The best ways to get to Tahiti using points and miles
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We've seen a handful of countries reopen to American tourists over the past few months, including French Polynesia. The country has handled the current pandemic incredibly well, implementing a mandatory 14-day quarantine for arriving passengers in March. Since then, very few new cases have been reported and the country has continued to admit tourists. TPG's own Brian Kelly recently visited Bora Bora, documenting the experience on Instagram.
Given this incredible progress, French Polynesia reopened to tourists on July 15, 2020. Be sure to check out TPG's guide for all the health and documentation requirements you'll need before your visit. Once you're there, you can explore the region's many islands — like Bora Bora — and enjoy miles of beaches, top-notch resorts and excellent local cuisine.
In this article, I'll show you the best ways to get to French Polynesia's largest island, Tahiti, on points and miles. I'll also discuss the best points hotels in French Polynesia and show you how to book activities and intra-island transfer with points.
Let's dive in!
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Booking airfare to Tahiti
When you fly to French Polynesia, you'll land at Papeete (PPT) airport on the island of Tahiti. Currently, five airlines fly from the U.S. to Papeete. You can book all of these flights using points and miles, letting you fly to the region without breaking the bank. Here's a look at all your flight options and how to book them with points and miles.
Star Alliance awards to Tahiti
Firstly, United Airlines flies from San Francisco (SFO) to Papeete (PPT) three times per week with its 787-9 aircraft. Unfortunately, the aircraft used to operate this route doesn't have full Polaris business class seating. While the seats on this plane are a step below the new Polaris design, they're nowhere near as bad as United's oldest business class product.
Depending on when you plan on traveling, award space in economy class is not hard to find. Saver-level business class awards, meanwhile, are nearly impossible. If you get tired of searching manually, you can use ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG's parent company, Red Ventures) to set an award space alert.
You have a few options for booking this flight. As you might expect, your first option is booking with United's MileagePlus program. You can book one-way tickets for 35,000 and 70,000 miles, respectively, in first and business class and pay minimal taxes and fees. These prices aren't guaranteed as United recently switched to dynamic award pricing. You can book these awards on the United website. Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United at a 1:1 transfer ratio.
Booking United award tickets with American Express Membership Rewards points
You'll get better redemption rates if you have American Express Membership Rewards points. The best way to book San Francisco to Papeete in business class is by using ANA Mileage Club. A round-trip business class ticket costs 120,000 miles and economy costs 75,000 miles. You'll pay low taxes and fees regardless of fare class, and can book on ANA's website. The only downside? ANA doesn't allow one-way bookings.
Alternatively, you can transfer American Express points or Capital One Venture miles to Air Canada Aeroplan and book one-way tickets for 80,000 and 45,000 miles in business and economy. This is an excellent option if you find United business class award space one-way and need to return with another airline.
Related: The best websites for searching Star Alliance award availability
SkyTeam awards to Tahiti
Air France operates a nonstop flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Papeete (PPT). The best way to book this ticket is by using Air France/KLM's Flying Blue program. Unfortunately, this program has extremely dynamic pricing, so the points price you'll pay for tickets varies by day. The airline adds modest fuel surcharges to these tickets, too — you'll pay roughly $221 for a one-way business class ticket departing the U.S.
These are the lowest one-way prices I found across three cabins:
- Economy: 25,500 miles
- Premium economy: 51,000 miles
- Business: 64,000 miles
Thankfully, finding dates with low-level pricing in business class isn't as hard as you'd think. I found a handful of low-cost business class tickets when searching just over two months out from departure. If you can find low-cost dates, Air France is likely your best bet for booking flights to Tahiti. Prices rise rapidly, with the most expensive dates costing over 300,000 miles one-way.
Further, you have lots of options for earning Flying Blue miles. The loyalty program partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards. This means you can transfer points earned on popular cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or The Platinum Card® from American Express to book your trip.
Related: Polynesian posh: Air France (777-200) in business class from Papeete to Los Angeles
Booking Air France awards with Delta SkyMiles
You can book these flights with Delta SkyMiles as well, but I don't recommend it. One-way economy and business class is more expensive at 45,000 and 100,000 SkyMiles respectfully. While you'll pay lower taxes and fees, I don't think these fee savings are worth the exponentially higher points cost.
Related: The best websites for searching SkyTeam award availability
Air Tahiti Nui awards to Tahiti
While Tahiti Nui isn't a member of an alliance, it has two airline partnerships that make redeeming miles relatively easy. The airline flies nonstop from Los Angeles to Papeete with its 787-9 aircraft. These planes have a solid business class product too, so you can fly to paradise in style.
Your best bet for booking is American Airlines' AAdvantage program. It charges 40,000 AAdvantage miles each way in economy, 65,000 miles in premium economy and 80,000 in business class. You can search and book these awards directly on AA.com. It's easy to find economy award space too, even when booking just two or three months out.
Business-class award space is harder to find, so give yourself as much time as possible to find flights. Thankfully, Air Tahiti Nui makes award space searchable on ExpertFlyer, so create an alert to avoid endless searching. Taxes and fees on these tickets are minimal regardless of class of service.
