Good snorkeling in French Polynesia?

Dec 31st, 2009, 08:13 AM
  #1  
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Good snorkeling in French Polynesia?

My husband and I are planning a 25th wedding anniversary trip for 2010 to a tropical destination with snorkeling off the beach, great food and very good to great accommodations. Moorea and Bora Bora are in the running, as are St. John and possibly Virgin Gorda in the Caribbean. Here is the question: How is the snorkeling in French Polynesia? We don't see many posts on it, many more on snorkeling in the Caribbean and we have been to the Caribbean, but not in the last 20 years. Our most recent snorkeling is on Maui, Napili and Kapalua Bays, plus Molokini, all of which we have enjoyed, especially Kapalua and Molokini. We have also snorkeled on the Mayan Riviera, which was good, but we're not big fans of travel in Mexico. We live equidistant from French Polynesia or the Caribbean, so distance is not really an issue.

Looking for people who have snorkeled in some or all of these spots and can give us a comparison, as well as an assessment of the food, surroundings. Thanks for you help!!
voyager61 is offline  
Dec 31st, 2009, 10:38 AM
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I checked with my husband for his two cents, he snorkels and dives both. Last year we spent our 25th. anniversary trip on the Paul Gauguin touring several of the Society Islands of French Polynesia, with two days precruise at the Moorea Hilton. We also spent a week on St. John a few years back where Rick and our teenage daughter took their open water certification, and I snorkeled here and there (they joined me on a few of these). And we've also snorkeled in Hawaii on several islands, I have a sister who lives there so we go every few years.

On St. John, I'd say the snorkeling was decent, not as good as Glovers atoll off Belize - EXCEPT for Waterlemon Cay on the North Shore, which may be the best one place snorkel I've ever done. (That may also be because it's the first place I saw Christmas tree worms and an octopus, and lots of soft corals). The water is fairly warm and clear, we enjoyed St. John except for the port town. We stayed in a villa rental the first week of April, could not see spending the huge amount of money at Caneel Bay, though they may have had fabulous snorkeling there had we only tried it. And I'd like to, the beaches there were absolutely gorgeous! This island is a less lush tropical than Moorea (we did some hiking on both, but not on Bora Bora), a bit more arid.

We arrived at the Moorea Hilton and after a nap to shake off the jetlag, we walked off our lanai to the decking right above the water (yes, we splurged on the overwater bungalow, and it was so worth it) and walked into warm clear water (this was Feb, their summer). Gorgeous snorkeling right there, lots of fish and the most amazing colorful clams, along with all the coral. We snorkeled other places during the cruise, and the reef snorkel off Bora Bora was also just excellent. Though the beach right at the Hilton wasn't fabulous, it was fine and we loved spending a few days there. We saw many gorgeous beaches during the week. We also loved the cruise, which cut down on the cost of FP quite a bit - that place is really expensive (maybe even more expensive than St. John!) - while experiencing several islands. I wouldn't have changed anything we did on that trip. Rick and I agree that we preferred FP, prettier islands and fabulous water.

Both places are lovely with good snorkeling, beautiful lush islands and beaches, good food to be found (though we're not foodies, so not much help there) - you cannot go wrong with either choice. Time of year and weather might be a consideration. And if you want to check out the tripadvisor forums for FP, there's more traffic there. Good luck!
rickandpat is offline  
Dec 31st, 2009, 11:02 AM
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Thank you, that is just the kind of information I need. Helps me with this big decision. We are probably looking at going on this trip anytime between late October 2010 and end of January 2011, depending on weather, rates, etc. I had also been wondering about the Paul Gauguin cruise because I thought it might be a nice way to snorkel in more than one location in FP. One possibility for trimming costs is also to do a Costco vacation package on Bora Bora or Tahiti/Moorea, which usually includes 7 nights, with 5 being in an overwater bungalow. They are offering the Intercontinental Thalasso on Bora Bora with that exact package right now, and the accommodation gets fabulous reviews on TripAdvisor.

How did you like the cruise in general? We have never done a cruise and are a little hesitant about taking the plunge, so we want to make sure the cruise matches our likes and dislikes.

Thanks again!
voyager61 is offline  
Dec 31st, 2009, 12:34 PM
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We are not cruisers by any stretch of the imagination. One Princess cruise Rick hated (a family reunion thing to Alaska, not enough time off-ship), and the other was a wonderful small boat cruise along the Costa Rican coast. We consider a cruise to be a source of transportation to different places every day, with the same bedroom each night and the meals thrown in. I haven't done any research to see if the PG is the same under new ownership, but the ship was lovely and the food fabulous. We traveled almost always overnight, and spent two days each on Bora Bora and Moorea, plus a few other smaller islands. Since we like to be very active and doing a variety of activities/sports every day, the cruise was perfect for us. We really liked exploring the different islands for our first time in this area, but next time we would stick to hotels. The forums on CruiseCritic were very helpful.

