3 Best Overwater Bungalows in Moorea for 2024 (+ What’s Now Closed!)

a woman in a red dress standing in front of overwater bungalows in moorea

Waking up to a brilliant aquamarine lagoon so close you can simply step off your back deck and go for a sunrise swim…

Is it any wonder that basically every traveler has the same thing on their bucket list: staying in an overwater bungalow in French Polynesia?

You can find these aquatic abodes across the globe, from the Caribbean to the Maldives, Panama to Bora Bora.

But let me let you in on a little secret: Moorea is actually where some of the best overwater bungalows are at!

This may be surprising when you consider that Bora Bora is the overwater bungalow capital of the world, but let me tell you why Moorea edges it out in some areas.

the beautiful view of the mt rotui mountain in moorea from the point of view of the belvedere lookout

Moorea is the place to go if you want to stay in an overwater bungalow and experience the local culture.

Because Bora Bora’s resorts are all on private motus (islets) isolated from the main island, actually leaving the resort and seeing Tahitian culture is far more difficult, though definitely possible.

Meanwhile, Moorea’s resorts are located right on the island, a short distance from great restaurants and food trucks serving up day-to-day meals, local grocery stores and shops, and all sorts of incredible activities you can experience on Moorea, off the resort.

the delicious steak brochettes at manua grill
Steak brochettes – a delicious meal after a long day out in Moorea!

Moorea also has far better snorkeling and diving compared to Bora Bora because it has more coral around the island, whereas Bora Bora has a more pristine lagoon with shallow, crystalline water, but not as many reefs to see.

Plus, staying in an overwater bungalow in Moorea is a fair deal cheaper, since you don’t need to spend another $300+ on roundtrip flights, since you can just take a ferry from Tahiti to Moorea (and visit Tahiti while you’re at it!)

Plus, the places to stay on Moorea are cheaper than Bora Bora to begin with.

Convinced yet? Here are my top 3 resorts with overwater bungalows on Moorea (well, that’s actually all of them).


Sofitel Kia Ora Beach Resort & Spa Moorea

view of moorea bungalows from toatea lookout with crystalline blue water and darker water in the background, overwater bungalows, and tahiti visible in the distance
Tip: You can see this epic view of the Sofitel’s bungalows from the Toatea Lookout!

Located on prime land, Temae Beach — Moorea’s best beach for snorkeling — the Sofitel Kia Ora Beach Resort & Spa is a fantastic place to stay with overwater bungalows while visiting Moorea.

Plus, they have some of the largest overwater bungalows in Moorea, with beautiful views of the lagoon and sometimes even Tahiti off in the distance.

Due to its incredible location on one of Moorea’s best reefs, as well as its gorgeous overwater bungalow selection, it’s my top pick.

Location and Layout

Garden bungalows in Sofitel Moorea with thatched roofs and a little path

The Sofitel Kia Ora is located in Maharepa just to the right of the popular public white sand beach, Temae Beach, not far from the ferry dock and Moorea’s airport.

With tropical landscaping all around it and Polynesian design, the Sofitel Moorea resort has a gorgeous private island feel.

There’s a staggering number of room types to choose from: its bungalows on land with garden and lagoon views, and its multiple types of overwater bungalows.

Now, the overwater bungalow types are all a little confusing. There’s the superior overwater bungalows, the superior horizon overwater bungalows, the luxury overwater bungalows, and the luxury horizon overwater bungalows.

So what’s the difference? Basically, anything with “horizon” has a better view, unobstructed by other bungalows as its located near the end of the boardwalk.

The luxury overwater bungalows are 83 square meters or 893 square feet — utterly massive!

The superior bungalows are still quite large, at 42 square meters or 452 square feet.

For a larger group, there’s the Villa, a whopping 161-square-meter (1732 square feet) palatial escape. It has two bedrooms and a sofa bed in the living room, accommodating up to six guests — perfect for a getaway with sanity and friends.

The outdoor deck even has its own Jacuzzi, and there are two bathrooms, one with its own outdoor bathtub!

Inside the Bungalow

Sofitel bungalows on the island of Moorea

The interiors of Sofitel Kia Ora overwater bungalows are stunning, inspired by Paul Gaugin, the French painter who spent many (controversial) years on the islands.

The king-size beds are beautiful and lush, a dream to sink into, with a beautiful mosquito net canopy (though that’s more for aesthetics than anything else, since you have A/C and won’t need to keep your doors open!).

They even greet you with a giant beautiful heart-shaped flower arrangement on your bed upon arrival — a lovely romantic touch!

The rooms have large seating areas and glass floor panels to look down below at the sea life through, as well as lovely modern bathrooms with rain showers to enjoy.

All overwater bungalows feature air conditioning, a flat-screen LCD TV, sliding glass doors, a complimentary bottle of Champagne upon arrival, free WiFi, a private terrace leading directly to the lagoon, and a free minibar that’s restocked daily with beer, soda, and water.

Activities and Amenities

a beautiful crystal-clear beach at temae beach in moorea

Of course, the best activity you can do while staying at Sofitel Kia Ora is snorkeling their hosue reef just off the bungalows — it’s one of the best places to snorkel on all of Moorea, so it’s hard to beat these waters!

There’s also a beautiful infinity pool that overlooks the lagoon and bungalows, a stunning place to swim, take photos, and relax by the water’s edge in the many loungers available.

Of course, with spa in the name, you can expect all sorts of relaxing treatments at Le Jardin Spa!

They offer massages, facials, body scrubs, all inspired by Polynesian wellness techniques and organic local ingredients like coconut oil, vanilla, and mango, all in a tropical garden setting.

Dining Options

Allison Green standing in front of resort bungalows of Sofitel

There are 4 restaurant and bar options at Sofitel Moorea, with the most variety of these listed overwater bungalow resorts.

One is Pure, a contemporary restaurant focused on classic French cuisine with an emphasis on Polynesian ingredients and local seafood. It faces the lagoon and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

There’s also the Beach Bar, where you can order more casual fare like paninis and cocktails and enjoy a quick lunch just steps from the sand.

Vue Bar is another bar option, with cocktails and tapas served until late in the evening.

The most luxurious option is K, with a frequently-rotating fine dining tasting menu with 5 or 7 courses (with or without wine pairing).

The downside is that it’s only open on Thursdays and Fridays by reservation only (and other nights for private events)

Check availability, prices, and details of Sofitel’s overwater bungalows here!

Manava Beach Resort & Spa

view of moorea sunset with brilliant colors and overwater bungalows forming a silhouette
A beautiful sunset I captured at Manava Beach Resort

Located in the heart of Maharepa, one of the more bustling stretches of Moorea (though bustling is relative on an island this quiet!), Manava Beach Resort & Spa is a great choice for those who don’t want to feel sequestered away on a resort the entire time.

While you’ll have all the comfortable resort amenities you’d expect of a luxury hotel in French Polynesia, you’ll also have the town at your fingertips, so you can shop the boutiques (Tahitian pearls, anyone?) and stop by the roulotte food trucks for a more casual, authentic meal.

It’s also home to a fantastic on-site dive shop, Moorea Blue Diving, which will bring you to some of the best reefs in this patch of the South Pacific.

Location and Layout

Overwater bungalows in Moorea with infinity pool in front of it
The infinity pool meets the bungalows at Manava Beach Resort

The resort is situated on a small but beautiful stretch of white sand beach and is surrounded by lush tropical gardens, giving it a secluded, Jurassic Park vibe — and with the backdrop of Moorea’s mountains behind it, that feeling is enhanced even more.

There’s a spa and two restaurants in the main area, which opens up to a gorgeous beachfront infinity pool with views of the overwater bungalows right in front of you.

There are a variety of room types here, from standard hotel rooms to beach bungalows with their own plunge pool to the reason you’re reading this post — overwater bungalows.

Those overwater bungalows are floating slices of paradise! Built on stilts over the clearest water you’ve ever seen, these bungalows offer guests a VIP pass straight to the lagoon.

Each bungalow has a killer private terrace with plenty of outdoor furniture to lounge and sunbathe on. There’s even a ladder that plunges straight into the lagoon – how cool is that?

This terrace isn’t just a pretty face; it’s got the best seats in the house for soaking up the eye-popping views of the scenery!

Inside the Bungalow

Allison Green at the overwater bungalows of Manava Beach Resort

Those overwater bungalows are maybe even more lovely inside than they are on the outside. They’re not just comfy, they’re loaded with everything you’d need for ultimate relaxation.

Think: a king-size bed so comfy it’s like sleeping on a cloud, with top-quality linens and plenty of pillows, so you’re guaranteed to sleep like a baby.

Chilling in your bungalow? There’s plenty of space in the lounge area, with a flat-screen TV in case you want a little in-room entertainment.

The private bathroom’s a dream too, sporting a separate shower and bathtub and stocked up with top-notch toiletries.

One drawback here: unfortunately, these water bungalows at Manava don’t have those fancy glass floor panels so you can see into the lagoon.

But honestly, who needs them when the lagoon’s waters are so clear that you can sit on your deck and see all the cool marine life doing its thing beneath you?

Activities and Amenities

Allison Green and her partner smiling as they go diving in Moorea
Diving with Moorea Blue Diving, the on-site dive shop at Manava!

Let’s talk fun stuff now – all the activities and amenities that Manava offers!

I’ve already talked about how Manava is home to Moorea Blue Diving, which is the best dive shop on the island (and where I did every single one of my Moorea dives).

The staff there is incredible, and Diane will help you set up all your underwater adventures, with several dives boats departing daily from their pontoon.

But let’s not forget its amazing infinity pool that’s a stone’s throw from the lagoon, with gorgeous views of the overwater bungalows right in front of your eyes.

With plenty of sun loungers to go around, you won’t be looking for a spot with a great view of the swimming pool: they all are!

And if you’re looking to really spoil yourself, hit up the spa, one of the best on the island of Moorea.

Tucked away in a little garden oasis, this is the perfect place to treat yourself to some R&R, island-style, with all sort of Polynesian-inspired massages and beauty treatments using local ingredients.

But if you’re the type who likes to keep things moving on your vacay, you won’t be bored here!

Allison and her partner in a red kayak with the island of Moorea behind them and brilliant blue waters
Kayaking off the coast of Manava

Manava Beach Resort’s got all sorts of water sports up its sleeve, like snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding — all gear able to be rented (for free, of course) right on its beach.

And if you prefer to stay dry, there’s a well-equipped fitness center with tons of space for yoga and stretching in case you want to keep in shape on your vacation.

Dining Options

The Manava Beach resort has two on-site restaurants: Restaurant Mahana’i offering a more upscale dining experience and Miti Bar & Terrasse for your more casual meals.

Restaurant Mahana’i combines French and Polynesian flavors with a refined flair, and their pastry chef makes incredible desserts.

Mahana’i also hosts Polynesian-themed evening shows every Saturday night, with dancing and singing.

Meanwhile, Miti Bar & Terrasse is a great spot for grabbing some appetizers and a drink in the middle of the day, nestled under the thatched palapas to escape the sun for a bit.

It’s a great place to use the free WiFi and catch up on what’s going on outside your little water villa cocoon!

Check availability and prices of Manava’s water villas here!

Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa

a handful of overwater bungalows in moorea at the hilton

Of course, the Hilton name has been synonymous with luxury travel for ages, and the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa is no exception.

The Hilton is one of the three major resorts on the island that offers overwater bungalows in Moorea.

Besides its bungalows, there are also garden suites, some which also have their own private pool, and also beach bungalows, which are not overwater but are directly on the sand.

Still, the main draw is the luxury overwater bungalows, which are spacious, designed elegantly, and have stunning lagoon views to the horizon with a mountain landscape behind them.

Here’s what you can expect if you choose to stay in a Hilton Moorea overwater bungalow.

Location and Layout

facade of the entrance to the moorea hilton lagoon resort

The Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort is located in Papetoai on the northwest coast of Moorea, near the two main bays of the island, Cook’s Bay and ‘Ōpūnohu Bay.

The resort is situated on a beautiful white sand beach and is surrounded by lush tropical gardens, so even though you’re staying at an international-name resort, it does have a private, secluded feel to it.

Besides overwater bungalows, it has garden bungalows with private plunge pools which are a good deal cheaper, but also quite lush, with bathrooms with their own rain shower and a separate bathtub.

Like most overwater bungalows, the bungalows at the Hilton Moorea are built on stilts posted above the lagoon, which gives those staying in the bungalows direct access to the crystal-clear waters in their backyard.

There’s a ladder that leads down from your own private terrace into the lagoon, where one of the better reefs for snorkeling in Moorea is just a short swim away.

This is also your private sundeck to relax and take in the epic panoramic views of the ocean, and you’ll catch quite a nice sunset here as well.

Bonus: the Hilton’s western-most location gives it the best sunsets of the three resorts with overwater bungalows in Moorea!

They offer 3 types of water villas: king overwater bungalows with or without panoramic views (further out on the boardwalk) as well as the king premium overwater bungalow, which more more private at the furthest edge of the pontoon.

No matter which you choose, all the bungalows are 62 square meters (667 feet) and feature a marble bathroom with rain shower and clawfoot bath tub that can be filled with flowers upon request!

Inside the Bungalow

bungalows at the hilton moorea with aquamarine waters and mountain background

The interior of the Hilton Moorea overwater bungalows is just as luxurious as the exterior.

Inside, the bungalows are spacious, furnished with local hand-crafted Polynesian decor and tropical elements, with plenty of room to relax and unwind during your stay.

For small bungalows, you’ll get rather high ceilings, helping with air circulation and giving the bungalow a breezy, airy tropical vibe.

But don’t worry, you won’t be roughing it — there’s A/C (that ceiling fan is partly for show!).

For a good night’s sleep, nestle into the plush king-size bed, with high-quality linens and plenty of pillows.

The living area is also comfortable, with ample seating and a large flat-screen TV — if you can tear your eyes away from the views around you to even watch TV, that is.

Meanwhile, the en-suite bathroom is more luxurious than you’d expect of an overwater bungalow, with a separate shower and bathtub and plenty of high-quality toiletries. Plus, it has things like robes and a hairdryer.

One of the most unique features of the Hilton Moorea overwater bungalows is the glass floor panels, which allow guests to look down into the lagoon below and the colorful tropical fish that call Moorea’s reefs home!

It’s like snorkeling without ever needing to get wet!

Activities and Amenities

kayaks for rent on the shore of the hilton moorea lagoon resort with backdrop of mountains

If you can tear yourself away from your private overwater bungalow, there’s plenty to do during your stay.

Of course, you can’t miss spending some time at the beautiful infinity pool. It overlooks the crystal blue lagoon, and it’s surrounded by comfortable loungers and umbrellas so you can sun yourself in between swims.

When it comes time to relax, there is also a spa that offers a range of relaxing treatments with local Polynesian ingredients.

Better yet, the private spa is situated in a beautiful little tropical garden, making it the perfect place to unwind during your stay.

If you’d rather stay active during your trip vacation, the Hilton Moorea offers a range of water sports like snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding — just ask the concierge.

They also have tennis courts in case you’d like to play a round or two while you’re there!

There is also a fitness center in case you’re the type of person who keeps up with your workouts on vacation (in which case — bravo!)

Dining Options

dining at the properties of the hilton with beautiful lagoon views

The Hilton Moorea isn’t just your typical resort – it’s a foodie’s paradise with 4 different spots to grab a bite.

Got a serious appetite when you wake up? Head to the Arii Vahine restaurant for a scrumptious breakfast buffet.

They also serve dinner here, featuring the best of local Polynesian and global cuisines.

If you’re more the laid-back, snack-on-the-go type, Eimeo Bar & Restaurant’s got your back, with light bites perfect by the poolside.

There’s the Toatea Bar & Creperie, which is a stunning over-the-water restaurant where you can get delicious sweet and savory crepes (this is French Polynesia, after all!) and other snacks.

There’s also Rotui Bar & Grill, a casual restaurant on the waterfront that serves lunch and dinner, focusing on Tahitian flavors and delicious exotic drinks.

And, get this — if you’re someone who just likes to lounge around in your overwater villa (who wouldn’t, right?), Hilton Moorea has a menu of in-room dining options that won’t disappoint.

Picture this: calling room service to have a romantic candlelit dinner on your own private terrace, pop some champagne, or simply enjoy a chill lunch with a view of the lagoon’s turquoise waters.

Sounds like a dream? Well, it’s a reality here.

Check availability, prices, and details of the Hilton Lagoon Resort here!

Closed: Intercontinental Moorea Resort

A few blog posts incorrectly list the Intercontinental Moorea as one of the options for overwater bungalows in Moorea… but that hasn’t been the case since 2020.

You can see it from the water as you snorkel in Moorea, as it’s right across from where you go to snorkel with the sharks and rays at the sand bank, and it’s also close to the coral gardens tucked between the two motus.

Still, you can’t visit or stay at this place, even though you can see its now-defunct overwater bungalows from the water.

33 Epic Things to Do in Tahiti, the Heart of French Polynesia

Aerial Photo of Tropical Islands of French Polynesia. Capital City Papeete on Tahiti

Obsidian black sand beaches, hundred-foot tall waterfalls, canopy-covered mountain peaks: there’s no shortage of beauty on the island of Tahiti.

… And that’s not counting Tahiti’s pristine coral reefs and the amazing variety of marine life they shelter.

While many people skip over Tahiti in favor of more popular islands of Tahiti such as Bora Bora, I think Tahiti is the perfect place to spend several days.

Allison exploring Tahiti while staying at a resort, wearing a bikini, with infinity pool, palm tree, blue sky, and Moorea in distance, while walking barefoot on a bridge.

In this post, I’ll show you just why Tahiti is worth visiting: mix and match these 33 top things to do in Tahiti to find the best way to enjoy your Tahiti vacation according to your own style!

This guide to Tahiti includes all sorts of different things, from water activities to 4×4 tours through otherwise inaccessible valleys, featuring all the most beautiful places in Tahiti along the way.

You can read this guide to make your own itinerary, or you can read my 3 to 5 day Tahiti itinerary to get an idea of how to structure your trip (and add on anything else you want along the way).

By the way, also visiting Moorea? I have a sister post to this one, with 33 more epic things to do, but in Moorea this time!

You can also see a post where I organize some of the top things to do in a Moorea itinerary.

Where is Tahiti?

View along the East Side of tahiti, a beautiful isolated part of the island that is beautiful to visit but not as popular as the west coast, with green trees and blue water and a black sand beach, time approaching sunset.

One of the largest and most famous South Pacific Islands, the island of Tahiti is the main island of French Polynesia.

Tahiti is home to the capital city of Papeete, the most populated island in French Polynesia.

Approximately 27,000 people live in Papeete itself, and about 137,000 people in the metro area of Papeete.

Tahiti is part of the Windward Islands, the eastern group of the Society Islands. Its neighboring islands include Moorea, Mehetia, Tetiaroa, and Maiao.

The larger group of islands which Tahiti belongs to is called the Society Islands, which includes Bora Bora, Huahine, Raiatea, Maupiti, Tahaa, Maupihaa, Manuae, and Tupai.

There are four other island groups which are part of French Polynesia the Tuamoto Islands, the Austral Islands, the Marquesas Islands, and the Gambier Islands.

How Do You Get to Tahiti?

A five-person band of local Polynesians wearing yellow outfits, playing instruments and welcoming arriving guests off the plane as they land at Tahiti's International Airport.

Several airlines serve Faa’a International Airport (PPT), the only international airport in French Polynesia.

If you want to go to any other French Polynesian Islands, you’ll have to pass through Tahiti first!

Most major airlines leave either from California (SFO or LAX) if you’re coming from the United States, or New Zealand (AKL) if you’re coming from Oceania.

French Bee, United, Air Tahiti Nui, Air France, Air Calin, Air New Zealand, Hawaiian Airlines, and Latam Airlines are the airlines that serve Tahiti.

The Best Things to Do in Tahiti

Swim with the humpback whales of Tahiti.

View of a mother humpback whale and her baby as seen from underwater from the point of view of a snorkeler in Tahiti.

If you visit Tahiti during humpback whale season, you can’t miss the chance to swim with these gentle giants!

From roughly July to October each year (and sometimes into early November) the humpback whales migrate to the waters around Tahiti: it’s the perfect place to mate, birth, and raise their babies.

One of the most memorable activities you can do in Tahiti is go swimming with humpback whales.

To make sure your whale watching is ethical, I suggest going with a small operator.

The tour I’m recommending is run by a small operator with a great reputation on the island, in a remote part of the island where there are fewer operators so you won’t be crowded by other people.

Book your humpback whale snorkel excursion here!

Very few places in the world allow you to do this, but Tahiti is one of them where you can actually snorkel in the water with these incredible creatures!

Your local guide will make sure you interact with these whales safely and ethically, keeping a safe distance for everyone.

Humpback whales are not dangerous, but as with any wildlife, you shouldn’t mess with their natural habitat by interacting with them: just admire them from a distance.

If you’re lucky, you may even get to hear their unique whale song from underwater!

When I went whale watching in Oahu, I learned that the whale song is the same between all the whales, but it changes each year: they pick a new tune that they like, and they all use it in unison! Pretty cool, right?

Make sure you add this to your Tahiti itinerary if you’re visiting in whale season!

Eat delicious local foods at Tahiti’s many food trucks.

Grilled tuna fish with herb butter and BBQ sauce and fries served as a local eatery food truck on a beach in Tahiti Iti with a virgin pina colada.

An essential part of experiencing Tahitian culture is joining the locals and tourists alike at a food truck (locally called a roulotte).

These food trucks serve up delicious fresh and often rather healthy food for affordable prices.

Of course, with all the crystal clear waters around you, it’s no surprise that many of the food trucks in Tahiti feature incredible seafood!

One of the most famous Tahitian dishes is poisson cru, which is French for raw fish.

The freshly sliced raw tuna is served with thinly julienned vegetables like raw onion and carrots, and doused in delicious coconut milk!

Other popular dishes you’ll see served at the food trucks in Tahiti and Moorea include seafood brochettes (kebabs), fish burgers, tuna ceviche, tuna carpaccio… you name it, there’s probably a tuna version of it!

