Ever dream of a bucket list vacation to Tahiti but didn’t think it was possible to do on a budget? It is! Here is everything you need to know to plan your dream getaway to this tropical paradise!
Tahiti is only one island that makes up all of French Polynesia, an overseas country tied to France with its own unique passport stamp. Wohoo! These beautiful islands located in the South Pacific Ocean are often collectively refer to simply as "Tahiti." The official languages are French & Tahitian (which is very similar to Hawaiian) but we found that most tourist locations understood English to some degree. Tahiti has a high price tag because all goods must be shipped to the island and their currency, the Pacific Franc (XPF), is directly tied to the Euro! Even so, this unforgettable place is kid friendly and possible to visit even on a budget!
How has Covid impacted travel to Tahiti?
As of July 15, 2020 Tahiti has opened its borders to tourist again! For up-to-date rules see the official website here.
The island of Tahiti is the entry way into all of French Polynesia. All flights land at the Faa’a International Airport in Papeete, the territory's capital and largest city. Currently all passengers are required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of flight time, fill out a digital health form and conduct a saliva “self-test” 4 days into your visit which they will give you at the airport. A small price to pay for safety and paradise.
When should I go if I’m on a budget?
The cheapest flights will be during the wet season from November - April, when you’ll encounter hotter weather (mid/high 80s), warmer water temperatures and also more rain. But don’t worry, there's not a big difference between temperature highs from dry to wet seasons. The main difference is the amount of rain which peak during the months of December and January, so avoiding those months will give you better odds of a sunnier vacation. The best time to book a flight would be on the shoulder seasons, right before or after the high season. We recommend April, October and November. I’ve seen amazing deals to Papeete if your flexible.
Tahiti is only one out of roughly 118 islands that make up French Polynesia so consider island hopping once you're there! If you’re on a budget, consider taking the 30 minute ferry ride on Terevau or Armenti, over to Mo’orea for only around $9 each way! There’s always tickets available so you don’t need to get these tickets ahead of time. Awesome!
If you want to visit several other islands, such as Bora Bora, you’ll have to buy tickets from the only inter-island airline Air Tahiti. Consider buying a Multi-Island Tour Pass which lets you visit all the islands on that pass! The pass is a great deal if you plan on visiting more than 3 islands.
Where Should I Stay And Eat?
Most flights will land in the evening, so a lot of tourists tend to stay close to the airport in Papeete. We loved The Intercontinental Resort Tahiti which is located close to the airport. However if you plan on staying in Tahiti, we recommend you stay a little outside the city so you get more of the relaxing island feel away from crowds. Ahh paradise. The cheapest option is to stay in a apartment/house rental close to the beach but always check around for specials, especially during the off-season.
Tip: If you want to experience the classic over-water bungalow, it’ll be much cheaper to rent one in Tahiti or Mo’orea than premium locations like Bora Bora.
To save money buy groceries at the local Champions or SuperU shopping markets instead of eating at your resort. We found the grocery store prices weren’t too bad and your money will go so much farther. It's also a fun way to explore the unique fusion between French and Polynesian cuisine! Consider exploring local foods such as the famous Tahitian Poisson Cru. Yum!
If you want to stay at a Resort, consider a standard garden view room and do as much grocery store shopping as you can to save on food costs. If you love to eat at the resort we recommend booking a room that includes your meals such as with Costco Travel, but make sure to call in for their special rates! Costco will have deals with most major resorts like Sofitel, Intercontinental, Hilton and Marriott which will include meals. A must if you’re looking to eat at the resorts restaurants.
Should I rent a car in Tahiti?
If you plan on relaxing at your resort or beach across from your room then there's no need to rent a car. Most resorts have taxi services and many have hotel shuttles from the airport.
If you want to see some of Tahiti’s epic spots we recommend renting a car for a day or two! See what fits in your budget. Often the main island of Tahiti is bypassed by tourists but theres so much to see and do such as waterfalls, gorgeous valley hikes, fresh spring grotto's and stunning snorkeling. Plus its budget friendly because you don't have to book another flight.
We recommend using Avis, they may seem a little higher priced but we learned (the hard way) that Hertz will charge you by the mile in addition to the car. If you plan on driving a lot they do offer mileage packages.
What are the best things to do on the main island of Tahiti on a budget?
The best part about a tropical island paradise is that you don’t need to spend a lot to have a fabulous time! There's only one main road that circles the island which makes getting around very easy.
Visit a Marae: Dive deeper into Tahitian cultural history by seeing one of the many free historical Marae, like Arahurahu Marae in Pa’ea, ancient sacred ceremonial sites.
Maraa Grotto: Visit these fresh water pools where your kids will be convinced a mermaid will pop out of these enchanting waters.
Snorkel: say “Ia ora na” hello to the beautiful tropical fishes! Most hotels have excellent snorkeling right on their grounds. Or visit a local beach, your wallet will be happy with the free parking, we loved Plage (beach) Vaiava or Mahana Park on the northwest side of the island. Depending on your budget you can also take a tour to see the lagoonarium and shipwrecks near Papeete which take you further out into the reef.
Walk to a waterfall: There are many waterfall viewing spots all around the island, the best part is you don’t have to walk far and they’re free to visitors. Check out Faarumai waterfall and Twin Falls on the northeast side of the island or the Water Gardens Vaipahi located 20 mins south of the Maraa Grotto.
Visit the lush interior valleys: The inside of the island is home to lush valleys and epic lookouts. Depending on your budget you can take a 4-wheel tour through the popular Papeno’o valley. Visit the Fautaua Valley Trail, for around $7 you can obtain a permit at the Papeete city hall where you’ll see a 300 meter waterfall. Or simply hike on your own for free, we like the AllTrails app which will give you all the details you need about a hike!
We hope these tips help get you started on making your dream vacation a reality! Stay safe out there.
Aloha and happy travels,