January '22 Hilton Moorea / Hilton Bora Bora - Honeymoon Report
I just got back from my Honeymoon, and I spent so much time in this sub this whole year and change researching and compiling this trip I thought I would take some time to document how it went and some notes for other people planning similar trips.
Summary - 1 Night SFO, 1 Night Tahiti, 7 Nights Moorea, 7 Nights Bora Bora, 1 Night Tahiti, 1 Night SFO
Actual Trip - 1 Night SFO, 1 Night Tahiti, 7 Nights Moorea, 2 Nights Tahiti (IHG Resort), 3 Nights SFO
Comments on the trip
- Since I am home, and writing this on the 26th we can see things didnt go quite as planned. Turns out the wife is super afraid of being on a small island surrounded by water, unbeknown to either of us, and did NOT really like the idea of being surrounded by water.
- So, I called an audible, cancelled our Bora Bora leg, cancelled all associated flights, got a flight back to SFO, and booked 4 nights at the Mark Hopkins hotel. (IHG points).
- Zero regrets about doing this, it was the right call.
Getting to Tahiti
- The post before is a bit old, but all the way up to the day of the trip I was looking for ways to make it better and I definitely found some. I was able to cancel the SFO-PPT sing chase points, and instead transferred 150k UR to book two (one way) United Polaris biz class tickets. Unfortunately last minute they changed to the OLD polaris, but still heck of a lot better then economy for 8 hours. And if you and your SO are terrified of flights like we are, it makes things a bit better.
- Covid rules were changing daily, but besides just flat our telling people dont come, I think they are as strict as they can get. I decided to upfront book an appointment for two at the SFO Worksite Labs drive thru "Express PCR" testing. This was important because the express part means we got results in <12 hours, (really about 7) which we needed to fly the next day. We had to pay something like $150 each upfront for this test + rent a car to do the drive thru part (however for what its worth we did see someone walk up, but its not exactly a walkable location, and we used the car to go see the golden gate bridge etc.) My anxiety was thru the fucking roof waiting on the results but we got the all clear. Print everything! it made the guy at the united desk job alot easier and he checked for everything. ETIS receipts, Covid results, and the self-attestation form also.
- Landing in Tahiti wasnt bad, they had us tested when we landed, and wait a few minutes. Based on the time sticker they put on your passport they let you go in groups. They dont tell you pass or fail until 2-3 days after you land by email which is weird. Getting a taxi here to the hotel was easy also, but they did seem to be cash only
Hotels in Tahiti / Moorea
Tahiti Proper - I stayed at the Hilton Hotel Tahiti for my first night before taking the ferry. They upgraded me to a Ocean view suite (which was like 3 categories?). I figured the diamond status from the aspire helped here. Very nice hotel, friendly and the room was great. They scheduled me a cab for the next day. Also there is a nearby like indoor mall with a ATM (its around the corner from the bank not infront of it - #I looked like an idiot trying to jam my card into a check cashing machine - no English options*
Riding the Ferry - Getting and riding the ferry wasnt too bad but it isnt super straight forward either. Our cab driver drove us around back after we told her we didnt have a ticket yet, we handed our luggage over to some guy, which he put in a metal crate on wheels, and pointed us to a ticket counter. I couldnt hear a word she said at the counter, but she took my card and we got two tickets. NOTE as many people know there are TWO ferrys....I was scheduled to take the Armetti, but the Teravau was there so we took that one. No big deal right...well turns out they dont dock at exactly the same port in Moorea. Meaning our scheduled pick up was waiting at the Armetti Ferry a few mins walk away, while we were waiting at the Teravau docking spot (which was enclosed enough we didnt even see or hear the other ferry pull up)...we figured it out eventually and lugged our stuff over....the driver didnt look pleased but oh well. The ferry itself was about a 30 minute boat ride that had plenty of seats, but the views were meh maybe cause of how overcast it was, and we sat on the inside, we discovered comfier seats on the bottom level.
Hilton Moorea - The first thing I noticed is there is a lot of poverty surrounding the hotel which doesn't put you in the best mood, we aren't strangers to it, and we dont often travel to super lux places, but it is something to note. The Hilton literally shares a wall with peoples personal properties that pretty much live in shacks. Because of the Aspire Diamond status we were upgraded to the what seems like the most pointless upgrade I could imagine. Which was the Twin (meaning it shared a wall with someone else, but still had king bed) land bungalow with a private pool. From looking at the map of I think there are only 1 or 2 rooms out of ~160? that DONT have a private pool, so its was more like no upgrade at all. The room was....okay, it felt a bit forgotten about and outdated but we made the best of it, we could at one point hear our neighbors on the other side of the wall.