You’ll find food trucks all over Tahiti and Moorea, but the most popular place in Tahiti is Viate Square.

Splurge on a fancy night out in Papeete’s best restaurants.

Allison's partner eating a mahi mahi filet with vanilla sauce and drinking a glass of wine, Allison's dish which is a papio covered in passionfruit sauce is also visible, as well as side dishes, in a fancy restaurant.

While Tahiti’s food trucks are incredible, Papeete also has some great fine dining options where you can have an incredible meal at a reasonable price, especially compared to U.S. food prices (which is my point of comparison).

My partner and I had an incredible meal at L’O A La Bouche. We started with some of the best beef tartar we’ve ever had, and then followed it up with a seafood course each.

She had the mahi mahi with Tahitian vanilla and coconut sauce, and I tried the papio (a local fish) with a passionfruit and ginger coulis. Both were incredible!

We ended the meal with a trio of crème brûlées, including pistachio, Tahitian vanilla, and chocolate.

It was certainly a meal to remember, and at just $55 per person including drinks, it was a great deal!

Explore the fresh tropical fruits at Papeete Market.

A sign that reads "carambole" which is French for star fruit, with orange and yellow star-shaped fruits for display on newspaper in the market.

One thing I really like when traveling to tropical places is seeing what sort of unique tropical fruits you can find!

You’ll find all sorts of fresh produce at the Papeete Market (Marche de Papeete), including star fruit (carambole), breadfruit (ulu), taro, and more.

Best of all, the produce is really affordable for the quality and freshness!

Besides tasty fresh produce, you can also get some beautiful Tahitian souvenirs here.

Go canyoning in Tahiti’s lava tubes.

People doing a canyoning activity climbing up and down a waterfall with rappelling gear in Tahiti
Photo Credit: Manawa

While everyone’s mind goes to sun-drenched beaches and coconut trees when thinking of Tahiti, there’s plenty of things to do in Tahiti for more adventurous travelers!

A can’t-miss activity for adrenaline seekers is the Tahiti lava tube full-day tour, where you go hiking through dark lava tubes, canyoning in beautiful waters, and rappelling down waterfalls in Tahiti’s rugged interior.

Because Tahiti — much like Hawaii — was formed by volcanic activity, there are a number of lava tubes located all over the island, but the most famous for exploring are in Hitiaa.

Together with your canyoning guide, you’ll explore several lava tunnels with a headlamp before reaching an impressive area where there are also waterfalls and pools to jump into — all this in an underground cave structure!

After exploring the lava tubes, you can explore a river, swim in the waterfalls, and even get the chance to try

At the exit of the lavatubes, you will follow a beautiful river with waterfalls where you will be able to swim. The second part of the trip is done in the middle of a luxuriant vegetation with magnificent landscapes.

The canyoning option allows you to discover the lavatubes of Tahiti in a more technical way with abseiling.

Book your lava tube canyoning tour here!

Take a road trip down to Tahiti Iti.

A river running through Tahiti Iti and leading out into the ocean, with palm trees and other lush green landscape and mountains in the distance, with a cloudy sky above.

One of my favorite parts of my trip to Tahiti was driving all the way from Tahiti Nui (Big Tahiti) to Tahiti Iti (Little Tahiti), the little peninsula at the southern coast of Tahiti.

We drove all the way down to Plage de Tautira, where we enjoyed one of the best views of Tahiti.

You could see all its natural wonders in one vista here: three waterfalls lined up in a row against a backdrop of rough, jagged green mountains, and a river creating a valley through it. It was stunning!

There was also a phenomenal snack bar at Plage de Tautira where we enjoyed some of the best grilled fish we had in our entire time!

Admire the Vaipahi Water Gardens.

Allison in front of a waterfall in Tahiti

Home to a beautiful waterfall, the Vaipahi Water Gardens are a lovely place to take a stroll through Tahiti’s flora.

There is a waterfall here that you can easily walk to, and then you can continue your walk either on one of the many hiking trails that departs from here or stay on flat ground and explore the large lake filled with water lilies.

There are three hiking options here: the Vaipahi Great Loop, which is 5 km and takes about 2 hours, the Vaipahi Small Loop, which is 2.7 km and takes about an hour and 15 minutes, or the Vaipahi River Trail, which is 1 km and takes about 35 minutes.

Take in the three stunning Faarumai Waterfalls.

Allison with her back to the camera with her arms in front of a waterfall in Tahiti

Vaipahi is just one of many beautiful waterfalls in Tahiti! The most stunning waterfalls in my opinion are the trio at Faarumai, located on the east coast of Tahiti.

It’s quite easy to access these waterfalls: simply put Faarumai Waterfalls in the GPS and head to the end of the road, where you’ll find a parking lot.

The first waterfall is just a 5-minute walk through the tropical forest. The other two are located in the opposite direction, about 15 minutes from where you began.

All in all, it’s pretty epic that you can see three stunning waterfalls in less than an hourlong hike, including plenty of time to stop for photos!

Admire the beauty of Tahiti’s grottoes.

Allison standing in front of the grotto, which has ferns dripping down off the cave, with blue turquoise water underneath the cave, she is wearing a rainbow shirt and overalls and rainbow sandals.

One of my favorite places on the west coast of Tahiti were the quiet, peaceful grottoes of Mara’a (Grottes de Mara’a on Google Maps).

I was surprised by the beauty of this little site that few people seemed to be visiting!

The walk through the dense foliage was stunning, and when we arrived at the cave, it was even more stunning than I could have imagined.

Imagine an isolated cave with ferns crawling all over the rock as a trickle of water cascaded over its face, creating rainbows, and an inviting deep turquoise pool in the cave.

Unfortunately, there’s no going for a refreshing dip here: it’s strictly prohibited for safety reasons, so don’t be that person.

Explore the Papeno’o Valley by 4×4 tour.

The beautiful still lake of the Papenoo Valley in Tahiti which is a deserted beautiful area

One of the most incredible parts of Tahiti is completely inaccessible with your standard rental car in Tahiti.

The interior of the island used to have a road passing through, but it no longer is maintained.

For that reason, you’ll need to book a guided 4×4 tour if you want to check out the Papeno’o Valley — and once you realize what you’ll see on a tour there, you’ll certainly want to!

But its inaccessibility makes it one of the most scenic parts of Tahiti, practically untouched by tourism: you’ll see so many waterfalls, scenic lakes set amidst lush valleys, tropical flora, and Jurassic-era looking landscapes everywhere you look.

I recommend this 4×4 Island Crossing tour to show you the parts of the island that you can’t access with your own car!

Book your tour of Papeno’o Valley in a 4×4 here!

Check out the unique Arahoho Blowhole.

Black Lava Rocks with big waves, Blue Water erupting from a Blowhole which is like a marine geyser, ocean surf comes into stone lava tube and pushes water up through the hole

For a unique spot to visit in Tahiti near the Faarumai Waterfalls, don’t miss the Arahoho Blowhole.

This natural geological phenomenon was created by a lava tube which cooled and formed a tunnel hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Now, when there is a particularly strong wave, the lava tube will form a ‘blowhole’ similar to what you’d see from a whale: seawater shooting up into the air dramatically.

Typically, the water spout only is a few feet high, but it can spout up to 30 feet in height during storms and/or high tide!

Stay in an overwater bungalow at the Intercontinental Tahiti Resort.

Allison wearing a monstera print swim cover up and a bikini in front of bungalows

Tahiti has only one resort with overwater bungalows, unlike other islands like Bora Bora which have almost too many to choose from!

That is the Intercontinental Tahiti, which is located on the west coast of Tahiti with a beautiful view of Moorea.

We stayed here for two nights — though in a room facing the ocean and not in an overwater bungalow — and we thought it was epic!

I’ve also stayed in an overwater bungalow in the Maldives before, and it was an unforgettable experience (although the price tag is similarly unforgettable).

While I didn’t get the chance to do this in Tahiti this trip, I hope to return to French Polynesia soon and check out some overwater bungalows!

We did swim over to the snorkeling in front of the Motu Bungalows and can confirm that it’s excellent!

While staying there, we also spoke to a couple staying in one of the Motu suites and one of them said they saw a spotted eagle ray swimming past as they were sitting on their balcony!

Check bungalow rates & availability and other room options here!

Check out the Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens.

Just down the road from the Vaipahi Water Gardens is the Harrison Smith Botanical Garden, home to groves of palm trees, colorful hibiscus bushes, and hundreds of other tropical flora imported from the Americas, Asia, and Africa.

On one side, you can look out to the ocean, to the other, you can look behind and see the mountains of Tahiti: that’s part of what makes this botanical garden so special.

Once a private land owned by an American, the botanical garden fell into disuse, but it was restored by the tourism office in 2017 and has been getting a beautiful glow up ever since.

Best of all, admission is free!

See the exterior of the (now-closed) Paul Gauguin Museum.

The French painter Paul Gauguin was one of Tahiti’s most famous — and controversial — residents.

The Paul Gauguin Museum was dedicated to his work, but it closed in 2013 and shows no signs of reopening.

While Gauguin was a talented artist, you can’t overlook his personal transgressions, especially when you’re talking about his work in the context of Tahiti — where he had several child brides, potentially as young as 11.

Many people are grappling now with how to retrospectively live with Gauguin’s legacy — from writing novels from the perspective of his child bride to penning thinkpieces on whether Gauguin should be ‘cancelled’.

This museum, closed for years with no plans to reopen, seems frozen in time struggling with this same question.

That said, if you’re already visiting the Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens, this is right nearby and you can check out the grounds and the beautiful (but abandoned) Japanese-inspired architecture of the museum.

Visit the spectacular Ta Pahi Point.

One of the most beautiful places on Tahiti’s East Coast is Ta Pahi Point.

Raising more than 70 feet above the sea, you can look on one side and see the island of Moorea and Point Venus — to the other, you’ll see Hiro’s Rock and the black sand beaches below it.

This is also a great place to stop and watch the surfers around sunset!

Go snorkeling in Tahiti’s pristine blue waters.

Allison snorkeling in swim leggings, a swim top, white fins, above a reef in Tahiti

We mostly dove while we were in Tahiti — because really, once you start diving, it’s hard to settle for snorkeling — but when we did snorkel, we were wildly impressed!

When we stayed at the Intercontinental we snorkeled their house reef and we were wildly impressed — it was some of the best off-shore snorkeling we’ve ever done!

We saw an uncountable number of colorful tropical fish, but more excitingly, we also got to see a day octopus, a moray eel, huge anemone gardens with clownfish (including babies!), and triggerfish.

An octopus trying to hide in a coral rock while not disguising itself fully

If you’re staying at the Intercontinental, you can definitely enjoy snorkeling in front of the bungalows or in the enclosed lagoonarium if you feel uncomfortable in the open ocean.

You can also do a snorkeling tour like this one, which brings you to a snorkeling site called The Aquarium that features three wrecks and all the coral life and fish that have sprung up around the wreckage.

Note: Be careful when booking activities — many snorkeling activities are set on Moorea, Tahiti’s sister island, so double check that your activity is departing from the right island!

Book your snorkeling tour of Tahiti here!

Allison's partner snorkeling in Tahiti and giving two peace signs while underwater above a coral reef

If you want to try something unique instead of your average snorkel, you can up the ante and try sea scootering.

You’ll still have your snorkel and mask, but instead of swimming, you’ll be zooming around by holding a powered motor that will bring you swiftly through the water with ease.

This tour also covers The Aquarium snorkel site, so it’s a matter of whether you want a more traditional snorkel experience or if you want to have some mechanical assistance and speed!

Whichever tour you see, you’re likely to see all sorts of fish but also possibly sting rays and small (harmless!) black-tipped reef sharks.

Book your sea scooter + snorkel tour of The Aquarium here!

Dive Tahiti’s beautiful reefs with colorful fish and turtles galore!

A sea turtle resting on the sea floor in Tahiti

While we loved our snorkeling, scuba diving in Tahiti was definitely the highlight!

We dove four times during our stay and all were incredible in their own way.

We dived in Moorea as well and we found that excellent as well — it’s hard to compare the two, but Moorea did slightly edge out Tahiti, but only by a nose!

Checking out glowy, illuminated plankton visible when using a dive light while scuba diving.

We saw all sorts of things: unique plankton formations (seen above), spiny rockfish, black-tipped reef sharks, hawksbill and green turtles, barracudas, and so much more.

But even just the topography of the dive sites we saw in Tahiti were incredible, with the underwater formations of valleys and coral walls and even underwater water sources spouting cold water from a vent!

Take in the sunset at Point Venus.

Black sand beach at Point venus with view of moorea at sunset with orange colors and sun setting on horizon

There are quite a few great spots in Tahiti to catch the sunset, but I think one of the best is at Point Venus, where there is a lighthouse and a public beach.

Get there before sunset to check out the historic lighthouse, then set up a little picnic with a view of Moorea to watch the sunset!

Admire Tahiti’s beautiful black sand beaches.

Allison standing in a rainbow tank top and overalls wearing sunglasses on a black sand beach in Tahiti

Tahiti is known for its stunning black sand beaches, due to its origins as a volcanic island.

While there are many black sand beaches, a few stand out: Lafayette Beach, Papenoo Beach, which is a great place to watch surfers, the beach at Point Venus, and Taharuu Beach which is shown above.

Sun yourself on Tahiti’s white sand beaches.

The white sand beach of Temae in Moorea

While the black sand beaches are beautiful, they’re not very comfortable for sitting on… the soaring temperatures and the heat-absorbing black sand does not make for a good combination!

Luckily, Tahiti does have a few white sand beaches worth mentioning that are more pleasant for sunbathing.

One of the best white sand beaches in Tahiti is Vaiava Beach, which also happens to have an excellent snorkeling area. A few others are Maui Beach on Tahiti Iti and Toaroto Beach which is closer to Papeete.

There are even more white sand beaches on Moorea, such as Temae Beach (pictured above) if you really want some white sand beach time!

Take a day trip to Moorea.

The colorful turquoise waters of Moorea with the background of Moorea in the distance, as seen from a snorkeling boat in the lagoon

I will readily say that Moorea deserves more than just a day trip from Tahiti… in fact, we dedicated 5 of the 10 days of our French Polynesia itinerary to just our Moorea itinerary!

That said, if you only have a day trip, you can absolutely make the most of it because the ferry from Tahiti to Moorea is so easy.

You could spend the day relaxing and snorkeling on Temae Beach (one of the best snorkeling spots in Moorea!) or you can go on a 4×4 safari tour of Moorea that will bring you to all the most famous spots on the island.

Tip: If you’re not staying overnight in Moorea, book the afternoon tour to give yourself enough time to get to and from Moorea from Tahiti!

Book your 4×4 safari tour of Moorea!

Watch surfers on Tahiti’s East Coast.

Rainbow on the horizon with surfers in the water on the east coast of tahiti in the late afternoon

While I’m not a surfer, I love watching surfers do their thing — I find it really peaceful and amazing.

There are lots of places on the East Coast of Tahiti that have great waves and lots of surfers at all times of day, particularly in the afternoon before sunset.

We found a few great spots to watch surfers were around the Bay of Papeno’o (Baie de Papeno’o on Google Maps) and just a bit south of that, on the other side of Ta Pahi Point.

For more surf-watching, Teahupoo on Tahiti Iti is famous for its big waves, but we didn’t have time to check it out on this recent trip to Tahiti, unfortunately!

Learn more about the island at the Museum of Tahiti.

The beautiful verdant green landscapes of Moorea with mountains and clouds

Unfortunately, the Museum of Tahiti and its Islands is temporarily closed for renovations, and it’s not clear on the website when it will reopen.

When it’s open, though, it should be well worth a visit!

You’ll find everything from historical Polynesian artifacts that show the rich history of this islands to work from contemporary Polynesian artists.

Check out the historic marae of Tahiti.

An ancient set of ruins made of rocks that are joined together perfectly so they do not fall, on a cloudy, misty day in Tahiti

Did you know there are ancient ruins on Tahiti?

These sites, called marae, are the remnants of Polynesian settlements and give a glimpse into how people lived on the islands many centuries ago.

The two more interesting and well-preserved marae are found on the west coast of the island, not far from each other.

Don’t miss checking out both Marae Ta’ata and ‘Ārahurahu Marae if you’re interested in learning more about the culture and history of Tahiti, and not just seeing its beaches and marine life!

Take a romantic sunset cruise.

View of Moorea with the sun setting behind it while out on the water in Tahiti

Getting out on the water is one of the best ways to appreciate Tahiti’s stunning geography, with its tall mountain peaks that are hard to appreciate when you’re on the island itself.

You can also get a closer view of Tahiti’s sister island of Moorea, which is even more beautiful as you approach it on the water.

If you want to have a romantic evening activity during your time in Tahiti, a sunset cruise is a fantastic idea for you and your loved one.

This cruise includes pick-up and drop-off, a complimentary sunset cocktail, and a beautiful 1.5-hour cruise where you relax on a stunning lagoon with views of Tahiti and Moorea both.

Best of all, the boat is limited to 12 guests, so you’re guaranteed an intimate, romantic atmosphere for a date night you can never forget!

Book your Tahiti sunset cruise here!

Spend some time enjoying downtown Papeete’s sights.

The town hall in Papeete with two stories, yellow and red colors, with Christmas lights strung up and the word "family" in French written in lights in the front

I spent three days in Papeete and while I’m happy to have spent the time there, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not exactly a big bustling capital!

There still are a few sights worth seeing in downtown Papeete, generally clustered around the main Vaima Shopping Center in town.

It’s worth taking a short walk around downtown Papeete to check out the following sites: the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Marina, the Town Hall (Mairie de Papeete), Place Vai’ete, and Pā’ōfa’i Gardens.

Part of what makes travel so interesting for me is not just the destination’s landscapes and activities, but its people and everyday culture.

I enjoyed Papeete for the simple fact of getting to see the place where many Tahiti locals live, shop, and play!

Try delicious French pastries.

Different cream-filled French pastries in the case at a popular French bakery in Papeete Tahiti

Since Tahiti and its islands are a French territory, the French influence is undeniable everywhere you look, from the language to downtown Papeete’s architecture to the food.

That means that when you visit Tahiti, you get a taste of two cuisines in one place: the delicious Polynesian cuisine that showcases bountiful local seafood and tropical ingredients as well as traditional continental French cuisine… as well as tasty fusions of both!

While you absolutely should try local Tahitian food, it’d also be a crying shame to be technically on French soil and not eat all the delicious French pastries your stomach can fit.

Downtown Papeete has some of the best French bakeries — we loved Les Rêves de Lucie and Le Pālais Pātisserie and stocked up on pastries there during our trip! On Moorea, we loved Carameline.

Note: While I did enjoy getting to eat French food while in Tahiti, it’s important that visitors don’t take for granted that French Polynesia is and has been impacted by the hurtful legacy of colonialism, and the question of if and when French Polynesia should become independent are important matters close to the heart of many Polynesians, without one uniform answer across the board.

Explore the street art of downtown Papeete.

Street art in Papeete of a girl holding two birds in her hands with blue makeup and background

Papeete has some great street art that is well worth keeping an eye out for while you’re exploring the downtown area.

A few pieces that I really liked were the following:

  • The octopus metal sculpture piece on the side of the ART’GRICULTURE building
  • The above pictured portrait near the Territorial Assembly building on Rue de Dr. Cassiau and Ave. du General de Gaulle
  • A piece meditating on immigration and identity in the Vaima Mall near the Karaaji restaurant.

Drive the coastal road around the island of Tahiti.

Coastal road with a red car on it on Tahiti

One of the coolest things to do in Tahiti is circumnavigate the island by car — it takes less time than you’d think, and there’s so much to see that just requires quickly pulling over off the main road!

One thing to consider when driving around Tahiti is that the west side is far more developed whereas the east side is a lot more rustic, and the roads match that!

If you think there’s a chance that you might be driving in the dark, do the east side first — the roads there are very dicey to drive at night, with almost no lights, zero reflector strips, and winding roads!

We learned this the hard way so you don’t have to!

If you plan to do a road trip in Tahiti, I recommend you read my guide to renting a car in Tahiti first — it has a ton of helpful hints in it!

Shop for your very own Tahitian black pearls.

Tahitian black pearls on a strand of a necklace with three pearls of black, white, and grayish brown

French Polynesia is famous for its Tahitian black pearls, although as an interesting fact, the pearls are actually not found on the island of Tahiti!

They are typically sourced from outer Tahitian islands, such as the Tuamoto Islands, in lower-lying coral atoll archipelagos.

These pearls are famous because they only come from one particular oyster found in very few other places in the world: the Tahitian black lip pearl oyster (its official name is the Pinctada margaritifera).

Many shops all over Tahiti specialize in pearls so you won’t be hard-pressed to find one!

Take a helicopter tour over the island.

Aerial view over the island of Tahiti with the view pointing towards the capital city of Papeete

Tahiti is impressive no matter which way you slice it, but the best way to appreciate the magnificence of this stunning island is to see it from above!

We actually had a 30-minute helicopter tour booked with Air Tahiti Nui (you can book here) but unfortunately, it got canceled due to bad weather.

We were unable to rebook because group helicopter tours are only available on weekends (private tours are available on weekdays).

It’s something I hope to be able to do on a repeat trip to Tahiti for sure, because Tahiti’s landscape reminds me a lot of Kauai’s Na Pali coast, which was the most memorable helicopter tour I’ve ever been able to do — and I’ve helicoptered over the Grand Canyon!

Judging by the landscape of Tahiti that I did get to see, I’d bet that a helicopter tour of Tahiti is just as impressive, if not more so, than a helicopter tour of the Na Pali coastline of Kauai.

There are 10-minute, 20-minute, and 30-minute helicopter tour options available — I recommend at least the 20-minute version so you can see the Papeno’o Valley and Orohena Mountain.

Book your helicopter tour here!

Go jetskiing in beautiful turquoise waters.

Jet ski with pod of dolphins swimming alongside it
Photo Credit: Manawa

If you prefer your adrenaline to take place on the water, jet skiing in Tahiti may be the perfect activity for you!

