Hotel Tahiti Nui, Papeete: Trouble in Paradise

Hotel Tahiti Nui, Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

We want to love you, Hotel Tahiti Nui.

When we visit you in Papeete, Tahiti’s capital city, we want to swoon for your swanky modern guest rooms, your uber-cool lounge, and your peaceful terrace pool.

But you’re like the crooner whose ukulele is tuned just a quarter note flat, or the tiare-garlanded dancer whose hips swivel out of synch with her troop.

You just don’t get it right.

Central Market, Papeete, Tahiti


You’ve got a convenient location, Hotel Tahiti Nui. For visitors stopping off for some shopping in Papeete or in transit to other French Polynesian islands, you couldn’t be better situated.

You’re just a quick taxi trip from Papeete’s Fa’a airport, and only 10 minutes on foot or two minutes by cab from the cruise ship docks and from the Gare Maritime, where ferries shuttle to and from the nearby island of Moorea.

You’re a short walk from Papeete’s waterfront, its cathedral, and its central market, where vendors hawk everything from fresh tuna to tourist trinkets, local vanilla, and homemade banana “pai.”

And you’re only a five-minute stroll from Place Vaiete, where a collection of roulottes — Tahiti’s popular food trucks — feeds poisson cru, crepes, chow mein, and grilled fish to crowds of tourists and locals every night.

Swimming pool, Hotel Tahiti Nui, Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Guest Rooms and Facilities

You’ve got a disco-glam style, too, Hotel Tahiti Nui.

From your two-story lobby and your tree-filled atrium to your trendy “Le Velvet” restaurant, we can see that someone obviously paid attention to your design.

We love that you have a garden-fringed outdoor swimming pool, secluded on a second-floor terrace, with an adjacent fitness room.

Guest room, Hotel Tahiti Nui, Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Your 91 guest rooms, while sparely furnished, are modern and spacious, particularly your junior suites with their separate living rooms and kitchen areas. You’ve got air-conditioning, minibars, and flat-screen TVs.

And your helpful bilingual staffers do their best — offering maps, giving directions, and calling taxis when we need to get around the island.

Leaking bathroom, Hotel Tahiti Nui, Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

The Good, The Bad, and The Bug-ly

But here’s the scoop, Hotel Tahiti Nui. If you’re going to play in the same league as the posh hotels, you’ve got to fix a few things.

When we’re paying nearly US$250 per night, we don’t want bathroom sinks that leak. Showers that spray all over the floor no matter how you adjust them. And staff who simply shrug when we say we’re concerned about the dripping water.

We don’t want balcony doors that may or may not lock. Or cracks in the floor tiles.

And while we understand that you’re located in the tropics, we really don’t want to find a dead beetle on the crisp white bedsheets when we first enter our room. We’ll spare you the photos, but yes, we have them. (And yes, we changed rooms.)

We do want more light in the hallways, even if walkways dimly illuminated with pale blue lights are a designer’s idea of cool. Your guests will feel safer if they can see as they walk to their rooms – especially the secluded corner units.

If you’ve gone to the trouble of equipping your suites with full-sized refrigerators and dishes, it would be nice to offer microwave ovens so guests can heat up their food.

Your Wi-Fi works adequately well in the lobby, so why not put Wi-Fi in the rooms?

Outdoor deck, Hotel in Papeete, Tahiti

We know that there are some things you can’t change. Like the gas station next door and the busy road out front (the mountain-facing rooms are much quieter). Or the fact that as a downtown hotel, you don’t have a palm-fringed beach where we can watch the sunset.

That’s OK. We chose you because we wanted a couple of days to sightsee, shop, and eat in the heart of Tahiti’s only real city, not because we needed more time at the beach.

But just as it takes more than a tiare behind the ear to make a captivating dancer, it takes more than garlands of hibiscus in your lobby to make you a deluxe hotel.

Spiff yourself up, Hotel Tahiti Nui. Spend the money to fix the things that are broken and add a few services that your well-traveled guests expect.

Because we want to love you as much as we love the rest of your beautiful country. If you do want to stay at Hotel Tahiti Nui you can book through or

Hotel review by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the books, Moon Handbooks: Ontario and Living Abroad in Canada. Photos of Papeete Central Market and Hotel Tahiti Nui swimming pool © Alan Albert. All other photos © Carolyn B. Heller.

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