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Trip Report Matnikstym's Tahiti Vacation March 2012

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I’ve always wanted to go to Tahiti. This year was one of those milestone birthdays and thought I should go somewhere special to celebrate. The criteria for the trip was I had to get there in a day or less (no Africa trips this time) and since I had a lot of Hawaiian miles to use, it had to be somewhere Hawaiian flew. Pape’ete or Pago Pago fit the bill. Did a lot of research on Trip Advisor, Fodor’s etc. and chose Tahiti. Spent months choosing hotels and was mostly happy with my choices.

The morning of my trip, Lee, my house and pet sitter/friend drove me to the airport. I had booked First class tickets using miles, so no waiting in line and used the lounge in Hilo and Honolulu. Had a few hours to kill in Honolulu and it was nice relaxing in the lounge.
Boarded the plane and was given a glass of champagne. After takeoff got a digi-player, a gin and tonic and some pretzels. The menu had 7-8 items and you can choose 3 for your meal. I had assorted cheeses and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and mac nuts (the crackers were missing), the Hawaiian style chicken (garlic Asian glaze and mango salsa) and the spinach gnocchi. All were very good. For dessert I had a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a scoop of sorbet in the middle, covered with white chocolate and a dark chocolate drizzle. Very good. And a shot of Courvosier. Watched a movie (the Descendants) and five hours and 45 minutes later I was in Tahiti.

After deplaning there was a Tahitian dancer and musicians playing and we all got a flower as a welcome to Tahiti gift. Going through Immigration was simple as was getting the luggage. It was warm and humid and the scent of the flowers was powerful.

I had booked the Tahiti Airport Motel which you can see from the airport. What you can’t see is there is an almost vertical driveway to reach the hotel. Across the parking lot, up a set of stairs, cross the street and there’s the driveway. I was dripping sweat when I got to the office, but check in was easy and no problems, and it was only about a five minute trek. When I got to the room it was like an oven. Electricity is very expensive in Tahiti so they don’t run the air until someone goes to the room. After a while the room did cool down. The room was small but clean, nice bed, pillows and linens, good shower water pressure and basic toiletries. The window opened about two inches and the view was of the airport and the road. Had a good nights sleep, checked out and another 5 minute walk back to the airport, much easier going down hill.

I’d recommend the Tahiti Airport Motel if you are leaving for an outer island the next morning, but I wouldn’t want to stay more than a day here due to the size of the room. It is about half the price of the InterContinental which is the next closest hotel, but you’d need a taxi or car to get there. The hotel was clean, staff was friendly and very convenient for the night.

The next morning I took a mid morning flight to Bora Bora. The flight on Air Tahiti to Bora Bora (with a stop in Moorea) was smooth and comfortable. Propeller plane with 66 seats. Was served a cup of pineapple juice. Landed in Bora Bora and the color of the water was incredible. Indescribable colors, white sand, palm trees…so beautiful. Went to the hotel counter and got a flower lei and when the baggage was collected, we boarded a motor boat and went across the lagoon to the hotel. It was just amazing, too beautiful for words.

After about a 45 minute boat ride, we arrived at the Sofitel hotel. I had booked one of the over water bungalows on the private motu (island) and when we docked we all got a fresh coconut with a straw. Very refreshing. The bungalow wasn’t ready so I went to the restaurant and had a Hinano and a cheeseburger. Both very good.

The bungalow was very cool. Porthole in the floor for viewing the fish, large lanai with table, chairs and lounge chairs, stairs down to the water, king bed, refrigerator, big bathroom and shower, sofa, t.v, Hermes Paris toiletries, and a nice view across the lagoon. The bed was comfortable, the linens crisp, pillows full and fluffy and a lot of special touches like flowers everywhere, muffins in the refer, a plate of macarons was delivered at turndown service, bottles of water.

I snorkeled out to the coral garden, the fish were amazing, many varieties we don’t have in Hawaii. Also a lot of clams attached to the rocks. After snorkeling I took the boat to the main island and walked toward Vaitape, the next town. Came to a grocery store where I got a six pack of diet Coke, a block of Swiss cheese, some salami and crackers. That would be my dinner for that night, since I had a late lunch. It was nice sitting out on the deck of the bungalow having dinner and a drink.

