After a few days in Tahiti, I boarded a boat for nearby Moorea. Some people fly, but the ferry ride is only 30 minutes long, and it’s beautiful. I don’t doubt the view from a plane is nice, but for me, it’s a bit detached from the splendor. I want to be enveloped in the scenery at ground level. In my view, it’s the best way to meet Moorea.
While Tahiti (with funny inflatable Santas and the Marche Municipale) is the administrative capital of French Polynesia, Moorea is its wellness retreat.
Immediately, I was struck by the jagged mountain peaks jutting in all directions, groves of palms, the scent of jasmine, and the jewel colored reef.
I rented a car during my 3 day stay and spent time exploring. What’s better than driving down side roads, turning corners into tropical unknown, and discovering what rests beyond?
Lovely tree framed streets
St Joseph’s Church on Cook’s Bay
Bungalows over water
Mountain peaks towering over Cook’s Bay
In addition to wanton drifting, one of my favorite experiences in Tahiti was snorkeling and feeding manta rays (See gregarious boat captain below). At the time, I didn’t have an underwater camera, and while I’m a little sad there’s no “evidence” of this adventure, I’m also glad that I could live so fully in the moment without fiddling with a camera. Swimming in crystal clear water as these animals glided and danced around was an amazing sensation.
One of the common reasons that travelers decide against French Polynesia is that it’s an expensive destination. Unlike Southeast Asia (very affordable) and Hawaii (moderately affordable), for example, there are fewer options for accommodations that fall into the budget category and the price for everything from gas to food is high. However, here are the practical ways that I saved money during my trip:
1. I prioritized where to spend and where to save. For me, staying in a nice place on the water was something to splurge on… and it was worth it. I did not sleep in a bungalow over the water, but opted for a garden bungalow at the Sheraton Moorea with easy access to the beach day and night.
2. Even though I stayed in resorts, I avoided meals there. I bought breakfast and lunch from a grocery store with a wonderful selection of fresh cheeses, meats, salads, baguette, French wines, and Tahitian specialities. I ate my dinner out in small restaurants in town. (Hint: many local restaurants offer a free pick-up service from your hotel)
3. Taxis are expensive in Tahiti, so I relied on walking and the free le truck shuttle in Papeete and had a car rental in Moorea. I took the ferry to Moorea instead of flying.
4. I didn’t do any spa treatments or buy souvenirs. While tempted at the time, I have no regrets now.
5. Except for manta ray feeding, I did not pay for any water or sports activities. I opted for freebies only such as visiting free cultural centers or museums, people watching, and swimming in the ocean.
While I certainly saved money by budgeting, I do regret not splurging on one thing. At the time I booked the manta ray excursion, I also considered a dolphin encounter. But it cost $200 US, and I thought it was just too expensive. Then right before leaving Tahiti, I met a couple who participated in the dolphin excursion and loved it so much that they did it twice. Oh to this day I’ve thought to myself, “Why didn’t I just spend the money?”
I don’t often have travel regrets, but in this one case, I did… What about you? What have you regretted doing or not doing while abroad? How do you save money when you travel?