Introduction: Dreamlining To Tahiti

Filed Under: Air Tahiti Nui, Hilton
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Introduction: Dreamlining To Tahiti
Review: Air Tahiti Nui Business Class 787-9 Los Angeles To Papeete
Review: Air Tahiti ATR 72 Economy Papeete To Bora Bora
Review: St. Regis Bora Bora Reefside Garden Villa
Review: St. Regis Bora Bora Overwater Superior Villa
Review: St. Regis Bora Bora Resort
Review: Conrad Bora Bora Overwater Villa
Review: Conrad Bora Bora Nui Resort
Review: Air Tahiti Nui Lounge Papeete Airport
Review: United Business Class 787-8 Papeete To San Francisco
Review: United Polaris Lounge San Francisco Airport
Bora Bora Vs. Maldives: Which Should You Visit?


Welcome to my next trip report, covering a trip last December to Tahiti, to review Air Tahiti Nui’s new business class, and to compare that to United’ new Tahiti to San Francisco flight.

I’ll also be reviewing our Air Tahiti flights between Papeete and Bora Bora, and our stays at both the St. Regis and Conrad Bora Bora.

Planning the trip

While I’ve been to the Maldives many times before, I had never been to Bora Bora before, which many consider to be just as beautiful, if not more beautiful.

The perfect opportunity to finally visit arose when Air Tahiti Nui announced last year that they’d start flying their 787 in late 2018. They’re replacing their fleet of A340s with 787s, so it seemed like a good opportunity to try a new business class product.

Naturally Ford was down to go to Tahiti with me, and there was availability at both the St. Regis Bora Bora and Conrad Bora Bora, which I’ve been wanting to check out for a long time.

Booking flights

As mentioned above, one of the primary motivators for booking this trip was trying Air Tahiti’s new 787 business class only shortly after it went into service. I managed to find two business class award seats (see this post for the “trick” to booking Air Tahiti Nui awards using AAdvantage miles), which I booked for 80,000 AAdvantage miles plus $5.60 in taxes per person:

12/04 TN101 Los Angeles to Papeete departing 10:55PM arriving 5:05AM (+1 day) [Business]

Earn American miles with:

Then for the return I wanted to review United’s 787-8 business class on their flight from Tahiti to San Francisco. While this is still their old business class seat, the route to Tahiti is a new one for them, so I wanted to do a head-to-head comparison. Furthermore, this would allow me to review the United Polaris Lounge San Francisco, which had only recently opened.

So we booked the following for 80,000 Aeroplan miles plus $79 in taxes per person:

12/11 UA114 Papeete To San Francisco departing 10:40PM arriving 8:45AM (+1 day) [Business]

Transfer points to Aeroplan from:

The catch is that in Tahiti, international flights operate to Papeete, though many people want to go to Bora Bora to vacation. The way to get there is by plane, and the only airline to fly the route is Air Tahiti (which is a different airline than Air Tahiti Nui). It’s annoying that these are different airlines, since it means you need to pay for separate tickets, can’t put both flights on the same reservation, etc.

Their pricing is really high given that they have a monopoly, so we booked the following flights for a total of $383 per person roundtrip (which seems to be their lowest fare):

12/05 VT402 Papeete to Bora Bora departing 7:30AM arriving 8:20AM [Economy]
12/11 VT434 Bora Bora to Papeete departing 6:40PM arriving 7:30PM [Economy]

Note that while in the Maldives hotels typically arrange flights for you, in Tahiti you simply book direct, and then you just arrange the boat transfer from Bora Bora Airport with your hotel.

In the end our flight routing looked as follows:

Booking hotels

We had a total of six nights on the ground in Tahiti, and we decided to spend all of them in Bora Bora. We split our time between the St. Regis Bora Bora and the Conrad Bora Bora, which are two of the most popular points properties in the area.

My expectation was that the St. Regis would be significantly nicer than the Conrad (note: expectations do not equal reality, as we learned here), so we booked four nights at the St. Regis and two nights at the Conrad.

