We went to Tahiti, Tikehau, and Rangiroa for 10 days, plus 1 night in Los Angeles (Westin LAX) on the way out to French Polynesia. Please e-mail me if you want some more information on any of my itineraries or visit my Tahiti page for tons of info on the islands that I’ve gathered up over time.
Flights: We flew Southwest Airlines for the short one hour flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles. For shorter flights, Southwest can really be a pleasant experience. But, of course, Air Tahiti Nui is the airline that is really of importance here! Last time I went to French Polynesia, Air Tahiti Nui was flawless. I can honestly say the same again, save the delay of at least an hour on our way out. I flew business class again (pre-paid rather than trying to upgrade later) and it was worth every dime. I slept the entire way in both directions. So, I can’t really comment too much on the food, but the little I did have was decent, as was the in-flight entertainment. Once in Tahiti, our flights on Air Tahiti were okay. We had a very long delay in Tikehau, but only due to a medical emergency on the island (Air Arhcipels had to fly in to pick up the patient). I also didn’t remember the planes appearing so new, so that is a good thing I suppose! I think I sat on the wrong side of the plane for most of the flights, but from Tahiti-Rangiroa, I was able to see the Blue Lagoon in Rangiroa from the sky and it looked amazing! I sat on the left side during this leg of the flight.
InterContinental Tahiti: I really enjoyed my brief stay at the InterContinental last time, so I booked to stay here again hoping that I’d have an even better experience. Well, things went awry from the start. Since we arrived into Papeete late, we didn’t get to the hotel until around midnight. When I went to check in, they could not find our reservation!!! I admittedly did not try to confirm everything before leaving, but I had faith that everything would be in order. So, it took the staff a half hour to redo our reservation and I finally got a room. I was supposed to have had a lagoon view room, but I think this was more of a garden view. Anyway, when I walked into the room, the sliding door leading onto the lanai was open, there were a few dirty glasses on the table, the bed was slightly messed up and it appeared that someone had recently showered in there. My assumption is that this was a day room for someone and they had just checked out and it had not been cleaned yet. At that point in time, I simply did not care and was exhausted, so I sucked it up and and went to bed!
After a nice rest, I enjoyed a nice breakfast and walked around the grounds. This is why I remembered having such a nice stay last time. The grounds really are gorgeous, as is the view of Moorea in the distance. After breakfast, I checked out and had yet another snafu- the people in the room before us had taken things from the minibar! After explaining what had happened to the staff the night before, they did agree to remove the charges from my bill. Crisis averted (these people liked to drink apparently!) Overall, I will probably end up staying here again next year, and it will only be another 1 nighter. Also, for you internet junkies, they do have a connection for your laptop in the room!! I major plus for me!
Tikehau Pearl Resort and Spa: As I approached Tikehau from the air, the Pearl Resort looked like a remote, untouched paradise in the middle of the most gorgeous lagoon. Well, in my opinion, that was a pretty accurate description. Not many people choose to visit the atoll islands, especially when it is their honeymoon and one-and-only trip to French Polynesia, but Tikehau is one of those places that truly exemplifies romance and intimacy. The hotel itself is quaint, and while a little outdated in some areas, it seemed more like an upscale boutique hotel than a resort (but had all of the resort amenities!). I had chosen to stay in the resort’s newest additions- the overwater suites- which were out on a pontoon of their own toward the back of the resort. While it was a little bit of a haul to the main part of the resort, the walk was always worth it for a little bit more privacy and the chance to soak up the surroundings. I was given Suite #43, which is midway down the pontoon. At first, I felt that it was not going to be a good choice, but I soon learned that privacy was hardly an issue and the sunset views were amazing! There were some downsides to the suites, though. The water underneath them was very shallow, which was a bit disappointing for snorkeling and swimming. You can still snorkel and swim, but I’m a fan of deeper water. Also, the snorkeling was somewhat marginal, although it appeared my bungalow had the most fish of the suite pontoon. Another downside was the wind, which whipped all day, everyday, because there was nothing to block it (other parts of the resort were calm). It may have just been the time of the year, but I could not keep any of the windows open and it made it difficult to throw out my raft and just float around without drifting quickly. Plus, since the suites are huge, the air conditioner does not work that well, and without the use of the windows, it got stuffy in the room. However, even with these downsides, I still maintain that the suites are gorgeous, although upon returning, I’d choose a premium overwater bungalow or a deluxe beach bungalow.