Personally, I’ve never tried jet skiing and it’s never called to me — I prefer to be under the water than on it! — but it’s definitely a popular thing to do in Tahiti.

There are 30-minute, 1-hour, and 2-hour day tours as well as a 1.5-hour sunset tour to pick from.

You may even get the chance to see dolphins and jet ski alongside a pod of them during your trip!

Book your jet ski tour of Tahiti here!

Watch the epic waves of Teapuhoo.

A large 10+ foot wave in Teahupoo on Tahiti, a famous surf spot for big waves, four men in wetsuits in the water waiting for their turn to surf

Teahupo’o literally means “to sever the head” or “place of skulls” in Tahitian — a macabre name befitting one of the deadliest waves in the world.

The waves of Teapuho’o are no joke and are only meant for advanced surfers. While they only measure 7-10 feet on average, they can surge up to 20+ feet during storms.

But that’s not the only reason the waves are so dangerous — they’re located above a shallow reef, which creates consistent “hollow” waves that are particularly precarious, despite having that beautiful barrel look.

That said, your average traveler to Tahiti can still enjoy seeing the waves of Teapuho’o, located at the western edge of Tahiti Iti.

You can drive there in your own rental car or you can also take a guided boat tour to see the waves of Teapuho’o from a safe distance.

Book your boat tour to Teapuho’o here!

Take a surf lesson and try out Tahiti’s waves.

Woman on a surfboard in Tahiti

That said, there are plenty of safer waves in Tahiti for beginner and intermediate surfers!

You can take a 2-hour private lesson for about $55 — quite a bargain!

All the materials will be included except a rashguard, which you should bring from home.

Book your private surf lesson here!

If you’re already an experienced surfer, here’s a list of surf spots recommended by the Tahiti Tourism Board.

Where to Stay in Tahiti

We stayed at two places in Tahiti and can recommend them both highly.

Which one you should choose depends whether you prefer a guesthouse experience or a resort experience!

Guesthouse Pick: Fare Rearea

I loved Fare Rearea in Papeete — the location was so central that we could walk to many places we wanted to eat at, though parking at the guesthouse was easy when we needed it. 

The lush garden and pool and kitchen area were great to relax in, and our private studio room was incredible, with our own private terrace with an outdoor kitchen and garden.

And the included daily breakfast was incredible!

Check availability at Fare Rearea here!

Resort Pick: Intercontinental Tahiti

Allison wearing a monstera print swim cover up and a bikini in front of bungalows

While we didn’t stay in an overwater bungalow this trip, we wanted a little taste of the resort experience and chose to stay in the Intercontinental Tahiti in Faa’a.

We stayed in a deluxe room with a view of Moorea and it was stunning and spacious, with a beautiful balcony perfect for taking in the sunset.

The hotel’s amenities were great — we loved the hotel restaurant, the infinity pool, the house reef you could snorkel at, and the lagoonarium where you could snorkel with colorful fish in an enclosed area.

Check availability at the Intercontinental here!

What to Pack for Tahiti

Allison in bikini in front of Moorea background

I have a full Tahiti packing list here — but here are 10 quick essentials!

  1. Swimwear, including high-coverage swimwear like sunsuits/swim leggings/rash guards or other things to wear under a wetsuit for snorkeling, kayaking, diving and other water activities. If diving, you may want to bring your own wetsuit. I was fine in a 3mm, but I typically wear a 5mm.
  2. Reef safe sunscreen, so you can protect Tahiti’s beautiful marine ecosystem (I love Stream 2 Sea).
  3. Swim coverup, so that you can easily transition between swimwear and being public-ready. I had two, because one would often be damp — my monstera print one and my white sheer lacy coverup.
  4. Mosquito repellent, because Tahiti and Moorea’s mosquito population is no joke!
  5. Afterbite care, because no matter how good you are with mosquito repellent, you will end up with some bites! This interesting afterbite healer doesn’t use any chemicals but instead uses heat to stop the itching.
  6. GoPro, to capture all of your underwater adventures (with dive housing and filters if you’re diving too!). The Hero 11 is the newest and most up-to-date version.
  7. Your own snorkeling gear, so you have the freedom to snorkel at any beach you choose — many beaches don’t have snorkel shops with gear rental nearby. I have a TUSA mask and TUSA snorkel set, and IST fins.
  8. Rain jacket, because Tahiti will have the occasional downpour and you don’t want to get caught off guard! I brought my Patagonia Torrentshell.
  9. Packable sun hat and baseball caps, because sun protection should come first from your hat and second from your sunscreen!
  10. Travel insurance, because let’s face it — Tahiti is a pricy trip and you don’t want anything to go awry while you’re there! I used SafetyWing for a policy that cost just $18 for a 10-day policy.

The Ultimate Tahiti Itinerary: How to Spend 3 to 5 Days in Tahiti

Humpback whale mother and her young as seen from underwater while snorkeling

Many people think of French Polynesia and their minds immediately go to honeymoons in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora, but there’s so much to Tahiti than just that!

Tahiti is the largest island of French Polynesia and it has just a little bit of everything that French Polynesia has to offer — so much so that it’s absolutely worth dedicating a few days to Tahiti.

This Tahiti itinerary will help you make the most of this gem and hopefully help you see why it’s an integral part of any French Polynesia itinerary.

You see, the island of Tahiti itself is much more than just a layover for international flights between your origin and Tahiti’s more popular neighbors in the Society Islands.

Allison Green at the Intercontinental Tahiti overwater bungalows

One of the best gems in the South Pacific, any trip to French Polynesia should dedicate a few days to the main island of the Islands of Tahiti.

We’re talking black sand beaches, towering waterfalls in lush tropical landscapes, food trucks slinging fish so fresh they often don’t even bother cooking it.

And that’s just what’s on land: you can’t forget the stunningly clear waters, home to an array of vivid coral garden landscapes and all sorts of marine life for divers and snorkelers alike.

shalllow water diving in Tahiti with purple coral and orange color and reef life

It’s the largest island of French Polynesia and it has just a little bit of everything this massive island nation has to offer.

Why wouldn’t you have the best time in Tahiti?

This Tahiti itinerary covers what to do in 3, 4, or 5 days on the island.

I’ve front-loaded this Tahiti itinerary with all the best things in do in Tahiti first, so that if you only have 3 days in Tahiti, you won’t miss the highlights.

If you have more than 3 days in Tahiti (I personally spent 5 days in Tahiti), then you can add on even more epic experiences.

(And if you’re also visiting Moorea, I have a 3 to 5 day Moorea itinerary, too!)

Day 1 of Your Tahiti Itinerary: Road Trip Around the Island

Start the day at Papeete Market.

Sarong skirts shop at city market of Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia. Colorful clothing pareo wrap hanging for sale as handmade tourism souvenir.

At its most bustling early in the day, visiting Papeete Market is a must on your Tahiti itinerary.

Head here first thing in the morning to grab some fresh fruits and snacks to keep you satisfied on your road trip today.

You’ll find all sorts of unusual tropical fruits, like starfruit and breadfruit, that are hard to find outside of Tahiti.

This is also a great place to grab some Tahiti souvenirs!

You can also grab some French pastries nearby if you want coffee and some pastries for breakfast.

I recommend Le Palais Patisserie which is a little bit outside of downtown Papeete or Les Rêves de Lucie which is closer to Papeete Market.

Coffee, pastries, and fresh fruit: truly the best way to start the first day of your Tahiti itinerary!

Head to the Grottes de Mara’a.

The caves of Grottes de Maraa in Tahiti, Allison standing in front of a pool of turquoise water and ferns above the top of the cave's mouth

On this road trip of Tahiti, we’ll be moving counter-clockwise, starting with Tahiti’s more populated West Coast and ending the day along the East Coast.

One of my favorite places on Tahiti’s West Coast are the beautiful Grottes de Mara’a, a stunning cave sheltering a beautiful turquoise blue pool of water.

Unfortunately, as inviting as the pool of water looks, taking a swim is prohibited for safety reasons!

The garden path leading up to the cave is stunning, and the face of the cave is beautiful as well.

Fern crawls down all over the rock before the cave’s entrance while water trickles down from above, creating a peaceful sound of light rainfall and prismatic rainbows as you look up to the sky.

This is one of my favorite places in all of Tahiti and a great way to spend about 30 minutes.

Take a peaceful walk in the Vaipahi Water Gardens.

Allison in front of a waterfall in Tahiti

One of the best things about taking a road trip around Tahiti is that you’ll find many of its loveliest attractions are free!

The Vaipahi Water Gardens are one such free attraction, full of beautiful flowers and home to a stunning waterfall that you can easily walk to, less than 10 minutes away from the parking lot.

After admiring the waterfall, you can continue walking around the gardens, or you can use this as a departure point to take one of the three hiking trails that depart from here.

You can hike the Vaipahi Great Loop (5 km, about 2 hours), the Vaipahi Small Loop (2.7 km, about 1 hour 15 minutes), or the Vaipahi River Trail, (1 km, about 35 minutes).

If you want to see more botanical gardens, you can continue onward to the Harrison Smith Botanic Garden, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

Head down to Tahiti Iti to end at Plage de Tautira for lunch.

A view of the tahiti iti landscape, which is only easy to access with your own rental car in tahiti

As part your road trip, you should make your way down to Tahiti Iti, the smaller peninsula at the southern part of Tahiti.

Drive all the way down to Plage de Tautira to enjoy one of Tahiti’s most scenic vistas: a stunning display of natural beauty where few tourists ever make it!

From the beach, you can look back to see three waterfalls in a row, all flowing against a backdrop of jade-green mountains, as well as the mouth of the Vaitepiha River and the valley it creates.

Grab a bite to eat at Roulotte Ahlan Tautira (roulotte means ‘food truck’) and either a smoothie or a virgin piña colada at Te Anuanua Bowl.

Check out the Fa’aruma’i Waterfalls.

Allison with her back to the camera with her arms in front of a waterfall in Tahiti

On an island full of waterfalls, it’s hard to assert which one is best, but I’d argue that it’s the trio of waterfalls called the Fa’aruma’i Waterfalls on Tahiti’s quiet east coast.

Just off the main road, you’ll find a parking lot and then it’s a quick 5-minute walk through a stunningly lush green landscape to the first waterfall.

You’ll have to double back to where you started and walk about 10 minutes more to reach the other two waterfalls, which are unbelievably beautiful.

Give yourself about an hour to enjoy these waterfalls and the hike at leisure.

Watch the waves at the Arahoho Blowhole.

Colorful Arahoho Blowhole Black Lava Rocks Waves Blue Water Tahiti Island French Polynesia. Blowhole is a marine geyser, ocean surf comes into stone grotte and pushes water up through the hole

One unique place to visit along the East Coast is the Arahoho Blowhole which was created by a lava tube hundreds of thousands of years ago.

As the lava cooled, it formed a tunnel along the sea’s edge.

Now, when waves are particularly strong, the lava tube creates a “blowhole” effect — water shoots into the air dramatically, like what you’d see from the spout of a whale!

The height of the spout varies depending on the wave strength, but it can blow as high as 30 feet during high tide with large waves!

Watch surfers on Tahiti’s East Coast.

View along the East Side of tahiti, a beautiful isolated part of the island that is beautiful to visit but not as popular as the west coast, with green trees and blue water and a black sand beach, time approaching sunset.

My first time surfing was my last, but I still love watching surfers do their thing. It’s beautiful and artful and epic!

One of the best places to watch surfers is at the Baie de Papeno’o.

There’s another spot just a bit south of the Ta Pahi Point that is unmarked but is also popular with surfers.

Stop at Point Venus for sunset.

Black sand beach at Point venus with view of moorea at sunset with orange colors and sun setting on horizon

Home to a beautiful light house and a black sand beach with a picture perfect view of the island of Moorea right in front of you, Point Venus is a must-visit at sunset.

Bring a beach towel, some snacks, and get ready for one of the most stunning sunsets you’ll ever see!

Enjoy the local cuisine of Papeete for dinner.

Allison's partner enjoying a delicious seafood dinner in Papeete and holding up a glass of wine

Papeete has a ton of wonderful restaurant offerings, from food trucks to fine dining.

You’ll find an array of food trucks at Viate Square in downtown Papeete, as well as numerous restaurant offerings.

Our favorite place we ate at in Papeete was L’O A La Bouche.

We had beef tartare, mahi mahi with Tahitian vanilla and coconut sauce, papio with passionfruit and ginger sauce, and a trio of crème brûlées.

It was the best meal we had in all our 10 days in French Polynesia and best of all, it didn’t break the bank too hard at only $55 USD per person, which is what I’m used to paying for far less in the Bay Area!

Day Two of Your Tahiti Itinerary: Whale Watching, Snorkeling, and/or Diving

Go snorkeling with humpback whales, if the season allows.

Humpback whale mother and her young as seen from underwater while snorkeling

One of the most memorable things to do on a Tahiti itinerary is swim with the humpback whales!

Approximately from July through early November, the humpback whales migrate through Tahitian waters, where they mate, birth, and raise their young.

I suggest going with a small operator who keeps ethical whale watching and wildlife interaction practices at the forefront of their mind.

This tour operator has a good reputation, it came recommended by our dive operator in Moorea.

Their tours depart from a more remote part of the island, so you won’t be crowded by other tours (and more importantly, the whales won’t be crowded by you!).

Remember that Tahiti and Moorea are one of the few places in the world where you can snorkel in the water with humpback whales.

Keep this so by listening to everything your local guide tells you so that you can interact with these whales in a safe and ethical manner.

Humpback whales are not dangerous and do not eat humans.

Still, just like with any wildlife, don’t interfere with their natural habitat or natural behaviors by interacting with them.

Admire them from a distance and if you’re lucky, you may even get to hear their unique whale song while you snorkel with them!

Book your humpback whale snorkel excursion here!

Take an afternoon snorkel tour.

Allison snorkeling in Tahiti as seen with a gopro

If you can’t snorkel with whales because you’re there outside of whale season, don’t worry — Tahiti still has plenty of snorkeling opportunities!

Or if you just are itching to get back in the water, you can do these two snorkeling activities back-to-back.

You can do a snorkeling tour like this one, which brings you to the popular snorkel site called The Aquarium.

This site is home to three wrecks, and beautiful coral reefs and tropical fish have made their home around the wreckage, creating a beautiful contrast!

Alternately: Scuba dive by morning, snorkel with whales by afternoon.

Allison and her partner all suited up and ready for diving in Moorea

We dove four times in Tahiti and each dive was incredible, with unique sights on each that differentiated it from the last.

Beautiful and healthy coral, an abundance of tropical fish, and many sea turtles were three of the things all dives had in common.

But we also got to see all sorts of different underwater landscapes, from shallow reefs and underwater springs to undulating valleys of coral to steep coral walls.

It can be hard to time this day properly, so if you’re traveling in whale season, so I’d suggest doing a one-tank dive in the morning with this dive company and then do a whale snorkeling tour at 1 PM.

If you’re traveling outside of the humpback whale season, you can do a two-tank dive.

Day 3 of Your Tahiti Itinerary: More Diving or Trip to the Papeno’o Valley

Option 1: Do more scuba diving or snorkeling.

A turtle seen resting in the coral reef while diving in Tahiti

The priority of our Tahiti itinerary was scuba diving, so we structured our itinerary around that.

Overall we did two days of two-tank dives and felt like we only scratched the surface of what diving in Tahiti had to offer!

If you can’t dive but want to get back in the water, this snorkeling tour is run by the same operator who also runs the whale watching tours, and it comes highly recommended by local dive shops in the area.

Option 2: Go for a 4×4 tour of the Papeno’o Valley.

The beautiful still lake of the Papenoo Valley in Tahiti which is a deserted beautiful area

For a tour that — literally — goes off the beaten path, take a 4×4 safari through the stunning Papeno’o Valley.

This road crossing through the interior of Tahiti is no longer maintained, so it’s only accessible by a 4×4… and there are very few, if any, 4x4s available as rental cars in Tahiti.

The Papeno’o Valley’s inaccessibility is exactly what makes it one of the most scenic parts of Tahiti!

Without any other tourists crowding the way, you’ll see countless waterfalls, colorful tropical plant life, scenic lakes, and landscapes that look straight of out the Jurassic Park movie.

I recommend this 4×4 Island Crossing tour to show you the parts of the island that you can’t access with your own car!

Book your tour of Papeno’o Valley in a 4×4 here!

Day 4 of Your Tahiti Itinerary: Day Trip to Moorea

Head to Moorea bright and early.

Ferries in the ferry port in Tahiti on the way to Moorea on a rainy day

Moorea is definitely worthy of several days (we spent 5 days on Moorea) as there are so many great things to do in Moorea.

However, if you only have time for a day trip, you can absolutely make the most of it because the ferry from Tahiti to Moorea is so easy!

Head to Gare Maritime and book a spot on the Tahiti-Moorea ferry — there are departures approximately every 30 minutes to an hour.

Option 1: Snorkel on Temae Beach

Allison and her partner on the island of Moorea with view of water in the background

One of the best ways to spend your day trip to Moorea would be spending the day at the public beach of Temae Beach.

This is one of the best snorkeling spots in Moorea and it has some of the most amazing off-shore snorkeling (no need for a boat or tour!) that I’ve ever seen.

Plus, Temae Beach is located very close to the ferry so it’s a cheap and easy taxi.

Just be sure to arrange your pick-up from your taxi driver too, because it’s hard to get a taxi at Temae Beach itself.

There’s a good food truck at Temae Beach that serves delicious poke bowls as well as coffee, etc.

Also, be sure to bring your own snorkel gear because there’s nowhere to rent snorkel equipment if you don’t have it.

You will definitely want snorkel fins too because the reef is a bit far out and you’ll need your fins to swim that far without tiring yourself out (and you should still be a decently strong swimmer or bring your own floatation device)

Option 2: 4×4 Safari Tour of Moorea

A rainy day in Tahiti wearing a rain jacket and hat
Our safari tour in Moorea was great, but we didn’t get much in the way of views!

Another option is that you can go on a 4×4 safari tour of Moorea that will bring you to all the most famous spots on the island.

I suggest you book the afternoon tour to give yourself enough time to get to and from Moorea from Tahiti!

This tour will take you to Moorea’s best lookout points, Magic Mountain with views of Ōpūnohu Bay as well as the Belvedere.

It will also take you to a vanilla plantation where you can sample some local jams and products as well as the pineapple fields of the Rotui factory (Moorea is known for its pineapples).

Book your 4×4 safari tour of Moorea!

Option 3: Take a sailing and snorkeling tour of Moorea

Allison and her partner traveling in Tahiti on a snorkeling tour

This sailing and snorkeling tour was one of my highlights of Moorea!

On board a cute little catamaran with a net to relax on, we first went to a beautiful lagoon where there were lots of black-tipped reef sharks and sting rays!

This was an incredible place to snorkel and is different from many other snorkel spots in Tahiti where you won’t see rays or sharks in such large numbers.

We truly lost count of how many we saw!

After we went to another snorkel spot, between two motus (small islets) where there was beautiful coral and lots of fish to ooh and ahh over.

We got to enjoy fresh fruit, juice, and rum along the tour in between our destinations!

Again, book the afternoon tour of this if you are coming over from Tahiti on a day trip.

Book your sailing and snorkeling tour here!

Day 5 of Your Tahiti Itinerary: Pick Your Final Adventure!

Option One: Go canyoning and hiking through lava tubes.

People doing a canyoning activity climbing up and down a waterfall with rappelling gear in Tahiti
Photo Credit: Manawa

While you probably think of lagoons, coconut trees, and white-sand beaches when you think of Tahiti, there’s more to Tahiti than just that.

Like Hawaii, Tahiti was formed by volcanic activity, leaving behind many hollowed-out lava tubes you can explore, the most famous of which are in Hitiaa.

You can take a full-day lava tube & canyoning tour where you hike through dark lava tubes with nothing but a headlamp for light, then swim and canyon through pools, and rappel down waterfalls!

If rappelling down waterfalls seems too scary for you, you can just pick the hiking option which does not include any rappelling/abseiling!

Book your lava tube canyoning tour here!

Option Two: Explore more of Tahiti Iti & Teapuhoo

People watching the waves at Teahupoo, four surfers in the water looking at a barrel wave

Another possible way to spend your final day in Tahiti would be taking a boat excursion around Tahiti Iti leaving from Teahupoo, the place with the biggest and baddest waves in Tahiti!

This tour starts in Teahupoo, and includes places you can only visit by boat because the road doesn’t go any further!

You can visit Vaiau River, Vaipoiri Cave, the Te Pari Cliffs, and a secret lagoon snorkeling spot right off a sandbank, all in a quiet and little-visited corner of Tahiti!

Book your Teahupoo tour here!

Where to Stay in Tahiti

Guesthouse Pick: Fare Rearea

If you are looking for a traditional Tahitian guesthouse experience, we loved Fare Rearea in Papeete.

The location is perfect: central enough to walk to many places, but also having its own dedicated parking so we could always find a spot for our car after a long day of diving or exploring.

Our private studio room had its own little outdoor kitchenette and garden area, and the property itself had a fantastic pool and daily breakfast that were really lovely.

Check availability at Fare Rearea here!

Resort Pick: Intercontinental Tahiti

Allison wearing a monstera print swim cover up and a bikini in front of bungalows

We stayed for a few nights in a guesthouse, but we also wanted a little taste of the resort experience, so we chose to stay at the Intercontinental Tahiti for our last two nights.

We stayed in a deluxe room with a view of Moorea and it was stunning and spacious, with a beautiful balcony perfect for taking in the sunset.

The hotel’s amenities were great — we loved the hotel restaurant, the infinity pool, the house reef you could snorkel at, and the lagoonarium where you could snorkel with colorful fish in an enclosed area.

The Intercontinental is home to the only overwater bungalows in Tahiti island proper, so if that’s on your bucket list, this is the place!

Still, even if you just stay in a typical hotel room, it’s a fantastic and unforgettable experience.

Check availability at the Intercontinental here!

Hawaii vs. Tahiti: How to Pick the Right Tropical Paradise to Visit!

