaleboat around Vanavave Bay to watch the sun reflect on the island as it was setting. (We were lucky that a professional photographer was onboard for a magazine and requested this). I think I have said this enough, but the beauty was breathtaking, and for more than 45 minutes, we lazily circled the bay and watched as the island changed colors from yellow to pink to red. Wow!
We spent one day on the island of Fatu Hiva, but we will never forget the people, scenery, and adventure.
Written by jenandfrank on 30 Dec, 2004
When all is said and done, I am very glad that we went to this island. Not even Kauai matches Moorea’s beauty and people. There are two main ways to get to Moorea: fly or take the ferry. We took the ferry…Read More
When all is said and done, I am very glad that we went to this island. Not even Kauai matches Moorea’s beauty and people. There are two main ways to get to Moorea: fly or take the ferry. We took the ferry boat from Tahiti and were pleasantly surprised. The ship was large, with tons of seating both inside and out, and the ride gave us the opportunity to see a different side of both of the islands while getting some great pictures and paying ¼ of the cost of a flight. On the way out, we flew to Bora Bora and found the Moorea airport to be very small (what did you expect), with one runway, and still under construction. We also saw stray animals in the airport, like dogs and chickens (are you getting a clear picture yet?). Your luggage is actually weighed in front of you, and you are charged for all over-weight items. Again, open seating applies on these flights.
Once we got to Moorea, we were met by Albert Tours (who was booked for us by the Sheraton Tahiti, and subsequently, we booked our 4X4 trip with Albert once we arrived in Moorea). He was excellent, spoke perfect English, told us about the island culture, and even stopped at the local supermarket and allowed us to go shopping for water and such—at no extra charge. Thankfully, the hotel agreed to empty our mini bar at no extra charge, as well. Unlike Bora Bora, there is not one main city. That being said, shopping seems scarce because it is very spread out. If you go to Tahiti at all during your trip, I would get all of your shopping done there, as it is cheaper and a lot more convenient. Water shoes are MUST on this island. I don’t care where you stay or what kind of accommodations you choose—buy water shoes at home and bring them with you. They will make a huge difference in your trip, because it will allow you to enjoy everything. There is coral everywhere here, and near the hotels, most of the water is fairly shallow. If you step on it, you are going to cut yourself—sometimes badly—and why, when it’s so easy to prevent?
The water, the fish, and the coral are all delightful and very inviting, and it’s one of the main reasons you come to this island. Taxis, though available, are costly here. If you want to see the island, take the 4X4 tour or a circle-line bus tour. There is no reason to rent a car in advance for the length of your stay either. If you should decide when you arrive that you want a car for the day, that is a different story, and it’s easy to get through your concierge. If you rent a car for the full stay, I think you will be disappointed simply for the money you are wasting because of the lack of a need for it. If you should choose to rent a car and not book a tour, take a drive up to Belvedere Point. This is also a great island to rent bikes on, though it’s not cheap. For dinner, if you should leave your resort (and I suggest that you do), all of the restaurants offer a shuttle service. Some charge, but the fee is nominal compared to the cost of a cab.
If you are looking for nightlife, go somewhere else. The Polynesian islands are all about being one with the surroundings, the culture, and the person you are with. If you are interested in getting a tattoo and have been waiting to get one done, Tahitians take tattooing very seriously (since most of their tattoos symbolized their village or family). Typically their tattoos are done in black, but color may be requested. Pack film, suntan lotion, and bug spray; it is VERY expensive here if you run out, and you will need them all often. I would also recommend buying a disposable underwater camera—there are some great shots to be had while snorkeling. Keep in mind that just about everything, minus the fruit/veggies and black pearls, are imports, which means you will pay more—a lot more. That said, pack smart and think ahead.
