Inspection Trip, March 13-22, ’02; Sunspots International
South Pacific is magical!
We left on Air Tahiti Nui, TN 001 March 13 from LAX to PPT at 955pm and 7 ½ hours later we arrived at Pape’ete, Tahiti at 430am the next morning.
We’re met with a Flower Lei Greeting by Tekura Tahiti Travel and transferred to the 5 star Sheraton Tahiti, where we got some sleep at a Sheraton Tahiti Dayroom.
After breakfast we got back on the bus for our transfer to PPT Airport for a short flight to Tikehau on Air Tahiti, VT 568 at 1105am arriving TIH at 1155am.
Tikehau is in the Tuamoto Archipelago of 78 coral atolls, scattered over several hundred miles of the eastern Pacific Ocean. Tikehau comes close to the picture perfect version of what paradise must look like. Life on these remote atolls is simple and quiet and peaceful. There is a wild, sauvage quality present here. You can walk along the beach or snorkel across the channels that separate the motus without encountering another soul. Activities are naturally centered around the lagoon, visiting the fish markets and the Black Pearl farms. Private picnics on a motu are popular here.
We were met with more flower leis and after a short bus ride to the water launch transfer to Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort.
We were fortunate to get an over-water bungalow here. We were at the end in # 6, a perfect location for relaxing after a long night in a very small airplane seat. This resort is perfect for relaxation. It’s very comfortable and peaceful here on Tikehau, a small coral atoll in the Tuamoto islands. The perfectly clean lagoon is full of tropical fish. Jacques Cousteau said that the lagoon at Tikehau contains one of the largest concentrations of fish in the entire archipelago. This is a friendly family run hotel on a beautiful white sand beach with a great restaurant. I can highly recommend the beach bungalows here as well.
We spent only 1 night here at Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort – ph 689-43-90-04
We have a leisurely morning on March 15 before heading via launch across the lagoon for the short drive to the airport for our flight, VT 545 from TIH to BOB at 1220pm.
We arrived at Bora Bora at 125pm.
Bora Bora is love at first sight. Bora Bora is described as "the most beautiful island in the world." The main island is in the center of a multi-colored lagoon, surrounded by offshore motu islets inside a protective necklace of coral. The beaches have warm shallow water and white sand beaches. Honeymooners and the ultra romantic couples are drawn here by golden beaches, luxurious resorts that cater to couples with their special services, coral and crystal waters sure to please the snorkel and scuba diver lovers. Bora Bora is also home to the world famous "Bloody Mary's Restaurant".
The transfer to Bora Bora Lagoon Resort is by boat from BOB. We will spend 2 nights Bora Bora Lagoon Resort – ph 689-60-40-00. Right away, we are beginning our site inspections via water taxi:
The first stop is 5 stars Le Meridien Bora Bora. This is a large resort for Tahiti on a beautiful white sand beach with it’s own lagoon, simply the best beach in Bora Bora. The hotel is on a Motu overlooking the main island with a great view of Otemanu peak. Le Meridien Bora Bora is built on the most beautiful lagoon in the world, with colors beyond description, only 20 minutes by boat from the Bora Bora airport. Le Meridien offers 85 over-water bungalows and 15 bungalows with a private garden. The views are beautiful and the sunsets are magnificient. Each bungalow room features air conditioning, TV, safety box, direct dial telephone, hair dryer, refrigerator, and mini bar, tea and coffee facilities. The over water bungalows all have removable glass top floors that you can light up at night to see the fish and feed them. There is a turtle-raising farm on the property to protect the greenback turtle from extinction. Le Meridien has a swimming pool, 2 bars, 2 restaurants, local music, dance show, outrigger canoe, sailboats, snorkeling, windsurfers, pedal boats and motu picnics. Activities offered at an additional charge:
Diving, water skiing, glass bottom boat, jet ski, parasailing, shark feeding, sunset cruise, deep sea fishing, island tour, 4 wd safari, helicopter tours, horseback riding and wedding ceremonies.
