We have all one time dreamed of a nice boat ride surrounded by white sand and coconut trees, haven’t we? If you have the opportunity to come on a trip to French Polynesia, don’t miss a day-trip to Tetiaroa Island by catamaran. It is clearly the dream day, paradisiacal, idyllic, that you wait and have in mind before coming to this little piece of paradise in the Pacific Ocean. Discovering the island is clearly one of the things to do from Papeete.
The atoll is particularly famous for its amazing white sandy beaches, turquoise, crystal clear waters, corals, and ancient archaeological sites. It is a real paradise on earth, and its completely uninhabited.
Tetiaroa atoll is located in the Windward Islands archipelago (which also includes Tahiti, Moorea, Maiao atoll and the last island in French Polynesia called Mehetia). Tetiaroa is an atoll, an ancient almost submerged volcano, where only the surrounding sandbanks remain (also called “motu”). Located in the middle of the South Pacific, the atoll is about 50 km north of Tahiti Island. The atoll has no pass to connect the lagoon to the outside. Access is therefore made with a small dinghy over the reef, while the catamaran remains anchored outside. I’ll tell you about it later.
The atoll is known for being the property of Marlon Brando. In 1999, the actor signed a 99-year long-term lease. The atoll is mainly known for its luxury hotel The Brando (opened in 2004) where Brad Pitt, Barack Obama and other celebrities are used to stayed! Unless you are called Croesus, your only access point will be by sea during an excursion to Tetiaroa by catamaran.
So, it’s going to be a great day, but how does an excursion to Tetiaroa Island work? I will elaborate on the different service provider at the end of this article, but overall, the route and activities are more or less the same…
You have to be at the Papeete marina at 5:20 am. Usually, the captain of the boat gives a brief overview of the day and then you get to enjoy breakfast around 6am before leaving.
Depending on the service provider, the duration of the trip time may be more or less long. Allow for 2h30 (in the fastest scenario) to about 4h (in the slowest). During the boat trip, you can admire a beautiful sunrise, relax on the boat, enjoy the sea air, read… Basically, everyone can do as they please!
With some luck, depending on the season, you may see dolphins and whales on the way.
Upon arrival, you immediately realize the beauty of the place, even if you are only able to see the atoll at the last minute or so (it’s not high an atoll, eh!). You start wondering how you are going to set foot on the sandbank. When I went there in July 2016, there was an average swell.
As this is a closed atoll is, you must board a dinghy from the catamaran and hoist yourself over the coral reef, with the help of the wave that breaks over it. It’s a pretty cool experience. Here you land on the motu Rimatu’u.
On arrival, depending on who you have chosen for the excursion to Tetiaroa, you will be given a short briefing on the walk, the history of the atoll, the ancient ruins on the motu, or even on the vegetation. Fins, masks and snorkels are generally provided.
A short walk in the coconut grove of the motu allows you to discover a small fresh salt lake in the center of the motu (I did not personally get to see it with the provider that I had, but my wife saw it). I saw it anyway the second time I went with Poe Charter!
On the other side, on the lagoon side, they get you to stop at a great swimming pool, as I want to call it, located between the main motu and the famous bird island of Tetiaroa. This is one of the most beautiful lagoons that I have ever seen here and yes, it is clearly worth the translucent waters of the Tuamotu! The water is clear and turquoise to such an extent that the pictures become almost bland compared to the reality of it. To sum up, you will have a good time swimming here in this postcard worthy landscape.
After swimming, you will be taken across on foot to the bird island (Tahuna Iti in the local language). Make sure to spend a moment observing the great diversity of birds that have come to nest on this islet from the seaside. When I did this excursion, we could walk on the beach. However, it is apparently prohibited now to preserve the islet’s ecosystem. Good on them.
The day continues by walking back along the beach for a local meal on the boat. This also varies depending on the providers, but often, the meal is taken on board, knowing that there is not really any shade to shelter on the main motu anyway. You will often get to enjoy a good meal of raw fish with coconut milk, grilled fish, rice, banana and fruit salad, all served with water and punch.
Usually, we don’t go back to the island, because it’s time to go back to Tahiti. It will take about the same time as the outward journey so expect the return to Papeete to be at around 5:30 pm. For those looking for a superb day of white coconut sandy beaches, you will enjoy yourself!
To visit Tetiaroa atoll, you will first have to go to Tahiti. I wrote a complete article on the different possibilities to travel to French Polynesia at the lowest cost from the main countries! But to summarize, you can either choose the classic airlines that offer international flights to the Polynesian region (Air Tahiti Nui or Air France) or take a low-cost flight with the new French bee airline (or United). I recommend for everyone to have a look at this great flight comparator that I’ve been using for at least 10 years. From the US, you can find cheap flights from 550/600$.
To discover this paradise, come to see if Tahiti is not one of the good flight deals of the month.
Once in Tahiti, like I said previously, there aren’t 45 options here. Unless you can afford a bungalow at The Brando Hotel, which offers full board accommodation for prices of around €3,000 per night (no I didn’t make a mistake, that’s the real price!), you will have to go, like everyone else, on an excursion to Tetiaroa aboard a catamaran from Papeete. Thank you Celine for the correction, because there are no stilts at The Brando! Many celebrities come to French Polynesia to discover this ancient volcanic island, on a honeymoon for instance.
The prices are almost identical with all providers, at around 15000 fr per day (which is 150€). The price is not excessive considering the day you will get to spend and that you are in French Polynesia, where everything is very expensive anyway. Please note that it is possible to get cheaper prices at the Tourism exposition (September and February). Besides, I recommend visiting Tetiaroa during the dry season (May to September).
To know with whom to go on the trip to Tetiaroa, you simply have to look at the opinions on Trip advisor. There are several companies that offer the service.
I personally tested Escapade Charter Tahiti with whom everything went very well and I had a great day. My wife did it with Poe Charter. Everything was fine too.
The only things to take into account when choosing the service provider, bearing in mind that the prices are similar, are the number of people on board (limited to 12/15 on Escape Charter and 30 on Poe Charter) and the duration of the crossing (2h30 for Poe Charter and 4h for the Escapade Charter). I will not recommend either one more than the other. I leave you free to choose, knowing that in my opinion, you will in any case have a good day! Considering the generally very high prices when you arrive on the territory, it is a good plan to try and travel cheaply to French Polynesia!
It should be noted that these are the two main providers, there are others. Some of them offer 2-day excursions to Tetiaroa (and other islands in Polynesia). Don’t forget that there are no guesthouses on the island.
I have now tested the day to Tetiaroa with Poe Charter for you. Indeed, I recommend it 100%. Promo code les2pieds for 10% discount
I hope that this short story and the pictures will make you want to go for a ride. Lovers of the Pacific Islands will find what they are looking for and will take advantage of this tropical stopover to do a little idleness! For those who have the opportunity to go through the Tuamotu, I advise you to take a look at Tikehau Island, a superb atoll that I have also had the opportunity to visit.
This is one of the must dos if you are traveling to Tahiti. French Polynesia is often a stop over for people on a round-the-world trip, between Easter Island, Chile or New Caledonia. I advise everyone who is doing these stop overs to come and enjoy these islands in the middle of the Pacific. Who knows the next time you’ll be around?
See you soon