Overwater bungalows in Moorea with infinity pool in front of it

Two groups of paradisiacal islands located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, rich with Polynesian culture, beautiful beaches, and marine life: how’s a person to choose?

I’ve been to Hawaii more times than I can count, and I recently returned from a trip to French Polynesia, where I visited Tahiti and Moorea.

I loved my trip to the South Pacific so much that I’m already planning a trip back to French Polynesia (and also Fiji!) later this year to visit some islands I missed.

View of Bora bora from above

I’m particularly hankering after Bora Bora, Huahine, Rangiroa, and Fakarava… and maybe the Marquesas, if time allows!

This post aims to take an objective look at the differences between Tahiti and Hawaii, two of the most popular vacation spots in Oceania, to help you pick the best option for your next trip.

Pick Tahiti for…

Affordability

Allison exploring Tahiti while staying at a resort, wearing a bikini, with infinity pool, palm tree, blue sky, and Moorea in distance, while walking barefoot on a bridge.
It actually costs less to stay at a resort in Tahiti than a basic hotel in Maui!

Surprisingly, I found Tahiti a relatively affordable destination — at least compared to Hawaii, especially more popular islands like Maui.

I wrote up my full Tahiti trip cost in a post here, so you can see for yourself how it’s very possible to visit Tahiti on a budget.

While airfare to Tahiti is more expensive — I typically pay about $600 USD roundtrip for a flight to Tahiti and $300 USD roundtrip for a flight to a Hawaiian island — but you easily recoup that expense on day one or two of your vacation.

Note that these prices are based on flying out of San Francisco (prices are similar out of Los Angeles) — if you’re coming from, say, New Zealand or Australia, prices will be rather different.

Accommodations in Tahiti and Moorea are about half the price of similar accommodations in Hawaii.

I recently had to cancel a trip to Maui because I couldn’t find a single hotel or Airbnb under $500 a night!

Meanwhile, we stayed at a deluxe room in the Intercontinental with views of Moorea for $360 a night, and the guest houses we stayed at averaged out around $150 a night.

Food is also cheaper in Tahiti compared to Hawaii, about half the price on average.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Divemaster on the ground with a reef shark
My divemaster in Moorea just casually sitting on the ocean floor to observe a white-tipped reef shark!

Tahiti and Moorea have some of the best shore snorkeling I’ve ever gotten to see, with extremely healthy coral reefs and an impossible to imagine number of fish swimming about.

The lagoon in Moorea with the blacktip sharks and pink whiprays are a particularly fond memory I have about snorkeling in Moorea!

And when you go scuba diving, it gets even better — the diving in Tahiti and Moorea is unlike I’ve seen anywhere else in my years of diving experience.

I did eight dives total, four in Tahiti and four in Moorea, and I was constantly surprised by how beautiful the scenery was and how alive the oceans were. I can’t even count how many sea turtles I saw!

Meanwhile, while Hawaii has a handful of really memorable dives — manta ray night diving in Kona, the Molokini Back Wall, the Lanai Cathedrals — overall, it doesn’t hold a candle to the variety of reef life you’ll see on literally any dive in Tahiti.

We didn’t even get to go to the best diving islands, Rangiroa and Fakarava, and I still feel confident that Tahiti comes out on top when you compare Tahiti vs. Hawaii for scuba diving.

Plus, going back to the point before, diving in Tahiti is a fraction of the cost of diving in Hawaii.

An average two-tank dive in Tahiti costs around $90-120 USD, depending on how many you book, as you can get great savings packages if you buy several dives at the same time.

Meanwhile, a two-tank dive in Hawaii can cost around $200-400 USD, depending on where you go and with who. Even a one-tank night dive costs around $200 USD!

Less Commercialism

Allison with her back to the camera with her arms in front of a waterfall in Tahiti
A benefit of less commercialization? Virtually all of Tahiti’s beautiful attractions are free!

My biggest takeaway from visiting Tahiti was that it is far less commercialized than Hawaii.

Yes, there are plenty of resorts — particularly on Bora Bora — but in general, I didn’t find it particularly built up or overly catering to tourists in a way that sometimes feels a bit “Disneyfied” in Hawaii.

Many parts of the Tahitian islands maintain that authentic, laid-back island feel.

Plus, it seemed like many people were deeply connected to their Polynesian culture through language, craftsmanship, dress, food, tattooing customs, and more.

Unfortunately for Hawaii, this is less the case — which is not to fault Hawaii or Native Hawaiians, but just to offer as a point of comparison.

My theory is that while both Tahiti and Hawaii are occupied/colonized lands, Tahiti is much further away from its colonial power (France) than Hawaii is, which is very actively occupied by the United States since its annexation.

As a result, Tahiti has been able to maintain more of its cultural authenticity, whereas outside influence in Hawaii has encouraged the commodification of many Hawaiian traditions, like hula dancing and luaus, creating an uneasy feeling of commercialization for me.

French Language and French-Polynesian Cuisine

mahi mahi with salad and puff pastry croute
Food in French Polynesia is a delicious blend of Polynesian cuisine and French cooking — like this mahi mahi and mussel dish with cream sauce and puff pastry!

This can be a pro or a con depending on how you prefer to travel!

I personally loved hearing French alongside Tahitian and having the chance to dust off my rusty French skills was very fun.

I also enjoyed the delicious French pastries that the many French living overseas in Tahiti and Moorea have brought over.

However, if language barriers make you antsy, this may be a reason to pick Hawaii vs. Tahiti because there is no language barrier in Hawaii.

That said, the language barrier I experienced in Tahiti and Moorea was rather minimal, as most people I encountered spoke English.

There was just a handful of times where my French was useful, but I imagine that changes once you leave the trio of most popular islands (Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora).

Overwater Bungalows

Allison at the overwater bungalows
I didn’t get to stay an overwater bungalow… this time… but here’s hoping for next time!

French Polynesia is one of the ultimate honeymoon destinations and its overwater bungalows are a bucket list must for many.

French Polynesia is where the overwater bungalow was first invented, and you’ll find almost too many to pick from, with nearly 1,000 overwater bungalow suites in total spread across the Society Islands, the Island of Tahiti, and islands in the Tuamoto Atoll.

Bora Bora is the most popular spot for luxury resorts with overwater bungalows, and with good reason: white sand beaches everywhere you look, crystal lagoons, and views of the Mt. Otemanu virtually wherever you stay on the island.

Many of the overwater bungalow resorts in Bora Bora are set on their own private motus (islet chains) that surround the main island of Bora Bora, so they are extremely private since you can only access them by boat.

It can be overwhelming for sure, so I’ve narrowed it down to my favorite overwater bungalows in French Polynesia here in this post.

I also have a guide to the best places to stay in Moorea, including 3 overwater bungalow options there!

Hawaii, on the other hand, doesn’t have any overwater bungalows. So if this is a wish list item for you, you simply have to pick a Tahitian getaway!

Humpback Whale Snorkeling

Humpback whale mother and her young as seen from underwater while snorkeling
Snorkeling with humpback whales is something you can only do in Tahiti and Moorea!

While humpback whales also visit Hawaii, only in Tahiti do you have the opportunity to swim with these gentle giants!

They visit between July and early November each year, and there are a plethora of tours that will bring you a safe distance for both you and the whale so you can observe them in the water without bothering them.

I enjoyed whale watching in Oahu — but I can only imagine how much cooler it would have been from under the water if I was in Tahiti (unfortunately, I came too late this season for whale snorkeling!).

If you can time your visit for whale season, it’s the best thing to do in Moorea (though you can also do it in Tahiti!).

More Ethical Travel

The caves of Grottes de Maraa in Tahiti, Allison standing in front of a pool of turquoise water and ferns above the top of the cave's mouth

At the time of update (May 2023), it’s worth noting that Hawaii (and in particular, Oahu) is undergoing a water crisis.

Native Hawaiians and Kama’aina (those born on the islands) have been asking travelers to refrain from visiting Hawaii until the water crisis is solved, as tourism is exacerbating the situation.

While tourism is certainly a large part of the Hawaiian economy, water is life: and while water is in scarce supply in Hawaii, perhaps it’s time to consider a vacation elsewhere.

That said, I’m no expert on the matter, and I’m simply amplifying of some Hawaiians who have asked people not to come.

There are also people from Hawaii who have the opposite opinion and don’t agree with asking people not to come to Hawaii. You can watch an opposing viewpoint here that makes some good points.

While there are certainly ramifications for visiting any location, particularly one so remote as a Pacific island, the reality is that the situation in French Polynesia is more sustainable at present and the infrastructure is more prepared for the level of tourism it receives.

A view of the tahiti iti landscape, which is only easy to access with your own rental car in tahiti

This is not to shame anyone for their vacation choices, because I don’t have the right answers either — I visited Oahu and Kauai back in February 2022, before the water crisis got very loud but while locals were still expressing concerns about overtourism.

However, I do believe that at the time of writing, visiting French Polynesia is the more sustainable of the two options and has a less harmful impact on locals.

They currently receive about 300,000 tourists per year; compare this to Hawaii receiving around 9 million tourists per year!

That said, French Polynesia’s land mass covers about 1/4 that of Hawaii (despite having a geographic range nearly as large as continental Europe), so in proportion to its size, that’s the impact of about about 1.2 million tourists… still about 8 times fewer than Hawaii.

Even with its minimal tourism by comparison, French Polynesia is currently working on plans for sustainability caps on tourism.

Pick Hawaii for…

Nightlife

view of oahu from above in a helicopter
Waikiki is the most built up part of Oahu, with lots of nightlife to enjoy!

One thing Tahiti emphatically does not have is nightlife. It’s way more buzzy during the day, and it gets really quiet at night, even in Papeete, where there are very few nightclubs and bars.

While are a few bars in Papeete, it’s not comparable at all to Hawaii, especially in Honolulu, Oahu which has the most nightlife options in all of Hawaii, especially in Waikiki.

Some Hawaiian islands are sleepier than others, especially Kauai, so I’d opt for Oahu if you really want to experience some nightlife while you’re on your vacation!

Natural Beauty

The beautiful vibrant Na Pali Coast seen from a helicopter tour over Kauai
Seeing the Na Pali coast from a helicopter is simply breathtaking!

It’s really tough to compare two island paradises, but if I had to, I think Hawaii has more variety in its geography and landscape.

Where else can you find the green turret-like spires of the Na Pali Coast next to the Southwest-looking Waimea Canyon and red dirt waterfalls on one island, and active volcanoes on the next?

Hawaii has two of the United States’ National Parks, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island and Haleakalā National Park on Maui.

Both are absolutely spectacular, especially the former if you are so lucky as to witness volcanic activity during your stay!

While Tahiti has a lot of beauty, such as the Papeno’o Valley and Fa’aruma’i Waterfalls, these don’t quite compete with what Hawaiian islands have to offer.

Beaches

the beautiful green sands at green sand beach with blue water
Yes, Hawaii really does have its own green sand beach!

This is a tough pick, because I did enjoy the beaches on Tahiti and Moorea, but I don’t think they compare to Hawaiian beaches overall.

Hawaii has some truly spectacular beaches like the black sand beaches and green sand beaches of the Big Island, as well as white sand beaches on Oahu like Lanikai Beach and Hanalei Bay.

Meanwhile, the two Polynesian islands I visited, Tahiti and Moorea, didn’t have the best beaches.

They did lead out to crystal clear waters and beautiful reefs, but the sand was lack-luster and not the most enjoyable to relax and sunbathe on.

I didn’t get a chance to visit other Polynesian islands that may have been beaches, like Bora Bora, Rangiroa, or Tikehau, though, so this is only my point of view based on the islands of Tahiti that I was able to visit.

No Need for Passport for Americans

Person holding a passport in an airport
No need for passports for Americans to visit Hawaii! Just a driver’s license or ID card will do.

If you’re American, one great thing that tips the favor to Hawaii vs. Tahiti is that you don’t need a passport to get there!

If you’ve been dragging your feet on getting your passport or getting it renewed, Hawaii is an easy option to get your tropical island fix without a bureaucratic headache.

However, this is only relevant for Americans and those with green cards — if you’re European, for example, French Polynesia may be the better alternative because passport control is extremely simple there since you technically are not leaving France!

Hiking

volcano hike in hawaii wiht a trailhead leading to a volcano
You can hike volcanic craters in Hawaii, but not Tahiti!

While you can go hiking in Tahiti, there are far fewer options and they aren’t as impressive as the options for hiking in Hawaii.

There are a variety of bucket-list worthy hikes in the Hawaiian islands, from the pillbox hikes of Oahu to the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast (a trekking bucket list item if there ever was one!) to the volcano hikes in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

There are some hiking trails in Tahiti and Moorea and some of the other volcanic islands in the Society Islands, but there are fewer options and they aren’t as well-maintained as Hawaiian trailheads.

What Is My Pick Between Tahiti or Hawaii?

Allison and her partner having a drink at the swim up bar at the Intercontinental in Tahiti

Despite the longer travel time (about 2 hours more) and need to grab my passport, Tahiti beats Hawaii over and over again for me.

There’s a reason why I canceled a 10-day trip to Hawaii and swapped it out for a trip to Mexico instead, but I’m still planning to visit French Polynesia for a few weeks later this year.

Plus, French Polynesia has more of what I look for when I travel: cultural authenticity, underwater magic, and delicious food.

I also still feel like I have so much more of French Polynesia to discover, whereas I’ve been to every one of the four major islands of Hawaii at least once by now.

The few drawbacks that Tahiti does have don’t actually bother me, so I’ll pick Tahiti time and again over Hawaii.

That said, I can see who Hawaii might be better for — American families with young kids who prefer the ease and comfort of chains and familiar brands.

But as a solo traveler or someone who travels with my partner or friends, Tahiti is the way to go for me!

How Much Does a Tahiti Trip Cost? My Moorea + Tahiti Budget Breakdown

The colorful turquoise waters of Moorea with the background of Moorea in the distance, as seen from a snorkeling boat in the lagoon

Pristine turquoise waters, drastic coral reef landscapes teeming with wildlife, towering waterfalls and dramatic black sand beaches…

The beautiful islands of Tahiti and Moorea seem like a dream reserved for a honeymoon, but honestly, it can be a trip like any other.

The idea was sparked by seeing affordable plane tickets out of SFO when I was tooling around on Skyscanner (how many of my grandest ideas start…)

When I sat down to look at the other factors I’d have to budget for a Tahiti vacation, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a trip to Tahiti cost way less than I expected.

Allison wearing a bikini and sunhat walking on a bridge over a pool in tahiti on a sunny day at a resort

That’s not to say it’s cheap. It’s certainly no budget holiday in the way that Southeast Asian destinations like Thailand or Bali is, for example.

But for a bucket list destination, I was shocked at how affordably I could make Tahiti happen.

I don’t know why, but a trip to Tahiti always seemed inaccessible for many reasons.

Perhaps I though it’d be too impractical, too far away (just a few dots in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, after all), and most of all — too expensive.

The colorful turquoise waters of Moorea with the background of Moorea in the distance, as seen from a snorkeling boat in the lagoon

Well, I’m prepared to eat crow: I was wrong.

Despite my initial expectations, my Tahiti trip cost was reasonable — at least when you compare it to what I expected, and when I compare Tahiti vacation costs to Hawaii vacation costs.

A Few Factors to Consider About Your Tahiti Trip Cost

Allison and her partner wearing sunhats and swimsuits on the sandy beach on a lagoon of Moorea with bungalows in the distance background

Before we dive in, let me make a few disclaimers that impacted my overall Tahiti trip cost.

First, I traveled to Tahiti with my girlfriend, which helped me save money since we split accommodation and transportation costs (besides the plane tickets).

Second, while the islands of French Polynesia number over 100, we stuck to the only two islands that did not require additional flights (and additional costs): Tahiti and Moorea.

All flights into French Polynesia land on the island of Tahiti, and Moorea and its lush verdant landscapes is just a quick (and cheap) 25-minute ferry away.

The beautiful verdant green landscapes of Moorea with mountains and clouds

However, if you add on round trip flights to other islands, such as Bora Bora and its resorts, you’ll quickly be spending a bunch more.

Third, we traveled in the shoulder season (November 2022), at the beginning of the rainy season and near the end of the humpback whale migration — which is a major reason why people visit Tahiti and Moorea.

This meant our Tahiti travel costs were lower and we got some of the best prices, but this may not be the most ideal time of year for some people.

If seeing humpbacks and having a lower chance of rain is more important to you than saving money or avoiding crowds, high season may be a better choice, despite the higher prices.

For us, our trip was diving-focused, which meant that low season was suitable for us since a little rain wouldn’t disrupt things.

A dive boat in Moorea heading towards beautiful crystalline waters

Personally, the benefits outweighed the cons for me, and I’d plan to visit Tahiti in November in the future with no questions!

Anecdotally — and this won’t guarantee you’ll have the same experience — we didn’t really experience that much rain over our 10 days in Tahiti despite it being the beginning of the rainy season.

There were a few downpours, but they were usually brief enough that they didn’t disrupt plans, and they almost never occurred in the morning when our dives were scheduled.

That said, we did have a really rainy 4×4 safari tour in Moorea (though it was still one of our favorite things we did in Moorea, besides dive!), and we did have our planned helicopter tour in Tahiti canceled due to bad weather, so we didn’t have blissfully perfect weather either.

Allison wearing a navy rain jacket, floral romper, and white baseball cap on a rainy day at an overlook in Moorea.

Another con is that mosquitos were definitely really active at the beginning of the rainy season, especially on Moorea, so keep that in mind if you plan a trip during this season.

Finally, and the most importantly, we are American and we traveled at an advantageous time for the US dollar compared to the Euro.

I also can’t help but compare the cost of Tahiti travel to the cost of Hawaii travel — and besides airfare and rental cars, Tahiti travel costs are approximately half that of Hawaii.

When I compare the two budgets, our dives and activities, meals, and accommodations were all about half that of what I paid in Kauai and Oahu on a recent trip.

Allison and her partner wearing their wetsuits, baseball caps, and diving gear, about to go for a dive in the waters off the coast of Moorea

One thing to keep in mind about traveling to Tahiti is that the currency of Tahiti, the CFP franc, is pegged to the Euro at a rate of 1 euro to 119.05 Polynesian francs.

Because the Euro and the dollar were roughly on parity, we saved quite a bit of money due to the favorable exchange rate.

If you are reading this after 2022, check what the exchange rates are, since they may differ quite a bit!

You may need to adjust based on what the current difference between the Euro and the US dollar are.

Allison in a bathing suit and flower-print cover up, sunglasses and hair in braid, with coral reef, lagoon, and bungalows in the distance.

Historically, the Euro has been about 10-20% stronger than the USD, so you may need to add on an additional 10% or 20% to these estimated costs if you’re American and the Euro has strengthened back to its normal value.

In this article, I’ll include the cost in US dollars (as most of my audience is American) for the most part, since that’s what my record-keeping has noted down.

I’ll also include XPF (the symbol for the CFP franc) when I recall it, so you can calculate the most accurate cost for the current exchange rate.

Here are the main categories where you’ll need to budget for, with a range of expected costs in Tahiti and Moorea.

I didn’t include things like spa treatments/massages and souvenirs from Tahiti, etc. as these are personal and optional expenses and not inherently necessary to a trip to Tahiti.

Cost of Getting to Tahiti

People in traditional Polynesian garb welcoming you to the airport with instruments and dance

This will vary depending on where you are coming from, of course!

One of the main reasons why we chose to travel to Tahiti was the relatively affordable plane tickets out of San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

All international flights fly into Faa’a International Airport, which is near Papeete on the island of Tahiti.

People at the international airport in Tahiti

Two airlines serve the SFO-PPT route, United Airlines and French Bee. We opted for the latter and really enjoyed the flight experience.

Note to Americans who have not traveled much in Europe: French Bee is styled after European budget airlines.

Therefore, things like baggage, meals, beverages, seat selection, etc. are not included in the airfare price.

However, all those fees were reasonable (35 euro for a bag check, 15 euro for a meal, 5-10 euro for seat selection, 3 euro for a beverage, free water), but they did add up a bit.

All in all, for my roundtrip flight to Tahiti in November I paid approximately $590 USD (including seat selection, but no meals — we brought our own).

Disembarking the plane in Tahiti, an Air Tahiti Nui plane in the distance

This isn’t an atypical price or a shocking flight deal, either!

I typically see plentiful return flights from SFO-PPT in the $550-650 range in the off season…. sometimes even cheaper!

The two busiest months in high season tend to be July and August, and even then, I can see flights starting at $750 USD return when I look about 6 months in advance.

Not bad for an 8-hour direct flight to remote islands in the middle of the South Pacific!

Allison in front of brilliant blue waters and green hilly landscape
Who knew these waters were this accessible?

Other West Coast American cities also have direct flights to Tahiti.

Air France flies direct from Los Angeles for around $600 USD return in the off season and about $1,000 USD in the peak summer months (you could always save by flying to SFO first).

If you’re flying from New Zealand, prices start around $941 NZD for return flights at present (in the lower season).

If you’re flying from Australia, prices start around $1,353 AUD for return flights (with a stopover in New Zealand, also in the lower season).

If you’re flying from Europe, it’s best to first fly to Paris. Flights to Tahiti from Paris via French Bee start around 1,000 Euro return.

Total Cost: $590 USD for a return flight

Accommodation Costs in Tahiti & Moorea

Infinity pool in front of overwater bungalows at Manava resort in Moorea on a sunny day

Accommodations in Tahiti are where you will find the widest range.

This is where you can really save money, or alternatively, ball out for a special occasion!

For our 10-day trip to Tahiti and Moorea, we opted to stay in local guesthouses for 8 nights, since we had a really active trip and weren’t going to be in our accommodation that much.

At the end of our trip, we splurged on spending our final two nights in Tahiti at the Intercontinental (though not in an overwater bungalow — we’re not that flush!).

Allison's partner laying on the bed in the king room with Moorea view at the Intercontinental Tahiti

Guesthouses in Tahiti and Moorea typically range from $80-150 USD per night.

We stayed at guesthouses on the higher end of the spectrum, prioritizing location and comfort above all.

Still, staying at guesthouses (fares in Tahitian language) is rather affordable. We spent an average of $125-150 per night for one of the nicer rooms in a guesthouse.