Papetoai PK14, Moorea Phone: (689) 55 1111
Located at least 30 minutes from the ferry dock, this hotel is considered one of the nicer ones on the island (in terms of aesthetics, I would agree), and is also known to have the best snorkeling around…Read More
Papetoai PK14, Moorea Phone: (689) 55 1111
Located at least 30 minutes from the ferry dock, this hotel is considered one of the nicer ones on the island (in terms of aesthetics, I would agree), and is also known to have the best snorkeling around due to its location between Cook’s and Opunohu Bay. The lobby is a normal-size, open, and filled with lots of fresh flowers, and the front desk staff I felt indifferent about. Although the porter staff was nice when we pulled up, no one offered to show us where or how to find our room (there are over 100 bungalows here, and they all look the same from the outside). We booked a garden view and were upgraded to an over water bungalow—what a blessing that was. We did, however, have to wait for it, so we ventured to the (one) pool, where we could not get towels for some reason. Of course, because our stint in Tahiti with the Miss French Polynesian contest wasn’t enough, the day we arrived at the Moorea Sheraton, there was a swimsuit model doing a photo shoot in the pool. My husband was happy to wait for our room and watch her work. The over-water bungalows (at that point our first experience with them) were incredible. We were given the first bungalow on the left, which was over basically shallow water and in an area that people didn’t congregate around. The bungalows closer to the center of the development faced a huge circular bar, and the horizon bungalows at the very end had a deck with benches where people went every morning to see the sunrise and night to see the sunset, so that took away from the privacy, I thought. Needless to say, we were happy with our location. The garden bungalows seemed to be very buggy, due to the fact they were surrounded by so many plants and trees, and they had no view.
Our bungalow had a huge bathroom with separate shower and tub, filled with lots of amenities, including monoi oil. The one downfall here was that the main separation between the bathroom and the bedroom was a large window with a wooden Venetian blind. Meaning, it was open – you could hear, smell, and if you forgot to close the blind, see everything that was going on inside the bathroom. Although I understand why it was done (to have a view of the lagoon from your tub), I didn’t like it. The bedroom was spacious and had a glass-floor viewing area under the coffee table, with a light switch that lit up the under-bungalow area at night so you could watch the fish. There were full-wall, sliding glass doors that led out to the lanai deck with a table and chairs, and three steps down from there to the dock, with a fresh-water shower. Our room offered great views of the lagoon and the very lush mountains behind the resort. It almost seemed as though we walked into a postcard every morning when we went outside. All rooms were equipped with snorkel gear, beach towels, and a PILLOW menu (16 to choose from) as well.
The housekeeping staff was okay. I found myself begging for towels and toilet paper a lot, even having to go to the front desk myself to get supplies in some cases (um, I thought this was a five-star resort?!). Had we not been upgraded, I would have demanded a partial refund for this stay, but considering the bungalow we were in was almost twice the price of what we paid, I was just annoyed in silence (okay, maybe Frank heard a complaint here and there). Another annoyance was that the housekeeping staff came around with large carts that really echoed on the wooden deck. This wasn’t an issue in Bora Bora but definitely was an issue here, since they started cleaning the rooms early. So most mornings, you heard clacking at 7ish.
Meals depended on where you ate. Rotui Bar and Grill, which was poolside, had meals that were very pricey; we paid about $50 a day for two sandwiches, a bottle of water, and a beer. The food there was your average hotel poolside food—simple. The restaurant Arii Vahine offers regional/international cuisine, with views of the lagoon. Although the service here was fine, the meal was downright awful and ridiculously over-priced. I think it was the first time my husband actually lost his appetite—I thought I was going to pass out. Although your fine dining restaurant choices are limited in Moorea, I would like to think they still have an image to uphold, but apparently not. If you are interested in room service and are staying in an over-water bungalow, I would suggest the canoe breakfast feast (although very expensive). Order this on one of your first days, because there is so much fruit, it will last for your whole stay. The way it is delivered (right up to your dock/hut) is beautiful, with gorgeous flowers, danishes, jams, fruits, breads, and an unbelievable presentation. Internet access was by the spa and was about $7 for 15 minutes. It seemed annoying to me that they had the nerve to charge for this, considering the cost of the stay and considering that the Starwood property in Bora Bora did not charge.
The Mandara Spa was nice, very simple. We chose to have a moonlight couple’s massage on our lanai deck. That was incredible. I think it’s safe to say it was the best massage either of us have ever had. A large Tahitian man massaged my husband and at one point jumped on the table to hurdle him for the deep-tissue massage—it was hilarious. The concierge was pretty bad—somewhat rude and only slightly knowledgeable, which struck me as odd since she was a native. It was also slightly disappointing, considering this was our first visit to Moorea and we didn’t have a clue. It was like pulling teeth to get her to give us good information, ideas, suggestions, or to even get things done that we requested, and they charged a 10% fee! At the end of the day, we ended up booking our own 4X4 trip (with the company that picked us up from the ferry—Albert Tours) and our visit to the Tiki Village, and we confirmed our dinners on our own.