For the St. Regis I ended up booking a paid stay using the Citi Prestige fourth night free benefit. The paid rate was just under $700, and then with a fourth night free that brought down the average nightly cost to just over $500 per night.

The standard room here is a land villa with a private pool. We ended up staying in that for three nights, and for our last night upgraded to an overwater villa, at the cost of ~$380.

Then for our last two nights we stayed at the Conrad. We booked this using points, at the rate of 85,000 Honors points per night. In reality we only used points for one night, and then for the other night we redeemed one of the weekend reward certificates that I had through a co-branded Hilton card.

Credit CardHow to Earn a Hilton Honors Weekend Night Reward
Hilton Honors Ascend Card from American ExpressOne weekend night reward after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year
Hilton Honors American Express Business CardOne weekend night reward after you spend $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year, plus a second weekend night reward after you spend $60,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire CardOne weekend night reward shortly after you get the card, and an anniversary weekend night reward every year upon your account renewal with no spend requirement, plus an additional weekend night reward after you spend $60,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year

The standard room here is on land, so we decided to pay ~$300 per night to upgrade to an overwater villa.

Bottom line

This was our first time in Tahiti, and we both had a really fun time. Bora Bora was so picturesque, and in many ways I preferred it to the Maldives (maybe I should do a post comparing the two).

Both of our flights were interesting, and our two hotel stays were really surprising, and couldn’t have been more different than what we were expecting.

Stay tuned, thanks for reading, and thanks for your patience, because I realize it has taken a while for me to get this review out.

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Comments
  1. Excited for this one. Bora Bora is on my list for potential honeymoon destinations (along with Bali and the Maldives primarily).

  2. Would love a comparison between the Maldives and Bora Bora. Would also like to hear any comments on FS Bora Bora and whether you had any thought of going/general views of the property vs. St. Regis/Conrad and whether its worth giving up points. Would also like to know if you ever considered the Brando (obviously much more expensive than any of the above places).

  3. I have been to French Polynesia two times and the Maldives one time, going back to Bora Bora next month thanks to the Marriot and SPG merger so will be staying at the Le Meridien and the St. Regis 🙂 I much preferred French Polynesia (Bora Bora) than the Maldives and think it’s more picturesque in a photographer’s view with both the beautiful eye-blinding turquoise lagoon and the mountain peak. I wrote a detailed comparison between the two in terms of the cost, activities, and photo-ops: http://www.missvacation.net/2018/03/05/a-comparison-of-maldives-and-bora-bora/

  4. @Lucky

    “This was our first time in Tahiti, and we both had a really fun time. Bora Bora was so picturesque, and in many ways I preferred it to the Maldives (maybe I should do a post comparing the two).”

    Please do!

  5. Curious about your decision to redeem 80K Aeroplan in lieu of 70K United. Save 10,000 points, no? Also, when does UA open up saver business on this route? Haven’t seen any. Did you have it booked before outbound departure? Impressive.

    Curious you decided not to redeem 60K Marriott? Seems like a good deal. Maybe it wasn’t available? If you can get 0.9 cents per point, I think that’s a win at this point.

    Also curious, weren’t you in Tahiti a few years back? Can’t remember. You don’t mention it.

    Also just worth mentioning… IRL people can’t just fly into and out of different California airports. I guess United makes it pretty easy to add a tag flight in coach (maybe with a connection) to where you actually live (let’s pretend it’s Miami for the sake of the point)… how easily could American have gotten you to LAX from MIA in saver?

  6. Some airlines never get it right. 2-2-2 seating in biz is unacceptable. Biz passengers deserve better.

  7. Looking forward to this, Lucky! Particularly looking forward to your StR review. I’m also curious on the food options. We’d love to go to Bora Bora this fall but don’t want to be stuck with bad food in a beautiful place a la the Seychelles.

  8. @Lucky, why the link about booking AAdvantage awards by phone? Award travel on Air Tahiti Nui is now bookable on aa.com.