A large comfortable guesthouse with outdoor kitchen and patio area in Papeete Tahiti

For budget travelers, note that there aren’t a lot of hostels in French Polynesia, though Tahiti has two and Moorea has one.

There is one in Papeete (Mahana Lodge Hostel) and it costs about $65 USD a night for a dorm bed, and another in Tahiti Iti (Kia Ora Lodge) for around $50 USD a night for a dorm room.

For Moorea, there’s one hostel I could find, PainaPaopao Backpacker in Pihaena, for similar prices (about $50 per night for a bunk).

Note: I have a full guide to where to stay in Moorea here!

Meanwhile, there are plentiful guesthouses where you can enjoy a private room (not a backpacker dorm) for around $70-100 USD a night in low season, such as Pension Te Miti in Punaauia or Hautea Bungalow in Faa’a.

In Moorea, you might want to look at Fare Blue Lagoon View in Afareaitu or Pension Motu Iti in Pihaena if you want an affordable guesthouse.

For me, even as a former backpacker, guesthouses offer a way better value. However, if you are looking for travel companions to explore the islands with, hostels may be a better choice.

That said, in our guesthouse in Tahiti, we found several solo travelers.

Outdoor area at our Tahiti guesthouse in Papeete, Fare Rearea

If you’re willing to up your budget to the $125-200 USD a night range, there are some great mid-range guesthouses that are perfect for friends or couples.

I loved Fare Rearea in Papeete — the location was so central that we could walk to many places we wanted to eat at, parking at the guesthouse was easy when we needed it.

The lush garden and pool and kitchen area were great to relax in, and our private studio room was incredible, with our own private terrace with an outdoor kitchen and garden.

Outdoor kitchen area in Tahiti guesthouse

Plus, the included daily breakfast was fantastic, with tasty jams, yogurts, local honeys, and fresh pastries as well as heartier options like pain perdu (French toast) and omelettes.

Another great looking option is Bungalow Poerava in Punaauia if you prefer to stay somewhere outside of the capital city.

If you prefer a mid-range chain hotel experience, the Hilton Hotel in downtown Papeete offers a nice value without breaking the bank.

Overwater Bungalows in Tahiti at the Intercontintental with Ocean views

Of course, Tahiti has plenty of beach resorts and luxury hotels as well!

While we opted to stay in guesthouses for most of our stay, we did want a little taste of the resort experience and chose to stay in the Intercontinental Tahiti in Faa’a.

We opted for an ocean view hotel room with a view of Moorea and it was rather affordable (compared to similar destinations like Hawaii) at around $360 USD per night.

Rooms start at about $330 USD per night in the off season, but we chose to upgrade to a slightly nicer room with a better view of Moorea.

View from our balcony at the Intercontinental with view of Moorea and waters between the two islands

However, if you want to stay in an overwater bungalow in Tahiti or elsewhere in French Polynesia, like Bora Bora or Moorea, be prepared to put a real dent in your wallet!

The overwater bungalows at the Intercontinental start at $800 USD per night, and that’s in low season!

In high season, you’ll be looking more along the lines of $1,200 USD per night.

Allison standing outside the overwater bungalows at the Intercontinental Tahiti with blue water below her

Tip: At the Intercontinental, there are two overwater bungalow options, the Ocean View bungalows and the Motu Suites. The Motu Suites are a little more expensive, but if you like snorkeling, they’re the better choice as the reef is right in front of you!

We didn’t stay in the bungalows, but we snorkeled in front of them and it was absolutely amazing….. we’re talking day octopus, giant moray eels, sea anemones with clownfish, and an incalculable number of beautiful reef fish!

There are other beach resort options on the main island of Tahiti, but they do not have overwater bungalows.

Another popular beach resort option is Le Tahiti by Pearl Resorts. It may not have its own bungalows, but it does have its own black sand beach right below it!

Tahiti Accommodations:

Hostels: Kia Ora Lodge in Tahiti Iti or Mahana Lodge Hostel in Papeete

Budget Guesthouses: Pension Te Miti in Punaauia or Hautea Bungalow in Faa’a

Mid-Range Guesthouses: Bungalow Poerava in Punaauia or Fare Rearea* in Papeete (*where we stayed)

Beach Resorts: Intercontinental Tahiti* in Faa’a (*where we stayed) or Le Tahiti by Pearl Resorts in Arue (private beach, but no bungalows)

Personally, for Moorea, we opted for the mid-range guesthouse route again, staying at Poerani Moorea.

The grounds and location were perfect — a dreamy turquoise lagoon right in front of your accommodation can’t get much better!

Plus, I loved the lush gardens that surrounded all the bungalows and made them all feel very private.

The staff was extremely friendly, although there was a bit of a language barrier if you don’t speak French (I do — poorly).

Poerani was only a 10-minute walk from town, but it felt very private and secluded while still very accessible, especially since we didn’t have a car on Moorea.

We loved the beautiful communal garden area and the free kayaks that we could use to explore the beautiful waters in front of us — we could even snorkel off of the kayaks!

We loved our accommodation — it was well-designed and spacious, with a beautiful bathroom, a well-stocked kitchenette, a private lounge area in the garden, and a lovely bedroom.

The bedroom at our guesthouse in Moorea with mosquito net, desk, bed

However, you should note that only the bedroom is sealed off and air-conditioned, which meant that mosquitos were able to get into our living room and bathroom area.

For me, that wasn’t a huge deal because I am not very reactive to mosquito bites, but my girlfriend really struggled with bites, some of which we got inside the accommodation!

However, if you prefer beach resorts, Moorea is truly the place to go — and it has better offerings than Tahiti, at least according to me!

Moorea has three overwater bungalow luxury resort options: Manava Beach Resort & Spa, the Sofitel Kia Ora, and the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort.

(Note: The Intercontinental in Moorea is now permanently closed).

Allison in a sunhat and colorful flower print maxi dress in front of the Sofitel Bungalows

We visited two of the beach resorts (Manava and Sofitel, but not the Hilton) with overwater bungalows not as hotel guests but as visitors, and can speak highly about the grounds themselves!

The Sofitel in Maharepa is near both the airport and the ferry terminal, but even better, it is located right near the best shore-accessible snorkeling in all of Moorea, with its own sand beaches and near a public sandy beach as well.

The Sofitel beach bungalows start around $550 USD a night in the low season and its overwater bungalows go for around $800 USD a night in the low season.

In the high season, beach bungalows are around $700 USD a night and the overwater bungalows go for $1,100 and more!

Allison in a sunhat and romper in front of the Manava bungalows at sunset

Another option for overwater bungalows on Moorea is the Manava Beach Resort, which is located in the center of Maharepa.

In the low season, the garden view hotel rooms start at $490 a night, beach bungalows with a private pool around $550 a night, and overwater bungalows go for around $900 a night and up.

In the high season, regular hotel rooms are around $650 a night, pool bungalows are around $750 a night, and overwater bungalows are approximately $1,100 a night and up.

Moorea Accommodations:  

Hostels: PainaPaopao Backpacker in Pihaena

Budget Guesthouses: Fare Blue Lagoon View in Afareaitu or Pension Motu Iti in Pihaena

Mid-Range Guesthouses: Poerani Moorea* in Maharepa (*where we stayed) or Moorea Sunset Beach in Haapiti

Beach Resorts: Sofitel Kia Ora in Maharepa (closest to ferry/airport and best beach for snorkeling), Manava Beach Resort & Spa in Maharepa (closest to downtown restaurants and amenities), or Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort in Papetoai & Spa (closest to beautiful Opunohu Bay)
Intercontintental at Tahiti

When it came to choosing between guesthouses and Airbnbs, guesthouses were the clear winner. Resorts were also quite affordable, comparatively speaking.

We looked into Airbnbs as well, but we found that with cleaning fees, there was no real benefit to staying in an Airbnb vs. a guesthouse.

In fact, Airbnbs were almost always more expensive after service and cleaning fees.

Total Cost: Approximately $80 per night in guesthouses and $180 per night in resorts, about $1,000 total over 10 nights ($100 per night average)

(Note that this is cost per person, not per room, and I'm calculating this as costs being split between two people sharing a room)

Air Travel Costs in French Polynesia

Aerial view of water in French Polynesia on the island of Moorea

Island hopping is where costs can really start to balloon in French Polynesia, because inter-island flights tend to be rather pricy.

For example, a return flight between Tahiti and Bora Bora costs 42,306 XPF (or around $368 USD — and that’s with a favorable exchange rate!)

It actually starts to become a better idea to just book a multi-island flight pass with Air Tahiti. These actually offer incredible value!

The cheapest option is the Discovery Pass, which does not include Bora Bora. It starts at 331.80 Euro in the low season and goes up to 357 Euro in the high season ($342-370 USD at present exchange rate).

This pass includes Moorea, Huahine, and Raiatea (from which you can access Taha’a by boat).

Palm trees on the island of Huahine in the Society Islands of French Polynesia

The pass that will be interesting for people who want to travel to Bora Bora is, well, the Bora Bora pass!

It starts at 434.90 Euro in the low season, and goes up to 469.30 Euro in the high season ($450-485 USD at present exchange rate).

This pass includes all the above, but also includes the islands of Bora Bora and Maupiti, all the major islands in the Society Islands archipelago.

Bora Bora island in the Society Islands as seen from a beautiful vantage point

If you plan to dive some of the best places in French Polynesia, you’ll want the Lagoons pass.

This will bring you to Rangiroa, Fakarava, and Tikehau, which are considered to have some of the best coral reefs for scuba diving in the world! 

This pass costs 441.20 Euro in the low season and 476.40 Euro in the high season, or $455-492 USD.

The atoll of Rangiroa a premiere place for diving in French Polynesia

If you want to combine the Bora Bora pass and the Lagoons pass, it’s a pretty good value compared to buying them individually.

For everything all together, the cost is 584.10 Euro in the low season or 631.90 Euro in the high season (around $605-655 USD).

The more islands you plan to visit, the better this deal becomes!

The colorful turquoise waters of Moorea with the background of Moorea in the distance, as seen from a snorkeling boat in the lagoon

We were looking to save time and money on this trip, so we opted not to take any inter-island flights, but we plan to buy the Lagoons pass or perhaps the Bora-Tuamotu Pass which includes all of the above on our next trip.

If you want to visit even more remote islands, like the Marquesas, be prepared to add on nearly 800 Euros even in low season!

Total Cost: $0, since we took no flights once in Tahiti, just spending 5 days in Moorea [by ferry] and 5 days in Tahiti.

Food Costs in Tahiti & Moorea

Puff pastry with mussels and mahi mahi at a fancy restaurant in Moorea

Food was a delightful surprise in Tahiti and Moorea! As someone coming from the United States, I found the food prices to be rather affordable.

Even dining at the nicest restaurants was comparable to going out to a mid-range meal in San Francisco or Oakland.

We ate at a few food trucks in both Tahiti and Moorea and were delighted by the quality of the food — and the prices! Average prices for a food truck meal were around $10-15 per main dish.

The priciest meal we had added up to $110 USD including tax and tip — this was for two people, with a starter, two main courses, sides, a glass of wine, and a dessert!

Fancy meal out in Papeete with vanilla sauce fish, sides, and a glass of white wine

Most meals, however, were around $30-60 USD for two (typically ordering a main dish each and sharing a dessert or starter, without alcohol).

Wine lovers, rejoice — because Tahiti is a territory of French and popular amongst French tourists, wine is rather affordable on the islands of Tahiti!

We found that the average price of a glass of wine was typically around 600-1,200 XPF at a nice restaurant (around $5-10 USD).

Also, supermarkets in Tahiti and Moorea are rather good, as they have major French chains like my favorite supermarket in the world, Super U.

Allison smiling with happiness as she opens packets of cheese and meat from Super U grocery store

I found grocery prices to be on par with American grocery chains, and the products were far higher quality… think duck terrine for less than $10 USD, baguettes for less than a buck, and aged cheeses for around $8 USD for a huge slice.

Plus, all the fresh, fresh tuna you can imagine for shockingly cheap prices.

Although our guesthouses did have kitchenettes, we found that food in Tahiti and Moorea to be so affordable and delicious that we didn’t end up cooking for ourselves.

However, we did grab a variety of cold cuts for picnics and sandwiches on travel days, as well as plenty of sweets to snack on, and we were really happy with the average cost of food in the supermarkets.

You can also shop with local farmers and vendors selling produce street-side in Tahiti and Moorea, or go to Papeete Market for all the fresh produce you can imagine for extremely affordable prices.

Total Cost: Average spend of $50 per person per day, or $500 total.

Activity Costs in Tahiti & Moorea

Allison and her partner at the grottoes of Tahiti with waterfall in background

This is another place where you can really choose to splurge or save!

Since we chose to save on accommodations and not flying between islands, we spent more money on activities since there are so many great things to do in Tahiti and Moorea.

On Moorea, we opted for a sailing and snorkeling tour!

Taking a sailboat catamaran in Moorea to go snorkeling

It was fantastic: we got to enjoy a private sailboat catamaran experience where we snorkeled with rays and black-tipped reef sharks at one site!

At our next site, we got to snorkel around beautiful coral reefs and colorful fish between two tiny islands (motus), with a fresh fruit tray and fruit juices served in between snorkel sites.

Book your snorkeling + sailing tour of Moorea here!

Allison's partner on a rainy day enjoying the 4x4 tour

Another activity we chose was taking 4×4 safari tour of the island to bring us to landscapes like the Magic Mountain overlook, the Belvedere overlook, and the Rotui fruit juice fields (Moorea is famous for its pineapples!).

This was especially helpful since we didn’t have a car, and even if we did have a rental car, we went to places that a rental car wouldn’t have been able to handle (the Magic Mountain overlook and the fields around Rotui need a 4×4!)

Book your 4×4 safari tour of Moorea here!

Allison and her partner enjoying a surface interval in a lagoon while diving in Moorea

We also did a lot of diving!

If you plan to dive a lot in Moorea, a dive package can be a great deal. We went with Moorea Blue Diving, which allows you to buy packages.

(By the way, you should read my guide to diving in Moorea!)

If you just want to dive one day, you can book a two-tank dive for $130.

If you’re an avid diver, you can buy a pack of 6 dives (3 days of morning two-tank dives) for $378 USD or 10 dives (5 days of two-tank dives) for $575!

You can also learn to dive with them and get certified, or you can do a discovery dive if you’re not yet dive-certified, but you’re dive-curious.

Book your diving with Moorea Blue Diving here!

Allison and her partner in a red kayak with the island of Moorea behind them and brilliant blue waters

We did a handful of free activities as well, such as snorkeling at Temae Public Beach near the Sofitel Resort, and kayaking from our guesthouse and snorkeling off the side of the kayak.

We had planned to do a night snorkel of Temae Public Beach, but we got unlucky with the weather that night.

For our Tahiti itinerary, we had planned to splurge on a helicopter tour of the island, but this was during the two days of rain we had, and unfortunately, the weather canceled our tour.

Allison in a rainbow shirt and overalls in front of a waterfall in Tahiti

Instead, we ended up driving around the island and exploring many of its free sites, such as its black sand beaches, grottoes, water gardens, and waterfalls.

In fact, I don’t think we spent a single dollar on entry fees anywhere in Tahiti — our only cost was our car rental and gas.

In Tahiti, we also dove, but we booked our dives a-la-carte rather than with a package, for around $131 for a two-tank dive.

Book your dives in Tahiti here!

Total Cost: Around $65 per dive, $45 for a safari tour, and $80 for a half-day snorkeling and sailing tour. 

Estimated cost for our chosen activities per person: $645 total for 4 days of two-tank diving and two tours

Getting Around Tahiti & Moorea

Renting a Car

Rental car area at the International Airport in Tahiti

We rented a car on Tahiti and were very happy that we did. It was a little pricy, partly because we needed a more expensive automatic car, but it was only around $115 USD per day.

We made a mistake in not booking a rental car for at least a portion of our trip to Moorea. Many of the activities we booked did not include pick up or drop off, and so we’d have to spend money on taxis to get to our activities.

I have a guide to renting a car in Tahiti which may be helpful to read before you go!

Total Cost for 3-day rental: $115 USD per person

Taxis

Sign listing the taxi costs in Tahiti and Moorea at the airport

Taxis on Moorea (and Tahiti as well – the costs are the same) are not too expensive, but it did add up and made us feel a bit trapped at times, and we didn’t get to see as much of the island as we wanted to.

Each 10 to 15-minute taxi ride was about 2,000-2,500 XPF ($17-22 USD), so we had to add on about $40 USD to every excursion we did, even free ones like snorkeling at Temae Beach.

Total Cost for Taxis: About 10 taxis at $20 average, $100 per person

Ferry

The red and white smaller ferry to Moorea, Terevau company

Getting between Tahiti and Moorea couldn’t be easier! Head to the ‘gare maritime’ — ferry terminal — and take one of two ferry companies over to Moorea.

We took both companies — Terevau to Moorea, and then Aremiti on the way back. Both were equally good! Terevau is a smaller company than Aremiti, it seems. Aremiti is the major car ferry.

However, if you want to drive in Moorea, I recommend not using the car ferry, because the cost to transport a vehicle is rather expensive, about $95 USD each way for a medium sized car’s transit.

We paid about $15 USD apiece for a passenger fare (no car) each way between Tahiti and Moorea.

I would suggest making separate rental reservations in both Moorea and Tahiti — it’ll save you about $200 USD.

Total Cost: $30 USD for roundtrip tickets between Tahiti and Moorea

Travel Insurance for Tahiti

Allison standing on a rock with her arms up in the air
Put yourself at ease — get travel insurance for your trip! I use SafetyWing.

Don’t forget to factor in travel insurance to your overall Tahiti trip budget!

I bought a 10-day policy with SafetyWing which covered me in case of any flight cancellation or interruptions, issues with my baggage, accidents, or illnesses.

I chose SafetyWing in particular for their great reputation among travel experts, but also because it’s very affordable compared to its competitors, and it is clearer about what it covers.

Best of all, SafetyWing covers scuba diving related incidents as long as you are PADI or SSI certified, so I didn’t need to buy a separate dive insurance policy.

For 10 days of coverage, I paid just $18 USD with their Nomad Insurance coverage — a great deal for the excellent coverage and the priceless peace of mind.

Get your travel insurance quote here!

Total Tahiti + Moorea Trip Cost for 10 Days

Allison with her back to the camera with her arms in front of a waterfall in Tahiti

Totaling up the costs, here’s what I get:

  • Flight to Tahiti: $590 USD
  • Accommodation: $1,000 USD
  • Inter-Island Flights: $0 USD
  • Food: $500 USD
  • Activities: $645 USD
  • Getting Around: $245 USD
  • Travel Insurance: $18 USD
  • Total Cost: $2,998 including flights, or $299.80/day

For me, I think this is a pretty excellent value when I compare it to a trip to Hawaii or somewhere similar.

You could save money by choosing not to stay to stay in a resort and picking a cheaper guesthouse than we did.

You could also instead opt to snorkel, kayak, and do other cheap/free activities instead of diving or doing other pricy activities.

Food-wise, you could save money by cooking for yourself or choosing more food trucks over sit-down restaurants.

Tahiti Packing List: What to Pack for Tahiti’s Islands (Bora Bora, Moorea + More)

Allison exploring Tahiti while staying at a resort, wearing a bikini, with infinity pool, palm tree, blue sky, and Moorea in distance, while walking barefoot on a bridge.

If you’re planning a tropical vacation to Tahiti and other French Polynesian islands like Moorea and Bora Bora, here’s a Tahiti packing list that will help!

Whether you plan to just relax and chill in an overwater bungalow on a Bora Bora or Moorea getaway, or have a more active trip filled with water activities like scuba diving and jet skiing all over Moorea and Tahiti, this guide will help!

I just got back from a 10-day trip to Moorea and Tahiti (a 5 day itinerary in Moorea, and a 5 day itinerary in Tahiti) and here’s what I packed — and a few things I wished I packed!

Notes on Packing for French Polynesia

The beautiful verdant green landscapes of Moorea with mountains and clouds

For biosecurity reasons, there are strict limits on bringing in fresh fruit and food items into French Polynesia. You can read about them here.

I wouldn’t bring a lot of food from home — just enough to consume on the plane — or you risk having to throw it out at the airport when you arrive.

Another thing to consider is whether you are traveling only between Tahiti and Moorea, which only requires ferries, or if you are also traveling to other islands, such as Bora Bora.

If you fly to other islands, be aware that inter-island flights via Air Tahiti have stricter weight limits.

The planes are a lot smaller than the jets that bring international travelers to Tahiti… you’re hopping between tiny islands in the South Pacific, after all!

Don’t get hit with tons of excess baggage charges. Pack lightly to save a headache!

You’ll also want to leave a little room in your suitcase for bringing back Tahiti souvenirs!

Travel Documents & Preparation

Passport

Person's hand holding a US passport with a plane in the background while sitting in an airport chair, unpainted nails, wearing jeans, looking out window at plane.

French Polynesia is part of France, so if you typically need a visa for France, you may need one for the islands of French Polynesia.

This helpful visa wizard on the French government website will let you know if you need a visa.

Generally, if you don’t need a visa to enter the Schengen European zone, you won’t need one for French Polynesia, but I suggest you double check.

Also, make sure your passport has at least six months of validity — I’ve had too many close friends and family members have travel plans derailed or delayed due to forgetting to check on this!

Also, if you’re a European citizen, you’ll get to enjoy a zippy, expedited passport control line that moves a lot faster than the non-EU citizen line!

Driver’s License

Remember to bring your driver’s license for self-guided adventures in Tahiti!

I strongly recommend renting a car while you are in Tahiti!

We didn’t have a car rental in Moorea and we regretted it, but we loved having a car in Tahiti.

The one exception would be if you plan to strictly have a resort stay where you don’t leave the resort and all your activities are planned by the resort… but where’s the fun in that?

If you plan on renting a car while exploring Tahiti or other larger islands, you’ll need to bring your driver’s license.

As long as your driver’s license is in English or French, you should be good to go.

