Guesthouses in Paradise
Mention The Islands of Tahiti and it conjures up images of beyond-blue lagoons, pristine beaches, and overwater bungalows. And whilst Tahiti is well regarded as a luxury destination, there’s a little known side to the islands that make for a very affordable holiday – and it’s the local guesthouse.
Not just the domain of 5 star resorts, staying in a local Tahitian guesthouse is the most perfect embodiment of local hospitality you could ask for. Guesthouses are usually traditional Polynesian fare in locations that are not yet too well known, and are very scenic, so staying in this style of accommodation not only opens the door to authentic Tahitian hospitality, but also parts of the islands that you may not otherwise venture to.
Staying in a small family-run guesthouse is an opportunity for total immersion in the daily life of a Polynesian family, and in addition to the home-stay-style accommodation, hosts provide the opportunity to share, see, understand, feel and experience life in the islands as if you were a family member returning home. Examples of shared activities include fishing in the lagoon with your hosts; discovering local products and cuisine, or hiking the mountains with the family’s children in search of waterfalls and pools to swim in.
Different styles of guesthouses can be found on almost all of the Islands, and cater to the needs of tourists looking for something other than a resort. Bed and breakfast guesthouses include furnished rooms or bungalows (four rooms at most) that are located adjacent to the family home, and come equipped with private or shared bathrooms. The overnight stay includes breakfast served in your room or in a common area, which could be the family dining room. Farés or “family residences” are guesthouses that include furnished bungalows (nine units at most), located near the family home and are equipped with private bathrooms and facilities for cooking and relaxing. They have a front desk, a common area reserved to guests and, if desired, they will provide daily housekeeping.
The welcoming and spontaneous warmth of a Polynesian family synonymous with a guesthouse stay is a unique experience that combines tourism in search of authenticity with friendliness, quiet and intimacy, discovery and open space. Staying in a guesthouse is also a way to play a role in safeguarding and protecting local heritage and the environment.
For those who want to get even closer to nature, pitching a tent in Tahiti is also an option. It’s not well known that you can camp in locations across the Islands of Tahiti – but it’s an affordable alternative to hotels, and is a great opportunity to really experience the feeling of being embraced by Mana.
Camping is less developed in French Polynesia than in other tourist destinations, so those wanting to camp should be prepared to bring their own as campgrounds seldom provide them. You can purchase tents and camping equipment in Tahiti at a sports outlet or a department store.
The following campsites are available:
- Moorea : Camping Nelson, Mark’s place Moorea
- Huahine : Pension Armelle Fare Te Nahe Toe Toa
- Raiatea : Pension Te Maeva
- Maupiti : Pension Auira
- Rangiroa : Chez Nanua, Rangiroa Lodge
- Fakarava : Relais Marama
Once you’ve made your accommodation choice, day-to-day experiences don’t have to break the bank either. A bottle of local beer will set you back the equivalent of $3.25 NZ and a croissant or French baguette (and you know they’ll be good given the French are involved!) is just $1.50 NZ or $0.66 NZ respectively.
So far from an expensive holiday, you may find yourself budgeting to stay forever! (Well, at least a few more days than you initially planned.)
- By Laquisha Stabler