The next day I had scheduled a snorkel activity with Moana Adventure tours. Two and a half hour snorkeling trip with stops at the coral garden, feed the rays and see the sharks. The van picked me up at the hotel and took a group of us to Vaitape and the boat. Had a really good time, the rays and sharks were exciting to see. My new underwater camera stopped working after the ray encounter but there were a few sharks there also, so I did get some shark pictures. It was a fun day, I’d recommend it, the guide was Arii and he was a nice, talkative and knowledgeable person. The cost was around $78.00US

I had made reservations at Bloody Mary’s restaurant for tonight. It’s one of those “must see, must do” things on Bora Bora. The van picked a group of us up and dropped us off. Just inside the restaurant there is a large display of what is on the menu all laid out on ice. Very cool. Many types of fish, steak, ribs, chicken. I chose steak and was seated at a table. Was served bread and butter, a salad, the main course and crème brulee for dessert, and a mai tai. The food was good, the drink not so good. Vanilla rum and orange juice is what it tasted like, not sweet or rum flavored at all. The crème brulee wasn’t warm and there was not much crust on it. Overall, a good meal. I’d recommend it but order something else to drink and a different dessert.

The next morning the boat came and took those leaving to the airport. I was sad to leave Bora Bora but looking forward to the next island, Moorea. Check out of the hotel was easy, no problems. I’d definitely stay here again if I return to Bora Bora. Beautiful place and many extra touches that made it a step above.

The plane trip was a bit bumpy due to a rain storm over Bora Bora and Huahine, the island we stopped at on the way to Moorea. A quick five minute layover and off to Moorea. Was met at the airport by a guy from EuropaCar rental who took me to his town location where I rented a car. There is a bus that goes around the island, but I wanted to explore on my own.

The drive to the InterContinental Moorea hotel was nice and took about a half hour. The scenery was spectacular, the ocean was blue, turquoise, green, all the colors. I had booked a beach bungalow for this hotel. Checked in was easy, the lobby is nice. There’s a bar, a restaurant and the pool all within a few yards of the lobby.

My room was along a path that was planted with all types of tropical flowers. The bungalow was large. Bedroom, bath, shower, desk, sofa, t.v, deck with a table and chairs and some lounge chairs. A few steps away on rocky sand was the water. On the other side was the over the water bungalows and the lagoon.

I snorkeled over to the lagoon and spent awhile there, came back and went to the bar for a drink and watch the sunset. Had dinner in the restaurant there. It was another good meal. Back to the room and off to bed early.

The next day was my 55th birthday. I wanted to do something exciting so I booked a jet-ski adventure, something I’ve never done before. I originally booked the one hour tour but after a morning of sightseeing, I had time to do the two hour tour and am glad I did! Drove around the island, a really beautiful, tropical island. So green and lush, water so blue. If only Hawaii looked like this…
Went to Belvedere lookout, through the pineapple fields, a beautiful drive! The entire circle island drive was around 3 hours including many stops for photos.

The jet-ski adventure started at the hotel. Got fitted with a life jacket, stowed my snorkel gear in the front of the ski and off we went. It was definitely a “Top Ten Fun Things I’ve Done Ever” day. WOW! It was incredible, can’t describe just how fun it was. We sped over to Opunaho Bay and back out to the other side. Then to feed the rays. These rays are more tame than the ones on Bora Bora, they climbed up your body looking for a handout. Beautiful, gentle eyes they have. I did get my fingers bit when holding a lobster claw out for the ray, didn’t know they bit, but it was hard like a horse bite. It hurt but didn’t bleed. The sharks were all around, many more than Bora Bora. I did touch a few, they are hard and strong feeling. After this, we sped around the lagoon a few more times. My top speed was 71kph.
This adventure is definitely something I’d recommend and I’d do it again and again! It was expensive, around $250.00 US but well worth it and I did do something exciting for my 55th!

I wanted a nice birthday dinner and the hotel consierge recommended “the Mayflower” They picked a bunch of us up at the hotel and a short five minute drive were there. Nice place, casual, not a lot of tables. Ordered steak with bleu cheese sauce. Was served a very nice salad, bread and butter, the main course, vegetables and some augrautin type potatoes. Everything was excellent, the best meal of the trip. Dessert was an ice cream with chocolate sauce type dish. Too much chocolate syrup, and not the best quality syrup. Other than that I’d rate the restaurant high and would go back. Meal was around $75.00 US with drinks.

The next morning I snorkeled around the lagoon for awhile, then checked out of the hotel, took the car back to the rental agency and waited for the ferry to Pape’ete. Two day car rental through Europacar was around $200US.

The ride over on the ferry was nice, I stayed on the top deck watching the scenery go by. It took about a half hour to get there. I took a taxi ($22.00 U.S.) from the pier to the airport to pick up the rental car at Avis. Had no problems getting the car, a small Citroen.