If your driver’s license is in another language, you will want to have an international driver’s permit just in case.

Credit Card + Debit Card

Person with hand on their credit card, feeding it into a portable point of sale system, with a blurry background and receipt starting to be printed.

Be sure to bring at least one credit card (especially if renting a car) and a debit card for your trip to Tahiti.

And of course, be sure to notify your card companies that you’ll be traveling to avoid any hassle upon arrival!

You may also want to bring a backup debit card just in case you lose one.

You will need cash for a handful of things in French Polynesia, such as taking taxis, so to be without a debit card would be a real hassle.

PADI Card (If Diving)

Allison's hand holding her gold "Open Water Diver" card issued by PADI with plants and apartment background visible behind her.

If you’re a certified scuba diver, you’ll definitely want to bring your PADI card and log book.

Be sure to have dive insurance or travel insurance that covers diving as well. I used Safety Wing to cover me for my most recent trip.

They actually cover dive-related medical expenses so long as you’re certified, which is rare with travel insurance companies!

Travel Insurance

I used to always book my travel insurance through World Nomads but I’ve recently switched over to SafetyWing.

Not only is it dramatically cheaper while maintaining the same benefits, it also covers diving, so long as you are PADI certified (which you had to pay extra for with World Nomads).

Dive insurance can be expensive, so I thought it was great that SafetyWing includes dive coverage in their basic policy, the Nomad Insurance travel medical insurance coverage.

For my recent trip to French Polynesia, I paid just $18 for a 10-day trip — a great deal, especially considering the overall cost of my trip!

Their Nomad Insurance is both travel insurance (covering delays, interruptions, and cancellations) as well as travel medical insurance (covering illness including Covid-19, accidents, etc.), so you can rest easy on your trip.

Get a free quote for your travel insurance to French Polynesia here!

In-Flight Essentials

The interior of a plane with no one in it and the overhead bins clear

No matter what you’re coming from, a long flight to Tahiti is inescapable. These islands are smack-dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, after all!

Be sure to pack your bag properly with all the essentials for long haul international flights!

Typically, most airlines will allow you to carry both carry-on bags and personal items.

We flew French Bee and they allowed one carry-on and one personal item.

However, remember that carry-on items — especially roller bags — risk potentially being checked if it is a full flight.

Always make sure the most essential things that you can’t risk losing are on the plane with you in your personal item!

Comfortable Clothing

Allison giving two peace signs, wearing a mask, a headband, a mask, a T-shirt that says 'true" and blue pants
Sitting chaotically, as us neurodivergent queers do best

I always make sure I wear comfortable clothing I can shift and move around in on flights.

You’ll spend a lot of time in these clothes, so make them comfortable!

My new go-to plane pants are my Patagonia Caliza climbing pants — they’re surprisingly comfortable and moveable, while still looking put-together enough for flying.

I also wear a T-shirt with a long-sleeve shirt on top of it so I can control my layers since airplane temperatures swing wildly.

Compression Socks

Three pairs of socks in different colors, one being worn

I wore compression socks for the first time on my recent trip to Tahiti and I am a convert — I’ll never go back to not wearing them on long-haul flights!

My feet weren’t swollen after an 8-hour overnight flight, and I felt a lot more energized in general when I landed.

No need for anything fancy — I wore simple compression socks like these.

Travel Pillow

My scrunched up travel pillow next to backpack for scale

Most flights from the U.S. to French Polynesia are overnight, like ours that left from San Francisco shortly before midnight.

I brought this scrunchable memory foam travel pillow with me and I loved it!

It offered a lot more support than blow-up travel pillows, and it packs down smaller than a bead-filled travel pillow (which I have accidentally ripped open on a plane while trying to rip off the tag, sorry flight attendants…)

Contoured Eye Mask

A black sleep mask that says bedtime bliss on it on a bed duvet cover

I’m in love with contoured eye masks for sleeping on planes and in hotels where I’m not sure what the lighting situation is, since I need it to be very dark to sleep.

I love this contoured eye mask so much that when I looked it up to grab the link, Amazon reminded me that I’ve ordered it four times (because I keep misplacing it).

You may want to grab a spare because there’s nothing I hate more than losing an eye mask while I travel!

Pen

Vase full of colorful pens

This is something I always forget when I’m traveling internationally in the digital age, but you’ll often have to fill out customs and entry forms with pens.

Since the pandemic many airlines are not distributing pens alongside the cards, so having a pen comes in handy!

Noise Canceling Headphones

I used to always just use my iPhone earbuds until I realized how noise-sensitive and how much ambient-seeming noise actually truly frays my nervous system.

I’ve since invested in Bose noise-canceling headphones (the 700 version) and I’m obsessed.

Normally, noise-canceling headphones are rather bulky, but these have a really sleek and flat-laying profile which makes them far easier to pack and fit in your bag than other similar headphones.

I’ll never travel without them in the future!

Also, fellow noise-sensitive people, if you pair some Bose headphones with the ever-incredible (and dare I say, stylish?) Loops earplugs… it’s sensory heaven.

Beach & Water Essentials

Microfiber Beach Towel

Pineapple print microfiber towel with sunscreen products and sunhat and legs with rainbow sandals on a black sand beach

Beach time is one of the must-do things in Tahiti!

Unless you’re staying in a resort where you can count on unlimited beach towels to be provided for their hotel guests, it’s a good idea to bring a microfiber beach towel of your own.

Even then, I like having a microfiber beach towel with me that I can bring on dive boats, snorkeling trips, or even to lay underneath my beach towel.

Microfiber beach towels repel sand better than beach towels, which tend to soak up sand and track it everywhere.

I have this cute pineapple-covered striped microfiber beach towel and I love it!

Reef-safe Sunscreen

A side by side comparison of two reef safe sunscreen companies on a beach towel on the beach in Moorea

Protect your skin, and the beautiful reefs of French Polynesia, with reef-safe sunscreen free of coral-killing chemicals while on your tropical island vacation!

My girlfriend and I brought different brands of reef-safe sunscreens with us so it was fun to be able to compare.

She brought this tinted Stream 2 Sea sunscreen. While it was only SPF 30, it covered so well and stayed so well that I felt it was better than the SPF 50 I brought.

I brought this Blue Lizard SPF 50 sunscreen, but I didn’t feel like it soaked in as well, and I did end up slightly burned after wearing it.

Between the two, I’d pick Stream 2 Sea! There are also non-tinted versions available, but I personally liked the tint as it helped disguised the zinc-y-ness of the mineral sunscreen.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera gel in green color in clear container with cut up aloe vera plant next to it

No matter how diligent you are with your sun protection, a sunburn is always a possibility on sun-soaked islands like you’ll find in the South Pacific.

I sometimes remember to bring a little aloe vera from home so that I’m not forced to buy a large, overpriced bottle… but I forgot this time.

Luckily, I got burned at the end of my trip, and not too badly, so I didn’t need to buy a huge bottle to bathe myself in.

I suggest these carry-on friendly, travel-size aloe vera bottles.

Beach Bag

Allison holding a tan mesh beach bag at a resort in Tahiti, packing list essential item!

I used a beach bag as my ‘personal item’ and stuffed it full of things I’d need for my trip.

I bought this tan mesh beach bag and really liked it! The holes are not too loose that anything would fall out of them.

There is also a secure pocket that I kept things like keys and my phone that I wanted quick access to.

Dry Bag

Yellow Sea to Summit dry bag all folded up, in a hand, on the beach with palm trees and blue water and green mountains in background
Dry bags will absolutely come in handy on your Tahiti packing list!

If you’re traveling on boats, etc. you’ll want to have a dry bag with you to keep your key electronics and documents safe!

Sneaky swells and waves can have you caught off guard and you don’t want to end up with your passport wet, or an expensive mirrorless/DSLR camera covered in salt water!

Sea to Summit is the gold standard for dry bags — you can get a set of them, or just get the size you need.

GoPro (with Dive Accessories, if Needed)

A GoPro shot of a diver underwater shown on the screen of the GoPro

A GoPro is an essential if you plan to dive or snorkel!

The new GoPro Hero 11 is the best they’ve put out yet — it has incredible image stabilization (very helpful when taking shaky snorkel/dive footage) and 5.3K video (basically, better than 4K).

Plus, the Hero 11’s image sensor is better than previous ones — you can zoom in, crop, change lenses, and adjust the aspect ratios, all things that were difficult or impossible to do on past GoPros.

Note that while the GoPro is waterproof, it’s only waterproof to 10 meters (and I’ve ruined a GoPro diving below that without a case… so yes, they do mean it).

If you plan to dive, you’ll need additional dive housing (and filters will also help you get the perfect color clarity). I suggest this dive housing set that includes four filters.

You’ll also want a GoPro grip that you can clip to your BCD, but that also can cinch around your wrist so that it won’t slip off while you are diving. I suggest this waterproof grip.

Snorkeling Gear

My snorkel, mask, and fin set on the beach with one of the best snorkeling areas in Moorea
My mask, fin, and snorkel set!

Personally, I like to have my own mask and snorkel set when it comes to traveling to island destinations where I can snorkel.

It came in handy when I wanted to snorkel from where I was staying in Moorea!

I use it for shore snorkeling as well as when I dive, so I can use my own equipment that is perfectly fitted to me so that I don’t have a learning curve with new equipment.

Also, some beaches – like Temae Beach in Moorea (one of Moorea’s best attractions) – have incredible snorkeling but don’t have infrastructure where you can rent snorkeling gear at the site, so you’ll absolutely want to bring your own from home!

I recently invested in nicer snorkeling gear, since I also use it for diving and I want it to last a lifetime.

I have a TUSA mask that is specifically for scuba diving and I also have a TUSA snorkel that is a game-changer for snorkeling!

It has a the Hyperdry Elite Top, which is a dry top that quickly closes the gasket when it is submerged underwater.

Basically, the water pressure of going underwater closes the valve so that the water doesn’t flood into the snorkel.

Then, all you have to do is blow fairly lightly on the angled purge chamber in order to clear the snorkel!

It’s pretty amazing — I was shocked at how little water would get into my snorkel when I’d dive down to get a better look at coral while snorkeling.

Allison wearing her favorite water-friendly, reef-friendly swim leggings and her trusty snorkel and mask set!

That said, if you don’t snorkel or dive frequently, a cheaper set may suit you just fine, like this set.

I also have these IST Proline Fins, which were absolutely necessary for both diving and snorkeling.

Much of the snorkeling in Tahiti and Moorea involves enough of a swim that you’ll want fins for safety/energy conservation reasons.

My fins are so good that I was able to snorkel for 2 hours without getting tired… much to the chagrin of the shoulders I later burned.

Scuba Gear, if Needed

Allison's hand, wearing a wetsuit, wearing a dive computer on her left wrist with scuba gear in the background.
A dive computer is great to have for logging your dives and monitoring for safe depths and ascents!

Personally, I only brought my own mask, snorkel, and fins on this last trip.

However, some people like to bring their own equipment such as wet suit, BCD, etc. and just rent oxygen tanks while there.

If you have scuba gear, like a dive computer (not sure what to get? Read my guide to the best entry-level dive computers here), etc., bring it!

After my last trip diving in Cozumel, I decided to get the full monty: BCD, regulator, wetsuit (3mm and 5mm), SMB…

Read my full dive gear packing list here if you want to bring more than the basics.

A Good Book

Purple beach towel with sunscreen, book called "You can't touch by hair" by Phoebe Robinson, fanny pack, and travel towel

If you like reading on the beach, I recommend bringing a good book from home!

You won’t have much luck finding English-language book titles here, so bring whatever you’ve been wanting to read from home.

If you tear through books, I suggest bringing a Kindle instead so you can reload new books as you go through them without having to worry about finding a bookstore.

Reusable Water Bottle

Green reusable water bottle in a sleeve of a backpack

Bring your own reusable water bottle from home and you won’t waste as many plastic water bottles!

The tap water on many islands in French Polynesia is totally drinkable without any added treatment. The water on Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora are all drinkable, for example.

If you visit more remote islands, I suggest asking your host if it’s safe to drink, or you can use a water purifier bottle like this Lifestraw to be extra safe.

What to Wear in Tahiti (Women)

Tops (~5-7 light tops)

Allison eating food in a restaurant in a green tropical print top

I would suggest bringing a selection of shirts, such as a tank top, a short-sleeve shirt, a sleeveless blouse that is breathable, etc.

In general, opt for loose fitting light clothes made of breathable materials, like linen or hemp blends.

I tend to avoid 100% cotton clothing, as it takes forever to dry, as well as synthetic fabrics like polyester that don’t wick moisture and sweat well.

I brought mostly small, thin crop tops so I was able to bring a bunch of tops with me without taking up a lot of space.

Here are a few crop tops similar to ones I brought on my trip: one, two, three, four, and five.

I’d also suggest bringing one or two long sleeve shirts for the evening — spray with Permethrin spray if mosquitos tend to target you!

Bottoms (~3-4 options)

Allison wearing a rainbow shirt and overalls with background of mountains and foggy misty sky

I prefer shorts, so that’s what I went with. If you prefer skirts, go for that!

Here’s what I brought: a pair of distressed overall shorts similar to these which were my go-to, these fun rhinestone-fringe distressed black denim shorts, and a plain pair of Levi’s denim shorts.

I also had my Patagonia Caliza climbing pants which I wore when it was raining or cool out, or when I wanted to cover my legs from pesky mosquitos.

Rompers or Dresses (~3-4 options)

Allison wearing a short romper with monstera print with sunhat in front of bungalows

I rarely wear dresses because that chub rub life is so real.

Also, I have sensory processing issues due to my ADHD/ASD that make any chafing sensation pretty much unbearable.

Enter: the romper! I brought several which I have accumulated over the years that are no longer available online.

Here are a few similar ones: one, two, three, and four.

I did also bring one maxi dress similar to this one which I only wore at night and when I didn’t have to walk around too much.

Nicer Outfit(s) if Staying at Resorts

Sun dress in front of resort bungalows

While in general, Tahiti is a pretty casual type of trip, you may want some nicer outfits for places that have a dress code.

This will depend on where you are going. A laidback, independent beach vacation warrants a different packing list than fancy resorts on Bora Bora!

If you need something more elegant, a black jumpsuit like this one is still casual but better suited for dinners.

Otherwise, fun colorful maxi dresses are great for toeing the line between comfort and dressy.

Swim Cover-ups

White cover up fanning out as person is spinning crossing a suspension bridge

I brought this white sheer lace swim coverup and absolutely loved it!

It’s so elegant yet easy to wear, it doesn’t wrinkle, and it covers up beautifully.

I also love this fun monstera print cover-up from Moss Rose, and enjoyed having both to switch between.

Allison wearing a monstera print swim cover up and a bikini in front of bungalows

You should bring at least two because they’ll get damp from covering you up, plus they’re lightweight and it’s fun to switch them up.

Plus, they’re very lightweight and easy to throw extras in your bag, and they’ll liven up and add accessories to your swimwear photos!

Rain Jacket

Allison wearing her rain jacket and sneakers and a baseball cap

You’ll want to bring a light jacket that is waterproof, whether you are visiting Tahiti and its islands in the rainy season or the dry season.

Being a tropical island, heavy rains are always a possibility and you’ll want to be prepared!

We traveled in the wet season and were grateful for our rain gear: the Patagonia Torrentshell is a classic for a reason, and the underarm zippers for added breathability are perfect in hot climates.

Sun Hat

Allison wearing a sunhat and a white cover up while looking up at cave geology and tropical flora

Tropical weather means lots of sun exposure, and a sun hat should be the first layer of protection for your face against the sun, followed by facial sunscreen.

Bring a large sun hat with a wide brim to protect your face from harsh rays. I brought this packable SPF sun hat that can be crushed without losing its shape.

Baseball Cap

Allison and her partner in a red kayak with the island of Moorea behind them and brilliant blue waters

In addition to a wide-brimmed sun hat, I was glad to have a baseball cap for active outdoor time!

This was good for time on the boat where a sun hat would have easily blown away, as well as for activities like kayaking.

I brought this white one that was leftover from my Halloween costume, but they have all colors!

Multiple Swimsuits

Allison sipping a virgin pina colada while wearing sunglasses in a monstera-print bikini with a high waist with blurry pool in background

If you’re visiting tropical island paradises, what better excuse than to wear as many cute swimsuits as possible?

I wore this cute planty/floral one with a high waist as my #1 swimsuit and an older triangle bikini somewhat similar to this one.

Swimsuits are great to wear under wetsuits if you plan to dive, but you may also want to bring some rash guards or other types of sun protection.

Underwear, Bras, and Socks

Allison in bikini in front of Moorea background
Since you’ll wear your swimsuit so much, you may need to pack less than you think!

Bring enough underwear for the number of days you’ll be in Tahiti, and a little extra unless you want to do laundry while you’re there.

I only needed a few bras since I didn’t wear them with many of my outfits — I was in a swimsuit and cover up many of the days!

Same with socks — I only needed two pairs because I rarely wore my sneakers and mostly wore sandals.

Flip Flops

You’ll want some rubber flip flops like Havaianas for your beach days exploring beaches of the islands of Tahiti, Moorea, etc.

Water Shoes

Colorful sandals propped up with tropical background

I brought some water shoes like my colorful Tevas that are cute enough to wear outside of the beach but also will allow me to wade in any shallow water that’s a bit rocky.

My girlfriend had really cute black Chacos and I was very envious of her sandals — they were understated and practical.

Sneakers

If you plan to hike or do any other active land activities, you’ll want a pair of sneakers.

I have a simple pair of black Nikes that I always bring on trips.

What to Wear in Tahiti (Men)

View of overwater bungalows in Tahiti

I won’t go into as much detail here because well, I don’t wear men’s clothes and I didn’t travel with a male partner!

I would imagine you’d want to bring the following:

  • 5-7 casual, breathable shirts
  • 2-3 pairs of shorts
  • 1 pair of nice-ish pants for dinners out
  • 1 nice dress shirt
  • sandals/water shoes
  • nicer shoes
  • sneakers and socks
  • underwear for the trip’s duration

Toiletries, Medicines & Other Essential Items

Five different kinds of sunscreen, a totally normal amount for a 10-day trip…

While you can find many toiletries in Tahiti at supermarkets like Super U, it’s best to have your own so you don’t have to spend your precious vacation time looking for them!

I suggest using GoToobs — these little bottles are made of silicone and are easy to squeeze your favorite toiletries into.

Here is a quick bullet point list of toiletries you may or may not want to bring, depending on what you use and what you expect your hotel or guesthouse to have:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body Wash
  • Dr. Bronner’s soap (for hand washing laundry, etc.)
  • Makeup/nail polish (I like pink nails for tropical climates!)
  • Moisturizer
  • Regular sunscreen (for not when in ocean water)
  • Deodorant
  • Toothpaste & Toothbrush
  • Razor & Shaving Cream

Insect Repellent

PIcaradin insect spray by Sawyer brand

Tropical climate means a higher chance of mosquitos! You’ll definitely want to bring mosquito repellant on your trip.

We used Picaridin with some success, but a few particularly ambitious mosquitos were able to get past it.

DEET is stronger, but it may bother more sensitive skin.

I suggest bringing some mosquito repellant wipes in your bag at all times!

Wipes are easier to keep in your bag without worrying about things getting uncapped/leaking… plus, you’ll always remember it when suddenly you find yourself being devoured!

After-Bite Care

Person treating their mosquito bite

You’ll inevitably end up with a few bites no matter what, so you might as well be prepared.

After-bite balms can be helpful, and there are other methods like this one that use the immediate application of heat to spike bloodflow to the area and reduce swelling and inflammation.

My girlfriend, who was a mosquito magnet on this trip, swears by the heat method and would only find relief by scalding herself with hot showers or placing hot spoons on her bites.

I’m getting her this anti-itch heat applicator for our next trip somewhere tropical so she’ll find relief a lot easier.

Dramamine or Anti-Motion Sickness Tablets

Boat ride heading towards islands
You’ll absolutely want Dramamine if you get motion sickness on boats!

I always bring Dramamine from home because often when I buy it abroad I can only find the super drowsy versions that knock me out.

If I bring it from home I can make sure I’m bringing something non-drowsy!

I take Dramamine about an hour before a boat ride that would normally make me nauseous and I’m so much better.

I take these ones because they are in pill/swallowable form. Note that the chewable forms of Dramamine have food dye in them, which are a migraine trigger for many.

Small First Aid Kit

Small red first aid kit with a white cross plus sign on it

Bring a small first aid kit from home with common medicines in it to supplement whatever isn’t in it.

I would suggest painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, stomach medication like Pepto Bismo in pill form as well as Imodium (anti-diarrheal), and any essential prescription medications from home.

I also use a premade first-aid kit that has things like bandaids, gauze, etc.

Umbrella

A rainy day in Tahiti wearing a rain jacket and hat

While most of the time, there will be light rain, there will occasionally be a downpour!

During those rare times, you’ll be happy for having a sturdy umbrella.

Electronics for Tahiti

Phone and Charger

Allison at the overwater bungalows
When phones take photos this good, you hardly need ‘real’ cameras!

These days I take more and more photos with my phone and leave my camera behind!

In fact, for this trip I just used my iPhone 11 and my girlfriend’s Google Pixel 5 and was super happy with how all of our photos turned out!

Laptop and Charger

Hands on a laptop keyboard with a cup of coffee behind it

If you need your laptop on your trip, be sure to bring it!

Don’t rely on having good Wi-Fi, though, especially outside of Tahiti and Papeete.

External Hard Drive

External hard drive plugged into a laptop

This is a good way to back up your phone’s camera or memory cards if you have a digital camera like a mirrorless or SLR camera.

Pro Tip: Throw a few favorite shows or movies on your hard drive too because the WiFi on the islands of Tahiti is not great.

A hard drive like this one will serve you well!

External Battery Charger

With all the photo taking you’ll be doing, you’ll likely run down your phone’s battery quickly!

Anker is perhaps the most reliable battery brand, so it’s what I personally use (I have this one) — it’s never let me down.

Adaptors

Tahiti is a French territory, so it uses the same outlets as you’ll find in France and most of continental Europe.

