Tag Archives: South Pacific

Tahiti Travel Basics

There’s no other place in this world that evokes the imagery and senses like Tahiti. This is the land of Polynesian beauty, immortalized by Gaughan and revised by Hollywood. Air perfumed by vanilla trees and tropical flowers. This is paradise.

The island of Tahiti is the largest of 118 islands and atolls of French Polynesia. These islands are divided into five island groups. Tahiti belongs to the Society Islands, which also includes nearby Moorea and Bora Bora.

 Tahiti receives only a tiny fraction of tourism as compared to Hawaii, leaving this chain of islands unspoiled and secluded. Relaxation is an important element in your vacation to Tahiti, and you’ll find plenty to experience as well. There are great diving and snorkeling opportunities, and a variety of activities such as bike rentals to explore the island for a day. Tahitian culture is intoxicating, and you’ll find yourself at home on these islands. Tahiti is only 8 hours away from Los Angeles and is located in the South Pacific (find Hawaii on the globe then take a straight line south past the Equator).

 While French and Tahitian are the official languages, you’ll find English spoken at all the resorts and tourist locations. Weather is perfect year-round, though rain occurs more frequently in the January – March timeframe.
The most distinctive accommodations in Tahiti are overwater bungalows. You can opt for a special canoe breakfast delivery, lounge about enjoying the rhythmic sounds of the ocean, and delight at the views of fish from your glass floor. Bungalows are thatch-roofed, and feature traditional Polynesian details. Less expensive accommodations include categories such as Beach or Garden Bunglaows, Lagoonview Rooms, and Gardenview Rooms.
It is tough to pick just one island to visit which makes the honeymoon style of “island hopping” so attractive. Two island itinerary combinations are great for 7 night stays, and three island itineraries are popular for 10 or more nights. Of course, you can see many more islands cruising!
Cruising is an excellent way to see and experience the islands. There are several cruise options from which to choose. Paul Gauguin and Windstar offer elegant, small ship sailing options. The Aranui 3 freighter provides an adventure on a working ship, with with two week itineraries visiting the remote Marquesas Islands. Private and shared yachts are for hire out of Raitea, for 3 to 7 day itineraries. ?And mainstream cruise lines will feature, from time to time, a cruise itinerary that stops en route in the South Pacific.

Want to learn more?  Visit our sister site at TahitiJourney.com 

Happy travels!  ~Cindy Grant, Expert Family Travel.  Contact us at 972-625-6200 to plan your next vacation.  Serving Dallas Texas metro area plus clients across the US/Canada.

It’s Tahiti Time!

 

Ah, my favorite destination of all…Tahiti.  Officially known as French Polynesia, this broad collection of South Pacific islands is about 2 hours due south of Hawaii.  With pristine, calm lagoons, beautiful views, ideal weather, gentle people, and tropical flowers perfuming the air this destination embodies the perfect beach destination.

 

If this is your one and only trip to Tahiti, I would recommend a combination itinerary of Moorea and Bora Bora, staying about a week.  Plus, you will either fly on a red-eye to get to Papeete the next morning (continuing on to Moorea) or you’ll need to stay one night in Papeete upon arrival.  If you have more time than a week, or if this is your second trip to Tahiti (lucky YOU!), I would recommend visiting one of the lesser known islands on your multi-island itinerary, such as Taha’a or Tikehau.

 

 

Tahiti is best known as a honeymoon haven; certainly, an overwater bungalow on a crystalline lagoon is romantic.  But Tahiti is also ideally suited for scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts.  And several resorts are family friendly.  Promotions can take the sting out of the price-points for a family traveling to Tahiti, but it will always be more expensive than destinations such as Mexico or Hawaii.

 

There are two negatives for Tahiti as a destination:  distance and budget.  The flight from LAX is about 8 hours, but is in the same time zone as Hawaii and doesn’t require that you cross the International Date Line.  There’s just no way around it:  Tahiti is relatively expensive for a vacation, especially when considering the “must do” accommodation — an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora.  There are a few ways to reign in the costs, and we can certainly talk about your options if you’d like to put together a Tahiti trip. Traveling in November, April, and May are better price-wise and some short-stay air promotions can make a vacation here affordable when budget is key.