The hotel offered free activities such as kayaking, paddle boats, tennis, and volleyball. I found there were a lot of children here, and we went in May. Although they were relatively well-behaved, it wasn’t exactly what I was planning on after traveling halfway around the world. I mean, kids are kids, and they want to play in the pool and run around the beach, etc. It was slightly annoying, not that it was the hotel’s fault. The bottom line with this resort is that it has a premier location, unbelievable surroundings, and well-maintained bungalows—probably the nicest on the island—but the service stinks, so if that is an issue for you, it’s something to think about.
Written by jenandfrank on 29 Dec, 2004
Albert Tours, 689-55-21-10
Being that Moorea is one of the lushest islands in the South Pacific, I think the best way to experience it is by taking this 4X4 tour. It is a half-day trip that cost us about $50/pp, and we were picked…Read More
Albert Tours, 689-55-21-10
Being that Moorea is one of the lushest islands in the South Pacific, I think the best way to experience it is by taking this 4X4 tour. It is a half-day trip that cost us about $50/pp, and we were picked up and dropped off at our hotel for no extra charge. The vehicle is a four-wheel drive, but it looks more like a pickup with wooden slabs on the side for "protection", so that you don’t fall off. Not the most comfortable, but that’s not why you are taking this tour; if you want comfort, take the circle island bus. Our stops included Cooks Bay, Opunohu Bay, Belvedere Point, a pineapple field, the pineapple juice distillery, an old Tahitian religious site, a waterfall, and a black pearl shop (one of his friends’, no doubt).
An incredible trip with a crazy tour guide, but very memorable nonetheless. So great, in fact, that I recommend Albert Tours to anyone I know who is planning a trip to Moorea. Cooks and Opunohu Bays are located on the other side of the island from where we were staying. We had a nice ride there (beautiful weather) and were afforded unbelievable views of the water, mountains, etc—absolutely stunning. From there, I felt like we took a short cut (but that was part of the plan) through a very wooded area with a ton of weeds and overgrown bushes. Our guide just drove over it all with not a care in the world. Needless to say, the pickup was shaking back and forth, and I thought we were going to flip. At one point, I questioned why we took this trip (that’s because I am a chicken). That road took us to Belvedere Point, where you have unbelievable views of both Cooks and Opunohu Bay. Postcard-like pictures are taken here, and on the way to the mountain from Toatea Lookout Point, which is just above the Sofitel Hotel. This was definitely a point in the trip where we just stood there and took a deep breath (sort of like when you are at the top of the Eiffel Tower). From there, we went to an abandoned Tahitian temple. I found it very interesting that any garbage the tour guide saw, he stopped the tour to go and pick up. These people take such pride in their land, it’s heartwarming.
The site was an old "temple" of sorts, and we were given the opportunity to learn about the ancestral ways of the Polynesian people—very interesting. The next stop was the 200-foot waterfall. This required us to hike a bit. Of course, if this isn’t something you’d be interested in, you could sit it out, since the truck doesn’t move. I recommend water shoes if you have them, or sneakers at least. The rocks are very slimy and slippery, and the water shoes give you some traction. Of course, no one told us this in advance, but to my surprise, the guide had an extra pair that he lent me. The hike was quick, maybe 30 minutes round-trip for the slow pokes. The waterfall was beautiful and worth the hike. When we returned to the truck, the guide had cut up some fresh and very ripe fruit—all sorts—and had it displayed beautifully with local fresh flowers for all of us to enjoy. That was such a great surprise.
Next we moved onto the pineapple field, which consequently had the "honeymooner’s mountain" behind it (just another very green mountain). Moorea is one of the largest pineapple exporters in the world. Their pineapple also differs from the fruit we eat in the States because the center is tasty/edible and not hard. We didn’t do much here other than take pictures, but it was interesting to see. It is interesting to note, though, that this trip is great for plant lovers as well. I cannot even begin to describe the amount of plant life we saw—palm trees, ferns, purau, pineapple bushes, Tahitian chestnut trees, gardenias, hibiscus, etc, etc, etc.