We've seen reports of AA.com not displaying Air Tahiti Nui award inventory properly. If you find seats on ExpertFlyer that aren't showing on American's site, call the airline and ask the agent if they can find space in one of these fare classes:
- Economy: U
- Premium economy: I
- Business: F
These award rates are very reasonable, considering the high cost of cash tickets. You can apply for one of these credit cards to boost your balance if you're short on miles:
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn 65,000 miles after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first four months of account opening.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 50,000 miles after spending $2,500 in purchases in the first three months of account opening.
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Booking Air Tahiti Nui flights with Flying Blue
In theory, it's possible to book Air Tahiti Nui awards with Flying Blue as well, but we haven't had luck over the past few months.
When Flying Blue first announced the partnership with Air Tahiti Nui, TPG Senior Strategist Darren Murph was able to find business class awards starting at 73,500 miles and economy awards starting at 25,500 miles one-way. However, Flying Blue no longer shows Air Tahiti Nui availability online. I searched for flights from Los Angeles to Papeete on Feb. 5. American shows open award space on this date, but Flying Blue shows an error message that says no flights are available. You may have better luck calling Flying Blue to book over the phone.
Related: The ultimate guide to earning and redeeming with Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Hawaiian Airlines awards to Tahiti
Hawaiian Airlines flies from its hub in Honolulu (HNL) nonstop to Papeete once per week with its A330 aircraft. The plane is equipped with lie-flat seats, so you'll have a comfortable flight if you opt to spend more miles. You have three options for booking this flight: HawaiianMiles, JetBlue TrueBlue points or Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points.
You can redeem 47,500 HawaiianMiles and pay minimal taxes and fees for a one-way business class ticket on this flight. Economy flights, on the other hand, start at just 27,500 miles. These are excellent redemption rates and are worth a look if you already have HawaiianMiles. Earning these miles is difficult, though — your options are limited to transferring points from Marriott Bonvoy or earning with a cobranded credit card.
You can find Hawaiian Airlines award space on Hawaiian Airlines' website or by using ExpertFlyer. Award space can be hit-or-miss as the flight only operates once per week, so you'll want to set an award alert if booking far in advance.
Booking Hawaiian Airlines tickets with JetBlue
JetBlue has a standard award chart for Hawaiian Airlines bookings. One-way flights from Hawaii cost 70,000 miles one-way in business class while connecting flights from the U.S. West and East Coast cost 120,000 miles. To book, find award space on Hawaiian's website and call JetBlue to book the ticket.
Booking Hawaiian Airlines tickets with Virgin Atlantic
Finally, we have Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. This program has excellent redemption rates on Hawaiian Airlines flights, with one-way tickets from Hawaii to French Polynesia costing just 47,500 points one-way. You can transfer these points in from all major transferrable points currencies, so they're far easier to earn than Hawaiian or JetBlue miles. Here's a look at the current award chart — these are round-trip prices, but you can book a one-way ticket for half the price.
Book low-cost tickets with French Bee
Lastly, low-cost carrier French Bee flies between San Francisco and Papeete three times a week. The airline offers very reasonable fares, including round-trip tickets for less than $550 per person.
Want to book with points? You can use Capital One miles, the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal or Pay With Points on a card like the American Express® Business Gold Card to cover this fare. For example, a Chase Sapphire Preferred cardmember can use just 42,240 points to book the $528 flight highlighted earlier.
Booking Hotels in Tahiti
Now that you have your flights out of the way let's take a look at booking hotels in Tahiti. There are a handful of points hotels located around French Polynesia's various islands like Bora Bora and Moorea. These can get extremely expensive during peak times, but you can use your hotel points to subsidize the cost.
So without further ado, here's a look at your best bets for booking points hotels around Tahiti.
Hilton has two properties in Tahiti: one in Bora Bora and one in Moorea. These properties have their own perks, and both are worth a look depending on the island you're visiting. Note that Hilton awards are priced dynamically, so the redemption rate will vary day by day.
The Conrad Bora Bora Nui is Hilton's outpost in Bora Bora. It's outfitted with white sand beaches, pools, restaurants and incredible views of the surrounding nature. Plus, the hotel has spacious rooms and overwater villas that are sure to make for a truly luxurious trip to the island.
If your sights are set on Moorea, check out the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa. TPG's Darren Murph reviewed the property in 2018 and said that the rooms, food and on-site activities were excellent. Even better, Moorea is more easily accessible than Bora Bora as it's closer to Tahiti.
Here's a look at award pricing for both hotels:
- Conrad Bora Bora Nui: 80,000+ points per night
- Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa: 80,000+ points per night
How to earn Hilton points: You can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:2 transfer ratio, meaning that 40,000 American Express points equal 80,000 Hilton points. Alternatively, you can earn with Hilton's suite of cobranded credit cards. Each credit card has its own welcome bonus and various benefits. Some of these include an annual free night certificate and complimentary elite status.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Earn 150,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership
- Hilton Honors American Express Card: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: 16 ways to earn more Hilton Honors points right now
IHG has three InterContinental properties in French Polynesia. These are located in Tahiti and Bora Bora, so you can build a multi-stop trip around French Polynesia with your points. IHG Rewards recently introduced dynamic pricing, but it's far less volatile than Hilton Honors.