Next stop is 4 stars Sofitel Marara on the main island. The Sofitel Marara is located on one of the finest beaches on Bora Bora. It is charming, romantic, friendly, and a delight for those wanting a full Tahitian flair. For dining you have 2 restaurants and a lounge. There is a swimming pool. This hotel’s over water bungalows sit in extremely shallow water and the units are rather small. Here we saw 4 spotted eagle sting-rays swimming right under the deck. There are several new over-water bungalows and the o units are being renovated. Each room features a fan, telephone, mini-bar, video, radio, hairdryer, tea and coffee maker. The Sofitel Marara are all bungalows, over-water, beach and garden categories.
Then we crossed over the lagoon to the 5 stars Sofitel Coralia Motu. This resort is located on its own private motu directly across from the main island of Bora Bora. This new luxury resort is the 5th hotel owned by the Sofitel chain At the Sofitel Motu resort, guests relax in their own private bungalows. There are 20 over-water bungalows with extra large decks, outside showers and steps leading down into the lagoon. Glass "windows" on the floor of each over-water bungalow provide a prime viewing spot from which to watch the lagoon's natural marine life. The Sofitel Motu resort also has 4 deluxe “tree-house” bungalows nestled on the hillside and 6 bungalows located directly on the beach. There is a small hill to climb for views to die for across to the main island and of Otemanu peak. There is a small chapel on top of the island, where many weddings are held. Each room features a fan, air conditioning, telephone, mini-bar, hair dryer, TV, video, tea and coffee makers. Room Categories are over-water bungalows, beach front bungalows, and bungalows on the hillside. There is a swimming pool, tennis court, 1 bar, 1 restaurant, live music, dance show, a Tahitian feast, room service, outrigger canoes, snorkeling, volleyball and windsurfers, plus everything offered at the Sofitel Marara, which is just a short boat-ride across to the main island of Bora Bora..
We’re heading to the 4 stars Bora Bora Lagoon Resort via water taxi. We got a beach bungalow here. They are very large with beautiful dark tropical woods on a coral sand beach. The water is so warm and the snorkeling is good right off the beach. The food is really good here. Bora Bora Lagoon Resort is set on its own island in the middle of Bora Bora's beautiful blue lagoon. Each over-water bungalow has its own glass coffee table, making a spectacular tropical aquarium. It is charming, romantic, and offers superb cuisine. They also offer free shuttle service to the island at Vaitapo. For dining you have 4 restaurants, 3 lounges. There is a swimming pool and Jacuzzi, a tennis court, outrigger canoes, snorkeling, volleyball, sailboats, windsurfers, and pedal boats. Each room features a fan, telephone, mini-bar, refrigerator, hair dryer, TV, video, radio, tea and coffee makers. Room categories offered here are over-water bungalows (with Plexiglas coffee tables that create a natural aquarium), beach front bungalows, and bungalows in the garden. Activities at an additional charge: Diving, water skiing, glass bottom boat, jet ski, parasailing, shark feeding, deep sea fishing, sunset cruise, motu picnic, island tour by canoe or bus, 4-wheel drive safari, helicopter tours, horse riding, and bicycles.
Tonight we have dinner via our own arrangements at famous Bloody Mary’s. There is sawdust on the floor and you sit on tree stumps. There is a fish-market display, where you pick what you want to eat and they cook it to order. I had the “signature” calamari appetizer and the “signature” Wahoo for the entrée, excellent choices.
There was unusual partying going on in Vaitapo, due to the celebrations of the world relay canoe races taking place in Bora Bora. Normally, there is not much nightlife in Bora Bora.
