French Polynesia

French Polynesia 2019, I am back! Part 1 – Moorea

Ever since my first step in French Polynesia in 2015 (the country where the famous Bora Bora island is located in case you never heard of French Polynesia or commonly referred to as Tahiti), it totally changed my definition of tropical paradise. I couldn’t find anywhere so far that can be compared to the beauty of the French Polynesia islands, I tried the Maldives last year, it’s just not the same. You can read my comparison of the two here: I will update this as well to add more info. from the experience of this trip.

  • In 2015, I visited Moorea and Bora Bora in French Polynesia.
  • In 2016, I made a quick stop in Tahiti, French Polynesia then to Cook Islands.
  • In 2017, I visited Huahine, Tahaa, and Tikehau in French Polynesia.
  • In 2018, I went to the Maldives.

It has become more accessible by points and miles to French Polynesia since United launched nonstop flights from San Francisco to Tahiti (PPT) and the Marriott/SPG merger which opened up Bora Bora hotel award nights more affordable in points. When I saw a sale of 30% off the economy award to Tahiti from United, I couldn’t help but book! It got down to 56,000 United miles roundtrip all the way from Boston to Tahiti via San Francisco; that was cheaper than the round trip to Europe (60K miles)! Consider the cash price of the flight ticket was way over $1500, what a deal! I told my other travel addicts – Peter and Jeffrey about this deal since I know they have been waiting to go to Bora Bora and they joined our trip.

With limited vacation days, I have other trips planned in 2019 already so the most I can squeeze in was a week in French Polynesia. This was how I allocated the nights:

  • 1 night overnight in Tahiti
  • 2 nights Moorea at the Sofitel Moorea
  • 2 nights Bora Bora at the Le Meridien Bora Bora
  • 2 nights Bora Bora at the St. Regis Bora Bora

We left on Saturday, March 2nd to San Francisco with a almost 24 hours layover there. I learned traveling during winter in Boston, I need to plan extra time to catch my flight in case of delay due to weather. I was right, it snowed that morning so our flight was delayed by over an hour (not a huge deal) and was super lucky that we got out before another snowstorm which cancelled the inbound flight after ours. The 24 hours in San Francisco, we visited Jason’s cousin and friends. Weather was not great so we didn’t do much sightseeing.

Our flight from San Francisco to Tahiti was at 2:00 PM the next day but delayed by an hour so we didn’t get to Tahiti till 9:40 PM local time. United’s food was awful, the worst I ever had! They ran out of the so-call Chicken Teriyaki so the “pasta” was nasty:

Luckily, we bought the roasted and BBQ meat from San Francisco and snacks from home knowing that food in French Polynesia is expensive and not filling.

The breakfast was a joke, I hate those “sandwich” which has nothing but a cold and hard bread and a thin slice of cheese and meat.

After we landed, the line through immigration was long and the area was renovated from the last time I have been there. While waiting, Peter noticed that he has left his cross-shoulder bag on the plane! He tried to walk back out but was stopped by the staff so he has to go through customs and immigration first. Unlike the previous trips where I had to show printed confirmations of the hotels and the return flight, this time, the officer asked nothing…that was easy!

After we got our passports stamped, we walked out to the baggage claim area where there’s a baggage service office. Peter and I went in and told the lady of what happened. The lady made a call and said we might need to come back tomorrow to get it; we’ll be taking a flight to Moorea tomorrow so we’ll be back anyways. After a few minutes, the lady said they found it and she’ll go get it now! Phew!

I booked a night with Fare Suisse where they offered free airport pickup/drop off; taxi in French Polynesia is very expensive so it saved us some money and the convenience. As soon as we walked out to the arrival hall, we were greeted by the owners of Fare Suisse (the husband and wife who run this boutique hotel). They were fully booked that night so have to make two trips to drop off guests. Peter and Jeffrey went first so I have extra minutes to go to the ATM machine to withdraw $300 of Pacific Franc (xpf) with my no ATM fee Charles Schwab debit card.

The hotel is located in Tahiti town center and our room looked clean and modern.

Knowing that we get there on Sunday at night where all the restaurants are closed, I told the guys to bring cup noodles for dinner and with the roasted meats we bought from San Francisco, those were way better than the plane food!

