This was another last minute trip and given that we were heading to one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the world we were pretty certain we would not be able to find any award availability in business class. We managed to snap the last two first class seats from Newark to Los Angeles on Virgin America and had to rough it in Air France economy for 8 hours from Los Angeles.
We really enjoyed the beautiful aerial views when we flew from Tahiti to Moorea two years ago. Afterwards, we read a lot of reviews recommending taking the ferry to Moorea for the magical approach to the island and after a 10-minute cab ride were ready for the experience which left us underwhelmed.
The overcrowded public bus ride to Hilton was a great experience and we even managed to arrive at the same time as the passengers who took the suggested Hilton transfer from the ferry. We were treated to a free breakfast while porters brought the luggage to the bungalow which was ready for the very early check-in.
Between swimming, snorkeling and kayaking in all the different directions, watching the sunset sipping on happy hour cocktails and watching the sharks by the Creperie the following 3.5 days just flew by. The very natural setting with beautiful mountains all around the lagoon and crystal clear water with plenty of corals and fish were simply spectacular.
But to be fair, if you think you will spend most of the time by the pool or laying on the beach you can definitely find prettier options in the Caribbean. Some of the bungalows had amazing views too, so if you are motivated to take the same trip look at the property map and see what appeals to you. We preferred the bungalows #77, #97 and #100. If you care more about privacy #87 seemed to be a good choice. You need to be either standing, laying in the hammock or ideally inside the water to really appreciate the stunning views.
Hotel accommodated the late check-out 1h25min before our afternoon flight. We were a bit sad to say goodbye to Moorea even though it meant 5.5 days on Bora Bora. After our recent trips to the Seychelles and Barbados we had a lot of beautiful beaches fresh in our mind and were wondering if we would still find Bora Bora the paradise we remembered after our first visit.
Want to take the same trip with miles and points? Read the logistics section below for all the details!
First time we flew to Tahiti we redeemed our Alaska miles: New York to Tahiti on Alaska and Air France Business class; Tahiti to Auckland on Air New Zealand economy; we could not find availability with miles, so we purchased this flight for 344.29 euros; Auckland to Seoul on Korean Air Business class; Seoul to New York on Korean Air Business class. Total 122.5K Alaska Mileageplan miles and $86.30 tax for the round-trip flights.
These Air France business class seats (120K Alaska miles RT) are very hard to come by these days, so if you are looking to fly economy redeeming Alaska miles (all flights searchable on their website) is still a great option (80K miles RT), otherwise you will be most likely looking to fly Air Tahiti Nui which is a redemption partner of American Airlines (80K RT in economy, or 160K RT in business class, which is not as good as Air France business). The only way to search for availability is to call AA or sign up for Expertflyer.
For this last-minute trip we used 50K Alaska miles for a RT first class to Los Angeles and 50K Amex points for a $1000 RT economy fare (using 50% rebate on business platinum cards).
We booked the nights at Hilton Moorea for 70,000 HHonors points (off-peak rate). We just checked the Hilton website and it looks like for the next 12 months the basic rooms are pricing at 80,000 HHonors points. Not sure if it's a glitch with the website, but since they recently adapted a new pricing model it often shows you that there are no low level award nights when the availability is actually there. When we were booking the hotel, only one of the nights showed 70K, for the other 2 we could only see 145K+. Still after clicking on the date to see the room options, the basic 70K room was available.
Hilton Moorea emailed us offering upgrade options but all the overwater bungalows were already taken. Otherwise the cost to upgrade from the garden bungalow with pool to the overwater bungalow was 14500xpf (~$133).
If you want to take the same trip but are short of HHonors points consider applying for the American Express cards with increased bonus offers which end on the May 31st. As we wrote last week, Hilton now allows you to pool your points so it makes it much easier to save up for a special trip.
80,000 HHonors Bonus Points after $2000 spend in the first 3 months, NO annual fee. Apply here
100,000 HHonors Bonus Points after $3000 spend in the first 3 months, $75 annual fee. Apply here
The cheapest option to get to Moorea is the ferry, but you can also take a flight. Especially if you are going to Bora Bora afterwards and buy all the tickets at the same time it wont cost much more than taking the ferry.
The standard cab fare to the ferry was 2200xpf (~$20), we only paid 2000xpf (~$18). As Hilton Gold members (thanks to Amex credit cards) we enjoyed free breakfast, 2 free cocktails, minibar with 2 bottles of beer, 2 bottles of Perrier and 2 bottles of still. We also got a bottle of wine and another large bottle of still at arrival and were supposed to get 2 bottles of water every day. There was a mess up with housekeeping so after the complaint we got 7 bottles of water and another bottle of wine. You could eat or buy snacks within walking distance off the property, but we could not even finish all the complementary stuff we've got and ended up bringing 2 bottles of wine to Bora Bora.
How much did we spend out of pocket? Breakfasts were really filling: we had way too much poisson cru and too many crepes, croissants and pains aux chocolat. They were obviously trying to cater to different nationalities and also had cereals, fried bacon, sausages, omelet station, rice, fried fish, spring rolls, miso soup etc lunch portions were big with prices similar to average NYC prices (since tax and tip are already included in the price). We weren't trying to save but after enjoying lunch, breakfast and happy hour cocktails we could not even think of eating anything for dinner and spent less than $190 on food, drinks and ice-cream for the entire stay.
The drive from Hilton to the airport takes about 15 minutes. We arranged the transfer at HHonors desk the night before in the hotel and they offered us to share the cab with another couple taking the same flight, so we only paid 1500xpf (~$14). In Moorea airport check-in closes 20min! before your flight, so there is no point in arriving there too early. We were still one the first people to board the flight and got the seats on the left side of the plane (this is where you have the best views when flying to Bora Bora).
We brought all the items you see here and found them very useful. There are a lot of corals so dont forget the aqua shoes. Sun is very strong the French Polynesia, we used rashguards, but at a minimum you should have plenty of sunscreen with you. We prefer bringing our own snorkeling gear, but you could also get it for a free in the hotel by the pool.