How to get to | French Polynesian Islands & Bora Bora from the U.S.

are we there yet?! -flight to tahiti

We started in Denver flying from DIA and made a commute over to LAX! San Fransisco (SFO) and LA (LAX) are the two airports you can fly direct to Tahiti International Airport (Fa’a’ā International Airport) which is where you will connect to fly to the island of Bora Bora. LAX has more frequent flights whereas SFO has less flights going out per week to Tahiti.

Airlines throughout the world that offer travel to Tahiti are Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Air New Zealand, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, KLM, and United Airlines.

Our flight was about 9 hours and it was such a unique experience! When we got on board we were shocked with how colorful and tropical the plane was. The attendants were all rocking Tahitian Gardenia flowers in their hair, which is the national flower of Tahiti, and passed one out to each guest before takeoff. Each chair had its own travel pack, which included socks, an eye mask, head phones (free headphones are great and all but not so much on a long flight – our favs are AirPods Max and Beats Studio 3), blanket and even a pillow! (Note: we brought our own compression socks which we highly recommend. Blood clots are no fun!)

They also offer Wi-Fi if you wish to amp up your experience, however, movies were available free of charge for each guest. The food was different and less-desirable than we are used to (but isn’t all airplane food?!) but we had a great experience on board overall. 

Disco cabin inside Air Tahiti Nui flight

late nights & early flights - landing in tahiti

We landed in Tahiti late at night and were welcomed by a busy airport, warm tropical breeze and a lei greeting, which is a can’t-miss part of Poloneysian culture and their history. A lei is a common symbol of love, friendship and celebration but ultimately it is an honored way to say hello and greet you

Upon arrival, we gathered our bags (the best combo in our opinion is the Monos Carry-On Pro and Metro Backpack) and went through a quick line at customs. From there, we boarded our airport transfer to the hotel (which we scheduled before our trip) that brought us to our humble abode for the night and back to the airport in the morning.  We stayed at The Intercontinental Resort Tahiti, which was about 20 minutes away. 

The Intercontinental Resort Tahiti was very nice and as much as we wanted to explore, it was the middle of the night, we were exhausted, and needed R&R after a long day. We decided to hit the hay but something we did not plan for was our excitement. It was so hard to sleep and in a few hours our plane was leaving. We set 19 alarms and woke up early the next morning for our next leg of the journey!

The airport shuttle picked us up first thing in the morning and we were back at the airport leaving for Bora Bora. We were so happy we were arriving early morning versus mid day. We recommend getting there as early as possible because you won’t want to leave believe us! We also suggest making time to stop at a duty free store (make sure to read our need-to-know tips below!) 

tips on Tahiti airport

The Duty Free store at the Tahiti airport is a great place to grab anything you wish to bring to your final resort destination, such as alcohol, medicine or snacks. Once you land in Bora Bora, the airport there will have a few options but did not have a duty free.  Depending on where you stay, the food and drinks are very expensive, as we’re sure you have heard. It did not stop us but we can’t stress this enough – grab a few bottles of wine or your drink of choice before you jump on the plane over to Bora Bora. This will save you a ton of money. You are allowed to fly into Bora Bora with 2L of liquor or wine per person, so 3 bottles each. Take advantage of this and bring some in your checked luggage or purchase them in the Duty-Free zone before your flight.

The airport also features several shopping options. You will find shops that sell souvenirs, travel accessories, Tahitian black pearl jewelry and local products like arts, crafts, and snacks. 

Tahiti International offers a main waiting area for passengers but does not have air conditioning. If you would like to upgrade to the private lounge, it offers air conditioning, free (adult) beverages, showers and Wi-Fi.  It’s an additional $54 a person and can be purchased here. We avoided this on the way there but took advantage of this on our way back with a longer than desired layover. Let’s just say we got our money’s worth in free wine alone!

Air Tahiti flight to Bora Bora

blue skies & butterflies - tahiti to bora bora

The flight from Tahiti to Bora Bora was a smaller plane (Air Tahiti) holding close to 50 people – all packed with anticipation on a rainy morning.

If you can, try to get a seat on the left side of the plane towards the front for the best views coming in!

There is also a 50lb bag max for each passenger so make sure to plan accordingly. Once in the air, we started to see different islands coming from the water like mountains surrounded by the different shades of blue in the Ocean.

One of the most unique and beautiful plane rides we had ever been on, even despite the rain. We weren’t in the air for more than 45 minutes before the plane started to make a few circles to safely land on a small runway strip with the ocean on both sides.

As we taxied over and unloaded, we got off the plane and walked into the smallest terminal we’d ever seen. It had so much local charm! Once inside, we checked in with our resort, given another lei necklace and were taken to the boat dock connected to the terminal. The terminal has a few shops and food/drink options if you need to wait.

Note: a boat transfer is necessary to get to the main island or any of the hotels. Air Tahiti runs a free public boat shuttle service to Vaitape, and most major resorts have their own boats to transfer guests to their property. From the Bora Bora airport, you can take flights to the other islands such as Moorea and Rangiroa to name a few.

closer than we've ever been - boat transfer to hotel

Each resort had their own branded boat and separate dock to transfer guests, which was super unique. The transfers can be booked directly with your resort. After maybe 20 minutes of waiting with a cold beer in hand, our bags were placed on the boat along with our overly excited bodies and we were seemingly closer than we had ever been to our destination!

The boat ride over was a wet one with a surreal feeling as we were the only guests going to the Conrad Bora Bora Nui that morning. A bit of an ominous feeling mixed with the rain like, “Where are they taking us?!”

25 minutes later and we had arrived as the sun started to shine through the clouds like from a movie. Greeted with a Tahitian song filled with ukuleles and drums, fresh cocktails with excellent hospitality, we knew we had come to right place within the first five minutes.

Conrad Hilton Bora Bora Boat Transfer

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