Then the rain came - and boy did it come. The rain is unpredictable and looking at the forcast tells you almost nothing. It will say thunderstorm every day forever. But we didnt hear thunder even once. Torrential rain for the next 2.5 days, and I dont mean on and off, and this was some of the hardest rain I had ever heard. It was nuts. So bad our first bungalow lost power, and they upgraded us to a deluxe (no more shared wall) land bungalow. This bungalow was in a bit better condition, so we were happy about that. But those two/three days we super boring. There was little to do, and the highlights were just going to get food, which we had limited options on. The wifi was also weird on the land bungalow, it was okay for me but super In and Out for my SO Iphone. We figured out if she went to 126.96.36.199 it would reset the network config, and she could continue browsing, but she had to do this every ten mins or so. I am not a network engineer, but something in background kept happening and it wasnt happy.
Food -Having limited options was expected but it got old pretty quick, and somewhat claustrophobic? The free "cold" breakfast every morning was pretty good. You could pay about 8$ each if you wanted to upgrade to hot breakfast (eggs bacon etc) which we did for about 2 days. Cause the cold breakfast also got boring. For Lunch and Dinner, the hotel technically had 3? restaurants, but oddly enough and because of the weather I think they were mostly merged into one? We saw the creperie in the middle of the bungalows only opened in its actual place for 1 day. It might have been capacity AND the weather but I don't know. Either way the main restaurant was where you had to go, and they gave you menus to the ALL the restaurants. The Rotui restaurant food was decent like the burger and Ribs stood out and the Crepes were very good also, but the lack of variety is really what got to us. We did get off resort to eat twice, once at Rudy's which they came and picked us up at (ask the hotel and they will setup a shuttle time), and once at Allo Pizza, which we drove to. (We tried to have Allo deliver but they would not at least on our night). I don't know if its cause we are a somewhat frugal couple but the lack of available options and the high prices kind of put a hamper on our enjoyment (plus all the rain). It will def shape our future destinations. We did bring alcohol from SFO, and use it to make mixed drinks, which some stuff we found from a nearby store in Tahiti proper before we took the ferry.
Renting a vehicle - I knew in Moorea I wanted to explore the island. Thats kind of the point of going to Moorea over bora bora, being able to leave the resort. I talked to the activies desk about a scooter rental, and she contacted Moorea Fun Bike, local place ~10 mins away Not many reviews, but I decided to roll with it. They had two options smaller scooter, or larger if you have your M License, which I did. I think the price was going to be around $65 per day or something. I made the choice to pay for 3 days, and my plan was the weather has to break, and when it does we will go explore. however when the owner picked us up to take us to the scooter and do the paperwork, I realized he had cars for rent (stick shift only) - and since it was still raining, I made the decision to get the car instead, it was a super small car for only like $10 more a day. Def worth it. The weather did break the next day and we went up to Beldavadere look out (meh was still cloudly) and circled the island in about 1 hour or so, which was pretty neat. Driving was easy not much traffic, one road all the way around. Glad we did it. (Watch out for dogs on the road)
Over Water Bungalow - I based ALOT of this trip around the LURE of staying in an over water bungalow. I shifted many things around several times, reached out to as many hotel reps to get the best deal etc. and secured 2 nights in advance at a rate of $330 per night. when I got there they didnt mention these 2 nights to me at all, so I brought it up. But instead of 2 nights I wanted 3. The best they could do for me for the 3 nights, was a Panoramic Bungalow (same bungalow but a bit further out) for $380 a night. I agreed to this. I was hoping for better upgrade for cheaper since the hotel seemed rather empty, but it was what it was at that point. After our Many nights of rain we moved into our OWB for the last three nights, and these bungalows seemed to be more well kept. The layout was very much the same as the deluxe land bungalow, but out on the water. (Side note, the land bungalow we dealed with some mosquitos and ANTS from leaving out drinks and stuff, super tiny ants but alot of them, we learned to clean up and dont leave things out) - but these were not issues out there. All the planning in the world couldnt have prepared me for my fiancé to be absolutely terrified of staying out on the water bungalow. Constant howling winds, and rain bursts, which rocked the bungalow a bit, led to a near panic attack. This is when I (we) agreed to cancel the Bora bora portion (save some $) and schedule some days back in SFO instead. A Note before I move on, we did have ~2 days of nice weather, one of which we spent snorkeling off our dock. The current was stronger then I would have liked but the fish life was very abundant, and there was coral around every bungalow essentially. However we could NOT stand up (I am 5'6"),if you were 6' you probably could - just something to note. Snorkeling was fun but it had its limits, and because of the rain etc jetskis werent operating, and there just really wasnt anything more to do, so we were back at square one.