The next day, our super short flight to Moorea was at 9:55 AM but the roosters in Tahiti wake me up even before sunrise grrr!!! Jason walked down to the supermarket near the hotel to get my favorite Rotui mango juices so can enjoy in Moorea and Bora Bora; drink prices in the hotels are outrageously expensive. I had to repack my luggage to fit those drinks in.

Remember the domestic flights to the islands are with Air Tahiti (not to be confused with Air Tahiti Nui) with those propeller planes so the carry-ons are limited to one bag per person of 5kg (~11 lbs) and small size
45 x 35 x 20 cm (17 x 13 x 7 in) . Anything you can’t fit in, place them in the checked bag, you can check up to 23kg/50 lbs, make sure you select the right type of ticket to purchase. We bought the Bora Bora pass which is a one fixed price to visit multiple islands including checked bag; too bad we only have enough time to Moorea and Bora Bora. For more information, see the Multi-island tour tickets. If you have a DSLR like us, best to take it out and carry on your shoulder before placing the carryon bag to weight to save you a few extra pounds.

Jason timed the flight from take off to landing at 7 minutes, fast! The plane never got up to high altitude so you can have a good view of Tahiti and Moorea from above.

Once we arrived Moorea, we met with the transportation company that was prearranged with our hotel, Sofitel Moorea. It was 1500 xpf for one taxi van to the hotel charged to our room; the hotel is located very close to the airport so the taxi price wasn’t too bad. We arrived at the hotel at around 10:30 am so our rooms were not ready yet. We walked around to explore the hotel and then hang out at the restaurant for lunch.

Hotel “lobby”

The hotel grounds were nicely kept with lots of greens. The pond with lots of lotus flowers:

Once we reached the hotel restaurant, the passing rain started to pour and lasted throughout our lunch. The good news was that it was the longest rain we encountered in our one week trip! Jeffrey was nervous on the weather as the weather forecast 80% rain every day, I told him not to worry. Our lunch in Sofitel where a wagyu beef burger is almost $30….three of us ordered the same thing and asked for medium-rare but all ended up being well done. To be fair, the wagyu beef burger was tasty.

Jason ordered tacos and pretty good.

We ordered a large water to share and it was reasonable at 470 xpf (less than $5 which is way less than Maldive’s $14+23% tax and service charge Voss water). Our lunch for the 4 of us cost 11,470 xpf (~$108 USD).

After lunch, the rain finally stopped and we walked out to explore more of the hotel. On our way, a hotel staff drove a golf cart passing informed us that our rooms are ready (that was around noon time). We were surprised that the staff know us already and our rooms were ready that early. We walked back to the lobby to get our room keys and made a dinner reservation at Le Mahogany pick up time at 8 PM. Peter and Jeffrey booked an overwater bungalow (Room 118) while Jason and I booked the regular beach bungalow (Room 410) since we had stayed at overwater bungalows many times now and to compare the two.

Our beach bungalow cost $1037 for two nights, I booked via Samsung pay cash back deal for 10% up to $100 on booking. Plus, I paid via gift card where I purchased from Walmart at 15% off. Thus, the two nights actually cost me $781.45 🙂 We stayed at the Hilton Moorea last time (read our previous trip report here) so even though we could’ve saved money to book with points at the Hilton Moorea, we wanted to try a new hotel. There’s also Intercontinental Moorea that we could book with points but their overwater bungalows were sold out and it was Jeffrey and Peter’s first time in French Polynesia so they must want the overwater bungalow experience. Hilton and Sofitel Moorea are often the top 2 hotels in Moorea with great snorkeling so we decided on Sofitel even though we need to pay cash.

Our room was spacious which can fit up to 3 people with a single bed on the side.

The AC worked great to cool down the whole room.

A little walk in closet with the safe.

On the back of the bed is a big cabinet which has the coffee machine and a minibar. The best part of Sofitel Moorea is that all the drinks in the minibar are included with the room rate which they refill daily, I wish all the hotels do that!

My favorite part of the room is the beautifully designed bathroom. Although I am not a fan of open air shower, this semi-open air looked super cool with plants to make you feel like in a tropical rain forest.

The bath toiletries’ brand is Le Notes De Lanvin which smelled so good that I wished I have asked for more. Peter and I loved the smell and how smooth its lotion absorb in the skin.

