Oh gosh, where do I even begin?! Jess & I took the trip of our freaking DREAMS earlier this year. We did it on a budget and it exceeded all our expectations! I want to share our experience & tips with you and in the hope that it encourages you to visit as well! This trip was one for the books…and no you don’t have to wait until your honeymoon to go!
We had been watching flights to French Polynesia for close to three years and they were always $1200 or MORE, so when Scott’s Cheap Flights sent out an email with flights found leaving SFO for roughly $600… YOU BETTER BELIEVE WE BOUGHT THOSE!!! We flew a newer airline…FrenchBee and it was wonderful! Although, we both paid $90 to check a bag…because we brought a lot of our own food. The most we’ve paid for a checked bag, but it was worth it!
We opted out of staying at the famous over the water bungalows because it was outside of our budget. However, when we arrived on the island and saw them in person, we were so thankful we didn’t stay in one!! They are a little overrated…close together, not as far over the water as you think, and not as private as you would think…lots of tours boat right past them and the casual snorkeler (us haha) could just swim right up/under the bungalows.
We stayed at a FABULOUS Airbnb right on the water. It was a beautiful wood bungalow (geckos included) that had a private beach & kayaks for us to use. Our host was just the sweetest and was extremely helpful with any questions we had. The link to the airbnb we used is HERE.
The reasons we picked this spot…it was close (1 mile walk) to the ferry coming to and from Tahiti, it was walkable distance (½ mile) to the nicest resort on the island, Sofitel Resort (they had good restaurants & a boat rental there!), we had our own private beach, the reef was perfect for snorkeling right off our front yard, and our airbnb had free kayaks to use.
Our flight flew into Pappite, Tahiti and we took a Taxi from the airport to the ferry for $15 USD. When we arrived at the ferry port, we bought tickets $12 USD each for a one way ticket to Mo’orea. The ferry ride was great and was only 30min. Tickets don’t need to be purchased in advance, lots of ferries go to and from and they can hold a lot of people. Be on the look out for dolphins, we saw them from the ferry coming back! Yes, French Polynesia really is that magical!
When we arrived on Mo’orea from the ferry, we caught a Taxi to our Airbnb for $12 USD. But really, it was so close, we COULD have walked, we just had a lot of luggage and we weren’t sure how close it actually was at the time. There are quite a few taxis as the ferry arrives…but if you’re staying in a hotel, the hotels usually have complimentary shuttles that can pick you up too.
There is 1 car rental place (Avis) on Mo’orea right by the ferry. After a few days of being on the island, we rented a car for 3 days, but boy, was it expensive! Like $120 USD a day! But it was worth getting to explore the island. We visited all the major resorts, drove up to Belvedere Lookout, and ate out at a few places along the way. 3 days was perfectly enough for us to have a car…we were glad we didn’t rent it for more time.
We also rented a boat for a couple hours at the Sofitel Resort that we walked to. It was a super small boat that didn’t go too fast and you did NOT need a boat license but it totally got us around where we wanted to go. It was $90 USD for 2 hours and that was plenty of time for us to boat around and snorkel in different places. We even saw dolphins swimming by the ferry channel!
One of our #1 things we wanted to do on Mo’orea was to swim with stingrays & sharks. We searched & searched for a great tour to take us out to where they all were…and we found a great deal with Albert Tours. It was a 6 hour tour for $70 USD per person….it included swimming with rays & sharks, a small tour around most of the island, and an all you can eat & drink lunch buffet on a private island. It was so worth every penny!!! We highly recommend it. Albert Tours had a shuttle that picks up wherever you need to be picked up…and we had them pick up at the school right across the street from our Airbnb. It was so convenient!
YOU GUYS. We saved SO MUCH money by bringing a lot of our own food and a water filtering straw for our water bottles. We did the math and we saved $800 (honestly it was probably more but we were being conservative with our numbers) just in food alone. It’s an island and a tourist destination so yeah it was a little more expensive. As a visitor it isn’t recommended to drink the water so everything is bottled and sold for around $5-$7 each… well we bought filtering straws for $15 from Propur and had clean water the whole time, WIN. We did simple shopping at Trader Joe’s before leaving. Our meal planning was simple, oatmeal for breakfasts, rice cakes and avocado for lunches and lentils/ramen for dinner. We definitely got tired of those meals but we don’t travel for the food so we were fine! We did pick up local fruit and some other things at the store (garlic salt and potatoes), we also splurged on $5 french fries at Sofitel’s beach bar everyday haha. The very few meals we ate out it was around $50 for small portions and NO drinks, they will charge for water if you say yes so be aware of that!
Major ways we saved money:
- Walking. We specifically chose our Airbnb because it was walkable distance to the ferry, store, boat rental, car rental, the best public beach and the nicest hotel which had restaurants should we want them
- Bringing food from home
- Didn’t get a car the whole time
- Used a filtering straw and skipped the bottled water
- We stayed somewhere with amenities like kayaks because we wanted to spend as much time exploring the ocean as possible, we knew we would want that option everyday with no extra cost
- We took advantage of the complimentary pick ups that many hotels, tours, rental car services and restaurants offer
- We brought our own snorkel gear
- We made friends with locals/our Airbnb hosts and they hooked us up with rides and even free food
- Brought our own sunscreen
- Travel with a friend and split the costs
Flight home…eating instant oatmeal with chocolate chips & wishing we were back on the beach.