Trip Coach: October 21, 2008
Alexis Kelly, editor of the Fodor's guidebook to Tahiti and Polynesia, answered your questions about earthly paradise.
Alexis Kelly: Hi everybody. This is Alexis Kelly, editor of Fodor's guide to Tahiti & French Polynesia. Thanks for taking the time to submit your questions. Tahiti and its sister islands of French Polynesia are magical. Overwater bungalows! Shooting the pass! Swimming with the fishes! Turquoise blue waters with exquisite pink coral! It's all amazing. I do hope I can provide the guidance that will help to make your dream of traveling there a reality.
So, let's get started.
Ocala, Fla.: I am wondering about a more active vacation package in Polynesia, such as a bicycle tour on several islands. (I understand most islands aren't big enough for!several days of riding.) Does such an option exist, or is it mostly beachtime and shopping?
Alexis Kelly: Trips to Polynesia are actually much more active than you'd think. While there are beaches and some shopping, it's all about exploring the outdoors here—by land and by sea. No matter what island you're staying on, numerous tour operators offer 4WD tours that explore the islands. While a little bumpy, these tours (sometimes in air conditioned vehicles) will take you to places that you wouldn't otherwise find on foot or in your own car. Sometimes they even include lunch or stops in the different towns for some shopping or exploring. Most trips are a few hours.
All the usual aquatic activities—diving, snorkeling, fishing, boating, Jet Skiing—are also available, and there are also plenty of tour operators that will take surfers and body boarders to the legendary surf breaks.
If you do want to bike, most accommodations (large and small) will have bikes on hand for guests to use or, can point you in the direction of the local bike rental place; these rental places usually also rent out scooters. The outer coastal roads that ring most of the islands are fairly easy to bike around. On Moorea, factor in a full day to bike around the islands 37-mile Coastal Road. On Bora Bora, figure about 4 hours to bike the island's 20-mile Coastal Road.
Manassas, Va.: We would like to take a trip to Tahiti and islands this time, next year. Is this a good time weather-wise and would you advise on whether to cruise the islands or pick a couple to spend time at? If staying on a couple of islands, which hotels would you recommend? If we stayed, it would be for perhaps a little looking around, but mainly, some downtime/relaxation. Thank you!
Alexis Kelly: This time of year is a great time to travel to the Society Islands (Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, etc.). This is their winter or the dry season (October-May). It's never cold, and has less humidity and rainfall and people. The water temperature of the lagoons is a fairly constant 77 degrees F (25 degrees C). Lovely, right?
Always be prepared for a mixed bag though. You could get perfectly dry days in the wet season and rainy days in the dry season. That's the beauty of the tropics.
If you want to see a few of the islands, I suggest cruising; it's really the perfect way for the first time to experience the area. Not only is it the more economical alternative to a land-based holiday—you'll visit four islands in seven days, some of which would be extremely expensive to stay at on your own—there no planes or buses to catch, which means more time to enjoy the holiday. And that sounds like exactly what you're looking for.
Most of the shore excursions are add-ons, which means you don't have to do them if you don't want to. Maybe you feel like going to the shark-feeding and motu picnic on one, but at the next stop you just want to relax and laze about. It's all up to you. You could even do your own thing in port like renting bikes or a car to explore the island. And don't worry about downtime. The islands all operate on what's fondly called "island time." So it's good to arrive with a laid back, easy going manner.
Viera, Fla.: Hello. My fiance and I are getting married in April '09 and we want to go to Tahiti in June for our honeymoon. we have done some research on prices and it is way too expensive for our budget. We were wondering if there is any way that we can still go on the honeymoon of our dreams to Tahiti without breaking the bank? Please help! —Bride-to-Be
Alexis Kelly: First things first. Congratulations! I wish you both the best of luck and many happy days together. Now, on to the planning. Tahiti is the picture perfect place for a honeymoon, and it certainly will be a trip you will never forget. However, the time of year may be a bit tough as the end of June does get a bit sticky and the crowds do begin to swell. If you're going towards the beginning of the month, you may be okay and as weather is an unpredictable thing, so you could have no problems at all. Just keep that in mind.