Moorea French Polynesia On A Budget by JetsettingFools.com

French Polynesia on a Budget: Plan a Cheap Moorea Trip

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Things move a little slower on Moorea, French Polynesia – and that’s not a complaint. The days drift by as leisurely as the puffy, white clouds. The calm waters of the lagoon display a rainbow of blues; an entire Crayola crayon box full of shades of blue wouldn’t be enough to color the scene. Looking inland, bright vivid greens climb the mountains that soar high into the sky. It’s island paradise…and it’s affordable. We experienced Moorea, French Polynesia on a budget – and we are sharing our tips so you can, too! 

Moorea French Polynesia Palm Trees and Mountains

Moorea, French Polynesia

Long before we were full-time travelers, we were budget-conscious vacationers. We rarely splurged on luxury accommodations or indulged at extravagant trips. Yet, we dreamed of a Polynesian vacation and fantasized about staying in a Moorea overwater bungalow.

Specifically, we wanted to stay at the Hilton Moorea Resort. To make it jive with our budget, I spent years using a Hilton Honors credit card and racking up points that we could cash in for the luxurious stay. By the time we were ready for our trip to Moorea, I had managed to save 300,000 Hilton Points…which was barely enough for one night. And, suddenly, it didn’t seem worth it. 

 

Budget Moorea Vacation

We were visiting Moorea as part of our year-long Round the World trip…and we were on a budget. Our perspective had changed – our dreams had changed. Spending all of our hard-earned points on one night in a Moorea island resort now seemed preposterous.

On to Plan B…as in, Plan Budget. We were intent on figuring out how to stay on Moorea, French Polynesia on a budget.

 

Moorea, French Polynesia On A Budget

Just to be clear, French Polynesia is not a budget destination. French Polynesia accommodations are not cheap – certainly not Moorea hotels over the water. Public transportation is practically non-existent. Any activities are downright costly. Grocery stores have limited, overpriced items and the cost of local beer is outrageous. Yet, we were not deterred. We were intent on finding a way to plan a cheap French Polynesia holiday.

Mountains on Moorea, French Polynesia

 

Budget Moorea Travel

Budget travel is a subjective phrase. Every traveler has their own budget – and limits as to what they are willing to pay for a trip. We had originally budgeted $100 per day (total for both of us – and not including flights) for our French Polynesia trip, which was quite ambitious. Below we detail how we planned our trip to Moorea on a budget – and, ultimately, how much we spent.

 

Cheap Flights To Tahiti

Budget travelers will most certainly be looking for cheap flights to French Polynesia. On our trip to French Polynesia during our journey around the world, we arrived from Easter Island and departed to Auckland, New Zealand. All flights to French Polynesia utilize the Faa’a International Airport in Papeete on Tahiti (which is the island next to Moorea).

{Search for the best French Polynesia flight deals on SkyScanner!}

French Polynesia Tahiti Airport

 

Papeete Airport Tahiti Hotels

Our flight from Easter Island landed at the Tahiti Airport at 1 o’clock in the morning – but our ferry to Moorea didn’t leave until 6:00am. We couldn’t fathom paying for an overpriced Tahiti hotel room that we would only occupy for just a few hours. Unfortunately, staying inside the Faa’a Airport was not an option. After retrieving our luggage, we were ushered out the front doors of the open-air airport.

Although the Tahiti Airport Motel across the parking lot practically had a welcome mat rolled out to us, we decided to spend the night on the airport curb. The curbside all-night café had open seats for travelers just like us, but we opted to find a quiet sidewalk spot at the opposite end of the airport. We spread out our borrowed airplane blanket on the ground, plunked down and tried to get a few hours of sleep.  

Waking surprisingly refreshed (I can sleep anywhere!), I felt victorious on the first night of our French Polynesia on a Budget adventure. Sleeping on the airport curb was totally free…and a bit like camping. Kris, who didn’t sleep a wink, disagreed.

 

How To Get To Moorea: The Moorea Ferry

Visitors need to take a boat to get from Papeete to Moorea. The ferry from Tahiti to Moorea is operated by Aremiti. The ride takes about 30 minutes. Adult one-way tickets cost 1,500 XPF (about $15 USD) – and there is no discount for buying a roundtrip ticket. The boat has outdoor space, which offers a nice vantage point during the ride. Find current rates and ferry boat schedules on the official website

Ferry from Moorea to Tahiti, French Polynesia

On arrival at the Moorea Port in Vai’are, there are taxis waiting and car rental options. A cheap public bus does meet the ferry, but it departs as soon as it is full. We took outr time disembarking from the ferry – and by the time we stepped off the boat the bus was already gone. Rather than fork out money for an expensive cab, we waited at the docks for the next bus…which didn’t arrive until the next ferry came in.