The time you're talking about is heading into the wetter season for FP, which I believe starts in Dec. Being from Michigan, we decided a warm rain was better than snow and cold any day, so Feb. worked well for us. We saw a bit of rain a couple of afternoons on Moorea, then some poor weather the last day of the cruise, but mostly sunny skies. I think the Interc. Thallasso on Bora Bora is on one of the motus, and as such away from the taller island mountains which attract clouds. The motus are lovely golden sand, facing the turquoise lagoon and the pretty mountainous island, but are quite flat and small themselves. If you snag a good price on overwater bungalows and the TripAdvisor reviews are good, I'd sure be tempted.
rickandpat is offline  
Dec 31st, 2009, 11:54 PM
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I am from Australia and have snorkeled our Great Barrier Reef and all the islands in the South Pacific including Tahiti but not the Caribbean or Hawaii, so can not comment on them.The Outer Barrier reef spoils me for most other places but I found Moorea the pick of other South Pacific islands unless you go to outer islands in those other countries, such as the Yasawas in Fiji, Vava'u
in Tonga and Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. I would also imagine that Bora Bora would still be reasonably pristine.For your 30th. why don't you plan Australia. We don,t only have the GBR but,Ningaloo Reef and the Rowley Shoal off the Western Australian coast or Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands off the New South Wales Coast. Good snorkeling wherever you go.
jamesexton_1 is offline  
Jan 1st, 2010, 08:12 AM
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Thanks for all the great advice. Australia is something we have considered, too, because of friends who have loved their trips there so now we'll put that in the mix for snorkeling too. Appreciate the help from everyone.
voyager61 is offline  
Jan 1st, 2010, 10:37 AM
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In November I was aboard a small expediton ship cruising from Tahiti to Fiji. We snorkeled Tahiti, Cook Islands, Niue, Tonga, Wallis & Futuna and Fiji. I have also snorkeled the GBR and Indonesia. In my opinion, the further west you go from Hawaii the better the snorkeling. In Fiji in other years, we have stayed on various islands and taken a Blue Lagoon cruise twice. I loved the cruise. Another option for you.
Louise is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2010, 07:41 PM
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Just want to add that we did an FP cruise over Thanksgiving (late Nov/early Dec) 5 years ago. Loved it, but we had not realized it would be the rainy season. (Should have done more research!)

They had such a lot of rain on Moorea that the snorkeling was poor (runoff and cloudy waters). If we ever get to go there again, I'd try to choose the time of year better!
SB_Travlr is offline  
Jan 8th, 2010, 07:09 PM
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We are going on a Paul Gaughin cruise for 7 days in June--would love to hear others' reccomendations of specific activities they liked. We are going to spend 4 nights at La Moana Intercontinental after the cruise. We chose it because 1)DH's preference and it's his 50th birthday, 2)it's less expensive, 3) La Moana is on main island instead of a motu and is thus more accessible to the main island and cheaper places to eat, 4)is said to be more Polynesian in style.

That said, I fell head over heels for the Thorasso even though the snorkeling is said to be better near the Moana (there are free shuttles back and forth between the two and their is a free breakfast/facilities exchange).

Be sure to read fine print on PG's cruise additions--we did not realize that post is PER PERSON, while pre is not, also that PG reserves right to cancel if there are not enough people and then you need to negotiate with IC yourselves.

Again, I would love to know more about activities options on PG--what people liked, disliked and how much they cost.
cmstraf is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 06:35 AM
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Hi Voyager,

I've snorkelled in all the places you mentioned as well as Australia.

The water in FP is amazing and teeming with fish and coral; the more remote the location, the better...as you've probably seen with St. John; when I first went there it was pristine with few people, now more people have found out about it as a shore excursion (I used to get a cab @ the pier and take the ferry from Red Hook) and I hated it the last time I was there. Seriously, when you look over and there's a guy on a blanket from the cruise ship with his laptop....

I digress... RickandPat's advice was dead on -- the Paul Gauguin is a fantastic way to visit the islands, much more economical than going from island to island, resort to resort on your own, purchasing a "meal plan" (which may or may not have good food) and seeing the sights. No, the cruise isn't cheap, but this is an expensive part of the world, and you get what you pay for - good value for the experience.

Both food and wine are VERY expensive on the island - I describe it to clients as "Land of the $25 hamburger". )

Regarding Coscto -- yes, I'm biased, but do you want to buy your travel at the same place you get your groceries? Those people are not travel consultants - they're order takers and will not be helpful to you in any way as most of them have never been to any of the destinations they're selling.

You'd be much better off going to a Tahiti Specialist (called "Tiare", and I'm not one)or your local travel agent who works with wholesalers specializing in Tahiti. They will put the whole trip together for you -- the airfare, cruise or land-based accommodations, give you restaurant recommendations, local tours they've been on, etc.