    40k AA miles for 11 hours in business is indeed a sweet deal. Too bad best travel seasons for Tahiti and Japan don’t line up very well.

  9. Second everything Jack says – a detailed comparison of Bora Bora and the Maldives would be great and what are your thoughts on the Brando? Seems right up your alley given you like eco-tourism (like the Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador).

  10. @Peter Brown 2-2-2 on a leisure route isn’t the issue it would be on other routes. Most people are traveling with their significant other and I’m sure a large percentage would prefer to sit together over the privacy of 1-2-1.

  11. @stvr! Maybe Ben doesnt have any Marriott points left to redeem 60k/night 🙂 i think he tried to meet $20k spend req for ambassadors elite. Still $500 per night at st regis is a heck of a deal.

  12. I spent a month traveling around French Polynesia and would highly recommend that one purchase a pass on Air Tahiti. It permits you to fly to a number of different islands at a much lower price than individual flights. You are not permitted to transit the island of Tahiti so advance planning is required. I used it to visit 7 other islands. Personally I found Bora Bora to be one of the worst islands apart from being quite beautiful. The roads are awful and the quality of hotels can vary greatly. I utilized two free IHG Chase nights back when that was still possible. The Intercontinental that is not on the main island was nice but definitely not spectacular apart from the view. The intercontinental that is on the main island was extremely dated and not even particularly clean. I stayed in an overwater bungalow but it was not even close in quality to the other Intercontinental.
    My favorite islands were Huahine and Morrea. Huahine is absolutely beautiful but there are no major resort hotels – that is quite possibly part of its charm. Morrea has plenty of resort hotels and it is quite nice to just drive around the island – the roads are much better than Bora Bora. I must also say that I enjoyed the island of Tahiti. I stayed in an Airbnb on the smaller island (they are connected by a small strip of land) which was on a mountain side with a view of the ocean. The smaller island has some wonderful beaches, both black and white sand and many fewer tourists than Morrea or Bora Bora. It offered a much better opportunity to interact with locals.
    If I were to go back, I suspect I would actually spend much of my time on Tahiti and maybe some side trips to other islands.

  13. I’m supprised that you found any business clsss available on United let alone two to Tahiti we were trying to go this summer but couldn’t due to not being able to find award space. Then again we didn’t look the Aeroplan but would still except some to show up on United

  14. Matt, definitely skip Bali…the traffic will suck a lot of the fun out of it, especially if it is a Honeymoon. Looking forward to going back to Maldives next January (the use of Hyatt points for free nights for 25K is a nice deal) and Tahiti is on our list.

  15. @SBS

    TN does show up on AA now, but unfortunately the website is still glitchy and often errors out if you try booking.

  16. @Zach, sorry, too much editing and looking at different posts. 40k miles for 11 hours refers to flying between PPT and NRT, not PPT and LAX. Too bad best travel seasons for Japan and French Polynesia don’t line up very well.

    @François, good point – I never tried going beyond checking availability on aa.com.

    As far as comparing French Polynesia vs Maldives, would definitely be interesting to see Lucky’s take on it. For me it’s a tie between Maldives and Moorea based mostly on underwater scenery. Maldives have large variety of corals and fish you can see from a single resort, either on a house reef or via short boat trips within the same atoll – but absolutely nothing to see above water. Moorea adds beautiful green mountains, and at least one of the great reefs is just a 10-15 minute swim from a public beach – no need to stay in an expensive resort. Bora-Bora looks stunning above water, but not much to see below the surface.

    Finally, if you split your time between Tahiti and Moorea, you don’t need any domestic flights – the two islands are very close to each other and there are several ferry trips a day between them.

  17. Ben, Tahiti is the name of an individual island while French Polynesia is the name of the country. The way you have it written now is akin to saying Oklahoma when you mean the United States.

  18. Its a shame you only went to Bora Bora, as Morrea was much better in my opinion, it was beautiful!

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