Grab a universal adaptor or two for all your charging needs if you have a different type of outlet back home.

LGBTQ Travel in Tahiti: Lesbian & Gay Tahiti Travel Guide

Allison and

It’s a sad reality that LGTBQ couples have to think particularly carefully about their travel destinations when it comes to safety.

Unfortunately, many otherwise idyllic places can be dangerous for queer people.

Many typical ‘resort’ destinations are in countries in which LGBTQ identities or same-sex intimacy are policed and potentially punished.

For example, countries like the Maldives and Jamaica — two popular honeymoon destinations — have strict laws against homosexual activity.

Many queer couples choose to travel to non-LGBTQ friendly countries and keep their couple status on the down-low, or only stay in resorts where there is a more laissez-faire attitude.

Allison Green and her partner smiling as they go diving in Moorea
Traveling to Tahiti as a LGBTQ couple? It’s a great choice!

However, there’s something to be said for feeling safe to show your affections for your partner in public, amongst the people and the culture and not just in a sanitized resort.

Luckily, French Polynesia is a safe place to do just that, and if you’re looking for a romantic place to travel with your queer partner — whether you pick a family-owned guesthouse or a fancy overwater bungalow in Bora Bora or Moorea — it’s a fantastic choice.

During my 5 days in Tahiti and my 5 days in Moorea, I didn’t have any negative experiences traveling as part of a visibly queer, visibly interracial couple.

While it’s not certain you won’t experience any homophobia or transphobia — it’s a lot less likely in Tahiti and its islands than in many places in the world.

While there are many reasons for this, a large reason is because the native Polynesian culture does not enforce a strict gender binary the way that Christian and other monotheistic colonizing forces have historically done.

My Experience Traveling to Tahiti as a Queer Woman

Allison and her partner traveling in Tahiti on a snorkeling tour

I’m writing this post mostly because I think there’s a dearth of writing on the topic of gay Tahiti travel from a female perspective (and gay travel writing in general tends to center the cis gay male experience).

Before traveling to Tahiti, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I did some research and saw the laws were permissive of same-sex relationships and that the culture was generally tolerant of it, so I did feel safe being out while there.

That said, it was my first time traveling as part of a visibly queer couple so I was a little hesitant at first, but I quickly felt at ease traveling on Moorea and Tahiti.

We felt safe to engage in light PDA that showed us as a couple — hand-holding in public, kissing on the cheek, etc. — and we didn’t encounter any off remarks or negativity because of it.

Allison looking at her partner whose hand she's holding

We traveled independently and didn’t go on a cruise or vacation package, choosing instead to rent a car in Tahiti and travel at our own pace.

This way, it was easy to cover all the things to do in Tahiti (primarily diving and waterfall chasing!) and Moorea (primarily snorkeling, diving, and 4×4 touring!) that most appealed to us

We stayed in guesthouses for 8 nights (one in Moorea and one in Tahiti and a resort in Tahiti for 2 nights, so our experience speaks largely to independent travel on both our Moorea itinerary and our Tahiti itinerary, though we also experienced the resort angle in Tahiti.

However, we were only on two islands, Tahiti and Moorea, which besides Bora Bora see the most tourism.

As a result, these islands may generally be more accepting of queerness because they simply see it more often.

Allison and her partner having a drink at the swim up bar at the Intercontinental in Tahiti

I can’t speak to what it’s like to travel to less frequently visited Tahitian islands, but I’d love to hear about others’ experiences!

Lastly, we went to Tahiti and Moorea as part of a dive trip and didn’t try to experience any gay nightlife in Tahiti, so this post doesn’t have any information on that.

This post is meant more as an informative guide about what it gay Tahiti travel is like, with insight into the culture of the Polynesian islands and how it relates to queerness.

Is It Safe to Travel to Tahiti as a Queer Couple?

Allison and her partner in a red kayak with the island of Moorea behind them and brilliant blue waters

In my opinion: yes, absolutely!

Legally speaking, there are no laws against same-sex activity, relationships, or identities in French Polynesia.

As you can probably guess from the name, French Polynesia is an overseas territory of France.

As a result, French laws for marriage equality and anti-discrimination also apply in French Polynesia.

Allison and her partner on a dive boat while traveling in Moorea

More importantly, prior to French annexation, the islands of Tahiti were a safe place for people of differing sexualities and gender identities.

Indigenous Polynesian culture was, is, and continues to be accepting of a variety of queer identities.

In fact, there have never been any laws on the books in the Tahitian Islands (what is now French Polynesia) banning same-sex activity.

That’s hard for most countries to say and just shows how progressive and accepting Polynesian culture is.

Is It Safe to Travel to Tahiti as a Non-Binary or Trans Person?

The colorful turquoise waters of Moorea with the background of Moorea in the distance, as seen from a snorkeling boat in the lagoon

In short: yes, but trans and enby identities have significant historical and cultural importance (as well as baggage) in French Polynesia.

First, let me add the caveat that I am cis, so I am not writing this from a trans perspective.

In writing this section, I’m listening to trans travelers like Dylan Mulvaney as well as doing research on the culture.

Polynesian culture has long had a far more expansive and progressive view of gender than the strict gender binary that has pervaded much of Western ideology.

For centuries, Polynesians have recognized genders beyond male and female. There has long been another gender identity, Māhū, which means in the middle.

In the past, māhū primarily referred to people who were assigned male at birth (abbreviated as AMAB), who were more “feminine” and encouraged to live their lives out as women.

Historically, māhū played an important role in society as healers, teachers, and spiritual leaders.

In fact, it’s believed that four māhū from Polynesia traveled to the island of Oʻahu in the 16th century to share in their healing arts.

Allison with her back to the camera with her arms in front of a waterfall in Tahiti

You can find a memorial to this important piece of Polynesian and Native Hawaiian history on Waikiki Beach, where you’ll find the stones of Kapaemāhū dedicated to these healers.

In present day, māhū is a more expansive term that encompasses a variety of trans and non-binary identities and includes AFAB people as well.

It can apply to people who feel their gender embodies both male and female characteristics, similar to the concept of a ‘two-spirit’ person in many Native American cultures.

The term māhū can also apply to those whose gender identity does not match what they were assigned at birth and live as what Western culture would consider a trans identity.

Generally, māhū people are accepted and integrated into Tahitian society, and anecdotally, my girlfriend and I saw a number of queer-presenting and māhū people during my time in Tahiti.

White cover up fanning out as person is spinning crossing a suspension bridge

That said, it’s a little more complicated than just that. There’s a subcategory within the māhū identity group, rae rae, which is a more recent idea that is likely tied to the influence of colonization.

The term rae rae is somewhat derogatory, and it is used to refer to Polynesian AMAB people who present as female in a more overt or sexualized way, as opposed to māhū who embody femininity in a more chaste way.

In the article “The Men-Women of the Pacific“, Peruvian novelist and Nobel prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa writes:

“While the mahu is the man-woman with traditional roots in Polynesian society, the Tahitian rae rae is its modern, urban expression, having more in common with the snipped and tucked drag queens of the west, with their hormone and silicone injections, than with the delicate cultural, psychological and social re-creation that is the mahu of the Maori tradition. The mahu is an integral part of society, while the rae rae lives on its margins”

While French Polynesia is generally a very accepting place, no place is utopian or uncomplicated, and there are hierarchies and biases implicit in any social order.

The islands of Tahiti exist at the intersection at their strongly maintained Polynesian culture and history as well as the influence of French colonization.

With colonization brings the importation of outside religions and ideologies, and the present-day acceptance of LGBTQ+ identities in French Polynesia is a result of that blend.

Lastly, Some Disclaimers

Allison a nd her partner on the island of Moorea with view of water in the background

I am writing this piece from the perspective of a bisexual cis woman partnered with a queer cis woman.

I also benefit from white privilege and while my partner is Asian, being together as a couple in a way extends some of my privilege to her.

We are both femme in terms of our gender presentation, and we easily pass as friends if we are not directly showing romantic behavior or public displays of affection.

While women do bear the brunt of misogyny and gender violence, queer female or femme-presenting couples may find it easier to fly under the radar as heterocissexist society tends to erase and overlook WLW couples.

This lack of visibility on the day-to-day can be frustrating to experience, but when traveling in countries with anti-LGTBQ policies, this ‘invisibility’ can give you an additional layer of potential safety.

As a result, many countries’ anti-homosexuality laws enforce policing MLM behavior more heavily.

That’s not to say that queer women are necessarily safe in those countries, but that their behavior is under less scrutiny and it is typically easier to pass.

I’ll also add the caveat that I am newly out and this was my first trip traveling as a couple with a same-sex partner.

Allison and her partner all suited up and ready for diving in Moorea

I am learning what to look out for in terms of queer travel safety, which is why this post will speak primarily to my own experience.

Finally, I know that I can’t speak to the personal experience of trans identity. I spoke broadly about what I noticed about trans and non-binary identities, but I have no personal experience I can speak to.

I hope, over time, that these posts can be a collaborative resource — almost like an ongoing Wiki of sorts — so that people at every intersection of queer identity can speak.

If any of my trans/nonbinary friends or readers would like to chime in with their perspective, I will gladly add their point of view!

I’d also love to add the perspective of cis male (or male-presenting) queer couples who have traveled to Tahiti so this post can be as inclusive as possible.

Please leave a comment (it can be done anonymously) if you would like your perspective to be incorporated into the post for future updates.

10 Dreamy French Polynesia Overwater Bungalows (Tahiti, Bora Bora & Beyond)

One item on many travelers’ bucket lists is staying in an overwater bungalow!

While there are overwater villas all over the world, from the Caribbean to the Maldives to Panama to the South Pacific, the islands of Tahiti have some of the best overwater bungalows in the world.

I mean, it shouldn’t come as a surprise — the now-famous overwater bungalow was literally first invented on the island of Raiatea, one of the Society Islands not far from Tahiti. 

So how did this come about?

View of overwater bungalows in Tahiti

After three Americans built a hotel on the island of Moorea, they bought another plot of land for a hotel on Raiatea… but it had some drawbacks.

They found that without white sand beaches, it would be hard to lure travelers all the way out to outer islands like Raiatea, compared to the more accessible islands of Tahiti and Moorea.

While the land they bought in Raiatea didn’t have a sandy beach for guests, what it did have was a beautiful lagoon with a stunning coral reef teeming with marine life right in front of it. 

And from that, the idea of overwater suites with private terraces that offered direct access to the ocean was born!

Now, overwater bungalows have proliferated not only in the islands of Tahiti, but also all over the world, and are a honeymoon fan favorite.

My Top 3 Picks for Tahiti Overwater Bungalows

No time to read this post and just want my quick picks? I’ll give them to you here!

Since this post is about Tahiti bungalows, I’m focusing on the overwater bungalows in Tahiti & Moorea, since no additional plane ride is needed.

I do also have a post on overwater bungalows in Bora Bora if you just want those picks!

#1 TOP PICK

Allison Green at the Intercontinental Tahiti overwater bungalows

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Intercontinental Tahiti Resort

✔️Personally approved!
✔️Minutes from the airport
✔️Amazing snorkeling outside the Motu bungalows
✔️Delicious on-site restaurants & a fine dining option
✔️Two incredible pools (one infinity pool) and a lagoonarium

↳ Book it

#2 PICK

Allison Green standing in front of resort bungalows of Sofitel

Sofitel Moorea Kia Ora Beach Resort

✔️Close to Moorea ferry and airport
✔️Largest overwater bungalows
✔️Best snorkeling and house reef in Moorea

↳ Book it

#3 PICK

Allison Green at the overwater bungalows of Manava Beach Resort

Manava Beach Resort & Spa Moorea
✔️ Most lively location in Moorea, with great restaurants & shopping
✔️ Best option for divers with great house dive shop
✔️Beautiful infinity pool with overwater bungalow view

↳ Book it

Tahiti or French Polynesia?

View of pool and resort and bungalows off in the distance in Tahiti

This post refers to the islands of Tahiti, also known as French Polynesia, and not strictly the island of Tahiti.

While Tahiti is considered the main island and home to the capital city of French Polynesia, it actually has relatively few overwater bungalow options.

This post focuses on all the islands of French Polynesia and their overwater bungalow options, since there are many more options than just Tahiti!

We’ll cover Tahiti first, since it’s home to the Faa’a International Airport from which all international flights land. Most U.S. flights to French Polynesia leave from either Los Angeles or San Francisco and arrive in the morning.

Plus, there are lots of great things to do in Tahiti, so it’s worth a stop (we allocated 5 days of our trip to our Tahiti itinerary!)

It’s also the only place with luxury overwater bungalows that I personally stayed at on my recent trip to French Polynesia, so I can speak firsthand about the main resort building, amenities, location, restaurant, etc.

Allison wearing a monstera print swim cover up and a bikini in front of bungalows

Next, we’ll branch out to Moorea, where we stayed for 5 days on our trip.

While we didn’t stay at a resort with overwater rooms during our stay, we did visit two resorts that had overwater bungalows and got a feel for the resort experience and vibe, and got to snap some pics with the bungalows!

Then, we’ll cover the most famous island for panoramic overwater bungalows, Bora Bora!

This is where you’ll find the most luxurious resorts in all of the French Polynesian islands.

However, it does take another flight from Tahiti, so it is not the most convenient, and the resorts here are some of the most expensive!

After that, we’ll cover overwater bungalows on smaller islands in the Society Islands, such as Le Taha’a and Raiatea.

Next, we’ll go further afield, outside of the Society Islands into the Tuamoto Islands, which include Rangiroa and Tikehau. 

Before You Book Your Bungalow…

Allison and her partner having a drink at the swim up bar at the Intercontinental in Tahiti

Before investing in an expensive trip like one to Tahiti, you’ll want to make sure you consider travel insurance!

This is especially important if portions of your travel are non-refundable (as many overwater bungalows are).

With airline madness leading to delayed flights and lost luggage and the ongoing specter of the pandemic and its ability to disrupt travel plans, you’ll be glad to have the peace of mind that travel insurance provides.

Plus, it’s a minor investment on a very expensive trip. I paid just $18 USD to insure my 10-day French Polynesia trip, which cost me about $3,000 USD (see my trip cost breakdown here!).

I use SafetyWing to insure all my international trips — with plans starting around $42 for a 4 week coverage policy (or around $11 per week), it’s an extremely affordable way to cover your trip.

SafetyWing is both travel insurance and travel medical insurance, so it covers everything from medical costs (including Covid coverage) to travel cancellation and/or disruption costs.

Get your free SafetyWing travel medical insurance quote here!

Overwater Bungalows on Tahiti

Intercontinental Tahiti Resort

Allison at the overwater bungalows

We stayed at the Intercontinental Tahiti during our trip to French Polynesia and loved our time there. 

While we didn’t stay in an overwater bungalow in Tahiti, we were able to walk around the property and admire the bungalows and enjoy all the amenities of the resort.

The resort features two pool areas, one with a larger pool with a waterfall feature (more child-friendly) and one with an infinity pool and swim up bar (more adult-friendly).

Allison sipping a pina colada in the resort pool at the Intercontinental

There’s also a water sports center where you can book dives, rent kayaks or snorkeling gear, etc., and a concierge is also happy to help you book activities if you want to get out of the resort.

For extra relaxation, you can access the Deep Nature Spa for an additional charge (about $40 USD for a day pass, or included with a massage or treatment), which includes a hamam-style steam room, sauna, relaxation room, and plunge pool.

We only ate at the main restaurant, Te Tiare, but we loved all the meals we got, especially this stunner of a dish, the tuna carpaccio with a Thai-style shredded papaya and mango salad on top.

Ceviche with papaya salad at restaurant at Intercontinental

However, if you want to splash out, romantic dinners at Le Lotus can’t be beat.

Located next to the Ocean View bungalows, Le Lotus itself is an overwater bungalow in restaurant form!

The fine-dining French cuisine menu was developed in partnership with Michelin-starred French chef Bruno Oger and carried out by another promising chef, Jacques di Guisto.

Meals there follow certain prix-fixe menus, where you can mix-and-match starters, entrees, and desserts for prices ranging from around $50 USD for a starter and dessert to $120 USD for the gastronomy menu with two starters, a main, and dessert.

That said, there is also a lot to do at the resort that is free!

We adored the snorkeling in the lagoonarium, which had an impressive variety of colorful reef fish to nerd out about!

Allison's partner enjoying the lagoonarium, an enclosed safe area to swim and snorkel with sea life

We also chatted with a couple who stayed in one of the Motu suites, who loved their experience — they saw sea turtles and even a spotted eagle ray while sitting on their overwater bungalow’s terrace!

Taking their advice, we snorkeled in front of the overwater bungalows by the Motu suites and it was incredible!

We swam over from the area by the water sports area, which is easy enough to do if you are a strong swimmer and have fins.

The sea life here was so abundant!

Snorkeling in Tahiti at the Intercontinental

We stumbled across a beautiful cove with sea anemones protecting clownfish and domino damselfish, an octopus camouflaging itself during the daytime, and a curious moray eel who came out of its hiding spot in the reef not once but twice to get a better look at us.

Insider Tip: While the Motu suites are a tiny bit more expensive, I recommend them over the Ocean View suites. Why? The Ocean View suites are located in front of deeper water, where it’s hard to snorkel and find the same quality of reef life. The shallow water in front of the Motu Suites are a better choice if you want to easy access to an incredible snorkel spot! If you don’t plan to snorkel, though, the two types of overwater bungalows are roughly equal.

The Ocean View Suites are just under 400 square feet inside, with a nearly 150 square foot deck with a private ladder to the azure waters below you!

It’s located near the Lotus infinity pool and Le Lotus restaurant, which are the more adult areas of the resort.

These suites can sleep up to two adults and two children (adults in a bed, kids in a sofa bed).

The Motu Suites are also about 400 square inside but have a larger terrace, nearly 350 square feet — nearly double that of the Ocean View suites!

This is the perfect place to jump into the crystal clear lagoon in front of you and go snorkeling in the coral garden right from your deck!

Check rates, availability, and room types here!

Overwater Bungalows on Moorea

I have a full post on the three overwater bungalow resorts in Moorea here that goes into more detail, but you can also read the below summaries.

Whatever floats your boat!

Sofitel Moorea Kia Ora Beach Resort

Sun dress in front of resort bungalows

Located right next to Temae Beach, boasting one of the best coral gardens and snorkeling spots on all of Moorea, the Sofitel Beach Resort is an excellent place to stay in Moorea for a resort with overwater bungalows on Tahiti’s sister island of Moorea.

We didn’t stay at the Sofitel, but we did visit Temae Beach for off-shore snorkeling, and it was the best off-shore snorkeling we’ve ever done!

The coral here is impossibly beautiful and well-preserved (since this is a protected marine area) and the sea life is extremely abundant.

We also walked a bit on the grounds and thought the Sofitel would be an excellent place to stay on a future trip to Moorea.

Sofitel bungalows on the island of Moorea

The overwater bungalows are undoubtedly set in one of the best locations in Moorea thanks to the beautiful coral gardens that surround them.

You can easily swim out to the coral gardens from the beach if you have good fins and snorkel gear, or if you’re staying in an overwater bungalows, you can simply descend your own private ladder into the ocean below!

There are 38 overwater bungalows as well as over 60 beach and garden bungalows in case staying in an overwater bungalow is out of reach financially or if you want to only stay one night in a bungalow and then switch over to a more affordable room.

The garden bungalows at the Sofitel in Moorea

In addition to its beautiful beach and snorkeling, there’s also a pool with a beautiful view of Tahiti.

The resort offers two restaurants and two bars for a variety of food options, though you could also leave the resort and dine at some of the great places in Moorea in Maharepa, like our favorite restaurant, Keiki.

The Sofitel offers two types of overwater bungalow, the Superior and the Luxury.

The distinction isn’t clear from the name, but the Luxury bungalows are the largest — the largest on Moorea, in fact, at nearly 900 square feet! 

Meanwhile, the Superior Bungalows are about 450 square feet, so about half the size.

All bungalows are air conditioned, have private terraces with direct lagoon access, a glass panel in the floor and a free minibar that is refilled twice daily.

The bathrooms feature lovely rain showers but do not have bathtubs, so that’s something to note if a bathtub is important to you!

Check availability, rates, and more details here!

Manava Beach Resort

Allison in front of the overwater bungalows of Manava beach resort

During our five days in Moorea, we ended up here a lot because we used the Moorea Blue Diving center, which is headquartered here.

We got to know the grounds and amenities of the Manava Beach Resort well and have only great things to say about it, and it’s another place I’d strongly consider staying on a return trip to Moorea.

The infinity pool at the heart of the resort is absolutely beautiful and the view you get to enjoy of both the ocean and the bungalows will get you those envy-inducing Instagram vacation photos for sure!

The deep blue infinity pool in front of the bungalows of Manava Beach Resort in Moorea

You can easily rent kayaks or stand-up paddle boards to explore the calm lagoon area and its marine life nearby the resort.

There’s a small beach area that is also open to the public, but one thing to note is that the views are mostly blocked by the bungalows, so the view from this beach isn’t quite as nice as from the Sofitel.

It’s still pretty spectacular, though!

Palm trees in front of the bungalows and beach area

That said, Manava has a much more central location in the heart of Maharepa, so it’s easy to explore the great restaurants of this part of Moorea, like Keiki, Rudy’s, and Manua Grill.

On-site, there are two restaurants, one more casual one and one more upscale one, as well as a poolside bar.

Other resort amenities include the Manea Spa which offers luxurious but fairly reasonably priced massages for individuals and couples.

Allison wearing a short romper with monstera print with sunhat in front of bungalows

Bonus: the sunsets in this part of the island are also pretty spectacular as it’s closer to the west side of the island!

There are a variety of room types at Manava Beach Resort, including more standard hotel-style rooms, beachfront bungalows with a private plunge pool, and of course, the overwater bungalows!

There are both Overwater Bungalows (facing the lagoon and mountains) and Premium Overwater Bungalows (facing the ocean)

All their overwater bungalows are 515 square feet and have lagoon and mountain views with a king bed, a bathroom with either a shower or tub, and sundecks that open directly to the lagoon. 

