Considering the number of people contacting me in private regarding their itinerary between the Polynesian islands, it seemed quite relevant for me to explain the different possibilities made available by Air Tahiti. This article is written as of November 2018. I will try to check every year to see if things change with the company, especially with the arrival of possible competition in 2019 on the Polynesian islands.
I have already written a lot about Polynesian territory, about the things to do, when to leave, and about the various islands I have had the opportunity to visit. However, I am now realizing that the travel possibilities with the Air Tahiti Passes are not very clear for people. This is the main reason for this article. If you are looking for a rental car for your holiday, the best prices are here!
Remember that you are bound to plan, when buying your Pass, all the islands you will visit and on what dates. This is clearly the main disadvantage of the Pass!
First, I present you in detail with the different Inter-Island possibilities existing on Polynesian territory, summarizing the key points and things to take into account for your itinerary. I then give you my opinion on each Pass and if it is right for you according to your travel desires. I won’t give you ideas of itineraries (I have already done so in the article quoted in the intro), even if I could give you some personal opinions about Islands with Passes!
For all those who want to book their activities in Polynesia before going on a trip, I advise you to take a look at this site which offers a lot of local activities. Don’t wait too long to book because some activities fill up very quickly!
I know that most people who don’t know the Polynesian territory imagine that the white sand, coconut beaches, and the postcards with the idyllic setting, is on the island of Tahiti. This name, although evocative to many people’s ears, is ultimately only the main island of Polynesia. Not wanting to denigrate the island of Tahiti, but the island isn’t much visited and the majority of tourists fly to the famous “Bora Bora – Rangiroa – Fakarava – Moorea”.
In other words, and I speak with full knowledge of the facts, having lived here for more than 3 years at the time of writing this article, if you decide to come on a trip to French Polynesia, you must leave Tahiti to see the other islands and archipelagos. Everyone will adapt their trip according to their desires and budget, but to only visit Tahiti would obviously be a mistake. Who wants to travel the world, cross 1 or 2 oceans to see only Tahiti and miss some very beautiful treasures?
So why take an Air Tahiti Pass. I see two main reasons:
- If you go to the islands, it is the cheapest solution for the majority of travelers who spend little time in French Polynesia. Why the majority? Because the cheapest way to travel Polynesia is actually by boat. But many do not have the time or even the desire,
- Well, you don’t have much choice. Air Tahiti has a monopoly on all the Polynesian islands. Between us, I hope that the arrival of low-cost airlines (Frenchbee or United) will bring tourism and that finally, the Polynesian government, currently a shareholder in the company at around 15%, will leave opportunities for all companies that want to compete with Air Tahiti! In the meantime, you have no choice… No company has managed to establish itself yet… but it may perhaps evolve, who knows?
Let’s get to it. The company offers a total of 8 passes and two extensions.
I know that some of this information is on the Air Tahiti website, but I have tried to summarize as best I can on what to remember in regard to the Passes (and I know that not everyone will have the courage to read the whole thing…). The elements below are valid regardless of the Pass you choose.
- There is no Air Tahiti Pass for babies (under 2 years old) since it is free. In fact, to be more precise, babies pay airport taxes. It should be noted that they also do not have a baggage allowance up to 2 years old. The prices are almost half price until 12 years old,
- You can only visit an island once and to return to Tahiti during the Pass is impossible,
- There is no order of passage for visiting the islands as long as there are available flights,
- The duration of an Air Tahiti Pass is valid for 28 days (date of departure as proof),
- You will have to choose which islands you want to visit with the associated dates, before buying the pass,
- Most Passes start from Tahiti or Moorea,
- You do have the obligation to visit at least 2 islands on a Pass,
- You will notice that several islands, only accessible by boat (Tahaa, Tahuata, Fatu Hiva) are not included in the passes. You can of course go there by your own means within the framework of an Inter-Island Pass. I recently visited the atoll of Ahé for example.
- There are “high and low season” prices (but the price difference is small),
- The islands of the same archipelago must be visited together as part of a Pass including another archipelago (it’s impossible to do part of the Leeward Islands (LI) then go to Tuamotu to return to the LI).
- Only the “Pass Lagon” allows a stopover in Tahiti between Moorea and the Tuamotu,
- You can stop in Tahiti for a maximum of 24 hours between a Pass and an extension (Marquesas/Australes),
- It’s impossible to buy an extension alone,
- You can’t use an extension in the middle of a Pass.
- Passes can only be modified before your departure (after issue) with an additional charge of 2000xpf (16€),
- Passes can be refunded 48 hours before departure. A refund fee of 1000 to 1500 xpf (8 to 13€) is charged,
- After the departure of the Pass, no refund is possible.
Here, I offer the details of all the Air Tahiti Passes and extensions. I give you a personal opinion based on my years of travel experience in the Polynesian Islands. I specify for each one the price of the Pass (average in euros) for (Adult/child), up to end 2018. Refer to the site to be sure of prices in case of updating.
For each Pass, the Air Tahiti website offers (prices below), a list of recommended itineraries. It might help you a little bit for your preparation.
This is the “poor man’s” Pass in French Polynesia, no I’m kidding, but it’s one of the cheapest passes. For those with a limited budget in Polynesia, it is a very good solution to discover the “nearby” Leeward Islands. However, what isn’t available with this Pass is the beautiful island of Maupiti, it is a pity but it is done on purpose, I believe. To visit it, you’ll have to choose the Bora Bora Pass, which will cost you a little bit more (about 60€/person). This is discussed below.