The pineapple juice distillery was next. They make liquors, mixed drinks, jams, candy, etc, from the local fruits such as coconut, banana, grapefruit, mango, pineapple, and many others. They have free samples available, and everything is for sale. The jams are incredible; we brought some home for family and were disappointed that we didn’t buy any for ourselves. I would say that leaving here without buying a drink would be a mistake. This isn’t your normal fruit smoothie—there are no pina coladas for sale at this hut. The last stop was a black pearl shop—not like there were any incredible deals there or anything. I’ve heard that every 4X4 tour stops at a black pearl shop. I would definitely recommend doing this excursion early in your trip, for no other reason than to have the chance to revisit places you saw along the way. It’s a really fun way to see the whole island and get some great pictures. However, it is bumpy, the truck is not covered (you are in the sun), and there is potential hiking involved, so keep that in mind before you book.
Written by jenandfrank on 27 Dec, 2004
Motu Toopua, Nunue
689 603 300
What a phenomenal trip! My husband and I receive several monthly travel magazines. Whenever a year-end "Gold List" comes out, we are always so disappointed when we see that the Nui was again forgotten. I’d like to think…Read More
Motu Toopua, Nunue
689 603 300
What a phenomenal trip! My husband and I receive several monthly travel magazines. Whenever a year-end "Gold List" comes out, we are always so disappointed when we see that the Nui was again forgotten. I’d like to think it’s because of the remote destination and that not enough people have been. This is one of the most incredible resorts we have ever been to and definitely in the top three (if not number one) on Bora Bora. This resort, only 2 years old, has every amenity and luxury feature you could want, and although room sizes and views vary, they all include the same thing.
From the beginning at the airport, you are met by a few of the hotel’s staff, who welcome you with shell necklaces and take care of all of your luggage. They offer a free water taxi from the airport (on their incredible boat, which dwarfed the other hotel’s boats). Once onboard, there is about a 20-minute ride to the Motu, during which you will see tons of incredible photo opportunities and begin to relax, knowing what you are about to experience. You are greeted at the dock by different staff members, who take you to your own couch (within the over water lobby), where there is a glass of fresh local juice, a muffin, and your hotel check-in information waiting for you. You do not check in at a front desk, and you do not wait in line. Our boat was filled with guests, and we were all greeted by our own staff member. The lobby had two computers with internet access that were free of charge and a two-person concierge desk that was always staffed. There were also areas to feed the fish below (they looked like baby sharks, though I know that wasn’t the case), and they had bread out for the guests to use.
Our over-the-water bungalow was the VERY last one in the 300 section, so we opted for the golf-cart lift that was offered to us. What an incredible resort! The lobby is located over the water and about 200 yards from the rest of the resort (you walk along a very long boardwalk). At the end is the restaurant (on a "mountain" almost above you) with some shops and the pools and pool grill. This resort offers several different types of accommodations: over-the-water bungalows with no obstructed view (called Horizon over Water bungalows – there are 82 of them that are over 1,000 square feet each, as well as two royal suites that are almost 1,500 square feet), Beach Bungalows that are behind other bungalows and close to the water (about 900 square feet and offer decent views), Hillside Lagoon View bungalows and royal suites (which are nowhere near the water but offer incredible bird’s eye views of the lagoon), and the Lagoon View suites (which are more like a regular hotel room). All rooms include everything you would expect: air-conditioning, two TVs with cable (despite the fact that we only found two English-speaking channels), minibars, hairdryers, etc. We had a Horizon over Water bungalow. We paid up for it ($850-plus a night), but boy was it worth it (I know you think that we are insane).
First of all, we were the very last bungalow, so the only thing we saw was the lagoon, fish, boats, and the most incredible sunsets. The lagoon was crystal clear. I mean incredible, something I think you could only really experience on Motu rather than the actual island of Bora Bora. I have attached a picture of Frank standing on our dock (the bungalows are equipped with your own lanai deck and dock with outdoor furniture and a shower), and I am taking the picture from our deck above. Look at the coral in the water behind him; it looks like it is at the water’s surface. Meanwhile, it was at least 20 feet deep. This is one of the reasons this hotel is so incredible – the water is unbelievable. We had an octopus on one of the corals below our bungalow!!
