December 7-9, 2006 -- We departed Auckland on Friday at 2 PM and (get
this) landed in Tahiti on Thursday night at 8 PM. Love that international
we spent the first night in Tahiti at Le Meridien (a Starwood hotel) then
traveled to the island of Moorea where we stayed at the Sheraton (another
Starwood property). Our departure was at 10:15 PM Saturday night, so we had
two full days in the French Polynesian islands. We did not visit Bora Bora,
probably the best known and most expensive island, on advice of the locals
who call it "boring Bora."
speaks French, although a Tahitian dialect. The local currency is Polynesian
Francs (abbreviated FCP in Tahiti and XPF in international banking). I
checked the exchange rate before we left the US; it was 91 per US dollar.
Then before we left New Zealand, I noticed it had strengthened to 89 per US
dollar. So from my point of view, things kept getting more expensive!
Needless to say, the biggest industry is tourism. The hotels are
extremely expensive from our point of view, as are the restaurants. Taxi
rates are fixed by the government: 2700 XPF ($30) to our hotel during day
rates, and 3700 ($41) during night. Breakfast is typically $35 per person,
and dinner at a restaurant called Te Honu Iti ("The Little Turtle") cost us
Moorea is much prettier than Tahiti. The prices on both islands are very
high (in our view). We rented an Avis car so we could see the entire island.
the recommendation of locals, we found the grocery store on the other side
of the island away from tourist areas. It was crowded with Polynesians (no
obvious tourists except us) and the prices indicate what the local economy
For example, tomatoes (not great looking) and grapes (better looking)
were each 730 FCP per KG, which translates to $3.69 per pound. Pricey. Diet
Coke was $3.59 per bottle (standard 1.5L size), and regular Coke was $4.29.
I found it interesting that regular Coke (Classic) was also more expensive
in the vending machines.
The lamb chops were imported from (where else?) New Zealand. They are
cheaper here than in NZ (at least in terms of US dollars), translating to
$7.49 per pound. The label is clearly marked "Nouvel Zelande" (which a
French woman assured us was simply an abbreviation for the proper spelling
The "sister" island of Moorea is reachable by boat or airplane. There are
various ferries, all of which are cheaper than by air, and more fun, we
think. So we took the 30 minute (fast) ferry. A summer rain shower came
through as we waited to board the boat, so hundreds of people huddled under
a tent. Loading the luggage into fork-lifted containers was a most
interesting process to observe (it worked OK but wouldn't be possible in the
The boat ride itself was fun, fast, and windy. The recommended way to go.
There is only one real road on Moorea,
and we drove its entirety in less than 2 hours, circumnavigating the island
next to the ocean all the way. This is our Avis car in front of the Sheraton
($125 per day).
Tahiti is a poor country. There is no wealth at all to be seen. Homes are
little more than basic shelters. Most look like shacks (although to be fair
there are a few 'classy' homes). Even in Moorea, where we expected to find
some "fancier" homes, we saw none.
Lunch on our last day was at a cute
restaurant on a boat, called Linareva, located at the "far end" of the
island, so we thought it might be more for locals. Not really. (Remember
this is a tourist economy.)
Bottom line on Tahiti: we have "been there, done that." Yes it is an
exotic South Pacific paradise. Just remember that it is very pricey, and
there really isn't much to do except beach stuff. And the internet
connectivity as of 2006 is poor: slow and expensive where it is available.
So for me it's a place to visit for a day or two. C'est tout.