The Tahiti Intercontinental Hotel
For westerners the name conjures up visions of swaying palm trees, golden sand, sparkling blue lagoons and colours as brilliant as those painted by Paul Gauguin.
And at the Tahiti Intercontinental Hotel that’s very much the way it is.
The four-star resort is set in 25 hectares of beautiful tropical gardens beside a turquoise lagoon.
It’s just a few kilometres from Faaa international airport. For some people (including us) it’s interesting to watch planes fly by, but if that’s not you don’t worry. They are relatively few, mostly small and never noisy.
In fact the many birds flying around the grounds are far louder and actually much more interesting.
Taxi ride to the Tahiti Intercontinental Hotel
We usually pre-book a taxi when flying to a new destination but at Faaa it isn’t necessary as there are always plenty waiting outside the terminal.
There’s an ATM at one end of the arrival hall where we picked up some French Pacific Francs. There are also currency exchange kiosks.
It cost 1700XPF (about US$18 in November 2017)) for our ride to the Intercontinental.
The price is slightly higher in the early morning or late evening.
Tahiti Intercontinental rooms
Accommodation includes luxurious over-water bungalows, lagoon view and garden view rooms.
Our room, in building 6 on the third floor, was a corner room overlooking the lagoon so we had a great view.
The room was light and airy while the wooden floors and furniture created a warm ambiance.
Sliding glass doors gave onto a balcony with seating for two.
We are Intercontinental Ambassadors so a bowl of fresh fruit was waiting in the room as well as a small tin of coconut cookies, just the thing to go with our early morning cup of tea.
There is an electric jug with tea and coffee provided but only powdered ‘creamer’. Horrible stuff.
Fortunately the Lobby Bar near Reception was happy to provide a glass of milk to take to the room.
As ambassadors we were upgraded from a standard to a superior room and also get free wi-fi.
Tahiti Intercontinental swimming pools
Both the upper level reception area and the ground floor Tiare Restaurant overlook the main swimming pool and Lagoonarium.
The main freshwater pool has a cascade and a jacuzzi as well as a paddling pool for tiny tots.
The Lagoonarium is a large seawater aquarium with sand floor, rocky banks and coral outcrops.
It is home to large numbers of fish and other marine life.
Leaning on the railings by the water outflow to the sea you can watch bigger fish swaying with the current but borrow a snorkel set from the Activities Hut to get a close up view of more than 200 species of sea creatures, including parrot fish, Picasso fish, and angelfish.
The third pool is a sand-bottomed freshwater infinity pool with a swim-up bar near Le Lotus, the Intercontinental’s over-water gourmet restaurant.
Other Tahiti Intercontinental activities
If relaxing in the sunshine, gazing at Moorea across the water isn’t enough for you, there are plenty of more vigorous activities on offer.
Water sports include snorkelling or sailing trips, water skiing, kayaks, jet skis and scuba diving.
On dry land the hotel has tennis and volleyball courts, a state of the art fitness centre and a jogging (or in my case walking) track that winds through the gardens and is great for examining flowers, watching birds and peering into a shady pond full of fish and small Florida turtles.
The spa has a wide range of relaxation and rejuvenation treatments.
Tahiti Intercontinental restaurants
We never ate at Le Lagon but a the hotel says it is a “stunning over-water gourmet restaurant. Located next to our sand-bottomed swimming pool, this dreamy setting allows diners to fully appreciate the beauty of neighbouring Moorea.” It serves lunch and dinner. You can see the lunch menu here and the dinner menu here.
Te Tiare is the main restaurant. It is situated by the pool and serves breakfast, light summer dishes all day, and dinner.
Usually you can choose between a la carte or a buffet and these are varied and extensive.
We most enjoyed breakfast. The atmosphere was very relaxed, the staff were always friendly, (usually) efficient and it was pleasant sitting at a poolside table watching the world go by.
On two nights a week the hotel has a theme night with a dance show. On Wednesdays this is Marquesas themed and on Friday Tahitian. Theme nights include a buffet specialising in local delicacies.
We’ve found that buffets are good value all over the world, especially if you’re really hungry.
The main drawback is that it’s hard to choose between the many tempting dishes and even harder to avoid over-indulging.
We dined in Te Tiare one theme night but didn’t want to see the show. (That’s because we live in the Cook Islands and we think our dancers are the best!)
It wasn’t a problem. We were seated at a table further back and on a slightly higher level than the main floor area and were able to order a la carte.
You can check Te Tiare lunch and dinner menu here.
But beware of Sunday morning!
We walked to the restaurant and were greeted by the sound of ukuleles.
Rather than breakfast there is a Polynesian Sunday Brunch. It lasts from 7am to 10am and appears to be very popular with locals as well as guests but if all you want is a continental start to the day it’s rather over the top. Fortunately you can go to the Lobby Bar in the reception area and order a standard breakfast of yoghurt, cereal, toast, juice and coffee. Without the ukuleles.
Tahiti Intercontinental bars
The Intercontinental has three very different bars: the swim up bar at Le Lagon pool, the Lobby Bar and the Tiki Bar.
The Lobby Bar is the best place to view a unset while enjoying a cocktail, wine or beer.
The main bar is the Tiki. It is to one side of the restaurant and has inside and outside seating at tables on a deck overlooking the pool.
It’s a popular place for locals to gather and has live entertainment on several nights a week.
The musicians are good but the music can be very loud.
That makes conversation difficult if you’re dining at a table in Te Tiare near the bar but no worries. The restaurant s large and if you have a table at the far end you’ll be able to converse without shouting!
The Tahiti Intercontinental Hotel doesn’t have a Club Lounge but everything there is based around getting out into the fresh air and sunshine. In fact the IHG hotel group has four hotels in French Polynesia and none have Club Lounges.
Who needs one in a tropical island paradise?
Is French Polynesia expensive? Yes.
It is possible to travel there more cheaply but our backpacking days are long past. We like luxury and comfort and at the Tahiti Intercontinental we get both.
We’ve stayed at this hotel at least five times over the years, en route to other destinations such as the Marquesas Islands and Chile. The computer system at this hotel (and all other Intercontinentals) remembers you and the reception staff welcome you back by name and provide a fresh fruit juice as you check in. It’s a nice touch and gets your stay off to a good start.
Will we stay there again?
Absolutely, in March 2018 according to current plans.
Looking forward to that.