Our Favorite Things in French Polynesia

To reach New Zealand from South America, Tyler first planned to have us fly from Santiago to Christchurch. “What about Tahiti?”, I asked. My grandmother had just returned from a New Zealand + Tahiti trip so the idea was fresh in my mind. How could we pass up an opportunity to visit the islands of French Polynesia when we were so close to them? Although ridiculously expensive to get there, the flight master managed to find a way using frequent flyer miles, once again.

So, after returning to Santiago from Easter Island, we hopped back on the plane a few days later for the Santiago-Easter Island-Papeete flight. That's right folks, we've been to Easter Island TWICE. We could not fly directly from Easter Island to Papeete using our award miles so we had to return to Santiago only to get back on the same flight 3 days later (if we wanted to use miles, that is). Although annoying, that's not such a bad price to pay to enjoy some of the nicest beaches in the world.

We spent 9 days in French Polynesia, with the majority of them on Mo'orea, a heart-shaped island that's only a short 45-minute ferry away from Papeete, Tahiti. We chose Mo'orea because it's the cheapest island and much smaller than Tahiti meaning that you can get to beaches more easily. Unfortunately for us, we did arrive right as the rainy season started, which prevented us from laying out by the beach every day, all day long. Such a hard life, right? In reality, the rain only affected us a couple of afternoons. Most days, it just came and went in short, refreshing bursts.

As we spent most of our time relaxing, tanning and enjoying the crystal blue waters of this lush island, our days weren't as hectic and filled with activities as they had been in South America. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to fill this post with our favorite things instead of recounting our days spent at the beach.

Our favorite beach... Plage de Temae

Situated right next to Le Sofitel hotel, the beach of Temae was our favorite for its clear blue waters, softness of the sand and lack of toe-cutting coral.

Our favorite hotel... InterContinental Resort and Spa

No, we did not stay there but since fancy resorts tend to have the best beaches, we snuck into a couple of them on the island. The first day, we walked into Le Sofitel but within minutes, 10 people asked us what room we were staying in. We played it cool and told people we had just arrived, but the constant questioning and exclusivity of the hotel had us walking out just as fast as we'd arrived. Our second attempt, at the InterContinental, was much more successful. We walked in and were greeted with smiles. We felt comfortable the whole afternoon. No one ever bothered us and they even let us use the hotel towels.The only downside: the water is very shallow so not the best for swimming.

Our favorite meal... Snack Mahana

With an incredible view looking out at the ocean and amazing dishes like fried mahi mahi with coconut cream, we absolutely loved our lunch at Snack Mahana.

Our favorite fruit juice... Tropical Garden

We arrived at Tropical Garden at the same time as the rain so we spent much of our time there under a canopy, drinking our fresh pineapple juice. This place would have probably earned favorite view as well since it's located up high in the hills but, unfortunately, the clouds covered up the view that day. If you ask, the owners will also give you a tour of their vanilla plantations and a small waterfall in the forest behind the house.

Our favorite mode of transportation... Hitchhiking

I have no pictures of us hitchhiking, unfortunately, but this quickly became our favorite mode of transportation. Although small, the island is still too big to walk around. With scooters costing at least $50 per day, we found it more cost-effective and amusing to hitch rides from the locals. We ran across all types of characters - from a diving instructor to a port security guard, we even met someone whose brother attended USC! We almost always got picked up by the first car who saw us, even soaking wet after we got caught in a rainstorm.

Of course, this was much easier for us as I spoke French and could converse with the drivers. But seeing how friendly and helpful the locals were, I'm sure they'd love to give you a ride even if you didn't speak the language.

Posts, shaped like the island, signal distances along the single road encircling Mo'orea

Our favorite smell... Pineapples

I know, I know, having a favorite smell is incredibly weird. But Mo'orea is full of pineapple plantations and several times during our stay on the island, we got these amazing wafts of fresh, juicy pineapples. The pineapples themselves were probably the best I've eaten in my life so imagine just how good they smelled.

Our favorite private island... Motu Fareone

On our last full day on Mo'orea, we took a lagoon tour, which included swimming with rays and sharks, a delicious lunch of grilled chicken and poisson cru (raw fish salad) and relaxing on our private island. Okay, so it wasn't our private island but we did get to spend an afternoon on a secluded islet with no else around but the tour group. Tyler even learned how to crack open a coconut!

I promise, this is not an ad for Hinano beer

Our favorite bay... Cook's Bay

So there are only 2 bays on Mo'orea but we particularly liked Cook's Bay. It might have been due to its proximity to our hotel (we could see it from our bedroom window) but we loved the lush vegetation surrounding the bay.

Our favorite outfits... Papetoai Dance Show

We caught a dance show at Club Bali Hai, across the road from our hotel. Though the show was short, we loved the live music and the performance of this group. Best of all were their traditional outfits.

Notes & A Few Helpful Tips

  • Tyler will address our accommodation on Mo'orea and Tahiti as well as additional information on food and transportation in his wrap-up post.
  • We didn't see much on Tahiti as we were only there for a day and a half but we did enjoy a visit to the market (see photo below) and a self-guided walking tour, which starts from the visitors center (get your map there as well). Thanks for the tip, Mooma!