 

I do recommend booking Tahiti 7-9 months in advance because flights and resorts fill up. Last minute packages are best booked with a bit of flexibility in terms of dates and resorts or room categories.

 

Our packages take the guesswork out of a Tahiti trip, and will include your flights, accommodations, breakfasts, interisland flights and transportation to the resort.  We can add travel insurance, dinner plans, and day excursions to fit your needs as well.

Destination Spotlight: Fiji

Dreaming of a Polynesian escape for your next vacation getaway?  Beautiful Fiji Islands in the South Pacific total more than 300 islands in a tropical, white sand paradise.  Coral reef diving and snorkeling are exceptional. Over 1,000 species of fish swim the grottoes and lagoons, and colorful birds and tropical flowers are everywhere.

 

Typical itineraries are for 2 islands for a 7 to 9 day visit, or 3 islands for a 10-14 day vacation.  Or, for a shorter stay maybe 1 island and 5-7 nights at destination.  Allow two additional nights for travel. Properties offered by Expert Family Travel range from 3 star moderate to 5 star luxury, and include family-friendy or adults only, from small boutique properties on remote islands to mid-sized resorts in Nadi on the main island.

 

 

From the US, you ‘ll fly through Los Angeles. There are also flights from Honolulu to Nadi three times a week.  This makes for a fun Hawaii-Fiji combo, but is not as cost effective as flights through LA.  Flights to Fiji are about 10 hours from LAX airport.  If you have plenty of time (say, 3 or 4 weeks), consider combining a Fiji stay with a tour of New Zealand or Australia (being 3 and 4 hours away, respectively).

 

Featured Specials to Fiji

 

Koro Sun Resort Package – from $2353 per person
Savusavu Island

7 nights – Garden View Bure – air from LAX

Includes roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles to Nadi on Fiji Airways, roundtrip airfare from Nadi to Savusavu on Fiji Airways operated by Fiji Link, 7 nights accommodations at the Koro Sun Resort & Rainforest Spa in an Garden view Bure, all meals, airport transfers and meet & greet with shell lei.

 

Travel dates 10/4/2015 to 11/30/2015 based on availability**

 

Qamea Resort and Spa – from $3393 per person

Taveuni Island

Fiji’s #1 resort (Trip Advisor)

7 nights – Beachfront Bure – air from LAX

Includes roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles to Nadi on Fiji Airways, roundtrip airfare from Nadi to Taveuni on Fiji Airways operated by Fiji Link, 7 nights accommodations at Qamea Resort & Spa in a Beachfront Bure, welcome arrival drink, continental breakfast from buffet, afternoon tea, tea & French press plunger coffee and juices at breakfast, daily maid and turndown service, sea canoeing/kayaking, snorkel gear, 3 x weekly scheduled guided snorkel trips, once a week scheduled village tour, Wednesday night Kava Ceremony, Friday night Meke, Sunday church services, Sunday hosted wine tasting, Qamea sports water bottle with free refills of Pure Qamea purified drinking water, and nightly entertainment, meet & greet with shell lei and all applicable transfers.

 

Travel dates 9/6/2015 to 11/30/2015 based on availability**

A South Pacific Primer

Can’t decide where to go this year?  Should you return to one of your favorite resorts or is it time to check a new destination off your bucket list?  Here’s a short list of South Pacific destinations to generate some new ideas.