Cmstraf -- regarding Paul Gaugin's pre & post accommodation -it's always been my experience that these are overpriced (as are most of the shore excursions). I don't mean just PG's, and they are a WONDERFUL cruise line, I mean all the cruise lines. I've always been able to find pre/post hotels forless than what the cruise line's charging. Yes, they factor in a transfer into the cost, but it's still more money than you'd spend.

Also sometimes the transfer's contingent upon you taking their airfare - I just had this happen yesterday with a client taking a Hawaii cruise. NCL's airfare was over $700 from SFO=HNL and I knew I could do better than that! If the client didn't use their air, they would charge them $25 from the airport to their pre-cruise hotel, and then $25 from the hotel to the pier, and $25 from the pier to the airport.

You may want to consult with your travel agent, or if you didn't use one, do further checking. Just a suggestion.

Hope this was helpful!

Regards,

Melodie
Certified Aussie Specialist
wlzmatilida is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 05:32 PM
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Thanks, Melodie. In fact we ended up going with package, PG cruise included, from Islands in the Sun, spending 4 nights in Bora Bora at the Moana Intercontinental after the cruise. We elected only to take breakfast package and are hoping to save finding relatively inexpensive places on the island and buying baguettes, fruit and cheese.

We also found a B and B in Papeete to stay for 2 nights before the cruise, Fare Suisse, which comes well reviewed and is very economical. However, a friend who has been there suggested we shift to a resort on Tahiti and use it as a base to explore noncity part of the island a bit.

We leave 5 months from tomorrow!
cmstraf is offline  
Jan 10th, 2010, 06:35 AM
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You're welcome Cmstraf!

I know Islands in the Sun very well, and good for you, that's the way to go.

Right, I can see why your friend would say that....well, Papeete's a pit. The traffic's horrible, it's dirty, filled w/tourist junk (can't believe anyone buys that stuff) and certainly no one's idea of "paradise"! I only put clients in there for a day (basically, it's sort of a forced overnight until their REAL vacation begins!).

OK, 5 months to go, we'll expect a trip report from you in
7 months! Just kidding!

Regards,

Melodie
wlzmatilida is offline  
Jan 11th, 2010, 08:28 AM
  #13  
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Wow, I just checked back and found more replies. I have been busy getting quotes for Moorea, Bora Bora and the PG cruise, but I'll look at Islands in the Sun too and compare. Thanks for all the great info. We will probably go the first 2 weeks in October.
voyager61 is offline  
Jan 11th, 2010, 03:41 PM
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I'll be happy to write a trip report (for those of you thinking of Japan, you might want to read my report of our November 2008 trip to see the autumn foliage).

In the meantime, Melanie, do you have any thoughts on the IC Bora Bora La Moana vs IC Thalasso Spa question (my husband leans towards the first and since it's his 50th birthday, we have reserved there, but it's hard for me to get the photos of the rooms at the Thalasso out of my mind...Both are a splurge for us but we have decided carpe diem.
cmstraf is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 11:53 AM
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Back in with more questions...does anyone have experience with www.tahititravel.com? They have given me a prompt and competitive quote for our trip, but I would love to get some kind of feedback on their reliability, etc. By the way, we are leaning at this point towards the Hilton Moorea, although we haven't ruled out Bora Bora. Thanks again!!
voyager61 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 05:28 PM
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Dear Voyager,

Have you looked at the pictures of the rooms at the Intercontinental Thalasso Spa in Bora Bora?
cmstraf is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 09:55 PM
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Regarding IC Moana vs. Thalasso, while I have not stayed at La Moana, when I drove around the island I thought that the southern tip of the island around Maitai and La Moana was the least interesting part of the Bora Bora.
nickn is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 01:40 AM
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It is a while ago since we were in Moorea - but snorkelling was great and easy to do within the lagoon. Palau in Micronesia was stunning for giant clams and huge reefs of white coral. In Palau you can also snorkel with jellyfish in a land locked lake where the jellyfish have lost their stings over many centuries. Lord Howe Is is the most southern coral reef and also has wonderful snorkelling
jamesexton_1 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2010, 10:31 AM
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I have stayed at the IC Thalasso in Bora Bora and the snorkeling there is virtually non-existant. The water on the property is a sand bottom, no coral and only the occassional ray swimming by. However, the hotel is unbelievable. There is very good snorkeling available via boat ride out to the reef.

Regarding St John, I have no idea (yet). But, I will be going there myself this June and very much looking forward to it. I will be staying at a villa very close to Watermelon and I hear very good things about this particular snorkeling location.

The cost of a Bora Bora trip is nearly astronomical (from the US), and room costs in Bora Bora can approach or exceed $1,000/night with very high food costs. Standard breakfast buffet style will run about $40 USD per person, for example, and a coke about $5.
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