Hawaii fatigue? Tahiti drops to $294 + cheap hotels, cars

For those of you who have commented about not returning to Hawaii (and there have been thousands), we have another option for you to consider. Tahiti, just five hours south of us here in Hawaii, is currently for sale.

Who doesn’t love exploring the islands of the Pacific? One of your editors’ favorite places, outside of Hawaii, are the islands of French Polynesia. Located just five hours south of Hawaii and in the same time zone, it’s relatively easy to get to, beautiful, fascinating and exotic.

Tahiti is about an 8.5 hour flight southwest of Los Angeles. The French-speaking but English-speaking islands offer unique, idyllic lagoons teeming with marine life. While Hawaii’s coasts are mostly exposed to the open ocean, French Polynesia’s are mostly surrounded by reefs. As a result, FP offers world-class snorkeling and diving opportunities beyond what can be found in Hawaii.

How to get to Tahiti and save money with airline competition.

Airfares to Tahiti are usually quite expensive. And with the exception of the two cities listed below, it still is. San Francisco’s French Bee Airlines is competing with Los Angeles’ Delta/Air France to create this unique opportunity to visit Tahiti for less.

Los Angeles to Papeete is $299 each way on Delta Airlines, based on round trip fares.

Available from December to March. Weekends included.

San Francisco to Papeete is $294-300 each way on French Bee Airlines based on round trip fares.

Available from December to June. Saturday departures.

What happens when there is no competition?

Hawaiian Airlines flies weekly between Honolulu and Papeete, which is the only way to travel between Hawaii and Tahiti. The cheapest round-trip fare is about $1,100 for the 2,731-mile route. It’s about the same distance as flying from California to Hawaii, which you can fly regularly for as little as $238 round trip. Compare this distance and cost to flying from Los Angeles to Papeete, which is a distance of approximately 4,095 miles.

For anyone who doesn’t think airline competition is important, here’s a great example. LAX’s current cost is about 7 cents per mile, while Honolulu’s cost is about 20 cents per mile. We don’t know if any other airline would fly this route, but until things change, at least your editors don’t plan on spending more than $1,100.

What about accommodation and car rental costs in Tahiti?

Just as an example, we searched Moorea in January and found some great, top rated accommodations on the Lagoon for as little as $200 a night. We were stunned. We also found a Hertz compact car rental for only $236 for a week.

Tahiti Islands to consider

papeete, on the island of Tahiti, is the center of all business activities and international flights. Much like Honolulu, the island of Tahiti is all about Papeete. In addition to shops, Papeete Resorts offers great shopping and dining. The atmosphere reminds us more of a Mexican town than a Hawaiian one. There is a resemblance to Tijuana, which we mean in the most complementary way to both cities.

The brands

If you decide to stay in Tahiti (which we don’t usually do for very long) there is plenty to explore. A top favorite of your editors is ‘Le Marche’, Papeete’s large and vibrant traditional day market, pictured above. By far the best day is Sunday. It is a feast of food and other Tahitian products, flowers, bright colors and sounds. Le Marché is open daily from 7.30am to 6pm, but closes early on Sundays at 9am. We recommend coming there when it opens for every reason. But for a much quieter side of the island, choose Tahiti Iti. And to watch or participate in epic surfing, visit Teahupo’o, among others.

Accommodation on Moorea

Moorea, Tahiti’s bedroom neighbor, is only 30 minutes away by catamaran or 10 minutes by plane. With far fewer cars, it’s a better vacation choice for Tahiti travelers with limited time or a budget to explore further afield. It features a beautiful wide, shallow lagoon that surrounds the island’s green, high mountains. Due to its proximity to Papeete, Moorea has a distinct bed-sharing feel that sets it apart from French Polynesia’s other more remote islands.

Bora Bora. An idyllic island that has been heavily overrun by tourism and massive development over the past quarter century. Nonetheless, it has Mount Otemanu at the center of the island, tropical hillsides and valleys, beautiful white sandy beaches and an exquisite emerald lagoon teeming with fish and rays. We were lucky to have been there in the early 1980’s, before the explosion of today’s resorts.

French Polynesia

huahine is by far our favorite island in French Polynesia.

Still less than an hour’s flight from Papeete, Huahine remains one of the South Pacific’s best-kept secret hideaways to this day. It’s smaller and friendlier than Bora Bora or Moorea, and far less developed. Huahine offers unparalleled beauty in its lagoons, beaches, bays and half a dozen charming and quaint little villages. It is heavily agricultural and is a bit reminiscent of Kauai 50 years ago.

More islands to explore

These include the Marquesas, Astrals, and Gambier groups, as well as Raiatea, Taha’a, Rangiroa, Manihi, Tikehau, Tetiaroa, and Fakarava.

We look forward to hearing from those of you who have been to or are planning to visit French Polynesia. And for those of you saying you’re not returning to Hawaii, please let us know how it goes.

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