March 16 Site inspections:
We took a short water taxi transfer over to the 6 stars Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort. This is a magnificent resort. The bungalows have their own courtyards, pools, outdoor showers, and are nestled in lush gardens. I think the garden bungalows are great here. There is a miniature golf course, all thinkable water sports, and a dive center right here. The canoe races were due to exchange racers here this morning, so we lucked out and got to see that. The Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort opened its doors in June of 1998. It is located on motu "Tevairoa" which is the largest of the islets surrounding the Bora Bora lagoon and the only islet to have fresh water. The resort offers 50 beautiful over-water bungalows, beach bungalows with private jacuzzi on the back deck, and 20 garden suite bungalows with a private plunge pool. Each room features a fan, air conditioning, telephone, mini-bar, TV, hair dryer, safety box and tea and coffee makers.
Room Categories are over-water bungalows, shallow and premium beach bungalows with Jacuzzi, garden bungalow with plunge pool. Activities available: Swimming pool, jacuzzi, tennis courts, 2 bars, 2 restaurants, live music, dance show, Tahitian feast, room service, canoe, outrigger canoes, windsurfing, light fishing equipment, volleyball, mini putt course and snorkeling. Activities at an additional charge: Diving, water skiing, glass bottom boat, sailboats, jet ski, pedal boats, parasailing, shark feeding, bicycles, deep sea fishing, sunset cruise, motu picnic, island tour by canoe or bus, 4wd safari, hiking, helicopter tours, horse riding, and bicycles.
The water taxi to Eden Beach Resort took 45 minutes. The dock at the resort is so shallow, Eden Beach has it’s own boats, since the water taxis cannot get in here. Eden Beach is on it’s own motu, is totally self sufficient, runs on it’s own solar power and treats all it’s waste. There are no TVs or air conditioners here and the bungalows are small and efficient. There are only 12 units. Eden Beach is on the reefs at the back, where it’s possible to ride horses and ATVs. Eden Beach is a Pearl Beach property.
From here, we continued to the 4-5 stars Bora Bora Beachcomber Intercontinental Hotel under heavy renovations. It’s on the main island. Here we were treated to great, hosted lunch in the restaurant, open just for us. One of the Parkroyal collections of resorts, The Beachcomber offers spacious suites, either in over-water bungalows or in beach bungalows, privacy and unforgettable views of the lagoon. Each bungalow features a fan, telephone, mini-bar, refrigerator, TV, video, radio, hair dryer, tea and coffee makers. The over-water bungalows have a coffee table with a glass top, revealing all the beauty of coral and tropical fish in the crystal clear waters below. For dining there is a gourmet restaurant and lounge.
Just down the road is the 3 star Le Maitai Polynesia. The air-conditioned units are in the main building up a steep hill with magnificent views over the Bora Bora Lagoon. It’s like living in the trees.
Tonight we are treated to dinner hosted by Bora Bora Lagoon Resort, an Orient Express Resort.
Hotel Bora Bora is the most famous hotel in the South Pacific. For ultimate romance, the suites have canopied beds and their own private pool or Jacuzzi (photo below). The fragrant gardens are beautifully landscaped. The sunsets and views are spectacular and private moments on one of three beaches are easy to come by. Romance and peacefulness is everywhere. For dining you have 2 restaurants and lounges. Each room features a fan, telephone, mini-bar, refrigerator, hair dryer, radio, tea and coffee makers. Room Categories: premium over-water bungalows, over-water bungalow, Pool fare, Beach or Jacuzzi fare - 1 bedroom Bungalow garden bungalows. Activities available: A tennis court, outrigger canoes, snorkeling, volleyball, sailboats, windsurfing and pedal boats.
We have an early morning water transfer this morning for our Air Tahiti flight, VT 261 from BOB to HUH at 945am. We arrived in Huahine at 1005am.
Huahine lies in the Leeward Islands 110 miles northwest of Tahiti. It’s visible from Raiatea, Taha’a, and Bora Bora. Huahine is 2 islands joined by a small bridge and enclosed within a protective coral reef. The marine world around Huahine is a protected area where the rare Manta Ray and Moonfish can still be seen. The lagoon is rich with sea life, bordered by white sand beaches. A road winds 20 miles around both islands. The splendors of the landscape and archeological sites, marais makes this a holiday destination full of surprises.