In Tahiti, you can stay at the InterContinental Hotels Resort Tahiti. It's not as luxurious as other IHG offerings in French Polynesia, but can be a good option for those who want to experience Polynesian bliss and be close to Papeete. Likewise, it's just a mile from the airport, so it can be a good place to spend a night or two before moving to another island. You can book a one-night stay for just $268 in early 2021.
IHG's two Bora Bora properties — the InterContinental Hotels Le Moana Bora Bora and InterContinental Hotels Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa — each have their own perks. These properties have a vast selection of rooms and amenities and are located on the water. Make sure to check out our reviews of both resorts to find which best fits your needs.
- InterContinental Hotels Resort Tahiti: 50,000 points per night
- InterContinental Hotels Le Moana Bora Bora: 70,000 points per night
- InterContinental Hotels Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa: 70,000 points per night
How to earn IHG points: Like Hilton, it's easy to earn IHG points. You can earn with IHG's two cobranded credit cards or transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio.
- IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card: 140,000 bonus points + 1 Free Night after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- IHG Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card: Earn 120,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Related: Top hotels for redeeming the IHG Premier Card's anniversary reward night
Marriott operates two properties in Bora Bora that you can book with your Marriott Bonvoy points. If you have Marriott elite status and are redeeming points, you can earn a fourth night free on redemptions. Marriott doesn't have dynamic pricing either, so you will always pay a predictable price for your award stay.
The Le Méridien Bora Bora is a Category 7 hotel with modern overwater bungalows that are perfect for relaxing or working remotely. The property has a slew of on-site activities, three restaurants and a shuttle boat to Bora Bora airport. The property is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but we expect it to reopen in the near future.
On the other hand, the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort is open for business. This Category 8 hotel features villas and overwater bungalows that feature Polynesian-inspired design. Plus, it has a ton of on-site amenities, including six on-site restaurants that serve varying cuisine.
- Le Méridien Bora Bora: 50,000 - 70,000 points per night
- The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort: 70,000 - 100,000 points per night
How to earn Marriott points: Marriott offers four cobranded credit cards that you can use to earn free nights in Tahiti. Alternatively, you can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards to Marriott Bonvoy.
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn three free nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card: Earn 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
Related: Battle of the hotels: Why I think Marriott is the best
As you might expect, most activities in Tahiti are water-based — think snorkeling and boat tours. Many of these can be booked directly with your resort and billed directly to your folio. Most of the time, this lets you earn hotel points on your activity costs. If you'd rather pay for activities with points, you can use the Ultimate Rewards Travel portal to score a great deal. These are usually cheaper than activities offered by your resort but may be less convenient.
For example, a full-day boat tour of Bora Bora costs $138.40 per adult. If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you can redeem 11,072 points per person to cover the cost. On the other hand, Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can redeem just 9,226 points for the same tour.
Further, you can book a two-hour snorkeling tour in Moorea for $74.63, or just 5,970 Ultimate Rewards points with a Sapphire Preferred card. Again, Sapphire Reserve cardholders get a nice discount that drops the cost to 4,976 points.
Ground and water transportation
Finally, a common expense when traveling to French Polynesia is the transfer from Papeete airport to your resort. If you're staying in Moorea or Bora Bora, you have to take a boat or plane to your resort. You can cover the cost of your transfer with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card so long as it codes as a travel purchase. Here's how to get from Papeete airport to Bora Bora and Moorea without emptying your bank account.
Boat transfers to Moorea
Transfers from Tahiti to Moorea are cheaper than you might think. Two boat companies — Aremiti and Terevau — run regular boat services between the islands. Both cost less than $20 one-way, and you can book tickets online. Find the boat whose schedule works for you and pay with your Capital One Venture Card. As discussed, you can use miles to cover boat tickets if the purchase codes as travel.
Related: Transfer to paradise: How to take a cheap ferry from Tahiti to Moorea
Booking flights to Bora Bora
Air Tahiti offers daily flights between Papeete and Bora Bora (BOB) airport. The 50-minute flight costs around $400 when booking two months in advance. You can either book the flight with your Capital One Venture Rewards card and off-set the fee with miles, or book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal. Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders can redeem towards paid flights at 1.25 and 1.5 cents per point, respectively. This means Sapphire Preferred cardmembers can use 26,533 points for this $398 flight.
Once in Bora Bora, you can arrange a transfer from the airport with your hotel or book another ferry service from the airport. Some resorts offer this service for free, while others charge a hefty fee. If your resort charges for this service, pay with your Capital One Venture Card and use your miles to cover the expense.
Related: How points and miles helped my family book a dream vacation to Bora Bora
Nowadays, Tahiti is more accessible than ever with increased air service and more and more points hotels. In this article, we showed you all the best ways to book airfare, hotels and activities with your points and miles. Doing this will help you save money and have an incredible experience in one of the world's most expensive vacation hotspots. Safe travels!
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg
Feature photo by wilar/Shutterstock