Our 2nd Honeymoon in Paradise – Planning
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In this post, I’ll explain how Emily and I visited Moorea and Bora Bora in French Polynesia using miles & points. Later, I’ll post a more detailed account of the different airline, hotel, food, transport, and activity options so you can plan a fun trip to French Polynesia.
Keep in mind that the chart below covers only the cost for hotels and airfare, and not for dining, activities and other travel expenses.
|Retail Cost||Our Cash Cost||Miles And Points Required||Sources of Miles & Points|
|2 Business Class return tickets from Los Angeles to Papeete||~$4,000 per person or $8,000 total||$80 per person ($160 total) in taxes and fees||150,000 Delta miles (300,000 miles total)||- Delta Debit Card|
- Transferring American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta
|2 tickets on Southwest from Kansas City to Los Angeles and back||$388 per person or $776 total||$10 in taxes and fees||21,960 Southwest points + 1 Southwest Companion Pass||- Southwest Credit Card|
- Southwest Companion Pass
|2 tickets on Air Tahiti from Moorea to Bora Bora||$247 per person or $494 total||$247 per person or $494 total||None||None|
|2 tickets on Air Tahiti from Bora Bora to Papeete||$229 per person or $458 total||$229 per person or $458 total||None||None|
|1 night in a Panoramic Overwater Bungalow at the Hilton in Moorea||$800 per night for the Panoramic Overwater Bungalow||$205 for a cash upgrade from the standard room to the Panoramic Overwater Bungalow||50,000 Hilton nights for a standard award room||- Various Hilton Credit Cards|
|3 nights in a Emerald Overwater Villa at the InterContinental Thalasso in Bora Bora||$800 per night or $2,400 for 3 nights in the Emerald Overwater Villa||$175 ($525 for 3 nights) for a cash upgrade from the Coral suite to the Emerald Overwater Villa||- 2 free annual nights from the Chase Priority Club card|
- 30,000 points (currently 50,000 points) for a Coral Suite
|- Chase Priority Club card|
|2 nights in a Royal Overwater Villa at the Hilton in Bora Bora||$1,159 per night or $2,318 for 2 nights in the Royal Overwater Villa||$205 ($410 for 2 nights) for a cash upgrade from the standard room to the Royal Overwater Villa||50,000 Hilton points per night (100,000 total) for a standard award room||- Various Hilton Credit Cards|
|Total||$15,246||$2,262||300,000 Delta miles + 21,960 Southwest points + 30,000 Priority Club points + 2 Free Priority Club Nights + 150,000 Hilton points|
“Our 2nd Honeymoon in Paradise” Trip Report Index:
- A Bad Start & a Few Hours in Los Angeles
- Air France Lounge – Los Angeles
- Air France Business Class – Los Angeles to Papeete
- Getting to Moorea
- Hilton Moorea, Panoramic Overwater Bungalow #87
- An ATV Tour in Moorea
- Whale & Dolphin Watching in Moorea
- Eating in Moorea
- Moorea to Bora Bora
- Bora Bora Airport To InterContinental Thalasso
- Emerald Overwater Bungalow #204 at the InterContinental Thalasso Bora Bora
- Jet-Skiing in Bora Bora
- A 9 Hour Bike Ride Around Bora Bora
- Eating in the InterContinental Thalasso
- InterContinental Thalasso Coral Garden Suite
- Around the InterContinental Thalasso
- Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort
- Royal Overwater Villa, Hilton Bora Bora Nui
- Dinner at Villa Mahana
- Eating in the Hilton Bora Bora
- Is Food Expensive in Bora Bora?
- A Day in Papeete
- Air Tahiti Nui and Southwest Flights Home
- Conclusion & Blog Giveaway!
We used 150,000 Delta miles each to fly in Air France business class from Los Angeles to Papeete (the capital of Tahiti) and on Air Tahiti Nui back to Los Angeles. I booked these tickets as soon as the booking window opened ~330 days in advance and paid $80 in taxes and fees.
Since both these flights were night flights, being in coach versus business class didn’t really matter. But Air France business class was much more comfortable because the seat was almost 180 degrees flat. Air Tahiti Nui seats reclined only 150 degrees, but these things don’t really bother me since I can sleep anywhere!
In fact, traveling over the Labor Day holiday and saving one vacation day, was more important to me than flying in business class, and I would have gladly flown in coach if there were no business class flights.
