Our 2nd Honeymoon in Paradise – Introduction

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I’ve always been fascinated by the amazing blue and green waters & the over-water bungalows in Bora Bora.  But at the back of my mind, I always wondered “Can it really be as good as people say it is?

Hilton Moorea

At The Hilton in Moorea, French Polynesia

“Our 2nd Honeymoon in Paradise” Trip Report Index:

Yes, it really is as good as people say it is!  I’ll never forget the shimmering green and blue waters, the friendly islanders, and the wonderful time Emily and I had whale-watching, going on our 1st ATV tour, biking 8 hours around the island of Bora Bora, and just hanging out with each other in Paradise.

I would never pay the retail cost – ~$8,000 for two people in coach from Costco Travel or ~$12,000 in business class – but miles and points let us have Big Travel with Small Money!

So I planned a 2nd honeymoon to French Polynesia with the woman of my dreams!

I decided on 2 honeymoons of about 1 week each, instead of taking a longer honeymoon for 2 weeks.  I planned our 1st honeymoon to Paris over the July 4th weekend and the 2nd honeymoon over the Labor Day weekend.  That way we could take 10 days off work, but use only 8 vacation days!

This was supposed to be a surprise (I was looking forward to her squeals), but alas…

Emily:  This surprise was given away when I checked my “junk” email account – the one which Daraius uses to sign-me up for promotions etc. – and found hotel reservations and flight confirmations to French Polynesia!

However, I didn’t do any research to find out more about Bora Bora.  Daraius plans excellent vacations and I trust his judgement.  But I was excited!

Daraius:  I initially booked all 6 nights at the InterContinental Thalasso in Bora Bora. But I shortened our stay at the InterContinental Thalasso to only 3 nights and included 1 night at the Hilton in Moorea (only 30 minutes by ferry from Papeete) and 2 nights at the Hilton in Bora Bora.

Emily:  I would have preferred staying in only 1 or 2 locations to really relax and get a feel for the place.  3 hotels in 7 days was a lot!

Daraius:  Actually, I wanted to stay in a different hotel each night and check out the InterContinental in Tahiti and Moorea as well as the InterContinental La Moana in Bora Bora, but changing hotels every night would have been the opposite of a honeymoon for Emily!

Emily at the InterContinental Thalasso

Emily at the InterContinental Thalasso

I switched our reservations to the Hilton because we would save money with the free breakfast (~$30 per person) and free internet at the Hilton hotels because of our Hilton Gold status.  You can get Hilton Gold status with a virtual move to Australia or with the Citi Hilton Reserve card.

We saved  ~$80 per day (~$60 on breakfast and ~$20 on internet) at the Hiltons in French Polynesia because of the Hilton Gold status.

We used 150,000 Delta miles to fly in Air France business class from Los Angeles to Papeete and to fly back in Air Tahiti Nui business class.  Delta miles are very useful for travel to French Polynesia because they partner with both Air France and Air Tahiti Nui for flights from the US to Tahiti.

AIr France to Papeete

Air France Business Class to Tahiti

However, you can also use:

To be clear – using miles and points to French Polynesia is tough and requires lots of planning.  But over the next few weeks, I’ll review the flight and hotel options to French Polynesia and share our experience in Paradise with lots of detail and pictures so that you can get started planning your trip to Paradise!

French Polynesia is expensive, but it is possible to go there without breaking the bank.  Please comment if there’s anything you want me to include in the posts!

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

87 Responses to Our 2nd Honeymoon in Paradise – Introduction

  1. Hi D & E,
    What a fun trip. So happy for you two. And:
    “Delta miles are very useful for travel to French Polynesia because they partner with both Air France and Air Tahiti Nui for flights from the US to Tahiti.”
    Gotta love the value of Delta Points when you know how to use them! ;-) – René
    PS – See you two soon in Chicago

  2. How did you get from Papeete to Bora Bora? Thanks

  3. Daraius, does delta allow one way tickets on partner flights because I don’t understand how you spent 150k miles for two one way awards.

  4. This is on my to-do list, but it’s pretty far down because of the cost. Looking forward to more posts on the subject. Re: “2nd honeymoon”….we’ve been married 28 years and when we go away alone without the kids we always say we’re “going away on our honeymoon.”

  5. @rene – Thanks! See you next month!

    @Maury – We took the ferry to Moorea and then flew to Bora Bora. More details soon.

    @Ryan – It was 150K for a round-trip. Delta doesn’t allow one-way awards for half the price of round trip awards.

    @Lively
    – There’s lots more to come.

