So, once you arrive in Tahiti (Papeete, to be exact), you still aren’t in Bora Bora yet. Most people don’t stay on the island of Tahiti, instead they go to one of the neighboring islands where the water is more picturesque, though I hear Tahiti has some nice cultural aspects to explore. With the exception of Moorea which you can reach by ferry and island cruises, you need to fly Air Tahiti, not to be confused with Air Tahiti Nui which we took from LAX, to get from island to island. It’s not cheap: the cost was $400 round trip per person to and from Bora Bora. Air Tahiti definitely has the monopoly thing down pat. This post will discuss our Air Tahiti flights and getting into and checking in at the Intercontinental Thalasso.
Buying tickets on Air Tahiti is pretty straightforward. You just go to their website and buy the tickets as you would any others, you just need to specify which island you want to go to. Sometimes your flight makes a stopover on another island – but these are literally twenty minutes max as people get on and off the plane like a bus. Air Tahiti is pretty liberal about change fees, supposedly they don’t charge any for changes before you arrive in French Polynesia. I tried to change some flights around which you have to do by e-mailing them, but didn’t have any luck. We also went standby in Papeete but had no luck there either.
If you are going to spend a bit longer in French Polynesia and want to explore other islands, I’d recommend looking into Air Tahiti’s multi-island passes. They don’t seem to be much more expensive than our simple round trip ticket and you get to stopover on multiple islands. Since we were there to relax, we decided to only visit the one island of Bora Bora.
Other than that, there’s not much to booking a flight on Air Tahiti. There are different ticket prices depending on how much luggage you are bringing (by weight), but with two carry-ons only we weren’t even close to bumping up in price. Make sure you consider that before you buy your tickets or pack.
There’s no real way to buy any Air Tahiti tickets on miles, your best bet is to used a fixed points card like the Barclay’s Arrival or Citi Thank You Premier to offset the cost.
Air Tahiti Flights from Papeete to Bora Bora via Moorea
We booked a flight that stopped over in Moorea on the way to Bora Bora. I am quite positive that the flight from Papeete to Moorea is the shortest flight I’ve ever taken in my life – it was only ten minutes long. We literally took off, the flight attendants removed their seat belts for two minutes, and then we started descending and they strapped themselves back in. Crazy.
Air Tahiti flies ATRs almost exclusively – they are propeller planes built in France. There actually was a neat feature on how to get one of their birds from France to Tahiti it needs to make 6+ stopovers or something like that. Anyway they use the propeller planes because they don’t need to travel long distances and they are supposedly more fuel efficient – I respect that. The planes themselves are nice, all the seats are the same and are first come first served.
Really the most important thing is to choose where to sit – we were told to sit on the left for the best views and they did not disappoint. We sat on the right on the return flight a week later. Jess spent most of the forty minute flight from Moorea to Bora Bora sleeping while I just took in the views, which were really impressive whenever we passed any of the islands.
One neat thing is the terminals on these small islands: passengers just walk from the terminal straight onto the tarmac and onto the plane. It’s totally different from air travel in the United States, there wasn’t even any security on our return flights (though the big airport in Papeete has metal detectors). It’s kind of a throwback to old school travel. French Polynesian people are super relaxed like the people you meet in Hawaii, so I guess they’re not too worried about safety concerns – for better or for worse. Probably mostly for the better, in my opinion.
Bora Bora Airport and Transfer to Intercontinental Thalasso
When you land at Bora Bora airport, you literally walk from the tarmac to the terminal as you watch your bags travel on a little truck to the “baggage claim”, which is just a rack outside the terminal. It’s all super chill. We had booked six nights at the Intercontinental Thalasso, one of the major resorts in Bora Bora.
All of the major resorts organize transfers to and from the airport, which is on its own motu (a small reef islet, just think random islet not connected to the main island). Bora Bora is one big island in the middle with a few motus around it, one of which houses the airport and the runway built during World War II. The transfer to and from the Intercontinental Thalasso was a little over $100 per person and involved a direct boat ride straight from the airport to the hotel. All the other resorts are similarly priced, I’m sure.