I tried to add a Delta low level flight from Kansas City to Los Angeles to my award, but couldn’t get it to price correctly. Calling Delta didn’t help either. I called back a few times, but the agents couldn’t add the low level flights without the price increasing.
So I asked Gary for suggestions. He suggested calling back a few times, since Delta agents deal with broken systems, and to ask Troy. Troy suggested calling back at least 15 to 20 times! I didn’t mind taking a few minutes off work to duck into a conference room to make calls, but I couldn’t do 20 calls that day since I was busy at work!
So, after 7 unsuccessful calls, I just booked the award from Los Angeles to Papeete and back, and used our Southwest Companion Pass to fly from Kansas City to Los Angeles and back.
We took the ferry from Papeete to Moorea for ~$15 per person where we stayed at the Hilton Moorea. After 1 night in Moorea, we flew from Moorea to Bora Bora on Air Tahiti for $247 per person where we stayed for 5 nights. Finally, we flew from Bora Bora to Papeete, for $229 per person, to catch our return flight home.
We stayed at the Hilton in Moorea for 1 night, the InterContinental Thalasso in Bora Bora for 3 nights, and in the Hilton in Bora Bora for our last 2 nights. The InterContinental Thalasso was the nicest hotel, but also the most expensive since there is no way to get free breakfast like you can at the Hilton with Gold elite status.
Hotel award availability was great at the Hilton Moorea, pretty good at the InterContinental Thalasso, but poor at the Hilton in Bora Bora. There is limited standard room availability for 50,000 points at the Hilton in Bora Bora, but in the end we managed to get 2 nights.
However, availability kept on changing and award rooms would open up a few days after the resort appeared completely sold out.Hilton Moorea
We used 50,000 Hilton points for a 1 night stay, booked ~2 months in advance at the Hilton Moorea – a category 7 Hilton. You can book 4 nights for 145,000 Hilton points using a Hilton AXON award if you have the Hilton American Express credit card.
However, this was a standard garden bungalow, and not an overwater bungalow. I emailed the hotel about Emily’s fish allergy and to negotiate a cash payment for an upgrade to the Panoramic Overwater Bungalow.
The hotel emailed me to acknowledge my Gold elite benefits of free breakfast, free internet, 2 free bottles of water on arrival and a complimentary upgrade from the regular garden bungalow to a deluxe garden bungalow.
- Deluxe Garden bungalow – Complimentary as a gold elite member
- Lagoon Bungalow – 11,398 XPF or ~$117
- Overwater Bungalow – 15,958 XPF or ~ $164
- Panoramic Overwater – 23,939 XPF or ~$245
- Garden pool suite – 23,939 XPF or $245
I negotiated the upgrade to a Panoramic Overwater bungalow to XPF 20,000 or ~$205 per night including taxes and asked for Panoramic Overwater bungalow #87 which is the most private of the bungalows.
The retail price of the Panoramic Overwater bungalow is 78,000 XPF or ~$800 per night or a ridiculous 235,252 Hilton points!
We’ll post pictures of the different bungalows in a separate post on the Hilton in Moorea.InterContinental Thalasso – Bora Bora
This was by far the nicest hotel we stayed in! It was private, tranquil and modern and the staff were extremely polite and helpful. However, we didn’t get free breakfast here. But we did eat the welcome bowl of fruits as our breakfast!
Emily and I each used our 1 annual free night from the Chase Priority Club card for 2 nights at the InterContinental Thalasso which we booked ~2 months in advance. We booked another night for 30,000 points a night when the rate had dropped earlier (a mistake) this year.
The current rate is 50,000 Priority Club points per night in a Coral Suite which sells for ~$800 on the InterContinental website. But the Coral suite is not an overwater bungalow, so I emailed the hotel to negotiate an upgrade to an overwater bungalow.
Here are the upgrade rates, per night, from the Coral Garden suite:
- Emerald overwater villa – 15,000 XPF (~$154) + 14% taxes
- Sapphire overwater villa – 25,000 XPF (~$256) + 14% taxes
- Diamond overwater villa – 35,000 XPF (~$308) + 14% taxes
- Diamond Otemanu overwater villa – 45,000 XPF (~$461) + 14% taxes
- Diamond End of Pontoon overwater villa – 55,000 XPF (~$564)+ 14% taxes
The hotel has 3 Coral Garden suites, but I checked them out and only 1 appeared to be used for hotel guests. The other 2 had curtains blacking out the windows and a resident cat was in the 2nd Coral Garden suite. However, I did see guests in 1 of the coral suites for all 3 days of our stay.