The rest of the resort is also stunning and very serene. The grounds are well-maintained, although not extraordinarily lush, and the pool area is very simple, yet very exotic. Unfortunately for us, the infinity pool broke on the second day. While it was still swimmable, the infinity effect was missed. Nothing beats looking over the edge into the amazing blue lagoon! There is also a large open air restaurant, an open air bar, and a small gift shop just behind the pool area. The restaurant was decent, with a fairly large breakfast buffet, an extensive lunch menu, and a dinner menu that changed daily. During our stay, there was a free breakfast and dinner special running, so the restaurant may run differently depending on the time of year and the promotion being offered. I thought the food was pretty good, although I ended up eating plain pasta almost every night for dinner because their dinner selections were mostly seafood, and I am not a big fan! Also, the breakfast buffet seemed to differ in quality, depending on how late you got there. The earlier you got there, the better the food was. They did not seem to restock it very often. Lunch was by far my favorite meal and I tried something different almost every day!
Activities on the atoll are few and far between, unless you like to dive. Since I’m not certified, it didn’t really work out in my favor. However, the kayaks provided by the resort are an excellent way to get out into the water and see the surrounding motus. Also, after a quick shuttle ride to the main motu, you can hop on a bike and check out the local village or grab some groceries at the market. You can also choose to do a private motu picnic (at half of the price that you would pay on the more popular islands) to enjoy your romantic surroundings. I only chose to do the bike ride and the kayaks, however. Keep in mind if you rent a bike, it is VERY hot, so be sure to bring some water!
Another nice amenity at the resort is the spa. As of right now, it’s not a full service spa, but I enjoyed a nice massage in the privacy of a little beach bungalow at the foot of the overwater suite pontoon. The decor inside is very authentic and calming, but it is not a typical spa experience that one may desire. There is not much pampering involved- you just come in for your massage and then leave. I would do it again in a heart beat, though!
Overall, the resort was a seemingly untouched paradise with a friendly staff and the right intimate touch for a romantic getaway. I’d return there without hesitation.
Hotel Kia Ora: Upon arrival, I was greeted with a friendly smile and amazing staff and was eagerly awaiting the adventures of Rangiroa. However, I quickly found out that I’d be disappointed in the accommodations (not the island!) throughout my entire stay. Maybe I spoiled myself in Tikehau with a grand overwater suite, but the accommodations at Hotel Kia Ora are not 5 star according to my standards (please take this with a grain of salt, because I like to travel A LOT and am super picky!) I stayed in Bungalow #12, Otepipi, which was in a somewhat decent spot in the line of bungalows along the beachfront. The bungalow appeared to be very outdated and just not up to par with the other major resorts in French Polynesia. I had an ant problem most of the stay without having ever bringing food into the bungalow and also had a bad roach experience when I found one dead in my wine glass after leaving it out overnight. The bedspread was also in need of replacement and the linens were slightly stained. However, on a good note, the view from the bungalow was very nice and the calm, colorful lagoon was just a few steps away.
The restaurant had a very extensive menu and the food was good by French Polynesia standards, especially for being located on such a remote atoll. Unlike Tikehau, I also found that the waitstaff spoke English more fluently, so when I had to make my picky food orders, they always got it right. Just outside of the restaurant is a bar, which has an expansive deck that overlooks the amazingly colorful lagoon and the launch dock. The deck also overlooks a gorgeous infinity pool that seems to just melt into the lagoon. Look carefully from the deck or the dock and you may just spot a shark! I saw several of them throughout my stay, though predominantly at night.
There isn’t much to do in Rangiroa unless you like the water, but I did manage to rent a bike for a morning and trudge to Tiputa Pass. The view was gorgeous, but the trek was too hot. Rangiroa is best left for its stunning water activities, such as the Blue Lagoon, snorkeling or diving the pass, or enjoying a motu picnic on a snorkeling trip. I also did the drift snorkel through Tiputa Pass which was so gorgeous and scary all at the same time. The sharks look huge, even from far above.
I know the Kia Ora will be undergoing renovations, so I look forward to seeing the results, as I think it will just enhance the charm and beauty of this wonderful atoll. I cannot wait to return!
Additional photos of French Polynesia can be seen on the Tahiti tab.