Our beach bungalow view….partial view of the beach:

Sofitel Moorea room rating:

  • Bed: **** firm and a true king size bed
  • Pillow: *** pass
  • Bathroom: ***** beautiful
  • Temperature control: **** strong AC
  • Outlets and USB ports: *** only under the two night stands
  • Wifi: * super slow that I gave up! The only okay speed you’ll get is when you are at the hotel main lobby.

The resort is quite spread out so it was a long walk from the lobby to our room….counting numbers up and finally 410.

We didn’t stay in our room for long and ventured out to see the rest of the resort while on the way to Jeffrey and Peter’s overwater bungalow room.

Compared to the Hilton Moorea, I think the Hilton’s ground and the layout of the overwater bungalows pontoon looked more picturesque. Hilton’s beach is also bigger with more space for beach chairs facing the overwater bungalows. Whereas, Sofitel’s beach is right in front of the pool and restaurant so the space looked limited.

It was a longggg walk to Jeffrey and Peter’s room, all the way near the end of the overwater bungalows pootoon. Their room’s layout is exactly like ours except for the mosquito net and a deck to jump right into the water.

With their room facing the beach bungalows instead of the hotel restaurant, we thought it offered more privacy and quieter.

Snorkeling was really good from their room as Sofitel, like Hilton, planted many corals underneath. The water is shallow so water shoe is a must to prevent getting scratched from the corals…..Jeffrey didn’t listen and got a few scratches before we arrived at their bungalow!

We spent the afternoon hanging out at their overwater bungalow, taking tons of pictures, and the boys had so much fun snorkeling right from their deck.

We received a free champagne and fruit plate from the hotel so nice props for the photos 😀

Those two birds were hanging out with us too…probably waiting to eat our fruit plate.

More pics of the overwater bungalow pontoon.

Healthy corals underneath the overwater bungalow with many fishes swimming around:

We walked back to the overwater bungalow’s deck for more photos and just enjoy the views:

In the late afternoon, Peter and Jeffrey wanted to check out our room so we all went back to our room….and made some stops along the long way walk. The pool offered a nice view of the overwater bungalows; sometimes the pool get busy with kids.

This kitty found a great spot to nap.

There’s a deck at the hotel restaurant which should give awesome views of the overwater bungalows but it was closed due to repair when we were there.

The beach area where you can book a romantic dinner right on the beach.

The front row beach bungalows with direct views of the ocean.

Few hammocks scattered on the beach area.

We showed the boys our room and they as well impressed by the rain forest feel of the shower. We had 3 hours before dinner so Jeffrey and Peter went back to their overwater bungalow for more swim while we took “shower” photos.

Afterwards, we took a quick nap before heading out for dinner. The driver came on time to pick us up at the hotel lobby along with 2 other guests from the hotel. Once we arrived at Le Mahogany, we were seated immediately outside with covering. The prices at Le Mahogany were very reasonable given the portion and the ingredients. For appetizers, Jason and Jeffrey ordered the Escargot which they said not that good; the snails were already taken out of the shell. We also ordered the crab cake and it was pretty good.

I ordered the duck breast with foie gras while the guys ordered the beef mignon with foie gras. The foie gras portion was very generous and absolutely delicious like the ones I had in France. My duck breast was very tasty and cooked perfectly. They said their beef mignons were very good too! The dinner cost $182 for 4 of us and we were very satisfied!

It was pouring halfway through the dinner and still raining when we left so we had to run to the van with the umbrellas from the restaurant. At least when we reached our hotel, the rain stopped. I asked the hotel for a golf cart ride back to our bungalow as it’s a long walk and the path would be muddy by the rain. We got a good night sleep to recharge to explore more of Moorea the next day!

10 thoughts on “French Polynesia 2019, I am back! Part 1 – Moorea

  1. Hi there, I have noticed on your last few blogs that a large proportion of the photos are not showing. This is the case both from my phone and from my PC. Such a shame as the photos are the all important bit! None of the blogs before that seem affected, just the most recent 3 or 4.

  2. Hi. Thanks for another lovely report.
    I’m just wondering why recently half of your photos are not displaying. Is it my computer or some other problem? It’s a shame because I love your photos so much.

      1. yes, I can see all but one of the photos (Healthy corals underneath the overwater bungalow with many fishes swimming around)
        thanks very much for whatever you did to achieve that !!
        I’m using Chrome by the way

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