This pass allows you to discover the high islands and the postcard (Bora Bora) for those who are looking for a superb lagoon with crystal clear waters. On the agenda: superb lagoons, snorkeling, hiking. The disadvantage of this Pass is that you do not visit any atoll or remote islands. However, if you have a limited budget, you can discover Tetiaroa atoll from Tahiti Island, in only 2h30 by catamaran. By the way, I’m offering you 10% with Poe Charter in Tetiaroa, tempted?
With only 3 islands including Moorea accessible by boat for a low price, I don’t think these 2 passes are really that interesting. The latter is cheaper but does not allow access to Bora Bora, which will discourage many tourists. No possibility to see Maupiti either obviously at that price.
Finally, I would encourage you to take the Moana Pass for more or less the same price, knowing that you can go for a ride to Bora. However, the pass allows you to discover 3 high islands of the Leeward Islands and Moorea lagoon. Huahine and Raiatea will be more “land-oriented” than “sea-oriented” as a general rule (although there are beautiful spots on the water in both islands).
With only a 60€ difference with the Moana Pass, the Air Tahiti Bora Bora Pass gives you access to, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful islands in Polynesia: Maupiti. It’s hard not to recommend that you choose this Pass over the Moana one.
You still have no access to the Tuamotu atolls. However, you have the possibility to extend to the Marquesas or the Australes to discover some remote islands. It is in my opinion a great Pass for a nice glimpse of Polynesia, but you miss an atoll (for diving) and the remote islands. That’s a bit of a shame, in my opinion. A perfect pass for “small budgets”, those with limited time and for those who do not wish to dive (turn to the Bora Bora – Tuamotu Pass otherwise).
It is a perfect Pass for people who are more interested in sea than land. Of course, you can see Moorea and do some hiking, but it is clearly a scuba diving / snorkeling oriented Pass.
This pass allows you to discover the 3 atolls proposed in the Pass including the Tuamotu. If you are a fan of white sand, coconut palms, discovering underwater fauna, all in an idyllic setting, you will not be disappointed. For those who want to walk and enjoy the heights, don’t choose this pass.
It is clearly a Pass for those who do not want to follow the crowd. Away from mass tourism and classic tours, these two atolls are renowned for their underwater backdrop, the beauty of the area and their authenticity. This is an opportunity to discover the life of the Paumotu (the people of the Tuamotu atolls). Of course, you will have to like three things: the sea, scuba diving and white sandy beaches. There will be nothing more to do than that…
This is probably the most purchased Pass at Air Tahiti, althoughI haven’t checked. It may cost a little bit more, but it offers a lot more possibilities. On the agenda: the discovery of the high islands (Huahine, Raiatea), superb lagoons (Moorea, Maupiti, Bora) and a diver’s paradise (Rangiroa, Fakarava).
If you can afford it, it is clearly a Pass that I recommend 100%. Even more, you can ideally include an extension to the Marquesas or Australes to complete your trip in. For me: “the further you get from Tahiti, the more you will find authentic islands, close to what you imagined from Polynesia”.
I’m a little biased here because it’s an archipelago I really love. Why? Its freshness, its charm, its welcoming and authentic population, its magnificent landscapes, its white sandy beaches without tourists, its whales during the season. In short, it is an archipelago that I adore, and I have had the opportunity to visit 3 of the 4 islands proposed in the Pass on several occasions. If you are looking for an authentic Polynesia, far from the classic tours, it is the perfect destination. Be careful with the weather in the middle of winter, it can be cool in the evening and at night (10/15° – 50-60 F°). The beaches on the motus of the island of Raivavae clearly make the beaches of Bora Bora pale in comparison, or almost, in my opinion. As a bonus, there is no one, no jet skis, no tourist boats, no restaurants…what more could you ask for?
It’s the most expensive Pass and for good reason. Located about 1600 km north of Tahiti Island, the Marquesas Islands are one of the 5 archipelagos lost in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Once again, it’s all about budget (and choices) but discovering the Marquesas remains, I think, an experience to be done once in a lifetime.
This is the closest thing (with the Gambier archipelago) to “real Polynesia”, the one I had in mind before I came to live here. The islands have truly retained an incredible authenticity, richness and culture, far from the developed islands of the Society. If you are looking for breathtaking scenery, a great culture and an endearing population, you are on the right Pass.
I personally know 5 of the Marquesas islands: Hiva Oa (many times), Tahuata, Ua Pou, Nuku Hiva and Fatu Hiva. These are timeless islands where you can clearly live the ‘goodlife’. Please note that from Hiva Oa, you can now travel to Tahuata and Fatu Hiva (excluding the Air Tahiti Pass) by a municipal shuttle. I explain all this in the article on transport to and from the Marquesas Islands.
For those wishing to get lost outside the classic Polynesian circuits, here are the types of routes possible: visit the Australes and Marquesas Islands with an extension from Air Tahiti.
However, it would cost you more because extensions cannot be purchased alone. They must be taken with a Pass and can be done either before or after it.
- Australes extension: 300 € / 190€
- Marquises extension: 520€ / 305€
It will be necessary to calculate this clearly and evaluate your total budget here. It’s expensive in addition to a Pass, and many around the world travelers will not be able to afford both. In any case, believe me when I say that if you’re looking for authenticity, you won’t be disappointed coming to the Marquesas or the Australes.
In addition to this article about Air Tahiti Passes, I suggest you have look on the article on transportation in French Polynesia for more information.
I hope that this article has helped in clarifying things in your head and that things are now clear for the preparation of your trip to Polynesia.
If despite this detailed article, you still find things unclear, inaccuracies or if you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment at the bottom of the article.
Have a good trip,