We stayed here in November 2011 for a week and had an absolutely fantastic stay. We traveled as a family (2 kids, 4 and 8 years old), booking through Costco travel under the kids fly/stay/eat free promo. There were no problems with the hotel recognizing the kids eat free deal. We booked a premium overwater bungalow and had breakfast included. The incredible natural beauty, beautiful grounds, OW bungalow with gorgeous view, and beautiful snorkeling made this trip perfect!
We really enjoyed this hotel and were incredibly impressed with the value we got as a result of the kids deal, an extremely reasonable overwater rate, and 2 free nights promo.
Admittedly, there was a little hiccup at the beginning of our stay which I will go into in the hopes that future travelers can avoid the inconvenience. In our booking, we specified some preferences for room number based on prior tripadvisor reviews, and at check-in it was clear that no one had looked at the request. I can understand if they cannot make our request work, but it was clear no one had even bothered to read the request. So if you have special requests, it's probably best to call the hotel in advance and maybe you will have more luck. As it happened, we later realized that they gave away our top preference room to the couple checking in AFTER us, so we were rather disappointed. The woman checking us in gave us some story about how that room would not have been good for our kids, but it quickly became clear that she was just making a rationalization and wanted us out of her hair. When we got to our room (I believe it was 612), we were a bit disappointed. The water off the deck was not particularly nice, it was not any safer for young kids than the bungalow we requested, and the afternoon sun was quite hot and the AC seemed to have a hard time compensating. So my husband went back to the reception to try to improve our situation. He spoke this time with a much more helpful woman (I wish I remembered her name - something with an L; I think I saw her name mentioned in a review here on tripadvisor). Anyway, she went through the options for switching rooms the next day, and was very patient with our questions. We decided on bungalow 625, which was perfect for us. They moved our bags for us, and the move was quite seamless. We were attracted to the view of #625 (very nice), lack of hot afternoon sun on the deck, and gorgeous blue water. She warned us ahead of time that some guests do not like being so close to the dolphin encounter area (2 bungalows away), as there are tour boats that come by to look at the dolphins. This did not bother us at all, as the folks on the tour boats were always in a great mood, waving at our kids, and the kids loved watching the boats. Mind you, there were not a lot of tour boats, maybe three a day. There were some other boats as well (fishing excursions, locals) passing through the channel in front of the room. All except one were very safety conscious and proceeded very slowly and quietly. My kids loved watching the dolphins, because you could occasionally see them performing a vertical leap out of the water from our deck.
We loved the snorkeling from our deck. It is important to mention that there is a channel of deeper water (maybe 10 feet deep and 15 feet wide) immediately in front of the room. There is a reasonably strong current in this channel. So we always had our kids hold our hands when we snorkeled across. Once you cross the channel, you are in a shallow area with lots of coral, beautiful fish, and minimal current. Funny story: on my first snorkel (I went solo to get the lay of the land before taking kids) I swam across the channel and found a big concrete block submerged that was perfect to stand up on (never stand on coral!!!), wave at the family on the deck, and take some pictures. As I was doing so, I was certain I heard a dog barking behind me. Pretty weird considering there was nothing but lagoon and open ocean behind me. I looked around and finally saw that there was in fact a dog standing (presumably on a coral head just under the water's surface) about 100 feet out from where I was. I was afraid that he fell off a boat, and needed rescuing. But he eventually swam off, crossing the huge coral area, then a much wider/deeper channel, and eventually arriving at a house about a half mile away. It turns out he belonged to a local kite surfer, and went out into the lagoon every day, hanging out watching his human. Go figure. Not the large sea life you expect to see when snorkeling! My son and I also saw a blacktip reef shark in the channel on our first outing together - cool! The shark was fairly small and totally harmless, but my son was impressed!
The room itself was great for us. They have a trundle bed under the day bed, so my son and daughter each had a proper twin size bed with real mattress for sleeping. The living room was very generously sized. These OW bungalows are not entirely overwater (actually, much of the room is on a motu = tiny island, and the deck is overwater). This did not bother us at all; some guests might miss the usual glass coffee table with fish feeding option, but we did not. If you want true overwater, you will need bungalows 512/514/etc (you can find a bungalow map with room numbers in the photos here on tripadvisor). The bathroom was big too. And there is a pocket door so you can close the bedroom/bathroom off from the living room. The generous size of the room really impressed us. Technically, the room could use updating, but I think this is more than reflected in the value price of these OW bungalows compared with newer OW bungalows (e.g. Hilton Moorea, where we stayed the previous year), and we were totally happy with the room appointments and cleanliness!
We had breakfast buffet included with our room rate (again, impressed with the value because the room rate was quite reasonable). I liked the self-serve cappucino machine, the baked treats, and the made to order omelets. The fresh fruit selection was good. The kids loved the pancakes, fruit, cereal, and nutella, and the hubby enjoyed the cold cuts. The breakfast spread at the IC Tahiti was a bit more elaborate, but this was still very, very nice.
We are not big foodies, so when we dine, we try to find the value options. For us, the poolside restaurant menu was perfect. With the kids eat free bonus, it did not feel so terrible to pay $15 or $20 for a sandwich/etc. We liked the club sandwich, the local fish sandwich and the Tahitian raw fish. The fries that come with the sandwiches are great, and the portion size is huge. Our kids enjoyed the kids meal options (pasta, fish, chicken). The meals weren't fancy, but perfectly serviceable and we felt we got good value by Tahiti standards. We often skipped eating lunch out because breakfast was so nice (we'd snack on things we brought with us from home - definitely recommend doing that) and then ate an early dinner at the poolside restaurant (I think they close at 5pm). There is a market right outside the hotel grounds, but we never attempted to use it for a meal, as the kids eat free deal made the poolside restaurant a winner for us.
We also enjoyed the pool. It is nicely done - looks new. Actually, there are two pools, which is nice. Be aware that on the weekends, the hotel seems to offer a promotion for locals, so the pool is suddenly totally mobbed. If you don't like crowds and lots of kids engaged in horseplay, weekends are good days to either avoid in your booking or to hang out in your room, snorkel, or devote to excursions.
The kayaks are also really fun (free)! We brought our own snorkel equipment, so I cannot comment on their gear other than to say that they have it and I think it is free.
On previous trips, we stayed at the Hilton Moorea (nice, but more expensive for an OW bungalow, and we did not particularly like their garden bungalow with pool) and the Sofitel (did not like at all - too many sea cucumbers on the beach and the grounds were mosquito infested due to too many stagnant water features). We have also been to the Kia Ora on Rangiroa and the Manihi Pearl, as well as (now closed) Bora Bora Lagoon resort, Club Med Moorea, and Club Med Bora Bora. Of all these Tahiti trips, I think this was our favorite because the resort was great and the special deals allowed us to take our kids, which made it really fun and an incredible family memory. We can't wait to go back!
We loved bungalow 625. We would have liked bungalow 512, and we requested it through our travel age...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC