Affording Tahiti | Staying in Tahitian guesthouses

Affording Tahiti | Staying in Tahitian guesthouses

Aerial view from Pension Raita, Ahe

Visiting Tahiti has been on my bucket list since I was in high school. Although I never really considered it as a destination I would travel to (other than on my honeymoon.) I doubt it’s just me but everytime someone would mention Tahiti I always had thoughts of extravagant overwater bungalows, crystal clear waters, and powdered sand beaches. Always followed by a whole lot of $$$$$!

A few weeks ago I was invited by the tourism board to explore the islands of Tahiti. And let me tell you, I squealed when the email came through my inbox! Still on a high from my week in paradise, I’m ready to share my full Tahitian experience.  In this post, I’ll share with you how Affording Tahiti is easier than you think, plus give you a look at our full itinerary!

Now if you follow me on instagram, you already know that I stayed in local Tahitian guesthouses rather than at major resorts. I’ll be honest, a large part of me really wanted to stay in those famous overwater bungalows, but the guesthouses had me leaving feeling far more connected to the islands and it’s people. Staying in this style of accommodation not only is far more affordable but it can open your eyes to the authentic Tahitian hospitality. It also allows you to experience parts of the islands that you may not otherwise know to explore.

BORA BORA

With no time to waste, the trip kicked off right away! We hopped on a speedboat and headed for our hotel. On the way, we were encouraged to jump in the water to swim with some of the local stingrays and lagoon sharks. We were all so exhausted from the long overnight travels but this was the best welcome we could have asked for!

Bora Bora is the most commonly known island in Tahiti with just under 20,000 residents. It is also the most touristic of the islands with major cruise lines docking there weekly. Because Bora Bora needs no introduction it is also one of the most expensive places to visit during your stay.

Highest point in Bora Bora

WHERE TO STAY?

We checked into Villa Rea Hanaa, once the official residence of painter Garrick Yrondi. Each room featuring different pieces from his collection. My jaw nearly dropped to the floor when I was the bathtub in my room (you guys know I love a good tub)! This was the original 1960s tub from the famous Bora Bora hotel. The property reminded me of a little riad in Morocco with all the rounded archways, open-air concept and little pool in the middle of the property.

This property is also rated for the best value in Bora Bora! Prices range from $160-350 USD for 2-4 people and includes breakfast. Just to give you a comparison, the overwater villas on average range from $550-1500 USD. I really loved our stay here, I only wish it could have been longer!

Vintage 1960s bathtub at Villa Rea Hanaa

Balcony view from Villa Rea Hanaa

WHAT TO DO?

If you’re up for an adventure and don’t mind bumping around in the back of a truck, I would recommend a 4×4 wheeling trip to the viewpoint. This is the highest point in Bora Bora and a perfect spot to snag some aerial views if you have a drone.

Go to the beach! Bora Bora is also home to some of the nicest beaches I saw in Tahiti. The sand was like powder and the water was 50 shades of blue!

WHERE TO EAT?

If you’re a seafood fan then you’re in luck! The seafood is the freshest you’ll ever taste. Everything we ate was caught that morning!

On our way to our hotel we stopped on a private island for our first of many Tahitian meals, poisson cru. Similar to poke, but the raw fish is soaked in coconut milk. It was so yummy, there wasn’t a day we went without having it. Everyone seems to make their own version of Poisson Cru and all are delicious, so make sure to try them all to discover your fav!

As we were only in Bora Bora for one night the only restaurant recommendation I can give you is Bloody Mary’s resto. You arrive at the restaurant and each person speaks to the chef individually to decide what protein you would like to eat and how you’d like it cooked. We really enjoyed the reef fish!

MO’OREA

This was the island I was truly so excited for because I wanted to swim more with the marine life. Mo’orea is filled with fish, stingrays, black tip sharks, turtles and so much more. Mo’orea is the closest island to Tahiti making it easily accessible by ferry. The island is home to about 10,000 habitants, some of the locals actually work in Tahiti and take the ferry over each morning.

WHERE TO STAY?

While I didn’t actually stay at this guesthouse, we all fell totally in love with it when we visited for dinner. Green Lodge is operated by a French family and very much runs on a family-style atmosphere. Dinner each night is a 3-course meal, cooked with love and served by the family themselves. I would best describe it as a secluded location with direct access to the sea giving off some serious Bali vibes! A quick booking.com search showed me average prices $390-600/ night depending on the season. There are definitely cheaper places if you’re more on a budget but I loved the entire atmosphere at this place and the food was delicious!

WHERE TO EAT?

Another restaurant to check out is Le Lezard Jaune, run by another French couple. With him in the kitchen and her in the front of house, you’re in for a treat. This woman is a firecracker! Always in her 5″ heels and serving up their own unique version of poisson cru and pushing the daily specials!