The overwater bungalows are air conditioned and have a glass panel to see the sea life below you even while you’re in the room!

Check rates, availability, and details here!

Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort

Aerial view of the overwater bungalows of Moorea
Photo Credit: Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa

Located near one of the most picturesque parts of Moorea, ‘Ōpūnohu Bay, the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa is another great option where it comes to French Polynesia overwater bungalows!

You’ll find the standard things you’d expect of a beach resort with overwater bungalows, like a pool area, sandy beach area, spa center, concierge service, etc.

There are several places to dine at the resort, including an open-air restaurant with lagoon views, a waterfront bar & grill, a sunset view bar, and an overwater eatery where you can enjoy a drink or a crepe with sharks swimming beneath you!

When it comes to room types, there’s a variety to suit a different array of budgets.

There are garden bungalows with and without private pools, as well as lagoon view bungalows that are on the beach but have a private ladder to the lagoon, as well as your standard overwater bungalows connected by a boardwalk.

The standard garden bungalows are fairly typical of hotel rooms, but the overwater bungalows are some of the most luxurious on Moorea!

We’re talking bathrooms with clawfoot bathtubs and seating areas with a glass panel below you from which you can watch the underwater world go by.

The reef in front of the Hilton is also excellent — you’ll find rays, sharks, and all sorts of fish life, a true underwater paradise.

However, this is also one of the more popular options on Moorea and the overwater bungalows tend to get reserved quickly, so book early!

Check availability, rates, and more here!

Overwater Bungalows on Bora Bora

St. Regis Bora Bora Resort

View of Bora bora from above

The St. Regis Bora Bora is one of the most luxurious resorts in French Polynesia.

They have the largest overwater villas in all of the Tahitian islands, for one, starting at 1,550 square feet!

For reference, most Tahiti overwater bungalows are about 500 square feet, or one third of the size.

The St. Regis also offers 24/7 butler service — any request you have, large or small, will be carefully attended to by the staff.

How’s that for fancy?

In terms of amenities, there’s a main pool with a swim-up bar as well as an adults only pool that has private cabanas, as well as their famous Iridium Spa on an island in the middle of the lagoonarium.

But perhaps the coolest feature is its lagoonarium (a safely enclosed lagoon full of aquatic life where you can snorkel safely with all sorts of fish, including the wildly impressive Napolean wrasse!).

One of the best things about the rooms at the St. Regis is that they have glass panels on the floor so you can watch tropical fish and sea life swim underneath your feet!

In fact, they even have a signature glass coffee table with a glass panel beneath, so you can watch the fish underneath your morning coffee!

For those who can’t quite afford the overwater bungalows, they also have garden guest rooms and beachside bungalows.

Food quality matches the high standard set by the accommodations: the Lagoon Restaurant features a menu by celebrity chef Jean-Georges, with a stunning view of Mt. Otemanu in the background.

There are also Asian, Polynesian, and Italian restaurant options, as well as elevated bar dining options with tapas, cocktails, and other light fare.

Check availability and rates at the St. Regis Bora Bora here!

Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora

Overwater bungalows in Bora Bora with view of mountains behind it
Photo Credit: Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora

Located in the stunning Motu Tehotu, a private islet off of the main island, the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora is a dream worthy of a honeymoon — or any occasion to celebrate, really!

The Four Seasons is one of the best designed overwater bungalow resorts in all of French Polynesia! 

It was inspired by the look of traditional Polynesian village houses and incorporates Polynesian craftwork and design elements as much as possible for an authentic feel.

The whole resort has been given the indoor-outdoor design treatment with the coordinated expertise of French and American architects and interior designers.

That said, you’ll still find all the traditional resort amenities you’d expect of a hotel of this caliber: a gorgeously Instagrammable infinity pool, a fitness center with yoga classes, and four fantastic dining options (including in-bungalow meal service).

Speaking of in-bungalow meals, you’ll be able to have the most unique breakfast in bed experience there is! 

The Four Seasons offers a special service where your breakfast is brought to you in your overwater bungalow by a traditional Polynesian canoe, decorated in flowers! It doesn’t get more special than that.

And of course, the Four Seasons has a world-class spa, Te Mahana, which offers a variety of sublime wellness experiences using traditional Polynesian botanical ingredients and wellness techniques.

There is a variety of types of overwater bungalows in this Bora Bora resort, so you can pick the best one for your budget — though all are definitely going to make your eyes water! 

The most luxurious are the 2-bedroom overwater bungalow suites, many of which feature their own private plunge pools. 

At a massive 2,228 square feet, these bungalows are practically ready to move into (I feel envious as I write this from my 525 square foot apartment!)

These bungalows are also great for families or friend groups — they can comfortably fit 6 adults, or 2 adults and 4 children.

There are also 1-bedroom overwater bungalows with plunge pools, which are more in the 1,000-1,500 square foot range — still quite large, but only suitable for a maximum of 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 kids.

There are also overwater bungalows that don’t have private pools, but they’re still quite luxe — think bathtubs you’ll never want to leave with a direct view of the crystalline waters of the lagoon and spacious lounge seating.

Check availability and book your overwater bungalow here!

Intercontinental Bora Bora & Thalasso Spa

Tropical blue cocktail with pool and overwater bungalows in the background

There are two Intercontinental resorts in Bora Bora: the more luxurious Intercontinental Bora Bora & Thalasso Spa as well as the more affordable Le Moana.

We’ll cover the former here, but you can also check out more about Le Moana here if you’re looking for a more affordable Bora Bora option.

Located on the small motu of Piti Aau, this stunning 5-star Bora Bora resort has everything you’d ever need — and then some.

You’ll find two main restaurants, Le Reef and Le Sands, as well as the famous Thalasso Spa on-site where you can take your relaxation to the max.

This resort only offers overwater bungalows, but you can choose between different sizes, views, and whether or not you have a private pool on your terrace.

All the bungalows have direct lagoon access, glass panels to watch the sea life in your villa, sundecks with ladders leading to the lagoon so you can walk right into the water, and lovely bathrooms with soaking tubs.

Check availability and book your bungalow here!

Overwater Bungalows on Raiatea & Nearby

Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa

Crystal clear water in the lagoon with Tahiti overwater bungalows of Le Taha'a island visible in the distance, with green island on horizon as well.

Tahiti overwater bungalows don’t get any more remote on an islet off of a small island of Taha’a off the island of Raiatea!

There is definitely some effort involved in getting to the beautiful Le Taha’a by Pearl Resorts, but it’ll be worth it.

If you’re first arriving in Tahiti, you’ll have to fly to Raiatea and then take a 35-minute resort shuttle ride to the resort.

You can also fly via helicopter if you’re coming from Bora Bora — it’s a stunning 15-minute flight over some of the most beautiful water you’ll ever see.

Once on the resort, you’re basically on your own private island: the entirety of Le Taha’a by Pearl Resorts is on its own motu (islet). 

That said, you’re not totally in desert island mode. If you want to explore the island of Taha’a, you can take one of the resort shuttles — you’ll be in the charming village of Tapuamu in just 5 minutes.

One of the coolest things about Le Taha’a’s location is that it’s located in between two beautiful islands: Taha’a and Bora Bora, and you can pick an overwater bungalow facing either. 

And of course, there’s beautiful lagoons and reefs to explore and enjoy in between these two stunning South Pacific islands.

There are three spectacular restaurants offering a variety of dining options so you won’t get bored, and of course, you can always head to the main island if you wish to dine off the resort and get a little taste of French Polynesia outside the resorts.

The resort is small and intimate, with just 58 rooms and villas, all done in a traditional Polynesian style, constructed in an eco-friendly way with organic resources from all the nature these verdant islands generously offer.

There are two main types of room available at this property: overwater bungalows and beach villas with their own pools.

Some overwater bungalows have a view of Taha’a nearby, and others have a view of Bora Bora in the distance.

The overwater bungalows are generously sized at 969 square feet, sleeping 3 adults (or 2 adults and one child).

The pool villas are larger at 1,937 square feet (or 2,800 square feet for the royal villa) but won’t have the overwater bungalow vibe.

Check availability, rates, and reviews of Le Taha’a here!

Overwater Bungalows on the Tuamoto Islands

Le Tikehau by Pearl Resorts

Overwater bungalows on the island of Tikehau in the outer islands of Tahiti

Another property by Pearl Resorts, Le Tikehau is another beautiful and remote option for overwater bungalows in Tahiti’s outer islands.

Tikehau is part of the Tuamoto Islands, a remote archipelago that offers some of the best snorkeling and diving in all of French Polynesia.

As remote as Tikehau already is, Le Tikehau is located on the small islet (motu) of Tiano about a 15-minute boat ride from the main village.

With just 37 bungalows, villas, and suites, Le Tikehau is an intimate resort where guests easily get individualized attention.

The resort’s setting alone is unrivaled: surrounded by coral reefs, fringed with pink sand beaches that bleed out into turquoise blue lagoons, with dense coconut groves hiding private tropical gardens to lose yourself in.

You’ll also have a beautiful pool to relax in or beside when you’re not enjoying the beaches or taking out the free kayaks for a paddle. 

There’s also the Tavai Spa to relax at, and one bar and one restaurant located on the resort.

Overwater bungalows are the focus at Le Tikehau, with smaller ones starting at 594 square feet and larger ones going up to 1,001 square feet.

There are also beach bungalows that aren’t overwater (592 square feet) and one pool beach villa (1,290 square feet) that is extra private.

Note that a handful of the overwater bungalows (the standard ones) do not have their own ladder to access the lagoon, because they are located on a part of the islet with a lot of coral as well as a strong current.

However, you can still enjoy the stunning views from your private deck and have the overwater bungalow experience, and you can see the water from your own glass table that has a panel to see the sea life below.

The next tier up, the premium overwater bungalows, have direct sea access with a private ladder.

However, neither of these overwater bungalows offer air conditioning, though they do have high roofs with thatched material and fans to keep air circulating.

Only the overwater suites have air conditioning, so if that’s a priority, pick that!

Check availability, rates, and reviews at Le Tikehau here!

Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa

Orange sky with five overwater bungalows in Tahiti on the turquoise blue water at sunset

Rangiroa is known for its diving — in fact, its massive lagoon is literally the size of the island of Tahiti!

It’s part of the Tuamotu archipelago and it’s a bit further afield from Tahiti but its isolation what makes it so spectacular.

Hotel Kia Ora in Rangiroa offers overwater bungalows with stunning lagoon views where the turquoise water melds seamlessly into deep blue at the horizon.

The bungalows feature separate bedrooms and lounge areas, with a stunning bathroom that has both a bathtub and a luxe shower. 

The lounge area is especially epic because it has glass panels in the floor where you can admire the fish swimming in the lagoon below you, while sitting on a comfortable sofa!

The overwater bungalows are rather spacious, with an interior dimension of about 485 square feet and an additional 315 square feet in the outer lounge area, with two sun loungers and a table for enjoying your morning coffee or breakfast.

The bungalows are air conditioned and have all the amenities you’d expect of a standard hotel room, like a flat-screen TV, WiFi, minibar, etc.

Because Rangiroa is a little more off the beaten path, these are some of the more affordable overwater bungalows in French Polynesia, starting around $700 per night.

Check availability, prices, and guest reviews here!

Snorkeling in Moorea: Best Tours & Snorkel Spots on the Island!

Allison swimming with shark in Moorea

Colorful coral reefs visible through shallow waters, tropical fish darting in and out of protected coral gardens, rays and reef sharks swimming in water so clear you can see it from the boat: these are some of the things you’ll see while snorkeling in Moorea.

I planned most of my trip to French Polynesia to focus on diving in Moorea as well as diving in Tahiti.

However, I did also want to enjoy a little snorkeling in Moorea to see what it had to offer for people who are not SCUBA certified, and frankly, I was extremely impressed!

Titan triggerfish seen in reefs around Tahiti

Located in the pristine waters of the South Pacific Ocean, Moorea is a small island that packs quite a punch.

While Bora Bora and Tahiti may be more famous names, Moorea is a comparatively lesser-known paradise, and there’s a surprising amount of great things to do in Moorea.

You’ll find better prices, fewer crowds, and extremely pristine aquatic landscapes as a result!

Our Snorkeling Experience in Moorea

In our 5 days in Moorea, we spent 2 days diving and 2 days snorkeling and 1 day exploring the island.

On our first day, we did a catamaran cruise with Polynesian Spirit that we booked via Manawa.

I can’t think of a better way to start off our trip to Moorea and Tahiti — it was the perfect way to brush off that jet lag dust! I mean, It’s hard to feel anything other than awe when snorkeling in Moorea.

The catamaran cruise has two daily departures, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We opted for the afternoon one that departed at 1 PM and booked ourself a taxi to the pier.

When we arrived, our captain and guide greeted us warmly and told us a bit about what we’d see that day. We booked a small group tour, but it ended up being a private boat with just the two of us and our guides!

Allison and her partner traveling in Tahiti on a snorkeling tour
Enjoying our catamaran snorkeling cruise!

We left from the Opunohu Marina and watched as we went further and further into the Opunohu Bay, with Magic Mountain and the Belvedere forming the Moorea ‘skyline’ behind us shrinking as we departed.

They brought us to two different snorkeling spots: a shallow area with tons of pink whiprays (a type of sting ray) and blacktip reef sharks, and another channel between two small motu (islets) with coral gardens teeming with fish.

The first spot is in Moorea’s lagoon in front of the now-closed Intercontinental Moorea, and it’s located on Google as the “Banc de Sable Raies et Requins”– sand bank for rays and sharks, and that’s exactly what you get!

Teeming with rays, angelfish, damselfish, and black tip sharks, I was entranced by snorkeling in Moorea from before I ever left the boat…

The water in the shallow lagoon is so clear, you’re practically in a glass bottom boat just looking off the side of the boat!

This snorkeling was one of the best spots for shark viewing I’ve ever seen!

It had more sharks and rays than when I visited Shark Ray Alley in the Belize Barrier Reef, which I never thought I would be able to top.

a pink whipray swimming away in moorea

The next stop was in the channel between Motu Fareone and Motu Tiahura, in what’s called “Coral Garden Tiara” on Google Maps. We paused to have some fresh fruit and juice — locally made in Moorea! — before we went back underwater.

As soon as we jumped in, I was surprised to see some of the healthiest looking coral I’ve seen in decades!

Brilliant vibrant purple coral, yellow, and reddish-pink coral all formed a beautiful underwater kaleidoscopic landscape, where even more vibrant marine life darted and made their home.

In a short period of time, I saw a huge variety of colorful tropical fish, from colorful rainbow parrotfish to sergeant majors to Moorish idols to Achilles tang to peacock groupers and so many more!

Healthy vibrant color marine ecosystem in Moorea

It was an amazing way to spend an afternoon and I highly recommend taking this boat tour to visit these incredible snorkeling spots. Your local guide will bring you directly to the best spots easily.

This is the exact tour I took and highly recommend!

It is possible to visit these two spots without a tour by heading the Plage des Tipaniers and renting a kayak from the Hotel Les Tipaniers. You must either rent a kayak or pay for a day pass; there is no free entry to this beach.

However, I personally don’t love snorkeling from a kayak — it’s difficult to get in and out of it, plus you have to make sure your kayak doesn’t float away while you’re snorkeling, which means circling back a lot.

I much preferred the experience of having a boat ride take us directly to the best spots so we could enjoy them easily!

On another day, we went independently to Temae Beach, which is known as one of the best beaches in Moorea (and one of only a few public beaches), boasting some of the healthiest reef life on the island of Moorea.

Allison and her partner on the island of Moorea with view of water in the background

This is best visited as a shore snorkel excursion because you don’t need to pass over any deeper water to get here — you can literally just swim up to the reef!

You’ll want to bring your own snorkel gear (and water shoes for the beach, which is pebbly/rocky) because there is no place to rent snorkel equipment here. There is a food truck though, making it easy to spend the day here!

You do have to swim out a bit to get to the reef, so make sure you are a strong swimmer and be sure to bring fins so that you don’t tire yourself out swimming!

Start snorkeling and head right towards the Sofitel (one of the best overwater bungalow resorts in Moorea) where you’ll find some incredible reef life when you get out about ~50 meters.

Field of branchy staghorn coral seen underwater

I’m talking fields of staghorn coral, vibrant neon giant clams that look straight out of Alice in Wonderland, and an unimagineable number of reef fish species that I can only begin to try to recall!

You can snorkel on Temae Beach before the Sofitel and you can also access the house reef of the Sofitel near the bungalows because access to the beach is not restricted; you will simply have to walk over from Temae Beach.

I saw blue damselfish and clownfish, orange-lined triggerfish, surgeonfish, squirrelfish, and blue-green cromis among the uncountable species of fish!

What You Can See While Snorkeling in Moorea

The crystal waters of Moorea — and the French Polynesian islands in general — are a great place to see all sorts of sea life!

Of course, we’ve already talked about the grey reef sharks (blacktips — you will likely only see whitetips if you dive) and the rays, but what else might you see?

While we didn’t happen to see any sea turtles while snorkeling, we saw countless — literally countless — while diving.

Allison diving in Moorea with a sea turtle nearby her

However, it is definitely possible to see them while snorkeling if you’re lucky, especially if you take a boat trip where you may see them surfacing!

We didn’t see any octopus or moray eels while we snorkeled in Moorea, but we did see them in Tahiti, and it’s likely very possible that you would find them in Moorea too with a little luck!

Some of the most common fish species you’ll find in Moorea include all sorts of butterflyfish (threadfin, racoon, reticulated, ornate, teardrop… the list goes on!), triggerfish (watch out for these guys — they can be territorial — including lagoon and orange-lined), wrasse (like the sixbar wrasse, the colorful African coris, the blue-striped orange tamarin, and so many more)…. and I’m just getting started!

If you’re lucky, you may also see the Napoleon wrasse and spotted eagle rays.

These are two things we unfortunately did not see during our time in Tahiti and Moorea!

Best Snorkeling Tours in Moorea

Catamaran Sailing and Snorkeling Excursion

Allison swimming with shark in Moorea

For in-water encounters with blacktip sharks and stingrays in Moorea’s crystal clear lagoon, followed by a dip in the coral gardens to admire the biodiversity of its aquatic life, this catamaran cruise is the perfect half-day snorkeling excursion in Moorea.

With a maximum capacity of six guests, you’re guaranteed an intimate, relaxing experience where you can trly take in the beauty of the lagoon and appreciate the marine animals.

Plus, this tour did not feed the sharks and rays, unlike another tour we saw…

Book your catamaran cruise — the same one we did — with Manawa here!

Humpback Whale Snorkeling

Humpback whale mother and her young as seen from underwater while snorkeling

If you’re visiting Moorea when the humpback whales visit, this is the perfect opportunity to have a snorkeling experience like no other!

Boats will take you out to the deeper waters where humpbacks come to enjoy the warm waters of Moorea and Tahiti to birth, mate, and nurse their young.

This opportunity is only possible between July and early November so if you’re in Moorea during the high season be sure to book a whale snorkeling experience!

I recommend this whale snorkeling experience as the divemaster we dove with had positive things to say about this tour operator.

Sadly, we came to Moorea in mid-November and most of the whales had already left… although we did see one lone whale still in the waters from our dive boat one day!

Book your whale snorkeling excursion here!

Night Snorkeling

Person about to go night snorkeling

We had actually booked this night snorkeling experience but unfortunately had it canceled due to stormy weather.

If you’re not afraid of the dark, why not extend your ocean exploration with an amazing night adventure snorkeling with species that typically are only more active at night?

This includes octopus, scorpionfish, moray eels, lobsters, crabs, shrimps, and all sorts of other marine life that prefers night to day!

This unique tour will show you a side of the ocean that you won’t typically see while making sure you’re safe and having the best experience possible.

Book your night snorkel experience with Manawa here!

5 Best Snorkeling Spots in Moorea

Temae Beach

My snorkel, mask, and fin set on the beach with one of the best snorkeling areas in Moorea
My mask, fin, and snorkel set at Temae Beach — BYO snorkel gear!

Already mentioned above, but it deserves another shout for its incredible coral gardens so close to shore.

Stay on Temae Public Beach or walk to the overwater bungalow area of the Sofitel for the best snorkeling: crystal clear waters, marine wildlife like you can’t imagine, and anemone gardens housing quirky clownfish!

Tiahura Beach

purple urchin like starfish seen underwater

Further past the two motus, you’ll find Tiahura Beach, a public beach with shore access to beautiful reefs. Here, you’ll find clownfish and anemones, angelfish, porcupinefish, wrasse, and more.

Keep an eye out for the rare crown-of-thorns starfish, which looks like a purple sea urchin and a starfish had a baby! If you head close to the pontoon area, there’s a small area where you might find turtles or even eagle rays!

Tipaniers Beach (for Motu Fareone and the Shark Sandbar)

A blacktip shark seen in Moorea in the lagoon

This non-public beach has managed access via the Hotel Les Tipaniers, but the price is not extortionate (at least compared to the Hilton, below), about $15 for day use.

This is where you can access Motu Fareone and the coral garden there, which I mentioned above on the snorkel tour I did, as well as the sandbank where you’ll find all the reef sharks and rays!

You can also eat at Coco Beach Restaurant on Motu Tiahura which will allow you to snorkel there

Lagoon at the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort

a clownfish peeping up through the anemone

Unfortunately, this is not a public beach because the beach access is strictly managed by Hilton — which one of the best places to stay in Moorea, but also one of the priciest!

However, if you’re not staying as a guest, you can still buy a guest pass here for around $90 for a day, which also includes lunch and use of their pool and beach amenities.

Here, you’ll find many of the usual suspects: soooo many butterflyfish, several kinds of wrasse, lagoon triggerfish, damselfish, clownfish hiding amongst the anemones, and even adorable spotted boxfish if you’re lucky!

Ta’ahiamanu Beach

a moorish idol seen in moorea

This public beach located on Opunohu Bay is another great free snorkeling spot! There’s plenty to see all within 10-20 meters off the shore, so no need to swim out long distances in order to see the sea life here.

This is also one of the more pristine beaches on Moorea, with palm trees swaying and lovely white sand.