  6. Hi Daraius & Emily,

    Was so cool to meet you at the Roulottes in Papeete! :) Can’t wait to read your reviews of IC Bora Bora Thalasso and Hilton Bora Bora Nui! I posted the first bits of my trip report at http://travel.bart.la/2012/09/22/french-polynesia-tahiti-and-bora-bora-flights-and-airfares/
    Looking forward to see you again in Chicago!

    Cheers,
    Bart

  7. Great choice!!!

    In your future blog, I am interested in knowing if you can fly first class on Air Tahiti using AA points. Thanks.

  8. Oh, please ignore my last suggestion. I just read your other blog about using AA. Too bad no first class award allowed.

  9. D, My wife and I have been wanting to go there for a long time but it is so expensive and far (NYC AREA) with travel time cutting into vacation time. Looking forward to your details.

    In the meantime what would be the best CC cards to get to help pay for hotels in Bora Bora?

    We have lots of Delta, Untied, American miles but No Hotel Miles or Hotel branded CC Cards.of any kind.

    Thanks E

  10. Looking into a very similar trip ourselves! Couple questions:
    1. Flight options from US via United? Via Avios?
    2. When using AXON7 to save on 4 nights at Hilton Bora Bora or Moorea, does 145,000 get you only the “basic room” or any or other? In other words, if you want an over the water room, can you go with AXON7?
    Thanks D & Em!
    @palmerlaw

  11. @palmerlaw – I believe the AXON award gets you a garden suite or something. You will have to pay an upcharge to get a OWB. That fee varies depending on a lot of factors. Some people get that upgrade cheap.

  12. Hi Daraius,
    As a few have mentioned already, Bora Bora is known for being incredibly expensive. If you could be as detailed as possible in these trip reports regarding budget dining options in Bora Bora it would be greatly appreciated! While airfare and hotels would be covered by miles/points, we really can’t afford to spend $400 a day on meals, unfortunately. I’m sure you found a way to make it work, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the trip reports!
    Thanks,
    Jason R

  13. I am looking forward to hearing how you leveraged hotel points to stay in the over-the-water bungalows. I have a friend who wants to honeymoon in Tahiti so I’ll use your tips to help her out. It looks stunning. Glad you guys enjoyed it.

  14. SPG Points to DL or air France, is that doable?

  15. @ Daraius, My wife and I will be at Hilton Moorea in about 2 months. I had some questions about your trip. You may want to answer by personal email. Trying to find out everything in advance. We arrive from Auckland about 10pm, so stay in Papeete overnight (Faire Suisse) and ferry the next morning. 1. Can you tell us more about getting tickets for ferry and ease of going over to Moorea. 2. When you get to Moorea, how did you transfer to Hilton (bus, hotel shuttle, etc.) and how much did it cost. 3. At Hilton, did you rent a car to explore. From whom and how to pick up car? 4. I heard there are a few places to eat within 15 min walk from Hilton – can you describe direction and distance and quality/price? 5. Does Hilton use same 2 flat prongs for electricity as US, if not what type of converter do I need? 6. How was airport for arrival/departure from Papeete? Long lines? 7. We are in coach on Air Tahiti Nui (we want to conserve miles) – how was arrival in LAX (if you went there)? 8. Did you need local currency and is there an ATM at Papeete airport? 9. Any other info on your trip to give us a “heads up” would be appreciated.
    I have not, but will, review Bart’s blog about Tahiti.
    Thanks.

  16. @Jason Hilton Gold status saves you $$ for breakfast also gets you a nice little welcome letter every morning :-). The letter updates you on the weather, news, sports, and gives you a daily local legend. Go into town stock up on snacks and drinks at Chin Lee’s. Call front desk, have them empty your fridge out, so you can store your stuff. If your in town eat at Aloe Cafe and Alfredo. The food is good and inexpensive compared to resort prices. At Alfredo you can get a pizza for 1100 cfp. The resort charges you the same for a cocktail!

    Hope that helps. I am pretty sure Daraius has tons more to offer.

  17. Since I’ll be staying at the Hilton Moorea in about 3 weeks for my honeymoon… any information you can give about that property or Moorea in general would be appreciated!

