Do you dream of a luxurious getaway like the rich and famous, but only have a limited budget? Do you flip through the Conde Nast magazine at the doctor’s office, wishing there was a way to hang out at you’re own private beach somewhere in the South Pacific? For the not-so-famous or not-so-rich, this seems like an impossible destination without winning the lottery. But, there is a way, you just need to follow these tips in our cheapskate’s guide to French Polynesia.

1. Don’t Stay at Overpriced Tourist Resorts
Many packages to Tahiti are sold as airfare and hotel bundles. Don’t fall for this trap in French Polynesia. Resorts are many times more expensive than an Airbnb or VRBO. And, while the overwater bungalow sounds cool, those will cost you $600-800 per night. You can easily stay next door to these resorts and enjoy the same beaches and restaurants as the high paying guests.

Our recommendation:
Moorea Bungalow
$673 per week, sleeps 4, full kitchen and access to private beach.  Stay for one week for less than one night at a resort!  The Airbnb listed above was near the best beach in Moorea, was quiet and secluded, and had the nicest guest hosts.  They will pick you up at the docks or airport and show you around too.  You can’t beat that service.

2. Eat Like the Locals
This is an island community and offers fresh fish and local tropical fruits.  Plus, as a French territory, they have some of the best baguettes that are made fresh every day.  A baguette is under 50 cents (US currency).  Buy your fresh fish, fruit and vegetables at the roadside stands to get the best the islands have to offer.

Our recommendation:
For a night out, eat at a roulotte.  It is the Tahitian version of a food truck.  Find one that serves Steak Frites, which will cost around 7-10 dollars per plate.  It will be a tasty steak along with french fries, both served with a dollop of chive butter.  The sauce on the side is something I dream about to this day.

3. Take the Ferry to Moorea, Stay Away from Tahiti
While the dream may be to visit Tahiti, what you really want to do is take your vacation to the nearby island of Moorea.  When you see pictures of vacations from Tahiti, you are most likely seeing Moorea.  It is a slow-paced island with few tourists and offers a more friendly vibe.  While a travel agent will try and talk you into the $400 plane ride, you’d be better off taking the ferry.  Not only is it cheaper at $21 round trip, but it is only about 30 minutes.  By the time you get through airport security, you haven’t saved any time whatsoever.

Our recommendation:
Take a taxi from the airport and enjoy the boat ride on the bluest ocean in the world.

4. Bring a snorkel and mask for your own coral reef dive
No need to buy one of those expensive diving tours that take you out to some faraway reef.  They are overly expensive and totally unnecessary.  The waters inside the reef are protected and filled with every aquarium fish you can imagine.
On a typical day, you will see manta rays, parrot fish, clown fish swimming around their host anemone, and more.  If you’re lucky, you’ll come face to face with a reef shark.  No worries though, these sharks aren’t interested in you.  Besides, they are too full from the “all they can eat” fish buffet.

Our recommendation:
Snorkel off the public beach at Temae.
It is located near the airport and is shared with the Hotel Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort. It is the most beautiful beach on the entire island and has a great mix of locals and tourists. Look for the dark coral rocks in the deep blue to find the most fish.
Pro tip – bring a leftover baguette to chum the waters if you want to see thousands of fish.

5. Buy local alcohol, stay way from imported booze or hotel cocktails
Order a cocktail at a resort and plan on spend at least $20 per drink. Looking to buy some vodka or rum at the grocery store? Don.t! The import taxes are insane and you’ll spend upwards of $100 a bottle. Instead, drink like the locals. Get a six-pack of the Hinano, the local beer, or the famous Tahiti Drink. This alcoholic beverage can be found at any local magasin (store) for under ten dollars. Enjoying the food and culture is part of the reason you want to leave the madness of regular life anyway.

Our recommendation:
Tahiti Drink L’Original – pineapple juice from Moorea accompanied by a touch of passion fruit, a zest of orange, and Tahitian vanilla. Alcohol distilled at the local factory Fruits de Moorea. Which is also a great place to visit and take a tour – not to mention free samples!

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