After some thought, Vito and I decided we wanted A/C, restaurants and amenities for our Honeymoon in French Polynesia. So this post includes tips and a budget breakdown on how to indulge responsibly in Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. We also waited until after our wedding to see how our finances shook out before committing to this Honeymoon, which is step 1 for responsible planning. Here are a few more extreme savings tips off the top!
Tips to Majorly Save Money in French Polynesia:
- Air BnB’s or local pension type hotels throughout Moorea and Bora Bora that exist mainly on the mainland for around $150 a night.
- Our travel agent suggested we stick to Tahiti and Moorea because the flight to Bora is $600 each but in the end we couldn’t bear the FOMO of missing the crown jewel (and it was worth all the hype).
- The other suggestion was to visit the Cook Islands, which are similar but 1 hour further into the Pacific and we just didn’t think it would be the same.
Also general note on currency: the Euro and U.S. Dollar go farther in French Polynesia, which has it’s own currency that resembles the Euro. Canadians, keep this in mind!
#1. “Use Your Reward Miles on Credit Card,” said Captain Obvious
Consider switching to a richer reward card or consolidate programs if time is on your side. We used $2,900 worth of points across my personal credit card, my husband’s personal and business credit cards. Since Vito uses the same bankcard type for personal and business, he was able to transfer all his points to one card to consolidate.
My card points can’t be used for statement credit so I booked a round trip flight from Toronto to LA (worth $500 – $600). Vito is able to apply his points to travel expenses as a statement credit, which he used for LA flight and against mega charge from travel agent.
#2. Sometimes a Connecting Flight to Tahiti is More Expensive
From North America you can only fly to Tahiti from Los Angeles and San Francisco. When we inquired with our travel agent to book a connecting flight through partner airlines it was more expensive than booking a round trip flight to and from LA on our own, and a separate round trip flight to Tahiti through her. Research!
#3. Check Out all Three Airlines that now fly to Tahiti
It is only an 8-hour flight from California to Papeete, which appealed to us over the 13-hour flight to Asia, followed by a 5-hour connecting flight to Bali, Maldives or Thailand.
- Air Tahiti flies from France with a stopover in Los Angeles
- United Airlines flies direct from San Francisco
- Air France flies direct from Los Angeles
We planned to spend one night in LA or San Fran to break up the flight and get used to the Pacific Time Zone. We wanted to see Redwood Trees near San Fran badly but by the time we were ready to book, it was $1,000 extra with United so we chose Air Tahiti via LA.
#4. Take a Paul Gauguin Cruise Around French Polynesia Islands
We didn’t do this because I hate boats and avoid them at all costs but I know others who have and they got to see more islands, while saving on hotels and food! You can extend a night or two at the beginning and end of the cruise too.
#5. Visit Bora During Shoulder Season to Get a Deal on an Overwater Bungalow Hut
There are pros and cons to visiting Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora during the shoulder season in April and November. While we looked at the cost of an Overwater Bungalow Hut (OWB) at multiple resorts in Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, we found the best deal in Bora Bora and preferred the atmosphere. In general huts are $1,000+/night.
There are 9 major resorts along the 32 km of Motu in Bora Bora and we stayed at the Pearl Resort because they had a deal to stay 2 nights and get the 3rd night free. It worked out to roughly $750 / night (incl. food I think) for a premium bungalow.
The extra charge to get a mountain view was minimal based on overall budget and the view was UNREAL during the day and the privacy plus stars at night were EPIC. Where else can you stay literally in the ocean and also face land??
The Pearl is close to the airport (10 minute boat ride), on one of the larger islands and it doesn’t get a lot of boat traffic based on where it is located #chillAF. BUT the interior of the huts are dated (esp. bathroom) and the A/C is not effective.
#6. Choose a Cheaper Resort and Basic Room in Moorea or Other FP Islands
To balance the cost of a hut in Bora, we booked the cheapest room at the cheapest resort in Moorea. There are 4 major resorts in Moorea: The Hilton and The Sofitel (5-stars), plus The Intercontinental and The Manava (4 stars).
While we were dying to stay at The Hilton, it was double the price so we decided to visit instead (it really is superior in every way so if you can swing it, do it!). Like most, our hotel had four main room class types:
- Standard Hotel Room à Our Room
- Garden Bungalow with pool
- Beach Bungalow
- Overwater Bungalow
The universe and manifestation Gods were on our side as we got a free upgrade to Garden Bungalow (worth $1,000 extra for 4 nights) because the room they gave us was a literal construction zone. We preferred the privacy of this room type but it varies by resort.