Changing the Trip - After cancelling all of the flights to bora bora (surprisingly Air Tahiti refunded like 90% of the interisland trips something like $800 total, French Bee I filled out a form but never heard back) - I had been eyeing PPT-SFO united biz availability for our return trip in hopes of snagging it. Because of the change I was able to secure it by Transferring 130k Amex -> Aeroplan to book two one ways on united in polaris biz. This made me feel better about our return flight (again pretty bad flight anxiety for both of us). I was also able to nail down AA Biz from SFO - PHL for something like 48k AA points total. (So in the end full biz on the way and full biz on the way back). I Emailed the director of sales from the Conrad Bora Bora and she refunded my points I gave her my SOB story. She agreed to fill out the refund paperwork for the points if I sent her proof we were actually changing our flight and leaving. I did and she said she filled it out. Got 580k hilton points back a few days later. (Note- At this point, getting ANY THING back) was a bonus, as I had already mentally parted with the points, for the sake of just saving our trip). This was very nice of them to do, and I know they didnt have to do it.. I used some IHG points from my SO account to book the Mark Hopkins hotel in SFO for 4 nights (only needed 3 but flight home was redeye so just checked out a bit early). Super glad we did this as SF ended up being a real highlight to the trip, even for just a few days.
Glad to be home - After so much anxiety about covid, anxiety about meticulously planning and optimizing, anxiety about the weather and having a good time. I am just glad to be home a few days early before we have to go back to work. I dont regret the trip, as it really helped cement the fact the we are not the beach type (or subsequently over water bungalow) type people who can chill all day be happy about it. I got so lost in optimizing everything I didnt really stop to think if this is something we even wanted to do. It might have not have been something we would have known until we experienced it either so its hard to say. In the end I am GLAD we cancelled bora bora, and we made the audible.
We saw two "Shows" one at the Hilton Moorea (which by the way you dont really have a fucking choice because the restaurant closes for the buffet(show) and costs about $90 per person), similarly at the IHG In Tahiti on our way back it was about $80 per person). The show at Moorea was 10x better. It lasted a whole hour, they had a fire portion which we moved to the beach to see, and the performers we just giving it their absolute all. It was louder and more in your face given the smaller setting. The performance at the IHG hotel in Tahiti lasted about 30 minutes, and was much slower and boring. the culture was cool, but after seeing the first performance in Moorea the second just felt lazy and underwhelming.
It is worth noting before I cancelled the bora bora leg, I was still optimizing it. I decided instead of trying to jump from the IHG Thallaso to Conrad (as was the plan at this point) I would just rather stay at one hotel. I found last minute Conrad availability for 89k a night and booked it. I was able to lock up 7 nights in a row at the Conrad (on 3 diff reservations), but the simplification of the trip made me feel better as opposed for trying to optimize for OWB. this was before the panic attack and cancelling the whole Leg. (I also got the IHG points back which I used to book SF - yay for flexible point bookings)
We flew the newer polaris on the way back, and it was nicer, but the flight attendant was a bit mean to my SO (her mask fell slightly under her nose as she was sleeping so she got woken up with a very stern "Pull your mask up" which startled her out of her sleep and made her panic, so it hampered her experience. Again im grateful we weren't in economy. But if someone is paying 6k for a flight ticket (approx cost for the one way) one would think they would be nicer. Maybe we looked out of place and she knew we were on points....idk.
If the sun was out more of the time, we may have had a better time. This kind of goes without saying, but it really did hamper our mood, and controlled our stay. I took a gamble going in the rainy season, but I guess we got really unlucky.
A surprising amount of french people were there. I know its owned by the french, but is an extremely long flight for them to get there, and there are no directs, so I was decently surprised.
They will box food up for you but its kind of pointless as there isnt a readily available way to heat stuff up.
We used Binax Emed tests (you have to have internet and video chat with a rep, while you take it) to re-enter the US. They emailed us the results (really you just video chat them the results, and they send you a report. Which we had printed for the Untied agent on our return. This saved us some stress, of having to run around to get the test. we did it in our hotel room, each person took about 25 mins.
Rudys was good albeit just as if not more expensive then the hotel, and ALLO pizza was also good, probably could save money here if you split one pizza.
Most places take VISA and do NOT take AMEX (Except the hotel)
For the conrad bora bora, we actually were being upgraded something like 3 categories to an Horizon Pool Villa (one level before the OWB) for our whole 7 night stay before I cancelled. Hilton tells you three days in advance of upgrades. Something worth noting.
I dont know if it was worth writing up, but maybe it will help someone, and I always take from this sub and never give back, so....here ya go.
Content to answer additional questions.