  18. @SAPMAN
    1) The ferry from Papeete to Moorea takes around half an hour (if you take a fast one e.g. Aremiti 5) Timetable can be found here http://www.aremiti.net/ The fare is 3000 XPF round trip.
    The Papeete Port building is brand new (opened March 2012) and has ticket offices which open +-1,5 hour before departure. No need to buy tickets in advance, only car space is limited and might require upfront reservation. http://www.portdepapeete.pf/2012/03/inauguration-de-la-gare-maritime-du-quai-des-ferries-de-papeete-vendredi-16-mars-2012/entetegm032012/
    You can leave your luggage (lock it!) in a metal container which is put on the ferry using a forklift.
    2) If you book a private shuttle via your hotel, it will be around 4500 XPF. A shared one will be 1000-2000 XPF.
    3) 4) & 5) I stayed at the IC Moorea, so can’t comment on that one. IC Moorea has an AVIS car rental office.
    6) The PPT airport is small and has no jetbridges. On arrival there will be a traditional ‘band’ playing to welcome you to Tahiti. As I disembarked with the business class passengers and as I’m an EU citizen, Immigrations and Customs took less than a minute. Not sure if you’re in the back of the bus. But there will be only one plane with arriving passengers, so the line shouldn’t be that long. On departure, there will be quite a line for check-in, you might just have a drink first at the airport and then return 15 min before check-in closes, if you want to avoid the line. or just fly business/first :)
    7) Arrival LAX… The only awkward part is you might need to change terminals if you have a connecting flight. If you luggage is checked to final destination, pick it up at the belt, go trough customs, then put if back on the belt indicating connecting flights. Air Tahiti Nui uses the Tom Bradley International terminal. My connecting flight with Air New Zealand was in a different terminal. 8) There are ATM’s at several places, including the airport. You can buy almost anything with creditcard, but sometimes there’s a min. spend.

  19. As you can see by the replies this is a dream trip for many people, although cost prohibitive also.

    We want to go, and our 12 year old grandson really wants to go, also. We have thoroughly spoiled him with yearly trips to Hawaii. Hmm, do we love him enough to pay for a third person on a trip Tahiti? ;-) We’ll have to give that some serious thought.

  20. How do you manage to get so much vacation time in one year? I’m jealous!

  21. with all the points promos out there, i have never figured out a way to get discounted bora bora hotels. the redemption amounts are INSANE. Please tell us mere mortals how you found affordable accommodations in bora bora and how many days min you think is needed to make the trip worthwhile.

    thanks!

  22. @dyhppy InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso Spa is 50K Priority Club points per night, but in January it was possible (for a limited time only) to book it at 30K, which I did for a 5 night stay earlier this month. :) http://thepointsguy.com/2012/01/intercontinental-bora-bora-2-bedroom-suites-for-only-30k-points-a-night/
    Today, you can book it for $350 a night (5x$70, 10K PC points sell at $70 via cash+points trick)

  23. @Bart, wow i feel stupid. thank you, Bart and Darius. that PC trick just blew my mind. so can you help me make sure i understand. you can book a basic room in bora bora using this pts trick ($350), then you try to email them to ask for upgrade to OWB options?

  24. @dyhppy Or you wait it out and see what happens on arrival. Ambassador members are upgraded *most of the time* to an OWB, except if they are fully booked…. FYI IC Bora Bora Thalasso is almost fully booked until Jan 2013.

  25. is the only way to become an ambassador by paying the $200?

  26. @Bart Lapers – Great to meet you too and looking forward to your review of the hotels which I wasn’t able to stay in!

    @E- The best cards for French Polynesia are the Priority Club card from Chase with 80K points as a sign-up bonus, and 1 free night every year. The Cit Hilton Reserve offers 2 free weekend nights + Hilton Gold Status for saving money on breakfast and internet. There are lots of ways to earn Hilton points – The Citi Reserve (you can get 2 at a time), the regular Citi Hilton cards (you can get 2 at a time), the AMEX Hilton (regular and Surpass) and the Hawaiian Air and Virgin Atlantic cards whose miles can be converted to Hilton. More details on the “Hotels” credit card tab.

    @palmerlaw – No options via United. With Avios, you have to fly to South America, then Easter Island and on to Tahiti. 145K gets you the base room, but you can email them and negotiate the charge for an upgrade. More details in my posts.

    @Jason R – Will do, but it essential involves stuffing up on breakfast which is free with Hilton Gold status, eating outside the hotel, or getting groceries back to the hotel. Otherwise expect to pay $22 for a pizza!

    @Jason
    – That is another possibility as well.

    @SAPMAN – I’ll cover most of your questions in my future posts. #5 – They use standard European outlets, so you will need a converter for US plugs. Please email me if you have any questions!

    @Brian – Congratulations! Check out Dr. Michael Poole’s whale-watching tour, and hiring a car to drive around the island or an ATV tour might be nice.

    @Anne- The rooms at the hotels in French Polynesia are quite big, so there wouldn’t be much incremental cost. It will be quite the treat for him to explore over there!

    @Heather
    - I took a lower-paying job with more vacation in Kansas after graduating instead of a higher paying job in a larger city. Emily was lucky enough to get a job with more vacation as well.

