Since I tend to make wild claims about being an expert on pretty much anything after having experienced it even once, I’m going to blurt out everything I know about Tahiti.
Around the perimeter
The Moorea island is a tropical wonderland dream. It looks like a living postcard. If you go anywhere near the water (which is most everywhere), you’re treated to the most gorgeous waters, tropical beaches, and palm trees you’ve probably ever seen. It simply makes every other place you’ve ever visited look like crap.
If you look underwater with mask on, you can see for miles – it’s like swimming in an aquarium packed with over-sized exotic fish. Diva Wife is a huge fan of marine life and was thrilled to see 117 species she could name from memory. She and the fish swam around for hours and hours, doing fish stuff. When it was time to go, I had to peel her fingers away from the bungalow and threaten to bonk her on the head with a big cartoon hammer and drag her back to the ferry. It’s a hard place to leave.
Inside the island
If you get too far inland, it’s a familiar blend of humid rainforest, struggling infrastructure, limited technology, people weaving and selling baskets on the sidewalk, wild-ass drivers, and chickens everywhere. It reminded me of being in Mexico.
What to pack
Passport – Apparently the international customs folks insist that you have one of these. To ensure that you remember yours, I recommend marrying someone who is more organized than you so she can find your passport in 8 minutes, after you spend a panicky 8 hours looking for it.
Sunscreen – We bought approximately $308 worth of sunscreen and used it all. If you share my genetically-deficient white skin, you might as well roll around in a bathtub of SPF 80 before you go anywhere.
Liquor – If you do the duty-free shop on the way out of town, you can get your combustible adult beverages cheaper than normal prices back home, and MUCH cheaper than you’ll find on the island. Jack Daniels is considered a high-end import there and a bottle will run you $125. (The rum they make on the island is relatively cheap, and doesn’t taste bad, but for some reason makes your breath smell like barf and bananas. If you’re into that.)
Multiple sets of swim shorts – I thought that the act of swimming would continually wash my swim trucks. Ideally, if I swam every time I wore them, they should remain nearly clean all week, right? No, after about 4 days, they smelled so bad we thought we’d have to burn them. We came back into the bungalow and it smelled like the shorts had been pulled out of a restaurant dumpster.
A big misconception was that if we made our presence known as honeymooners, we might get some extra in-flight attention, perhaps a seating upgrade or free stuff. Diva Wife looked super adorable in her little veil and bejazzled wedding-themed hoodie and I wore my shirt that proudly said “Taken”. But alas, they gave us no extra love. I think it’s because about 80% of the people who go to Tahiti were on their honeymoon. Or maybe it’s just because airlines are cheap.
Not only were we on our first flights together, it was each of our first-ever flights with Virgin Atlantic and Air France. I was under the impression that Virgin would be some unique experience, like first class in every seat. But it was fairly routine, and they charged out the nose for every tiny detail, even the WiFi (by the minute) despite making it seem like it’s free in advertisements . They dress quirky, and the hot pink lights make the cabin look like a night club, and they have an interesting flight safety cartoon to watch. But in the areas I care about, I rate it a great big “meh.”
Air France had the TVs on every seat too – their interactive panels were much more responsive and had more content. Air France’s meals, movies, and drinks were all included, and all were top notch. They had scores of attendants and checked on us often. We were fortunate that the longest legs of our flight were with Air France instead of Virgin. If you fly domestically, I don’t think the premium Virgin prices are worth it.
One oddball detail on the way home was that right before we left the island, Air France suddenly announced that due to regulations, they had to spray the plane for bugs. While they announced it, they walked up and down the aisles three times, gassing us all with pesticides while we coughed and put our shirts over our mouths.