WHAT TO DO?

We booked our boat excursion trip with Captain Taina. Once a model and crowned Miss Tahiti, Taina is now a boat captain offering daily excursions. I would definitely recommend booking with her if you are looking for a day filled with adventure! We started out with snorkeling with turtles, the visibility of the water is incredible! We then made our way to the stingrays where we got to swim and feed them. These guys are so playful like sea puppies! We learned stingrays actually don’t have any teeth and rather use suction. A common misconception and fun fact are the larger stingrays are actually females and the smaller ones being male.

We were then taken to a little island owned by our captain for lunch. The island was beautiful surrounded by the tranquil waters of the lagoon. On the menu, poisson cru! (Her version was by far my favorite!)

One of the things I really wanted to experience was learning about the Traditional Tahitian Grand Costumes used and handcrafted by locals here in Mo’orea. I’m such an admirer of the art and craftsmanship that goes into creating these one of a kind pieces. So our host arranged for us to go to a local shop to learn from the owner. It’s a long process of first stripping and washing the hibiscus tree fibers. Then the threads are repeatedly washed and dried in the sun. This washing process softens and whitens the fibers over time. The process is lengthy but the result is a masterpiece which will last you up to 50 years!! I really wanted to bring this home with me!

Traditional Grand Tahitian Costume

AHE

Where do I even begin with this magical island! Ahe is one of the lesser known islands in Tahiti and home to only 500 habitants!! The “island” itself is actually a coral reef. Which is why you’ll notice the beaches have a hint of pink as they are broken up pieces of coal, no sand. It is also an atoll as it is completely flat with no mountains.

WHERE TO STAY?

From what I remember there are only 2 guesthouses to stay at on the island, no hotels. We stayed at Pension Raita. An adorable little family run guesthouse with 5 private beach bungalows facing the sunset. I spent my mornings waking up to stunning ocean views and daily visits from friendly ocean friends like stingrays, lagoon sharks, and colorful fish.

We were greeted by owners singing and playing Ukelele as they welcomed us off the boat. You’ll immediately fall in love with Raita, Willy and their son who take time to entertain and spend quality time with their guest. The entire family is so musically talented, I could listen to them for hours! Dinners were always made with love by Raita and served family style gathering all guests and allowing us to connect, and interact altogether.

Your stay here won’t break the bank and will cost you about $100 USD which includes breakfast and dinner! Paradise really is that affordable!

Sunset at Pension Raita

WHAT TO DO?

Pension Raita offers activities such as standup paddle boarding (SUP). The water in Tahiti is so calm and clear that even paddling out to the deeper ends of the lagoon I could still look down and see all the rock formations below the surface.

The next day the guesthouse organized a day excursion for us which included visiting a pearl farm, fishing, and picnic lunch. This lunch was such a unique experience and a must do if staying here!

Pearls are one of the main exports in Tahiti so learning how they are farmed and extracted was very interesting. We then anchored in the lagoon and began to fish. In a matter of only minutes, we had caught enough fish to feed the seven of us. Afterwards we motored to a private beach where we anchored down for lunch. Lunch was probably the freshest thing I had ever eaten!!

Picnic lunch at private beach

TAHITI NUI

Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia and divided into Tahiti Nui (meaning big) and Tahiti Iti (the smaller eastern peninsula). The island has become one of the top tourist destinations for adventure with its black-sand beaches, lagoons, waterfalls and 2 extinct volcanoes.

WHAT TO DO?

We only had a day in the city but I loved visiting the market of Papeete and its surroundings. The market is a hub for both locals and tourists looking for anything from fresh produce to souvenirs even flower crowns, which I’m always a sucker for (see below which one I chose). 

With two inactive volcanos on the island, you can still find several amazing black sand beaches. I personally love how the black sand sparkles in the sun and it felt like fluffy powder underneath your toes! If you’re looking for something different to see (or photograph) I’d definitely check one out!

WHERE TO EAT?

That night rather than staying in and eating at the hotel we made our way to “Les Roulottes” food trucks. If you’ve been following me on Instagram for a while you know that I’m a huge fan of food trucks! Food trucks are always such a great way to please a group that way everyone can get what they like. Not to mention it’s a far cheaper way to eat than a restaurant. There were about a dozen trucks to choose from including Thai, Chinese, french crepes.. you name it.

If you are or have been considering a trip to Tahiti but thought it was out of your budget I would definitely reconsider. I hope this post give you a bit of a better look into how you can make crossing Tahiti off your bucketlist a reality sooner rather than later. Remember that traveling to lesser known islands will definitely be less expensive and most likely leave you with an even more unique experience than the more tourist saturated areas.

If you have any other questions not answered in this post please feel free to comment below and I will make sure to respond!

xx Lisa

Sunset at Manava Suite Resort

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