top of page

Our Bucket List Trip to Tahiti and New Zealand! 

Shelly and I have been together 35 years, and early in our relationship, we talked about wanting to go to Bora Bora and stay in an over-water bungalow.  Then we would continue on to visit New Zealand and Australia.  We got our chance late in 2022 when Shelly saw a great deal from Air Tahiti.  A roundtrip flight from Los Angeles Airport to New Zealand via Tahiti with a three night stay at the Hilton in Tahiti included for $999 each.  Even though we hadn't researched Tahiti and New Zealand, we couldn't pass up this deal, so we quickly decided we would spend 4 nights in Tahiti, then 12 nights in New Zealand, then 3 nights in Tahiti again before heading home.  It was a best guess for how much time to spend in New Zealand, but we would make it work.   Visiting Australia was not in the cards as we could not extend our trip another three weeks, so we'll visit Australia in the future.  We scheduled this trip for March 3rd through March 24th in 2023.  Now it was time to do some research and plan the trip.

We decided early on to stay in Tahiti rather than go to Bora Bora to eliminate another flight and possible complications.  We made a reservation for 4 nights in an over-water bungalow at the Intercontinental in Tahiti.  It's an older resort but the rates were good.  

As I mentioned, three nights at the newer Hilton in Tahiti was included in the airfare, so we would stay there on our return.  

Now for New Zealand.  We spent a lot of time on TripAdvisor forums and New Zealand tourism websites.  The first decision was whether to visit the North, South, or both islands.  It was clear we did not have enough time (12 days) to visit both islands.  We decided on the North island to explore the warmer climate with hot springs and mud pools, experience the Māori culture, venture through larger cities like Auckland, and enjoy more cosmopolitan comforts.  

So where and what to visit in the North Island?  We knew nothing about it.  I bought the Lonely Planet New Zealand's North Island Travel Guide.  We planned a road trip starting in Auckland and driving counter-clockwise around the island, through the Coromandel Peninsula, to Napier, Wellington, and back to Auckland, with stops in Whitianga, Rotorua, and Taupo along the way.  I mapped out an itinerary posted it to a New Zealand North Island forum on TripAdvisor.  The feedback I received was I was trying to do too much, and that I should reduce the driving time, and spend more time at fewer locations.  So I redrew my map and replotted the itinerary, and settled on the following:

  1. Pickup our car at the Auckland Airport and drive to Whitianga in the Coromandel Peninsula. Spend two nights.

  2. Drive to Rotorua and spend three nights.

  3. Drive to Taupo and spend two nights.

  4. Drive to Waitomo to see the glowworm caves, then to Hamilton for one night.

  5. Drive to Auckland and spend three nights.

This itinerary included about 10 hours of driving covering about 1000 kilometers.  This kept the driving to a minimum, and would allow us to spend time at white-sand beaches, geothermal pools, experience the Māori culture and see beautiful scenery.  The itinerary for the North Island was set.  All we needed to do was secure lodging and reserve time for excursions.

Lastly we had to determine how to get to Los Angeles.  We decided to use our United Airlines frequent flyer miles for this flight.  We have dear friends, the Atha's (Jonathan, Monica, and Jacqueline), whom we met on our Antarctica cruise in 2021.  They lived near Los Angeles, and we had been chatting about somehow seeing each other.  They generously invited us to stay with them before our flight to Tahiti, and we eagerly accepted.  It would be great to see them!

Our trip was planned.  Our plan for both stays in Tahiti was relaxation, blue-green ocean water, and pools.  New Zealand would be an adventure!

Pre-trip News

About a week prior to our departure, we learned that a cyclone had hit the North Island, some people had died, and there was serious damage.  Shelly contacted our hotels and learned that with but one exception, the cyclone had bypassed the areas we were visiting.  However, the Coromandel Peninsula got hit hard, and part of a main road into Whitianga had washed away.  We would need to take an alternate route along the coastal highway.  No problem we thought.  This change in driving plans turned out to be an adventure unto itself.

LA Bound!

We boarded our United flight to LA around 8:45am and had an uneventful flight.  We were spending the day and night at the Atha's, and Jonathan was so kind to pick us up at the airport.  We made it to their beautiful home by noon, and were greeted by Monica, and daughter Jacqueline.  The Antarctica Crew were back together again!  We spent the afternoon catching up.  They then treated us to a wonderful Mexican dinner at Javiar's in Newport Beach.  It's located right on the Pacific Ocean, and we saw a wonderful sunset.  Here's a photo of us all:

All of us at dinner.jpg

After dinner, we went back to the Atha's and talked, and watched the presentation on the Antarctica cruise that Jacqueline did for her school class (she did a great job!).  Is there another cruise in our future?  Come back to this website in a few months and see!

The next morning, the Atha's drove us to LAX for our flight to Tahiti.  What wonderful friends and hosts!  We had a great time and we look forward to seeing them again.  

Tahiti Here We Come!

We boarded our Air Tahiti flight around 11:00am.  We had an 8 1/2 hour flight to look forward to, and while we were in economy, we each had bulkhead aisle seats.  Amazingly, the flight was only about 10% full, and people stretched out in empty rows to sleep.  I couldn't sleep and watched the movie, "Devotion", about a pair of U.S. Navy fighter pilots who risk their lives during the Korean War and become some of the Navy's most celebrated wingmen.  It was good, maybe a 7 out of 10.  

The flight was uneventful, and we landed in Tahiti around 8:00pm.  It was rainy and very humid.  We collected our luggage and got some local money at the ATM.  We took a taxi to the Intercontinental, and it turned out the cabbie accepted US dollars.  We checked in, were driven to our over-water bungalow, and settled in.  The bungalow included a large room with a comfortable king-size bed and couch, a large, modern bathroom, and a huge deck with a daybed, two chaise lounges, and two chairs and tables.  We went to bed fairly early and fell asleep listening to the lapping of the ocean against the bungalow pylons.

We woke up around 7:00am after a good nights sleep.  I took some photos and video of our bungalow:

Shelly enjoyed her coffee on the deck and I laid in bed and read the news.  We headed to breakfast, and being Sunday, it was a Tahitian Brunch Buffet with an omelet station, breakfast and lunch items, lots of fresh fruit, and fresh-baked donuts.  At 8:30am, entertainment started with a band beating drums and blowing conch shells, and 9 women dancers dressed in traditional Tahitian garb joined and performed traditional Tahitian dances.  They performed for over an hour and it was entertaining.


After breakfast, we walked around the resort and got acclimated.  There is an infinity pool and a salt water pool with tropical fish.  We then took a 20 minute walk to a market and bought drinks to bring back to the bungalow.  Tahiti is expensive, a 6-pack of Coke was $12 USD, and the buffet breakfast was $60 per person.  But we planned for this and just enjoyed ourselves.  

We put on our bathing suites with the intent of going into the ocean.  Our deck has a ladder into the ocean, but the water was surprisingly cold for how shallow it was.  

More to come...

bottom of page