The inside of the bungalow was spacious, extremely clean, had lots of Tahitian decorations, and just absolutely beautiful. The bathroom was all marble and had a shower that could fit five people, a Jacuzzi tub (with glass areas that lifted so you could feed the fish below from your tub), a separate toilet area, two double-sink counters, and all Aveda products. The bedroom was dream-like, with a canopy bed, TV, desk, and dark wood. There was a separate living room/den area with a TV, couch, chair, etc., and this area could be closed off by sliding doors so that someone could take a nap and someone else could watch TV or go in and out to the lanai deck. The bungalow offered several pieces of furniture that allowed us to feed the fish without going outside. (Through our coffee table – can you imagine?) Room service and housekeeping were quick and excellent, and the turn-down service was a real treat. We were given fresh flowers, clean robes, and palm-esque sandal/slippers every night, and they left rose-petal designs on our bed. All rooms were equipped with snorkel gear and beach towels in case you didn’t want to leave your bungalow.
The pool was another treat. There were complimentary bottled water and Evian spritzes all day long, plus fresh fruit in the morning and fresh-baked cookies at 2pm everyday served by the pool staff. Infinity pools, waterfalls, and palm trees abound. The hotel also offered free kayaks and paddle boats that you could pick up at the pool desk.
Due to the fact that you are on a Motu, the beach is very private, and we often found that most people stayed in or near their bungalows, so the beach was generally very empty, as was the pool. Nonetheless, the beach was gorgeous, pure white, and was cleaned/raked everyday by the staff.
The main restaurant is located on one of the "mountains" at the Bora Bora Nui. This restaurant is opened every day for breakfast and dinner only. If offers panoramic views of the hotel and the surrounding lagoon (thus explaining the name Iriatai Panoramic Restaurant). The service is incredible, as is the international (leaning towards Italian) cuisine. Their executive chef is a famous Italian chef from Rome who makes a pasta carbonara dish so good that you think you are eating it in a piazza in Rome. (We had it as an appetizer at dinner, but a full serving is available at the pool grill for lunch). The menu is pricey, though, as is most of the island as well. Their chocolate cake is ridiculous – make a mental note.
The pool grill is on the beach, off the side of the pool area. It is a nice place to relax in the shade on the beach or just to sit and have a drink. It has average prices for a resort lunch.
The spa is at the top of the highest point of the resort and quite a walk (get a ride if you’re not in shape). We found the spa to be very pretty, with incredible 360-degree views, but our couples massage was not what we received in Moorea and not what we were expecting here. My masseur was sick and stopped every 2 minutes to blow her nose – real relaxing. We also opted for an outdoor sunset massage, which I think, in retrospect, was a mistake because it was a bit buggy (the spa is surrounded by trees, plants, flowers, etc.). When all was said and done, I would have passed considering it was over $300 and I couldn’t relax at all.
Next to the spa was the gym and the wedding chapel – trust me, walking to this gym is enough of a workout.
The hotel offers a free water taxi to the island of Bora Bora that takes about 15 minutes or so. Many of the other hotels charged a small fee. The taxi had a schedule that you received before leaving; it basically left every 30 minutes or so. It was very convenient and allowed us to go out every night and leave the resort.
Check out the breakfast situation when you arrive. We were never told that breakfast was included in all of the rates, but apparently it was! This is not the kind of place to pass up on a free meal.
We did not see one child or group of friends at this resort. I am guessing it’s due to the steep prices and/or the long flight to get there. That was fine by me – no offense, but after spending this kind of money, who wants to hear kids playing.
Written by jenandfrank on 28 Jan, 2005
PK2 Cote Mer Auae Faa'a, Tahiti, (689) 864848
Located only a few minutes from the airport, this hotel has great views of the Pacific and the Papeete Harbor. Renovated in 1999, the hotel has 200 rooms, although I doubt you’d know it with the very…Read More
PK2 Cote Mer Auae Faa'a, Tahiti, (689) 864848
Located only a few minutes from the airport, this hotel has great views of the Pacific and the Papeete Harbor. Renovated in 1999, the hotel has 200 rooms, although I doubt you’d know it with the very well-planned layout of the building. It has a very open lobby with a huge and very beautiful all-shell chandelier (one of at least three that we saw in the hotel). Behind the lobby is a huge double set of cherrywood stairs that brings you to a large, random-shaped pool, Jacuzzi, indoor and outdoor seating areas (with a TV), and the restaurants. There are three dining choices here: The Moevai, which means "quiet water" and is the hotel’s main restaurant, Heepuemi, which means "to sit under a cloudless sky" and is located off the pool area, and Quinn’s Bar, which was named after an early explorer and boasts live music and fresh, fruity cocktails.
