Knowing what I know now, I would have rented a car on Tahiti.
Initially, we planned to only stay on Tahiti for 3 days, and then go to Moorea (another island of French Polynesia which can be accessed by plane or ferry).
We spent pretty much the first three days catching up on sleep and playing in the ocean and pool at the Radisson. I wouldn’t do that differently at all. When there are so many beautiful things to see on Tahiti and the other islands, it seems a shame to have gone to Tahiti just to play in the water, enjoy the beach, and enjoy the pool, but I’m really glad we did this.
However, to get the most out of three days in Tahiti, here’s what I would have done differently:
Rented a car.
I don’t often recommend this.
No matter where you are, there are always good ways to get around without renting a car, and often with people who know more than you will in just a few days of visiting somewhere,
However, in Tahiti, you can actually save money, and maybe do more, by renting a vehicle.
If you are just spending 1 night in Tahiti on either side of going to another island, this advice may not apply.
However, here’s how renting could have saved us money on Tahiti.
We took an “island tour” which pretty much was a guy driving us around the island for 3 hours. It was nice to see the whole island, but not all that informative. It cost 4,000/pp (about $45/pp) – $90 total, even though we were two people in a van of 8.
We had a transfer to the hotel from the airport – 4,000 (because it was at night).
We had a transfer to the airport from the hotel – (3,000, plus a stopover in town – 1,000) 4,000.
$90 total to get to and from the airport.
We had a cost to get to the SCUBA place and back from the SCUBA place. (I think was about 2,000 each direction (hard to know b/c was factored into the cost, but I think that was about 4,000 total that could have been saved.)
$45 total for SCUBA transport
In total, we spent ($90+$90+$45) $225 to get around.
We could have rented a car for 4-5 days for that amount, done the island tour ourselves using the Wikipedia history (which would have been better than our guide – who was fine, just not that informative), gone snorkeling wherever we wanted, and driven ourselves to the SCUBA place.
This is not to say that I was not pleased with what we did.
The island is not that big. On a day without much traffic, you can drive around the whole island in 2-3 hours… with traffic might take you longer.
I also recommend staying at the Radisson. It was less expensive than other hotels (the Hilton is closed, by the way). It was really nice, and the staff was super helpful and friendly. (Hint: Booking on Radisson’s web site for 3 nights or more gave us the cheapest prices – cheaper even than they offered us when standing at the check-in desk.)
As for us, when we go back to French Polynesia, we’ll be spending 1 night on either side of our travel on the island of Tahiti, and spending the rest of the time exploring Bora Bora, Moorea, and/or some of the other islands of this most unique part of the planet.