  • Hawaii - generally experienced one island at a time, staying 5 to 8 nights.  If you have 8 or more nights, a two island hopper might work for you.  Staying in Waikiki (Oahu) means you can skip a car rental.  But staying on Oahu’s North Shore or on the other islands (Maui, Big Island, Kauai) a car rental is definitely recommended.  No passport is required, driving is easy, and the islands lend themselves to exploring on your own.  Ideal for couples, families, reunions, and small groups. A little over 5 hours from LAX to Oahu.
  • Tahiti/French Polynesia -  everyone should visit Tahiti (and especially Bora Bora) at least once in a lifetime.  There is nothing quite like an overwater bungalow in the lagoon facing Mt. Otemanu.  High season goes from June through October, pricing higher than Low season November through May.  You may need to stay your first night in Papeete before continuing on to your island destination.  Typically experienced as a 1 to 3-island itinerary, staying 5 to 10 nights.  Moorea is a less expensive alternative, or can pair nicely with Bora Bora for a 2-island itinerary.  Lesser-known islands make for a great first escape or for a return visit.  While families are welcomed in many resorts, most travellers are honeymooners, couples, and adult divers. Flight time from Papeete is 8 1/2 hours.
  • Fiji - known for friendly faces and beautiful beaches.  A 10 hour flight from LAX.  Typical itinerary is for 7 nights for one island, or 9 to 12 nights for two islands.  Depending on air schedule, an overnight in Nadi may be necessary.  This is a divers paradise as well as a perfect spot for a honeymoon.  Fiji is also family friendly.  Only one resort offers overwater bungalows, and they are expensive and sell out quickly.  Typical accommodations are beachfront bures (bungalows).
  • Australia – best experienced as part of an escorted tour, or an independent multi destination itinerary. Allow 2 weeks minimum. Don’t forget, seasons are reversed.
  • New Zealand – Visit either North Island or South Island if you have less than 2 weeks for travel. Or combine both islands if you can go 2-3 weeks or longer. An escorted tour makes things easy and efficient, or try a self-drive itinerary if you are independent.
  • Cook Islands – for the “been there, done that” crowd. Cook Islands offer a sleepy, laid back version of Tahiti and Fiji. No luxury-level hotels and flight schedules are a bit more challenging (compared to other destinations).
  • Cruise – rather experience the South Pacific by ship? NCL offers a one-week Hawaii cruise. Paul Gauguin offers 7 day and longer French Polynesia cruises. And multiple cruise lines offer the South Pacific on special itineraries on select days. Just ask!

Happy travels!  Cindy Grant, travel consultant with Expert Family Travel (located in Frisco/The Colony in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, Texas).  Contact at 972-625-6200 or cindy@expertfamilytravel.com

 

In search of the overwater bungalow

So, maybe you are wondering — where in the world can you find overwater bungalow accommodations?

The “True” Overwater Bungalow

French Polynesia (Tahiti) is perhaps the most famous destination offering overwater bungalows, and of these islands Bora Bora tops the list.  Here you’ll find pontoons with multiple thatched-roof bungalows sitting on crystal clear, super-calm lagoon waters.  The Tahitian islands offering overwater bungalows include:

  • Bora Bora
  • Moorea
  • Tahiti (including the capital city of Papeete)
  • Huahine
  • Taha’a
  • Tikehau
  • Manihi
  • Rangiroa
  • Raiatea

Fiji has one property — the Likuliku Lagoon Resort — offering 10 overwater bungalows (called “bures”).

Cook Islands in the South Pacific has a deluxe resort featuring seven overwater bungalows.

Upolu, one of the Samoan Islands (also located in the South Pacific) has one resort that offers a couple of overwater bungalows (“fales”) along the shoreline.

The Maldives has more of the classic overwater bungalows than any other destination.  Located in the Indian Ocean and with few flight options from the US, the Maldives is an impossible destination for most Americans due to the flight costs and travel time.  There are more than 75 resorts in the Maldives offering overwater accommodations from budget to luxury.

The Overwater Accommodation

These properties aren’t quite what you envision when you think of an overwater bungalow.  Perhaps they offer over-the-water building, or hang over the shore’s edge in some way.  Or, maybe the water isn’t the clear, calm lagoon that invites an easy dip.

The Caribbean

Panama has three very small, very budget, no-frills resorts that have overwater hut-type accommodations.  These properties don’t have the upscale or luxury touches to make them good choices for the honeymoon couple, however.

Roatan Honduras has three properties that have bungalow-type accommodations that sit perched over the water’s edge.  The water isn’t going to be crystal clear or calm, and you won’t find upscale or luxury touches here either.