    @dyhppy
    - Actually, it is fairly easy to get the hotels in Bora Bora. The Chase Priority Club card has a 80K sign up bonus, and 1 free night after your first anniversary. You can buy either 20K points or more using the PC cash and points trick. http://millionmilesecrets.com/2011/06/07/use-the-priority-club-cash-points-trick-to-get-upto-50-discount-on-hotels/
    See my response to E above for the best cards for hotel stays in French Polynesia. I’ll cover more in future posts. You can also redeem Priority Club points for Ambassador membership.

    @Bart Lapers
    – Thanks for helping out!

  27. do you have a link for the 80k PC offer? i only found a 60k.

    thanks

  28. Looking forward to the report. My wife and I did Bora Bora in 2006 as well as IC RA for 9 days!

  29. @Jason R

    The food is really expensive in Bora Bora, but it all depends on how frugal you want to be. My wife and I spent a week in Bora Bora this past May. We only ate at a restaurant three times and spent less than $200 at those restaurants. Our most expensive meal was at Bloody Mary’s which was close to $100 for the two of us. (I don’t recommend the steak)

    We brought a suitcase full of food and an electric burner. This is how we ate cheap for the duration of our stay. We probably spent another $100 on food/water while there at the small grocery store. The grocery store is accessible for free if you stay at either of the IC properties.

    My parents made fun of me prior to going, but they weren’t making fun of me when they were eating for free!

  30. Hi Daraius,

    Are the Delta, Air France and Korean air points referenced above for 2 people or 1?

  31. Did you get an OWB at the InterContinental Thalasso? If so, how much did it cost you to upgrade?

  32. Wow your trip looks amazing. Congrats again.

  33. My husband and I were in Polynesia Feb 2012, and enjoyed it so much we will be returning Jan 2013. I booked 2 business class seats with AA miles 62,500 each, LAX-PPT. You have to overnight in Tahiti since most planes arrive at night. We spent 2 nights in an overwater bungalow in IC Tahiti before moving on.
    A garden view room is the only points option, for 30,000. They will, however, then let you upgrade in advance, with dollars.
    The email from the IC Tahiti is below, with rates. Upgrade rates are very reasonable!
    jo

    The reward nights can be booked only on priority club website.
    And at the Intercontinental Tahiti Resort, the category available is only Garden view room.
    Ambassador advantages are not available when booking with reward nights.
    If you wish you can purchase the upgrade if it is available in the category requested :
    The cost for the upgrade is as follow :
    For a panoramic view room : 6840 xpf/night= $71
    For a overwater Motu bungalow : 13680 xpf/night = $143
    For a overwater Lagoon bungalow : 17100 xpf/night = $178

  34. Daraius, the TN site does say First class can be booked with AA miles:
    Redeeming AA Miles – American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer members can redeem AAdvantage miles on Air Tahiti Nui for flights in Coach, Business or First Class.

  35. @Hiker T

    Here are the quotes I was given for my stay in May. I believe they are still the same.

    If you wish to pay for a guaranteed upgrade, we do have a special offer as below:

    * 2 Bedrooms Family suite Coral to Emerald overwater villa XPF 15,000 + 14% taxes per night

    * 2 Bedrooms Family suite Coral to Sapphire overwater villa XPF 25,000 + 14% taxes per night

    * 2 Bedrooms Family suite Coral to Diamond overwater villa XPF 35,000 + 14% taxes per night

    * 2 Bedrooms Family suite Coral to Diamond Otemanu overwater villa XPF 45,000 + 14% taxes per night

    * 2 Bedrooms Family suite Coral to Diamond End of Pontoon overwater villa XPF 55,000 + 14% taxes per night

  36. Hi,

    Wow, I’ve been looking forward to this post since last week!

    I’m dying to know how you can book a 50,000 point Hilton room and upgrade to an over water bungalow.

    Thanks in advance!

  37. @dyhppy – Check the Hotel Credit Card tab!

    @HikerT – We got the same offer which Corridor! posted and paid ~$160 per night to upgrade to the Emerald over-water bungalows.

    @Corridor!
    – Thanks for helping out!

    @Sun- All rates were for 1 person.

    @Jetpuffed
    – Unfortunately, American doesn’t have access to those awards.

    @Stephanie
    - Just book the standard room and email the hotel and the will make you an offer to pay cash to upgrade to an overwater bungalow.

  38. This is great. I have been waiting for you to cover this destination as it is at the top of my aspirational trips! Before I got into the points and miles game I thought this bucket list destination would have to wait until I was much older and could afford such an expensive trip but your site and others have us on the fast track to having enough points to travel to this paradise. That’s what it is all about. Thanks!

