Don't take a taxi, 4 wheel drive whatever from the wharf to "the village". There is nothing at the end of the trip and the $US15 return is a rip off. In our "Taxi" 15 people were crammed into a 7 seater van for the 15 minute round trip.
Unique Suggestions: Take your swim suit and enjoy the water!
Fun Alternatives: Get the Free bus to the Pearl farm.
To me, the Fruit Factory on Moorea seems to sum up everything that is bad about French Polynesia. Once upon a time, the factory was a private business and used to be open for tours showing visitors how fruit was processed and juiced/canned etc. These days, the factory is in the hands of a multinational company (one of the worlds biggest soft drinks companies) in partnership with a local beer company. The factory has been closed for a long time (it was explained that it was because they were renovating the place, but I could see no evidence of this!)
However does anyone tell you this? Of course not. We saw tours being sold to take you there and all sorts of adverts for it. When you get there, all that is open is the shop, where the tours stop and people buy liquers and juices and other souvenirs.
If people knew in advance that the factory was shut, they probably wouldn't bother to go, and the locals know they would lose business. So nobody says anything, letting people waste a few hours of their valuable holiday on a horrendously expensive island just so that tour guides can sell expensive tours and the shop can flog you stuff.
Unique Suggestions: Unless you want to go to another tourist shop, just don't bother. Find a tour that doesn't go there, or do what we did and just rent a car.
French Polynesia is ridiculously expensive. The excuse given is that it is remote and everything needs to be flown in. This is not true. Easter Island is much more remote, has much less contact (flights/boats) with the outside world and is way cheaper.
Unique Suggestions: Take a very fat wallet and be prepared to burn its contents very fast. Otherwise wait a few years and see if the huge reduction in French support money to the islands is going to reduce prices to more sensible levels.
Fun Alternatives: Selected Greek Islands are much more beautiful and way way cheaper.
You will see stores selling black pearls all over French Polynesia. Very often, these stores are located in the hotels. Pearls can be incredibly expensive, so you really need to do your homework before you make a decision to buy. Beware of the informational pearl buying pamphlets that are distributed at the airport and hotels. These are disguised as informational materials but in fact, they are published by the companies that own the retail stores. An option to consider is purchasing a loose pearl in French Polynesia and having it mounted back home. This site offers some general information on Tahitian black pearls.
Don't take any taxis - they are just to expensive. The Islands are very small anyway. But to rent a car can be cheaper for a longer distance. If you are 2-3 people. But the Islands are very small and you can rent a bike or take the so called *Trucks* small wans who carry people for a small amount of money.
A FEW PLACES IN PAPEETE CHARGE QUITE A BIT FOR A SACK OF OYSTERS, PROMISING THAT YOU MAY FIND ONE IN WITH A PEARL, AFTER AN HOUR OR TWO OF CRACKING THESE THINGS OPEN YOU WILL ALWAYS BE DISAPPOINTED.
Pic: Typical house in Moorea.
Shark/Ray Tour Videos
Also look out for the videos sold after the 'Swim with Sharks' tours. They're $50 US and they maybe have a shot or two of you in it. A couple we knew bought one. It was mostly stock footage.
I think the safari is overated as you can go to a lot of the spots yourself.
Also, careful of being alone out at night if only because there are hardly any streetlights.
The worst tourist trap is upon arriving on Moorea. On the bus for transfer from the ferry dock to the hotel and once again at the hotel, you get the hard sell to take tours. The bus is much worse than the hotel since everyone is taken to the airport to sign up for tours and you look like the odd one out if you don't get off and sign up. Since we weren't the organized tour type, we declined.
If you are going on the Renaissance R3 do not go to the Tahitian Ballet (in Tahiti) that the cruise ship people rave about. Thankfully, we did NOT go, but everyone we talked to said it was a waste of time.
Warning: Watch out for your money! Polynesians are interesting for your money - not you! Avoid going to Tahiti, Bora Bora, Marquesas Islands, and other French Polynesian Islands - too expensive, heavy tourist commercials, polluted beach everywhere and icy-hearted local natives' eye for your money! You will be very disappointed when you arrive at Papeete International Airport in Tahiti - No joke!
A tourist trap - but a very sad one really is the Musee Gauguin. The impressionist painter lived on the Marquesas islands and did some wonderful work there. The museum does tell a little about his life and work but there are no original works there and the copies and poster on show are in very bad condition. A shame that there is nothing of the artists work or belongings there.
Be careful if you are buying black pearls. They are expensive and if you don't do your homework before you go, you can get taken pretty badly. Quality pearls are big ticket items (usually $500 and up), so go prepared!
On Tahiti there is a place called Belvedere's. It sits on top of a large mountain and boasts of incredible views. The view's were incredible but what they didn't tell you was that the bus that brought you up there only comes and goes every 3 hours or so and the food and drinks are expensive.The view was great but knowing what I know now, I'd skip it. Also, be careful of phone calls. One 8 minute call cost me $25.
Shopping, it is a real tourist trap. I took a lot more to New Zealand than I intened and brough some beautiful Corel jewelry there.
My wife and I went there for a 4 night getaway and we were impressed with everything from the start....more
Motu Tehotu, 98730, French Polynesia
Good for: Couples
Le Taha'a is a lovely hotel in many ways, but it is not a good fit for everyone. The layout of the...more