When my wife and I were celebrating a big wedding anniversary, she had long dreamed of staying in some nice overwater bungalow on turquoise waters and we booked flights to Fiji using miles before we realized we’d goofed one something: most of the overwater bungalows in the South Pacific are in Tahiti, not Fiji. Oops.
We had a great time staying at Koro Sun and Turtle Island Resort on a private island and wouldn’t change a thing about where we spent our time, but if we had done our homework, we would have realized that the island chains share some similarities, but the types of hotels in Tahiti to choose from are more varied, including those stunning overwater bungalow places we had envisioned in our minds.
Where is Tahiti?
Tahiti is not an island, first of all, it’s a place. The country is part of French Polynesia, in the South Pacific. It’s northeast of New Zealand, directly east of Fiji, and south of Hawaii. These are little dots in the ocean, not all that close to anything else except other islands.
Getting to Tahiti
Seven airlines operate flights to French Polynesia, so you have a range of choices, though some aren’t going to get you there from mainland North America. The number of flights has been expanding though thanks to the addition of Frenchbee, which will allow you to fly from Los Angeles or SFO to Tahiti. You can fly with them all the way from France or join up with one of their connections from North America.
To get to your final destination, you may need to take another internal flight to get you from one island to the other. That will likely be on Air Tahiti Nui. (You can also combine a visit here with a trip to the Cook Islands from Rarotonga starting in late June, 2024.)
Luxury Overwater Bungalows
This is the type of lodging that Tahiti is best known for an is probably the type you’ve seen most in your social media feed and any marketing from the tourism board. French Polynesia is one of the best-known destinations in the world for this type of lodging and there are around 22 overwater bungalow resorts in Tahiti spread over the various islands. If you want to snag a prime room, you’ll have more choices than that sounds like at first: some of these resorts are quite large and the total inventory is a shade less than 900 rooms.
Usually these resorts are not all-or-nothing affairs: they’ll have some overwater bungalows and some regular rooms on shore, but many with a view. One of these is the Intercontinental Tahiti Resort and Spa, pictured at the top. It is a short hop from the international airport but takes you away to a tropical dream, with views of nearby island Moorea.
There’s also a fine Intercontinental on Bora Bora, which is joined by the Four Seasons Bora Bora (pictured above), Conrad Bora Bora Nui, a St. Regis, and several independent operations. That’s not the only island with overwater bungalows though, so search around for the ideal spot, like Kia Ora on Rangiroa for example and then check out inter-island flights if a transfer is not included
Search all the luxury options here.
Large Resort Hotels in Tahiti for Families
Not everyone flying across an ocean to Tahiti is coming for some romantic vacation. Some are bringing the kids along, especially if they have a much shorter flight from Australia or New Zealand in the mix. There are plenty of large resorts like you see at beaches around the world that will cater to the kids and make sure all the family members have plenty to do.
Some of these are chain hotels, some are independent resorts, and there are options on most of the major islands of various sizes.
Some of the largest family resorts include Le Meridien Bora Bora, Le Tahiti by Pearl Resorts, Te Moana Tahiti, Hilton Tahiti, and Manomano Lodge.
For some people, the idea of lying around all day at a bungalow–no matter how great the view–is the opposite of what they want on vacation. Tahiti is a terrific adventure and outdoors activity destination as well, with rugged mountains to hike, lagoons to paddle or kayak on, and hundreds of coral reefs to explore under the water.
Some of the smaller guesthouses are focused more on what to do rather than just providing a pretty view and nice meals. Over at our sister site Perceptive Travel, one of the writers stayed at all-inclusive Tides Reach Resort (not a typo), where their activities included paddleboarding over sea turtles, hiking to waterfalls, walking a coastal trail, scuba diving, and even crossing an international date line on foot. They still got a sweet suite though:
It takes a little more digging to find Tahiti lodging meant for adventurers and not sun-seekers, but there are plenty of them on the islands and the prices are usually more reasonable, especially if you don’t care about being in a sprawling resort.
There are a few sustainable places that could be billed as options for glamping in Tahiti. Most of them are small operations that don’t pay to be on the major booking sites, however. You’ll have better luck finding them on Airbnb or other villa rental sites.
Boutique Hotels on the Islands
Tahiti has more large hotels and resorts than small boutique operations when you look at the big booking sites such as Expedia. You need to go to Booking.com to check the smaller options or, better yet, just invest an hour or so searching articles about the options to find the hidden gems that are more stylish and intimate.
We have reviewed a few of these smaller operations on Hotel Scoop, but some highly rated ones to check into if you’re in a hurry are Boutique Hotel Kon Tiki Tahiti, The Brando, Ninamu Resort, Lapita Village, and Vahine Island Resort, plus there are plenty in Pepeete if you don’t mind being in the city.
Tahiti on a Budget?
Most people fly all the way to this part of French Polynesia so they can go diving in Tahiti or stay at some upscale hotel for honeymooners and anniversary celebrators. Although there are plenty of activities that those on a more modest budget can afford, Tahiti on a budget is not so easy.
If you are trying to keep costs down, the best way is to stay in a town and then just get out on the water on various tours instead of spending the night in an overwater bungalow or beachfront. The islands of Rangiroa, Tikehau, Moorea, and Tahaa tend to be less expensive, especially if you’re staying in a town instead of at a resort area.
See this review of Pension de la Plage on the main island from our contributor Carolyn, which runs around $100 to $150 per night, low-budget by local standards. It’s about a half hour from the capital city of Papeete, where contributor Dana stayed at Hotel Tahiti Nui, a nice $200-ish place with a great swimming pool complex and a view of the mountains.