We immediately were bussed to the 3 stars Sofitel Heiva for a site inspection. This hotel needs some spiffing up, it’s a bit jaded. It sits on a fabulous beach, but the units are hot and dark. On the way, we pass by some marais and ancients fish pens. Huahine is an interesting island. It’s Sunday, so everyone is in church, wearing their Sunday best and ornate hats, singing their beautiful hymns.
We have to wait in the “main” town for the water transfer to the 4-5 stars Te Tiare Resort Beach Resort – ph 689-43-16-10, a Pearl Beach property. We will spend 1 night here at the Te Tiare Beach Resort. Again, we lucked out and got to stay in an over water bungalow. They are huge here, with an almost wrap around veranda. We ordered a shrimp salad, which arrived via bicycle special delivery and right before the ½ deluge rain storm, the most beautiful rain I’ve ever seen. We found a spot on the veranda, where we stayed dry and sat there enjoying lunch and admiring the rain. Then we snorkeled right off the platform and I have never seen tropical fish so colorful and so many different once all in one place. This is the place to have the over water bungalow. Huahine is peaceful and quiet, but there are many activities to do, such as picnic on your own motu. Also, shark viewing is a popular activity here.
Dinner tonight is hosted by Sunspots International.
After breakfast, we take the water taxi back to town for the bus ride to the airport for our flight, VT 273 from HUH to MOZ at 1125am.
The flight is 2 hours late and we arrive in Moorea at 200pm.
Moorea is just 11 miles across the Sea of the Moon from Tahiti's coastline and the city of Pape’ete. It is a 7 minutes flight, or 1/2 hour by ferry. The ferry ride is breathtaking as you view the volcanic mountain peaks, spectacular bays, and the crystal waters. Moorea is romantic and peaceful. The sunsets are unforgettable. The island is dramatically beautiful with sharp serrated peaks that command deep cleft valleys, once centers for vanilla cultivation. The 2 large deep bays, Cook’s Bay and Opunohu, the high peaks, the deep green valleys, and the white sand beaches are still pristine despite it’s popularity as a tourist destination.
Here we have a transfer by bus to the Moorea Beachcomber Intercontinental for 2 nights – ph 689-55-19-19. This hotel is one of the Parkroyal collection, and truly a very elegant resort including full room service. Near the over-water bungalows there are dolphin encounters in the lagoon. But first we have 2 site inspections:
The first stop is at the 5 star Sheraton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa. Here we get treated to a smashing lunch after the tour. The Sheraton has a Mandara Spa on the property. The location is the best on Moorea at the top between Cooks Bay and Opunohu Bay.
Our next stop is at the 3 star Sofitel Ia Ora on the other side of the island. The hotel is on a great beach and will be totally renovated, which is badly needed. This Polynesian style resort has a quiet village like atmosphere of seclusion, peacefulness, and a beautifully romantic setting overlooking the crystal waters of the turquoise lagoon. For dining you have 2 restaurants and lounges. Activities included: Tennis courts, snorkeling, outrigger canoe, windsurfing, volleyball and cultural activities. Each room features a fan, telephone, mini-bar, and a hair dryer. Overwater and deluxe beach bungalows are air-conditioned and have color TV's. Room Categories are all bungalows: over-water, deluxe beach, beach, garden.
After checking into the Moorea Beachcomber Intercontinental, where we are the first guests in the newly remodeled hotel rooms in the main building. The décor here is distinctly and tastefully done in the Japanese style. The rooms are very large and comfortable with views of the Moorea Lagoon. This hotel is home to the Dolphin Quest and 4 spinner dolphins live near the over-water bungalows, where there are dolphin encounters in the lagoon. For dining you have 3 restaurants and lounges. There is a swimming pool and a complete PADI dive center. There is a wonderfully Polynesian traditional outdoor, naturo-therapy, rain-shower and flowers Helene Spa located in the lush tropical gardens. Each room features air conditioning, telephone, mini-bar, TV, radio, hair dryer, tea and coffee makers Room Categories: over-water, beach and garden bungalows, and the newly remodeled garden hotel rooms are also available. Included activities are: tennis courts, snorkeling, outrigger canoe, volleyball, hiking, and cultural activities. Activities at an additional charge: Diving, snuba, AquaBlue, water skiing, glass bottom boat, sailboats, jet ski, pedal boats, parasailing, submarine, sunset cruise, deep sea fishing, motu picnic, island tour by canoe or bus, 4-wheel drive safari, helicopter tours, horse riding, and bicycles. There is a great Kid’s Club for children 4-10 years old. The Kid’s Club needs to be pre-booked.
