I’ve heard it said that you are either a mountain person or a beach person, and maybe that’s true because even though I love the beach, there’s nothing like the mountains to me. Our family actually moved to be near mountains (See post “We Bought a Zoo RANCH”). We love traveling but have never been really big on going places that are tropical, aka hot, but when we were deciding where to go after not traveling for a couple years, we found ourselves looking at Hawaii. When searching for flights however, we found French Polynesia to be a better deal – similar in scenery and culture, less commercial, plus another international trip to add to our family list. Perfect! Not to mention … the best of both worlds … beaches and mountains!
French Polynesia is made up of several islands in the south Pacific Ocean, the biggest being Tahiti, which is where we chose to stay. Other popular destinations are Moorea, which we did ferry over to for one day, and a little further from the main island is Bora Bora. Where you choose to stay for a vacation is the biggest decision in my opinion … also why I enjoy and take quite seriously being a vacation rental host. (Our WY rentals: Wheels Up Cottage and Saddlestring Ranch). I was actually pretty nervous about where we chose to stay in Tahiti because it was a new rental with no reviews, but it could not have been more perfect. It made this trip for us.
Where we Stayed
We chose a house in Pa-ea, a small town not too far from the capital Papeete. Right on a private beach, a traditional Tahitian grass hut bungalow style where the doors to the back open up the entire place so the inside and outside combine. The backyard a botanical garden with trees and flowers, lizards, and snails … a huge tree that curves into a natural bench with big leaves coming down like an umbrella. The beach is on a lagoon, so the water is shallow and smooth, easy to swim, snorkel, and kayak in while still seeing and hearing the waves break against the coral reef not too far off from the shore. The island of Moorea is in sight with clouds always billowing around it. The neighbors on both sides are locals – they don’t speak much English but they are so kind. They bring us fresh coconut, mangos, and papayas grown in their yards. Within walking distance is a market with lots of fresh foods, including fresh amazing croissants every day!
Snorkeling and kayaking in the lagoon was so amazing! The water was so clear, there was coral everywhere, and we saw manta rays several times just swimming right beside us! The water didn’t get very deep, and the current wasn’t too strong, so I wasn’t fearful of the kids swimming and exploring in the water. Crazy story – Josh lost his wedding ring in the water at the beginning of the week. He was so upset and just knew it was gone forever. End of the week, the kids come running up to us – I thought something was wrong at first until I saw the huge smiles. One of our daughters somehow found his ring in the sand in the water!!
Many people enjoy resorts, of which there are several in French Polynesia, and there is nothing wrong with that. But this was just our style … hardly any people around … peaceful, beautiful. Most of our time was spent at our rental, playing frisbee, collecting shells, playing in the water, walking the beach, watching the sunsets. Many vacations for us are go, go, go … jam-packing as many sights and adventures as possible, which is great! But this trip was a needed, slow paced, deep breath and relaxed time together as a family. We still had some adventures, which I’m sharing too, but the best part for us was the “Villa Kahaia.”
Tahiti Travel Tips
- Weather: We went in March, which was on the tail end of the rainy season. We had some showers but nothing too crazy – usually just a short afternoon shower. Shoulder seasons are a great time to visit places as crowds and prices both tend to be a little less.
- Language: Most people we encountered spoke some English, but it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on some French. And just like how in France saying “Bonjour” is important anytime you greet someone; here it is “La Orana” (yo-rah-nah).
- Transportation: Book a rental car early especially if you have a big family. There are not a lot of larger vehicles available on the island.
- Currency Exchange: Most places accept cards, but always ask first, even if there is a credit card sign. We had a couple experiences where the card reader was down and needed to pay in the local currency.
- Sunscreen! I knew better, but our first day there it was cloudy with nice temps; we slacked on the sunscreen and paid for it!
- Food: We didn’t eat out much at all on this trip, so I don’t really have restaurant recommendations, but the fresh tropical fruit and coconuts are amazing as are all the fresh pastries (again, think France – croissants and baguettes!)
Arahurahu Marae and Grottes De Maraa
Quick stops with short walks and pretty views
Papeete: the capital city
Lots of people and crazy traffic; had fun shopping and eating at the Papeete market
Museum of Tahiti and the Islands
Scuba Diving: Eleuthera Tahiti Diving Center
Not all of us wanted to participate in this adventure, but it worked out great for Josh (the adventure king Dad) to take the three risk-seeker kids with him while I (the rather-read-about-it Mom) had a relaxing and special time with my mini-me teenage daughter back at the lagoon.
Driving the road that circles around the whole main island of Tahiti with some incredible stops along the way:
- Point Venus (black sand beach, lighthouse, and lunch at Mama’s Beach House Café)
- Faarumai Waterfall (short hike to 3 waterfalls)
- Arahoho Blowhole
- Water Gardens Vaipahi
Te U’I Tapairu Dinner Show
Moorea Day Tour
We booked through Viator a full day tour of the island of Moorea. Our guide Pierre was born and raised there and took us on an amazing day full of beautiful views, learning experiences, and lots of great memories. We saw a pineapple farm as well as a vanilla farm. He made us the national dish of French Polynesia, Tahitian Poisson Cru, which literally translates to “raw fish.” Our oldest, who is a bit of a foody, and I both said it was one of the best things we’ve ever eaten!
Okay, so not an adventure, and I know I already mentioned watching the sunsets, but seriously, I don’t know how to describe how amazing these sunsets were. They lasted forever and just kept getting more and more spectacular. We were able to watch from in the water or on the beach, and we would stay until the stars came out. This was as memorable as any other part of our trip.
The best travel experiences are the ones where you take time to cherish the moments, and this was definitely one of those. Surrounded by God’s beautiful creation, your spouse who is your favorite person in the world, and your kids who you know are going to be grown with their own families before you know it … not worried about filling every minute with an adventure but just finding them as you go and enjoying every bit of it. This family time in French Polynesia was precious.