The hotel tries to keep you in a tropical mood, despite the fact you are just outside of a small city. Thatched roofs everywhere, lots of palm trees, the entire staff dressed in native attire, and beautiful blue-water views from just about everywhere is what you can expect here. The walls have beautiful local art, and there are carved wooden statues everywhere as well. This hotel is the perfect place for people using Tahiti as a stop-over before continuing on to other islands. I say that because there are more luxurious hotels in the area. We just felt it was silly to pay for a five-star resort when we were only going there to sleep and tour the city for a day and a half. Regardless, the hotel was beautiful (you are in Tahiti—how bad can it be?), and there were several great areas to sit and relax, read, or just to gaze off.
The staff was excellent, as was our mini-suite that we were upgraded to. Rooms were air-conditioned and always kept immaculate by housekeeping with a minimalist, but very Tahitian theme. All rooms were equipped with the basics: iron, hair dryer, coffee maker, satellite television, safe, and minibar. I know sometimes the hotels say satellite TV, and what you get is CNN, and that’s it. To be honest, we just flew 16½ hours, and the last thing either of us were thinking about was TV. That said, they said they have it–-how extensive it is, I haven’t the first clue. They had a computer with Internet access off the main lobby, which was done on the honor system.
After checking in, we were greeted with a container of Tahitian vanilla, fresh flower leis, and a wrapped and engraved shell. We found the concierge to be very helpful, and she spoke perfect English, which made our lives much easier. She suggested going to dinner at Le Roulottes, which turned out to be the best meal we had in town, and she also showed us how to catch Le Truck, which cut our transportation cost down to almost nothing. There was a beauty salon off the lobby and an activities desk right next to the concierge. This hotel also offers nice meeting facilities and plenty of outdoor function space. Overall, we had a great experience at the Sheraton, and it’s a place I would definitely go back to if put in the same situation. Side note: While we were there, the "Miss French Polynesia" beauty contest was in town AND the event was being held at the Sheraton—of course.
Written by cindylou11157 on 10 Mar, 2004
Moorea is one of the most exotic, lush islands in the South Pacific. With its high mountain peaks, crystal-clear water, green plant life, and excellent snorkeling, we felt we were truly in paradise. The island is undeveloped. It probably looked about the same…Read More
Moorea is one of the most exotic, lush islands in the South Pacific. With its high mountain peaks, crystal-clear water, green plant life, and excellent snorkeling, we felt we were truly in paradise. The island is undeveloped. It probably looked about the same when Captain Cook arrived in Moorea. The French and French Polynesians are friendly. They welcomed us to their island. This is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation.
We decided to take a safari tour with a company called Moorea Explorer to see this magnificent island. Early in the morning, Romeo, our tour guide, picked us up at our hotel. We loaded into the four-wheel-drive vehicle and we were on our way to a great and exciting adventure. Our first destination was on the other side of the island. We pass through Cooks Bay and Opunohu Bay, this was our first glance of them. The water so blue with the mountains in the background - it was more beautiful than we could imagine.
We reached the dirt road to the mountain peak we will go up. Romeo told us to stand on our seats and hold on. This was a very, very bumpy ride. We were bounced around like a basketball. The ride was worth it. We got out of the Jeep and we stood on top of Magic Mountain, having an unbelievable view of the island. After taking pictures, we got back into the jeep to head down this dirt road. This was even more exciting because we had to back down. We held on tight and we were on our way to our next destination.
The next stop was Belvedere Point. Here you have a magnificent view of both bays, Cooks and Opunohu. This was truly of Kodak moment. If you rent a car, you can take this road to the top because it is paved. We then headed down the mountain and about midway down you have a great view of Mouaroa Peak, this is the famous peak you see in the movie South Pacific. It is one of the most photographed and famous areas on the entire island.
We then went off road into a pineapple field. Here we saw how pineapples grow on the island. Moorea is one of the leading producers of pineapple. It is different from Hawaii’s because you can eat the center. Romeo set up snacks of fresh pineapple and coconut. It was refreshing after the heat of the sun.
Our last stop was a distillery. Here you get free samples of their alcohol. Your first shot is a low proof alcohol and you work your way up to 100 proof. In all you have about 12 to 16 shots. After that bumpy ride, we were not up for too many shots.
The safari tour is a great and exciting way to see some of the island. You go to most of the major scenic areas on Moorea. I would take this trip again the next time I visit.