  39. Hi Darius,

    This question has nothing to do with this article, but I recently read an interview you had with a lady who started miles and points when she was young. She started out when she travel with her dad. For the life of me, I can’t remember her website!. Please help me out. Thanks

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  41. @John - Thanks for reading!

    @leslie - Was it Miles Momma?

  42. I am thinking is it possible to use UA miles to get to PPT, by Hawaiian Airline as partner airline. In that way, it would cost 70K in coach RT. I guess that would be similar as using AA miles and Air Tahiti Nui as partner airline. Am I right?

  43. I was wondering why did you choose to stay at different hotels after initially booking to stay at the intercontinental the entire trip? And we’re you planning on using your 80,000 points to stay the week, if so how much was each night going to cost in points?

  44. @vstanley - Hawaiian Air is not a United partner.

    @Chris99 – Because we had a lot of Hilton points to use and to save money with the free breakfast and internet. It is 50K per night, so you’d have to buy an extra 20K points for $140 using the cash and points trick to get 2 nights.

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  49. Great post. Looking forward to more. You didn’t mention using Alaska Airlines miles for trips to Tahiti. I thought that was another option… Alaska’s website mentions using Alaska miles for Air France trips to Tahiti. I flew there in Business Class on Air France once and thought it was pretty great. Personally not that big a fan of Moorea. Prefer most of the other islands, Bora Bora, Huahine and Rangiroa in particular. The drift dive on Rangiroa was one of the highlights of my life!

    You can eat for way less than $200 if you just head out to one of the local restaurants. Most of them will come get you if you don’t have a car. I would highly recommend Bloody Mary’s in Bora Bora though. Fan-f’ing-tastic. Why anyone would order a steak there is beyond me when they lay out the daily catch on ice at the front of the restaurant for you to peruse when they take you to your table. The drinks at the bar there are c-r-a-z-y expensive though so watch out.

  50. @Glenn - Good point. You can fly on Air France using Alaska Air miles as well!

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  58. This is awesome! We are planning a Bora Bora trip for our honeymoon too. However, we don’t have any Delta miles, would AA works? If not, which credit card do you suggest to stack up the miles? The Delta card or American Express?

  59. @Sam - AA miles work fine since it costs 37,500 miles in coach or 62,500 in business class for a 1-way on Air Tahiti Nui. You can get 2 Citi AA cards for 50K miles, so 100K at one time.

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  75. I am trying to plan a trip to stay at Intercontinental Thalasso Resort. I am trying to figure out dates/availability for flights using ANY miles/points systems to get me down there and back from LAX, but when I attempt to look up flights, it does NOT have anything available for the length of stay I am looking for! For example, trying to use aa points for the 37.5/pp, it would only allow options to leave on Fridays, and then returns on Sundays! Sometimes it’s just 2 days, sometimes it’s over 2 wks for it to work. I’m looking for more 4-5nts stays. I also tried looking to book under Delta’s miles, and it would indicate that there are NO availablility- and I’m using a date, like 8 months in advance! Any thoughts would greatly be appreciated.

  76. @Kalia – Using miles to Tahiti is one of the toughest awards to get. See this post on how to search for Air Tahiti Nui flights. For Air France flights, you can search on Delta.com, or on Air France website. If you have American Express Membership Rewards points, you can transfer them to Air France and book the Air France flights.

    And you can set seat alerts on Expert Flyer to alert you for when a seat opens up.

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  78. Hey Darius,

    I’m thinking about redeeming some Hilton points and booking a room in Tahiti. I’d love to try and get there in Business class with my wife for as little points as possible. How can you view Korean Air availability? I have plenty of UR and MR points plus a good number of AA but am trying to figure out the best use for them to get to Tahiti.

    Thanks!

  79. @Gary - UR points won’t help to get to Tahiti. AA points will help, but 2 business class seats will be tough. See this post for more details. Korean Air partners with Air France, and you can check availability on the Flying Blue website for Air France flights from LA to Tahiti. Good luck!

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  83. I booked the Bora Bora Thalasso hotel with 50K points per night for November 2014. I am using United miles but I will be flying from Asia to Tahiti so the availability was good on Thai and ANZ. It was only 30K return in economy per person before the increases in February. The question I have is there seems to be only one way to get from PPT to BOB, which is Air Tahiti and as a virtual monopoly, they charge almost $500 for the short return flight per passenger. Is there another option to this? There doesn’t seem to be any way to discount that flight because Air Tahiti doesn’t belong to any of the alliances.

  84. @Ian – You could use the Barclays Arrival card to get ~$440 towards any travel expense which you can use for that expensive flight.

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