I had booked a deluxe ocean view room at the Radisson, on the north coast. It was about a 15-20 minute drive from the center of Pape’ete. There were 7 round-abouts on the way and by the second day I had them mastered. The check in was fast and efficient, went to the room. The view was good but the room had no charm, no special touches, nothing that said “Tahiti.” Take away the view and it could have been in any city in the world. Lots of wood cabinets, a big desk, small t.v, mini bathroom on the first floor, shower/tub, bed on the second floor. Both floors had a lanai, the first floor had a table and chairs. Shower was good, bed was comfortable but it was too sterile for my tastes. Needs an upgrade with some color or something in the room.

Went to the restaurant downstairs for lunch. Had steak carpaccio Vanuatu and a Hinano. The steak dish was huge, could have fed 2-3, but I did manage to eat it all. Planned on going to Pape’ete to the food trucks (roulottes) but was too full from lunch to eat anything else. Had a few drinks and watched the sun go down.

The next day I headed east and drove around the island. Beautiful, stopped at a lighthouse, waterfalls and some beaches. Drove to the end of the road in Teahupoo, on the smaller part of the island. That area was beautiful, lush, flowers, steep mountains in the background. If anyone goes to “Les Trois Cascades”, buy some bananas from the man in the parking lot…they were the best bananas I’ve ever eaten. Also, to go see the two biggest falls, the sign says twenty minutes, that is round trip, not each way, so don’t get discouraged as it is worth the walk. It does get slippery in parts of the walk so be careful.

Stopped at a “Super Marche” (supermarket) in Manina to get some snacks. The store was amazing! Anyone going to Pape’ete, you must go into a supermarket. They have everything from a to z all crammed into one place. Cheese, meat, hardware, tools, food, fish etc. Since I work in the grocery field, I enjoyed seeing their merchandising techniques. Bought some Tahitian gin, which was probably the worst gin I’ve ever tasted in my life, but the cheese and lunchmeat were the best ever. Diet cokes averaged around 100 francs ($1.20 U.S.) regular cokes were slightly more. Hinano beers averaged about 500 francs.

Came back to the hotel and swam in the pool for awhile then decided to go shopping in Pape’ete. It was 4:30 when I left the hotel. Traffic was smooth in the round-abouts, but the last three intersections were stop lights and it took just as long to get through them as the seven round abouts. I found a parking place on Rue Paul Gaugin and walked to the market. Closed. Went to the mall. Closed. Most everything closes at 5:00. Walked over to the food trucks and had a pretty good lemon chicken and rice dinner. Not the best I’ve had, but not the worst. There are so many choices, it’s hard to decide what to have.

Drove back to the hotel and went to sleep. The waves crashing on the beach were the loudest I’ve ever heard and had to close the sliding door to the lanai. Got up early and drove back to Pape’ete to do some shopping. The market opened at 8. Nice flowers, fish, soaps, souvenirs, fruits, vegetables, croissants, bread, cakes etc. It was fun walking around and talking to the vendors. Bought some pareaus for some friends back home.

Went back to the hotel and checked out at 11:00, but stayed in the room until noon. The flight was not until after midnight and I was trying to stretch out having to drive around doing nothing as long as possible. I finally decided to go to the InterContinental and get a transit room which was more than a night at the Radisson. Helpful hint: The IC will give you a free transit room if you stay there beforehand. I should have booked a room at the Tahiti Airport Motel for the last day, but they were booked up when I called.

The InterContinental was nice. Very nice. Wish I would have stayed here instead of the Radisson. Beautiful views, grounds, pool, lagoon. Even the transit room (small) had more personality than the room at the Radisson. Had a very nice lunch at the restaurant here and then while the sun was going down, had a few sundowner drinks in the bar. Hung around until 10:30, checked out, drove (5 minutes) to the airport, dropped off the car (around $240 for two and a half days with Avis), checked in and waited for the flight. There’s a duty free shop and a café after security. Had a really good piece of quiche and a gin and tonic. Flight home was on time, slept most of the way, came home and trying to figure out how to get back to Tahiti!

I had a great time there, would go back in a flash. Moorea was my favorite island, more to see, more to do. Bora Bora was nice, beautiful lagoon but not much more than water activities and shopping for pearls. If you haven’t seen it, go, it’s worth it but once in Bora Bora is enough for me. The main island, Tahiti, was nice, but next time I’d fly in and leave the next morning for Moorea and spend all my time there.

Tahiti is an expensive destination, but well worth it. I’m a t-shirt collector and the cheapest I found was $35.00 US….couldn’t see spending that much for a t. Someone needs to open a cheap t-shirt shop like they have in every other tourist destination.

It was the most beautiful, relaxing place I’ve ever been to. The people were friendly and helpful, good food, good drink, very easy to get around and beauty on all sides. Mauruuru Tahiti!

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