Tahiti is the most populous island in French Polynesia and it’s where Faa’a International Airport is based. This means all flights from the United States land in the city of Papeete (on the island of Tahiti) which is also the capital of French Polynesia. Many travelers use the island as a stopover destination for a night or two (on their way to Bora Bora or Moorea)—there is enough shopping (Tahiti is known for its black pearls) and tourist attractions to warrant a stay.
Where to Stay in Tahiti
Let’s face it, covid is not the easiest time to be opening a hotel. So, kudos to those that are able to open under such difficult circumstances. The Hilton Hotel Tahiti is one such property. This all-new oceanfront hotel is just minutes away from the airport which is ideal for those getting off a long flight and looking to explore Papeete as well as get over jet lag.
The hotel’s pool alone makes it well worth a visit—it’s one of the largest pools found anywhere in French Polynesia and has six private cabanas as well as plenty of lounge chairs to relax. There’s plenty of space for social distancing both in the pool and around it. Many travelers spend a good part of their time at the property lounging by the pool and taking in the views.
The food at the property is also top-notch and there are three distinct restaurants. Moevai is open all day and has a really great breakfast buffet in the morning. The restaurant is located over the water and has large bay windows so it has great views throughout the day and especially at sunset. The island of Moorea can be seen in the distance. Taitea Brasserie restaurant focuses a varied menu of in-season vegetables as well as freshly-caught fish and aged meats. The Asian is the resort’s signature restaurant and showcases sushi, hot pot and dim sum. There are also two spots that are great for a light bite or a drink. The Heiva lounge is located in the lobby and is the ideal place for a glass of wine in the evening or a cappuccino in the morning. The Vaipuna pool bar is a nice spot for cocktails or light snacks throughout the day.
Another big selling point for the property is its spa. For anyone who has flown a long-haul leg, few things are more beneficial post-flight than a massage. The Hilton Hotel Tahiti’s spa has some of the best massage therapists in French Polynesia. They take their spa menu seriously and can knead out the toughest knots from sitting on a plane too long. Be sure to try the Taurumi, which is a Polynesia massage and a signature treatment. Treat yourself to the 90-minute option; you won’t regret it.
Getting to Tahiti
Long-haul travel is always tough on the body and the best way to start a vacation is by arriving relaxed and well-rested. Air Tahiti Nui business class has flat-bed seats, so travelers can sleep the entire flight (flights depart out of Los Angeles in the evening and land in in Papeete in the morning). Poerava Business class incorporates 30 Rockwell Collins seats that maximize the available space by including numerous storage compartments (great for headphones, water bottles and other gear). The cabin is organized in 5 rows of 6 seats in a 2-2-2 pattern. Each seat has a separator for more privacy, a mattress topper for added comfort in the bed position, a large, thick duvet; a large, soft cushion; and an accessory kit.
The airline operates from its Tahiti base to destinations in 10 countries (including Los Angeles, Paris, Auckland and Tokyo) and codeshares with several partners including American Airlines.
What’s really nice about the planes, is that the entire fleet was renewed in 2019 and is composed of Boeing 787-9s—what they call the “Tahitian Dreamliners.” It features the latest equipment and systems to make the trip more relaxing and to reduce fatigue including an air renewal system, anti-turbulence sensors, quieter engines and large windows with finger-touch brightness adjustment.