That said, folks in this FlyerTalk thread report a very good chance of being upgraded to an Emerald overwater villa if the hotel is not sold out, and especially if you are a member in InterContinental’s Ambassador program. Technically the hotel doesn’t have to upgrade you on an award stay, but I suspect that elite status could be the tiebreaker in not getting the Coral Garden suite.
I initially planned on taking a chance with the upgrade, but after reader Corridor! emailed me a picture of his overwater bungalow, I didn’t want to take a chance to miss out on an overwater bungalow. I also wanted to surprise Emily!
Paying the upgrade also lets you specify which room you want, and the hotel will do their best to accommodate your request.
So we paid the upgrade of ~$175 per night including tax and requested Emerald overwater bungalow 203 in the only wing which doesn’t face other bungalows on one side.Hilton Bora Bora
We used 50,000 Hilton points per night, for a 2 night stay (100,000 Hilton points in total). We booked ~2 months in advance at the Hilton Bora Bora – a category 7 Hilton. You can book 4 nights for 145,000 Hilton points using a Hilton AXON award if you have the Hilton American Express credit card.
But this was a standard bungalow, and not an overwater bungalow. I emailed the hotel about Emily’s fish allergy and to negotiate a cash payment for an upgrade to the Panoramic Overwater Bungalow.
The hotel replied to say:
“Thanks to your Gold VIP status, we will be pleased to offer you a complimentary upgrade to the next category (overwater villa) upon availability at check in time.
If you would like to secure in advance one of our King Deluxe Overwater Villas, the upgrade fee will be 8,000cfp/night. If you are interested, please fill out and send it back the credit authorization.“
I asked about an upgrade to the Royal Overwater bungalow which has a huge deck and its own jacuzzi and to the Presidential Suite which has 2 rooms, a swimming pool, a jacuzzi and more space than we would ever need.
I was quoted 20,000 XPF or ~$205 for an upgrade to the Royal Overwater villa and a ridiculous 100,000 XPF or ~$1,025 for an upgrade to the Presidential Suite. I upgraded to the Royal Overwater villa to get into Emily’s good books after making her pack and move every few nights!
The upgrade price of $205 was the same price as the upgrade in Moorea, except that the Royal Overwater villa in Bora Bora was much, much larger and nicer than our upgraded room in Moorea.
The retail price of the Royal Overwater villa is 113,000 XPF or ~$1,159 per night or a ridiculous 340,814 Hilton points!
The Hilton in Bora Bora isn’t as well maintained as the InterContinental Thalasso, but the large room and jacuzzi in our Royal Overwater bungalow and the free breakfast and internet made up for it.
I’ll post pictures of the different bungalows in a separate post on the Hilton in Bora Bora.
Food is extremely expensive in French Polynesia. I’ll post more detail later, but here’s the (somewhat) short summary.
It is possible to save money by stuffing up on the free breakfast with Hilton gold status if you stay at a Hilton. The continental breakfast buffet costs ~$30 per person, so a couple can save $60 per day with the free breakfast. If you want eggs and hot foods, you can pay an extra $10 supplement.
Another option to save money is to either bring your own food such as soups or noodles and make it in your room since there is an electric kettle in the hotel rooms. Or you can visit the local supermarkets for a glimpse into what it is like to shop like a local, and bring food back to the hotel and store it in your minibar. Our minibar was full, but we called to have it emptied out because of the automatic sensors.
Yet another option is to go outside the hotel for lunch or dinner. The InterContinental Thalasso in Bora Bora has a free shuttle boat to the InterContinental La Moana which is on the main island of Bora Bora. There are a few restaurants and grocery shops within walking distance of the InterContinental La Moana.
The Hilton charges 700 XPF (~$7), per person, for a roundtrip to the main dock, Viatape, in Bora Bora. However, the 6 and 7:00 pm shuttles cost XPF 1,500 (~$15) for a roundtrip, which I suppose is the hotel’s way of discouraging you from eating outside.
There are often Roulottes or trucks selling food outside the dock in Viatape and the InterContinental La Moana or you could visit a restaurant in Viatape for much less than eating in the hotel.
You can visit Bora Bora and French Polynesia for much less than the regular price, but you will still have to pay cash for domestic flights, food and upgrades to an overwater bungalow.
This isn’t going to be a cheap trip, even after using miles and points, but it will cost much less than paying the retail cost! I just can’t forget the gorgeous blue and green waters in Bora Bora.
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