 

Moorea Accommodation: Where To Stay in Moorea On a Budget

Posh Moorea island resorts charge upwards of $1,000 per night. Moorea hotels, while less expensive than resorts, were also charging beyond what we were willing to pay. Our research revealed a campground that offered tents on the beach for $40 USD per night.

Popular with backpackers and like-minded travelers, camping on the beach was a tempting budget choice. However, shared bathrooms and unlocked storage space were a deal-breaker for us (like I said, everyone has their limits!). In our continued search for affordable Moorea vacation rentals, we stumbled onto Mark’s Place.

Start Your Search for Budget Moorea Accommodations on Booking.com – like we do!

Mark's Place budget accommodations on Moorea, French Polynesia

Mark’s Place Moorea Bungalow

Mark’s Place is a quaint spot near the beach on the southwest side of the Moorea offering affordable French Polynesia accommodation. The French Polynesia-style bungalows are strategically placed for privacy around the gardened grounds. Mark designed and built each cabin, incorporating the natural, tropical habitat, as well as including modern necessities (like numerous outlets for devices). Other details,  like the perfect soft lighting so as not to disrupt the natural atmosphere, are found throughout the property.

French Polynesia Bungalow: Fare Miti

Our cabana, Fare Miti, had stone floors and a high, wood ceiling. The glass-less windows on all four walls were designed to let the island breeze flow through as if were outside rather than in (minus the bugs). We had indoor/outdoor access to the bathroom (for when you get back from the beach) with a rainfall shower, a coconut shell for a soap holder and palm leaves making their way through the gap from wall to ceiling. It was a completely modern space…just not indoors.

The bed is tucked in a bay window, letting us star-gaze through the screen as we fell asleep to the song of crickets and roar of the surf. Each morning we would wake with the island birds and roosters at dawn and afternoons were spent in the shaded porch hammock, with a cold Hinano in hand. The kitchenette had everything we needed to prepare our budget-saving dinners at home.

The property had additional perks, like inexpensive kayak and snorkel gear rentals (more on Moorea activities in a minute!). Mark was always on hand to offer friendly conversation and local tips. We could also use the aloe plants from his garden for the inevitable sunburn. There was a grocery store just down the street. Mark’s Place had everything we needed.

Get Prices and Check Availability at Mark’s Place!

 

French Polynesia Food

One of the things I was most looking forward to on our Polynesian islands vacation was the fresh, local produce. However, when we got to the grocery store, there was none. No bananas. No pineapples. In fact, there was very little produce in the grocery store at all. The store was, however, stocked with basic staples: rice, pasta, canned veggies and beans. And, luckily, on our second day, we found a street-side fruit stand selling right-off-the-tree bananas for cheap.

Basic supplies from grocery store on Moorea, French Polynesia

Fresh fruit from roadside stand on Moorea, French Polynesia

Although we prepared incredibly simple meals, we were able to do so affordably. For our five days in Moorea, we only spent about $50 USD on food.

We didn’t even attempt to eat out on Moorea. Not only would it have put a dent in our budget, but during our shoulder-season visit, none of the places we would have wanted to eat at were open. We ate breakfast and dinner at home every day (including one meal of beans and weenies straight from the can…ewww). For lunch, we had beach picnics of homemade sandwiches and bananas. It was the perfect cost-saving measure…and the views were fabulous.

 

Drinking in French Polynesia

To save money, we didn’t go out drinking at any bars on Moorea, either. A single cocktail was likely to cost as much as our ferry ride. Instead, we got some beer and wine from the grocery store – and even that was stretching the budget.

A six-pack of tall can (50cl) Hinano, the local Tahitian beer, cost a whopping $22 USD. A liter of box wine (yes, box wine) was $12 and tasted exactly as we anticipated a carton of wine would taste. Five days of Hinano Hour in the hammock followed by wine with dinner severely damaged our budget. C’est la vie.