If you want to save money, you can take the free shuttle from the airport to Vaitape, the main town, and then from there catch a shuttle to your resort (some of which cost money, depending on the resort, for the IC Thalasso it’d have been about $10 each). After what felt like a billion hours in the air, I’m glad we sprang for the hotel shuttle. It would just have been too much to deal with all that – for us it would have been boat, bus, boat. If you aren’t staying at one of the major resorts (there are economical options, believe it or not), the free shuttle to Vaitape is your only option to get to the main island.
Anyway, when you arrive in the terminal all the major resorts have little stands set up; it’s pretty straightforward. Intercontinental gave us a lei, an envelope with some information and a welcome, and helped us get our bags onto the boat. We were in and out of there in ten minutes along with some other guests. They request that you send your flight information in advance and they were on top of everything, including our one hour flight delay that I forgot to mention. We had a one hour delay in Papeete before we took off, but got a free soda out of it.
It was a short twenty minute (or thirty? Time was blurring…) ride to the Thalasso. We were treated to some of our first up close views of Mt. Otemanu and the beautifully blue water of Bora Bora. I love being on boats, so being on a boat in such an amazing setting really shook off a lot of my exhaustion. We were so excited to finally be in Bora Bora.
Check-in at the Intercontinental Thalasso
I have a lot to write about the hotel so I figured I’d just get checking in out of the way here. When you arrive at the Intercontinental Thalasso, you get picked up by one of the staff in a golf cart, while some porters grab your bags and take them away on a second golf cart. After that, you get a quick tour of the resort, aka the “here is where you will be spending all your time and money” tour. I kid, I kid. Our guide actually pointed out all the free activities – and there are quite a few. He especially highlighted the sting ray feedings at 2 PM every day; I remember this distinctly because he told us that they would give us “hugs and kisses” no less than five times. Got it!
To be honest, our first views of the resort were stunning. I think the Thalasso has one of the best if not the best view of all the resorts on the island. I mean, this is what we got to look at every single day:
After the golf cart tour, we sat at some tables on the beach by reception just soaking it all in and drinking some cold tea while the hotel staff worked on our check-in. It was nice to just sit and relax instead of having to stand at a check-in desk the entire time. I even got bored of our little table and moseyed off into a lounge chair.
The whole check-in process only took ten minutes or so and our villa was already ready for us to move in (it was 1:00 PM). The hotel guy took a picture of us, the one that I’ve used in multiple posts already and again below, and then told us to let him know when we were ready to go to our room (man I really should have looked at his nametag). When we were ready, the friendly hotel staff gave us one last ride to our villa, showed us around, and that was that. All in all, check-in was super smooth and easy, and since we had alerted the staff via e-mail that we wanted to combine our two reservations into one (we booked four nights in my name and two in Jess’), we were told we were just going to be able to stay in our villa for the entire stay without having to check out and check back in. Thus, Villa 102 at the Intercontinental Thalasso became our home for the next six nights: I can’t wait to show it to you in my next post in the series. Shameless plug!
It was a long, long road to Bora Bora, but a journey that was well worth it. After some unspectacular yet scenic flights on Air Tahiti, we arrived at the Intercontinental Thalasso. It made a great first impression on us and did not disappoint – I’m planning on multiple posts describing the resort for anyone interested in staying there, so stay tuned. Just looking at some of these pictures is surreal for me – it was an amazing week that was only made possible through the earning and burning of frequent flier miles. This, my friends, is why I obsess about points so much!
Other Posts in this Series
Babyless in Bora Bora – Introduction and Planning
Preparing to Travel Without the Baby
A Three Leg Trip to LAX and the New Tom Bradley International Terminal
Air Tahiti Nui Old Business Class
Air Tahiti Inter-island Flights and Transfer to the Intercontinental Thalasso
Intercontinental Thalasso Emerald Overwater Villa Review
Eating Options in the Intercontinental Thalasso
Hanging out in the Intercontinental Thalasso and My Archnemesis
Intercontinental Thalasso’s Deep Ocean Spa – Paradise in Paradise