Transcript: French Polynesia
Writer Jason Cochran answered your questions on Tahiti, Moorea, and Huahine on October 5, 2004
No phone. No room service. No air-conditioning. No worries.
Simple is the way to go on the French Polynesian islands of Tahiti, Moorea, and Huahine. All you really need is a thatched hut with friendly owners and a beachfront location.
Jason Cochran, who wrote "Tahiti Unplugged" for the October issue of Budget Travel magazine, answered your questions on French Polynesia on Tuesday, October 5, 2004 at noon ET.
Jason Cochran is Senior Editor of Budget Travel magazine. In addition to writing for publications such as Entertainment Weekly, The Village Voice, and Arena, he wrote questions for the first season of ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. He recently spent two years backpacking around the world, visiting six continents and over 40 countries. A current resident of New York City, he has also lived in Chicago, Atlanta, Key West, and Cape Town, South Africa.
Jason Cochran: Hello, everyone! No sense in writing a long-winded introduction--we're all here for one reason. Let's talk Tahiti!
Smyrna, GA: We are interested in a private bungalow with the ocean outside the door. Is there a reasonably priced option for this?
Jason Cochran: Absolutely! The whole reason for my being here today, conducting this Live Talk, is to discuss the cover story of this month's Budget Travel magazine. The October 2004 cover, "Sweet Tahiti" is all about those accommodations in French Polynesia that are right on the ocean AND affordable. Not a single international hotel chain is listed--just private, family-owned pensions. The great thing about all of them is that the owners are fully aware that you've come to Tahiti for privacy and romance, and they leave you alone. In fact, because of the low room density at these places, you'll probably get a lot more privacy at a pension than you would at a big resort. The answer to your specific question--a reasonable option--depends greatly on which island you're thinking about visiting. The options listed in the article are grouped by island, and it covers three islands: Tahiti (the biggest one), Moorea, and Huahine. If I were to name a place with the ocean right "outside the door," I would probably say Hiti Moana Villa or Punatea Village on Tahiti; Fare Vaihere on Moorea; and Pension Mauarii on Huahine. At all of those, you can roll out of bed, walk down your steps, and find yourself right on the water. (Now, if you're asking about what's called an "overwater bungalow," which is built on pilings right over the coral reefs, hang on until later in the chat, when I'll address that type of accommodation.)
San Francisco, CA: We are taking the Tahitian Princess next month. Do we need to bring formal/dressy clothes?
Jason Cochran: Yes, unless you want to feel under-dressed during the few formal dinners that will be thrown. We're not talking tuxedos--but a coat and tie would be sitting. But you only need an outfit or two. You're going to be in your bathing suits most of the time.
Cambridge, MN: Hi Jason! I would love to visit Tahiti. Could you tell me when is the best time of the year to visit? And when is the time of the year that Tahiti is overflowing with tourists? Or do I even need to worry about that? Thanks!!
Jason Cochran: The weather patterns are a little different than what they are at home. February and March are very hot and humid--even the locals, who are presumably used to it, scramble for shade. High season is in July or August, when European vacationers flood in and the weather is splendid. Rain peaks from November to April. I prefer May or October, which have good weather but aren't that crowded.
Benicia, CA: We really like Tahiti and went to Moorea when the dollar was strong several years ago. We would like to go to go again; the small hotels from the article seem ideal, but the price for airline tickets make it too costly. How can the small hotels compete with the ones who are combining with airfare? With airfare from SF to LAX and then LAX to Papeete, the cost becomes higher than the expensive hotel packages. Are there consolidators for airfare to Tahiti?
Jason Cochran: Because of the purchasing power wielded by the big hotels and the airlines, they can often come up with air-hotel deals that are unbeatable, in terms of price. But not always! Often, only the least expensive hotels are packaged with airfare at a price that beats the family-owned pensions. Which means that your hotel could end up being kind of gross. The fancy resorts most people dream about (overwater bungalows, clear waters, huge blue pool) are often much more expensive than the lowly two-star resorts that first grab shoppers' eyes with ultra-low prices. So if you're going to go the package route, do some serious research into the hotel first, just to make sure it's the kind of place (with the kind of peace and on the kind of clear waters) that you're dreaming of. You may find that it's still to your benefit to buy hotel and airfare separately. To shop for airfare alone, make sure to look for deals from the big player to Tahiti's capital city, Papeete: Air Tahiti Nui (airtahitinui-usa.com/). Sometimes, but not often, Qantasqantas.com/) sells codeshare sale flights there, too. Air New Zealand offers what's called the South Pacific Airpass, and if you're planning on visiting a few other countries or islands in the region (including Australia, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, and Fiji), you can often put together a multi-stop package at a substantial savings. Flight Cenflightcentre.com/) can often find flights for cheaper than anyone else, and it also offers a lowest-price guarantee. Other players to check: FlyCheap (800/FLY 1800flycheap.com/) and Air Tickets Direct (800/7; airticketsdirect.com/). Sometimes you can find a marked-down "Bula Fare" on Afic (airpacific.com/), fly Fiji from Los Angeles or Vancouver, and then change for a flight to Tahiti for a few hundred dollars. It takes more work and planning, but it's possible to save that way. If you're feeling really ambitious (and if you speak French), check in with a French travel agent before booking. Huge amounts of French people vacation and retire in Tahiti (it's like France's Hawaii), and so there are plenty of flights heading from Paris and other French cities all year round. Which means there are are plenty of deals to be had, if you have the language skills to buy them.