Can of Hinano Tahiti Beer on Moorea, French Polynesia

Can of Pork and Beans with carton of wine on Moorea, French Polynesia

 

Getting Around Moorea

We found it incredibly difficult to get around Moorea on a budget. The buses on Moorea only cost about $3.50 USD per ride, but there isn’t an actual bus system with routes and time schedules (at least not one that we found that serviced our part of the island). We ended up walking quite a bit – and even tried – but were unsuccessful at – hitchhiking.

Taxis are available but can cost a bundle. Our host, Mark, offers rides around the island for a fee, but only if he is available.

One of the few buses on Moorea, French Polynesia

 

Scooter or Car Rental Moorea, French Polynesia

Renting a car or scooter would have allowed us to navigate to more places on the island. However, it would have added a big cost to our trip. In the end, we were content to lounge around our accommodation property and walk to the beaches. Check rental prices for your trip here

 

Things To Do in Moorea

The teal blue water is one of the top Moorea attractions – and spending time in or near it doesn’t have to cost a dime. From our accommodations, the lagoon was just across the street and a nice beach was a short walk away. Two of the best things to do in Moorea, however, are kayaking and snorkeling – and we were willing to pay a fee to be able to do them.

Moorea, French Polynesia on a Budget: Inexpensive kayak rental from Mark's Place Moorea

 

Kayaking and Snorkeling Moorea

The tranquil, protected lagoon is filled with coral reefs and exotic fish – and we were eager to explore it. Fortunately, our accommodations rented both kayaks and snorkel gear rather inexpensively ($24 USD and $6 USD, respectively, for all day use).

We used the equipment twice, paddling around the reef in the kayak, dropping anchor and hopping in the water to discover what was beneath the surface. The lagoon provides some of the best snorkeling on Moorea. We saw sea turtles, swam with sting rays and sharks and followed gazillions of colorful fish around the stunning coral.

 

Best Beaches in Moorea: Pineapple Beach

Pineapple Beach is a Moorea hidden gem and one of our favorite French Polynesia beaches! Not far from our accommodations, the small beach is perfect for a day of lounging – and it is totally free. Before we even got in the crystal-clear water, we could see colorful fish. Playful rays frequent the area – and we watched them eating out of a kid’s hand. Ideal for swimming – there is a soft, sandy bottom – and snorkeling, Pineapple Beach is a top-spot for budget travelers.  

 

More Moorea Things To Do

Want more ideas of what to do in Moorea? We didn’t partake in these activities, but they come highly recommended by fellow travelers as top things to do in Moorea.

Moorea Hiking

There are numerous hiking trails on Moorea. The three most popular trails are Ancient Trail, 3 Coconuts Trail and Vaiare Viewpoint Hike. Find information – including a Moorea hiking map for each trail – here

French Polynesia Surfing

Surfers have long flocked to French Polynesia. A group of surfers was staying at our accommodations at the same time as us – and they spent their days riding the waves.

Moorea Tours

Check out the top-rated tours on Viator. Although tours are not free, they might be worth it! Top Tip: Read the reviews to ensure the tour provides value for money. 

Ocean views on Moorea, French Polynesia

 

French Polynesia Vacation Cost

We wanted a cheap trip to French Polynesia – and we succeeded! On our trip, we could have easily splurged and spent more money on activities, a rental car (or taxis) and more luxurious accommodations. We could have also spent less by eliminating snorkeling and kayaking adventures, not drinking alcohol and opting for the campsite on the beach instead of the rustic bungalows at Mark’s Place.

Overall, we enjoyed our time on Moorea and – even though we were thrifty – had a wonderful experience. In the end, we averaged about $150 USD per day total – or about $75 per person. It may not have been the over-the-water bungalow experience we once dreamt about, but French Polynesia on a budget was certainly an amazing adventure!

 

Moorea Map

 

 

We want to know: Have you visited French Polynesia on a budget? Are you planning a budget island trip now? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below!

 

Start planning your trip to French Polynesia! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing!  Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!

 

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French Polynesia On a Budget by JetSettingFools.com

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4 thoughts on “French Polynesia on a Budget: Plan a Cheap Moorea Trip

    • Hi Jennifer –
      The closest ‘beach’ was Pineapple Beach, which was about a 20-30 minute walk. For a small fee, the owner will drive you there. But, to get to the water to Kayak, it is less than five minutes from the place to the water. The rentals for kayaks and snorkel gear were very inexpensive from Mark’s Place and he lets you use the trailer so you don’t have to actually carry it. Hope that helps!

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