This evening Rodney suggests a pizza party to celebrate Patti’s birthday. We pile into 2 cabs and head for the little restaurant in the back of the Hibiscus Hotel called “Le Sunset Restaurant”. It’s only 2 miles from the Beachcomber, so some of us walk back in pitch, black darkness along the road. We spot the Southern Cross in the southern sky.
March 19 Site Inspections. Today we are inspecting 2-3 star hotels.
The first one is Les Tipaniers, a small pension with 2 beach bungalows and several garden bungalows. The garden ‘vanilla” bungalow is a self-contained unit for 4 adults plus 2 children with a kitchenette. It’s clean and hot, a small ceiling fan, no air-conditioner. There is no pool; the hotel is located on a nice beach.
Next, we stop at the Hotel Hibiscus, which has that tie-dyed 60’s feel and look to it. The owner here is very friendly. The bungalows are not air-conditioned and very basic. The “Le Sunset” restaurant is very good and cheap. There is a nice pool.
Our last stop is at the Fare Via Moana, another basic pension with extra beds in the loft. With no air-conditioners, I imagine, it will be very hot up there.
This is our first free afternoon to snorkel and swim or shop. I picked out some black pearls from Hinanui at the Moorea & Heivai Black Pearl Shop across the Street from the Beachcomber.
This evening, we all went to Tiki Village for the Tahitian cultural show and dinner. It was fun and entertaining.
March 20 Site inspections:
We will start with a visit to the 6 stars to be Moorea Pearl Beach Resort, on the site where the former original Bali Hai Hotel was located. This will be the best hotel on Moorea when it opens in July 2002. There will be hotel rooms, suites, deluxe, standard and over water bungalows here.
We went back to the Beachcomber for lunch before the transfer to airport and our 7 minutes flight, VT1515 from MOZ to PPT at 315pm. This is a very small plane.
Tahiti is often called “The Island of Love”. It’s the largest of the 118 islands and atolls that make up French Polynesia. It consists of mountain peaks over 7,000 feet tall and deep green valleys covered with rain forests and deep green ferns, waterfalls that cascade into cool sweet rivers and streams, and coastal land with fields of taro and flowers.
We will stay 1 night at the Tahiti Beachcomber Intercontinental – ph 689-86-51-10. We stay at the new section of the hotel in the gorgeous panorama rooms. The new over water bungalow suites here are truly magnificent, large and luxurious. This Polynesian style resort overlooks a multi-colored lagoon and a spectacular sunset view over the volcanic peaks of Moorea. For dining you have 3 restaurants, 3 bars, room service, 2 swimming pools, and several private beaches located within the beautiful landscaping of fruit trees and fragrant foliage. Each room features air-conditioning, private balcony with ocean view, radio, TV with free in house movies, direct dial telephone, hair dryer, refrigerator, mini bar, coffee and tea maker.
Room Categories: Lagoon over-water bungalow, Motu
over-water bungalow, Panorama, Lagoon view and Garden View rooms.
Our site inspections include the 2 star Tiare Tahiti Hotel located downtown Pape’ete. This hotel is for people on a budget, who want to be where the action is. The Hotel Tiare Tahiti is located in the historical heart of Pape’ete, right on the waterfront and walking distance to the downtown area. Each room features air conditioning, TV, telephone and hair dryer, some rooms have a view of the harbor.