Belize has four small properties ranging from budget to luxury, offering a few overwater type bungalows.  While not on the quality you’ll find in the South Pacific or the Maldives, this is the closest you’ll find in the Caribbean to an overwater bungalow experience.

Sandals Grande St. Lucia anticipates opening it’s overwater bungalow category beginning early 2013.  Expect sell-out status and a high price tag.

Getting to know Fiji

Perhaps you’re looking for a unique once-in-a-lifetime romantic trip. Or maybe you’ve already experienced Caribbean and Hawaii, and you want to try a new destination.

Castaway Island, Fiji

The beautiful islands of Fiji are unspoiled and genuinely friendly. Fiji is a 10 hour flight from LAX airport, and is a great destination on its own, or can combine easily with longer itineraries to Tahiti, New Zealand, or Australia. Nadi is the main city on the island of Viti Levu. Resorts range from economy to pure luxury, and fit a wide range of budgets.

The minimum length of stay I recommend for guests traveling from the United States is 7 nights. However, a 10 night stay is ideal, staying at two or three beachfront resorts to suit your taste and budget. And speaking of budgets, food is relatively affordable in Fiji, lending itself to longer stays.

Viti Levu (Nadi and the Coral Coast) - Nadi is the major city in Fiji and the location of the international airport. As the gateway city, you may need an overnight stay in Nadi en route to other Fijian islands. If you’d like an extended stay on this island, the Coral Coast area offers several beachfront resorts.

Mamanuca Islands - Legendary white sand beaches and easily accessible from Nadi, here you’ll find some excellent resorts. Resorts available for all budgets, and range from family friendly to adults only.

Yasawa Islands - the location of the movie Blue Lagoon, the Yasawa Islands offer tropical scenery and a laid back Fijian style that is perfect for your romantic holiday. Plenty of watersports to keep you busy, such as diving and snorkeling. Kayaking is also an excellent way to enjoy the water. The beaches are idyllic.

Viti Levu Islands - two islands off the eastern coast of Viti Levu are Vatulele Island and Wakaya Island. Each island offers a very exclusive luxury resort, surrounded by pristine beaches and top of the line amenities.

Vanua Levu Island - the second largest island in Fiji, here you’ll find a tropical mountainous scenery, with a dry side to the northwest, and a lush tropical jungle on the southeast side of the island. Here too you can also enjoy the Fijian culture of the two main towns on the island.

Taveuni Island - this lush tropical island is the third largest in Fiji. You’ll find one resort on this island, set along the coastal hills in a rainforest setting, and also two luxury resorts just off the coast on smaller islands.

Blue Lagoon Cruises - experience the Fijian Islands onboard a boutique small ship cruise. Select from 2 night to 6 night itineraries, departing from Nadi roundtrip. Cruises will visit Mamanuca Islands as well as Yasawa Islands, and it is surprisingly affordable.

~Cindy Grant, Travel Consultant, ReconnectTravel.com 972-625-6200

Cook Islands: Polynesian Escape

If you are wanting a laid back, ldyllic tropical vacation where the beaches are untouched, the locals super-friendly, and the water crystal clean, the Cook Islands might be for you.  This is a good choice for folks looking to truly get away, and for those who have already visited Tahiti or Hawaii and want more of that Polynesian experience.

Of the fifteen Cook Islands, two offer tourist accommodations — Rarotonga and Aitutaki — and pair up to make for a fun two-island itinerary.  Air New Zealand offers service from LAX to Rarotonga.

While the majority of travelers to the Cooks are couples, there are several family friendly resorts.

Rarotonga is a volcanic-origin island about 20 miles around, with a clear lagoon and white sandy beaches.  This is the main island in the Cooks, and the location of the international airport.  Diving here is excellent.

Resorts include:

Aitutaki, an atoll island, is a South Pacific gem with a brilliant blue lagoon.  The setting here is laid back and unspoiled Polynesia.  This island was recently highlighted on the popular Survivor series.  Aitutaki is about an hour’s flight from Rarotonga.

Resorts include:

~Cindy Grant, Travel Consultant ReconnectTravel.com 972-625-6200