The Best Hotel in Papeete, Tahiti

Overwater Bungalow Intercontinetal Papeete Tahiti

My Overwater Bungalow at Intercontinental Tahiti

Papeete is the first stop when you vacation in French Polynesia.  As with most archipelagos, the main island is often the least liked, but as far as French Polynesia goes, Tahiti and Papeete have plenty to offer.  While there are several hotel options on the main island of Tahiti, my top pick for the island is the Intercontinental and here’s why.

  • Location, Location, Location
  • Best Hotel on the Island
  • 5 minutes from the Airport
  • 15 minutes from the main port
  • 3 Restaurants and swim up bar
  • Best Polynesian show on the Island
  • Private lagoon for snorkeling (great for kids, daily fish feeding)
  • Daily Cultural Activities
  • Dive Shop on site
  • Private Lagoon for snorkeling

Rooms with a View

I got the opportunity to see all room categories, and each one had some view of the Ocean, even the ‘Garden’ rooms.  Each room has a little coffee service and a small desk for your computer if you have to work.  There is a balcony too and even if the ‘garden’ is in the way, you still get a glimpse of the ocean.

If this is your starter hotel and you are headed for an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora, the standard room is a good start to your French Polynesia visit. But if you are staying longer, I recommend the upgrade to the panoramic rooms or or above.  The Panoramic rooms have a huge room and a big bathtub.  Even the panoramic garden view seemed like an ocean view.  It was dreamy watching the sun come up.

My favorite room by far was the Overwater Bungalow.  On my last day, I thought I would

splurge.  So I upgraded to the overwater bungalow and it was worth every penny.  The overwater bungalows are huge, some with a separate living area and a large patio outside, a place to lounge in the sun, eat breakfast as you watch the sun come up or a nice romantic sunset dinner.

You can jump from the balcony straight into the water.  Despite the rough current, there was even some decent snorkeling. It really made the trip seeing the cancers go by as the sun set over Moorea in the distance. Total Tahiti experience.

Excellent Restaurants, Gardens and Dive Center

Michelle Weller in the Intercontinental Tahiti lobby

Hanging out with the Tiki in the Intercontinental lobby.

The Intercontinental Tahiti is famous for its buffet.  Even the locals come for the Sunday brunch or a special date for the buffet and the dance shows.  The have a huge buffet for breakfast, but you can also get all carte, downstairs over looking the pool or up at the bar overlooking the lagoon.

The hotel also has a very large botanical garden with a wide variety of tropical species.  My favorite are the Frangiapani trees with the fragrant multi colored blossoms.  Grab one and put it behind one ear.  Even the men wear flowers behind their ears.  But don’t forget, put the flower on the right side if you are available for love or on the left if you are already taken.

If you want to do water aerobics they have bicycles submerged in water.  Rentals for wave runners and a Dive shop. They have their own private lagoon for snorkeling.

The swim up bar was my favorite destination.

Swim Up Bar Intercontinental Tahiti

Swim Up Bar Intercontinental Tahiti

Lounge chairs in the open sun or under an umbrella, you can linger for hours relaxing as boats sail by in the lagoon.

They have a sandy beach and an infinity pool.  It’s also a great place to watch or photograph the sunset. You can order food and eat outside at an outdoor coffee table surrounded by sofas.  Or order food to eat at the bar.  There is a jacuzzi nearby overlooking the lagoon as well.

Order a frozen Pina Colada and nearby pool attendants bring you fresh towels with a nice glass of ice water.

The nearby Lotus Restaurant is the perfect place for lunch with a jaw dropping view.

Tahitian Dance Shows

Tahitian Marqueses DancersThe Intercontinental in Tahiti has been the best place to see a local Tahitian dance show for the last 20 years.  They have a big buffet with local foods and barbecue, and a large outdoor stage over looking the pool and harbor.

If you come before sunset you can watch canoes and sailboats pass by in the lagoon.  There is a nice sunset before the dancers come on stage.

The show is not free and often sells out, so book with the concierge the minute you land if you want the best seat in the house, front row.  It was pricey, but totally worth it.

At the end of the show you can go on stage and take pictures with the locals.  The Tahitians love to share their culture with everyone.  They are a proud and gentle group of people, so don’t be shy to ask for a picture!

Activities / Closest to the Airport / Close to the Pier

The Botanical Garden TahitiThe Tahiti Intercontinental is 5 minutes from the airport and 15 minutes from the Pier.  Most cruise lines chose this hotel, because it’s not only the nicest hotel on the island, but it is also in close proximity to the Airport and Main Pier.

Out of the Main Pier travel the two top French Polynesia small cruise ship lines the Windstar Windspirt and Paul Gauguin Cruises.  It’s not uncommon to see the Princes Cruise line or Regent Cruises in port as well.

The Pier is also where the ferries live for the other islands, including Moorea.  Moorea is a beautiful day trip from Papeete.

Some things to do on the island of Tahiti:

  • Visit the Polynesian Market in downtown (get the concierge to book you on the $5.00 shuttle)
  • Visit the Pink Church on Sunday and watch the locals all dressed in white with white flowery hats while they sing hymns in Tahitian and French.  They sound like Angels.
  • Take a 4×4 tour up the mountain.  The view is amazing.
  • Take an island tour and see the black sand beaches, waterfalls and more
  • Go on a Dive.  Diving in Tahiti means sharks, lots of sharks.
  • Just enjoy the sun.  Relax, that’s the Tahitian way.