The next stop is at the 2-3 stars Le Mandarin Hotel, across from the Government building. This is a bit nicer hotel, air conditioned, and in the Chinese style with a good Chinese restaurant.
We stay in town for dinner at the “rouladen”, a kind of outdoor BBQ on wheels on the quai with the 2 Renaissance ships, Three & Four tied up at the dock.
March 21 Site inspections:
The first stop this morning at the 3 stars Sofitel Maeva Beach. It’s located close to downtown and the airport, next to a super market and the Casablanca restaurant. This is an older hotel, and the rooms are small but clean. The carpeted hallways smell a bit “musty”. The view of Moreea from the panorama rooms is spectacular. The grounds are beautiful, and at Sofitel hotels, all the plants are identified. That really is a nice touch. This hotel is situated on a white sand beach and lagoon, with spectacular views of Moorea off in the distance. For dining you have 3 restaurants and 2 bars plus room service. Each room features air conditioning, private balcony (rooms on the lagoon side have romantic sunset views of Moorea), TV with in house movies, direct dial telephone, mini bar, and refrigerator. Room categories: Panoramic Room, Lagoon view, and Garden view. There is an Olympic-sized swimming pool with poolside bar, shops with duty free shopping, and only 20 minutes from Tahiti's championship golf course. Spend your time at the swimming pool, 2 lighted tennis courts and driving range. Polynesian dances are preformed during dinner several nights each week at the Bougainville Restaurant and live music at the La Terrasse bar. Diving, snorkeling, outrigger canoe, water skiing, glass bottom boat, sailboats, windsurfing, light fishing, sunset cruise, deep sea fishing, island tour by bus, 4-wheel drive safari, helicopter tours, and horse riding are offered at an additional charge.
Then we’re off to the 6 stars Le Meridien Tahiti. This is the nicest hotel in Tahiti, but also the farthest away from downtown. Water is theme here. The first thing you see is the magnificent pool from the lobby that extends into the swimming pool below (an illusion). The restaurant is located directly below this pool. The Meridien Tahiti has the only underwater dining room I have ever seen. Walking out to the over-water bungalows, we spotted the Picasso fish swimming in the coral below. The Jr. suites are my favorite here. They have a huge terrace that is a living room complete with a desk, table and chairs and views from the corner of the building are to die for. The Sr. suites are larger, and the terrace has a hammock. Le Meridien is the most modern and luxurious hotel on Tahiti, has 138 rooms and spacious suites, all with ocean view and 12 over-water bungalows overlooking the crystal clear water of the lagoon. Each room features air conditioning, TV with CNN and ESPN, direct dial telephone, hair dryer, refrigerator, and mini bar, tea and coffee facilities. The hotel offers a huge swimming pool, tennis courts, 2 bars, 2 restaurants, local music, dance show, a Tahitian feast, snorkeling, diving, water skiing, jet ski, shark feeding, deep sea fishing, island tour, 4 wheel drive safari tours, helicopter tours and wedding ceremonies.
Lastly, we’re back at the Sheraton Tahiti, where we started off at the beginning. This is the hotel closest to the airport and also very close to downtown. The rooms are large and comfortable. The hotel has 190 rooms and 10 suites and the swimming pool is gorgeous. The views are of Pape’ete and the lagoon towards Moreea. In addition to the swimming pool, The Sheraton features a jacuzzi, 2 bars, 2 restaurants, local music, dance show, Tahitian feast, room service, gym and outrigger canoe. Each room features air conditioning, TV, telephone, tea and coffee facilities, and refrigerator.
The afternoon is free for shopping. The Public Market called "Le Marche" is the heart of the city, and located just one block from the waterfront. It’s a perfect place for souvenir shopping. We walk all around the market and also paid a visit to the Black Pearl Museum, which I highly recommend. I purchased some gifts and pareos. Then we took “Le Truck” back to the Beachcomber hotel to pack for our late flight back to the US.
Air Tahiti Nui, TN 002 from PPT to LAX at 1145pm arrives at 10am the next day.