#7. Save Money on Drinks If You Can
We stayed at the Manava Resort in Moorea, which was a 5-minute walk to a grocery store. We stocked up on bottled water, soft drinks and alcohol and then brought them to hotel restaurants #noshame. The cost of water in restaurants is between $4 and $6.50 US/1L.
In Bora Bora, the Pearl Resort gave us bottled water throughout our stay, which helped a lot! If we didn’t finish a drink we’d bring it back to the room instead of throwing it out etc. Being on a Motu where you have to take a boat to civilization limits your options. Take advantage of happy hour specials if you like booze!
#8. Buy a Meal Plan in Advance to Save Money in Bora Bora
We had breakfast included everywhere and bought a dinner package in Bora Bora since we were there for 3 nights and did not intend to take a boat to dinner on the mainland. It didn’t add that much to our overall price and we had three-course meals every night with appetizer, main and dessert each. There were minor up charges for a couple premium dishes and every hotel has an optional, expensive Polynesian Buffet night with upcharge.
A la Carter Dinner Pricing:
- The cost of appetizers are between $15 and $25 USD
- The cost of sandwiches, pizza and burgers are in the same $15 to $25 price range
- The cost of a main fish or beef dish is between $30 to $50 USD
- The cost of dessert is between $8 (ice cream) and $15 USD (crème Brule)
We never did three course meals when dinner was on our own dime. Sometimes portions are large and we could share a main dish.
#9. Shop Around for Car Rentals, Massages and More in French Polynesia!
Learn how to drive a standard car before you arrive if you can. Automatic car rentals started at $80 USD for half day but you could rent them for 24 hours for $90 to $100 USD at the cheapest places. Standard car rentals were around $50 USD a day.
While one would assume Bora Bora would be the most expensive for massages, I checked three resorts in Moorea and the going rate was $130 USD for 50 minutes. I called the Pearl in advance and they had an April Special – $110 for 40 minutes or $140 for 80 minutes – so I went for it (a lesson to never assume). Vito’s 4 hour snorkel tour was $130.
#10. Do All-Inclusive Air + Flight Package to Tahiti and Ferry Daytrip to Moorea
If all else fails, book a last minute Flight + Hotel Package to stay in Tahiti and ferry to and from Moorea for a couple of the days (one-hour ride max) to explore that island’s surroundings. We met a couple from California who did this and they loved it.
How we spent our $10,000+ Budget for 10 Nights in Bora Bora, Tahiti & Moorea (2019)
People get weird about money but I couldn’t find any helpful information online when I was researching and stitched together a budget based on our travel agent and a friend who’d been. I want to help save you time so in the spirit of oversharing, here goes!
Before we left Canada we got $1,500 in spending money for food and had paid for all flights and accommodations / transfers through our agent. We paid for Air BnB and LA stuff out of pocket. General Breakdown:
- 1 night at an airport hotel in LA ($240) + $300 Spending money (to break up the flight & reduce stress)
- 1 night in Tahiti AirBnB with transfers to and from the airport included ($150)
- 4 nights in a standard hotel room + breakfast at the Manava Resort in Moorea
- 3 nights in an overwater hut with Otemanu view at Pearl Resort Bora Bora + breakfast and dinner (about $750 / night)
- 1 night + breakfast at the Pearl Resort in Tahiti ($350)
- 7 flights including three domestic one-way flights via Air Tahiti and 2 round trip flights to get us from Toronto to Papeete via Air Canada and Tahiti (economy)
- All private transfers to and from airports and hotels via coach or boat
- $1,500 to spend on food and drinks not covered plus spending money for excursions etc.
We didn’t really budget for ubers in LA, airport food + baggage check + seat reservations, souvenirs, rental car and Safari Tour in Moorea, snorkel tour or 80-minute massage in Bora. We flat out ran out of cash for the last 48 hours as we had split our spending money between us and periodically checked the safe to see where we were at (a.k.a not enough monitoring). As a result, we went OVER BUDGET by $1,500 – netting around $11,500. #fml
If Bora Bora is on your bucket list, I hope this post gives you ideas on how to make it happen. In retrospect, I’d stay at a couple properties in Bora to break up the monotony food wise and take advantage of multiple hotel promo deals if I could do it again (and if there were more deals to be had).
Have you been to French Polynesia? If yes, any other tips? If no, is it on your bucket list?