Nearly all French Polynesia bound flights from the U.S. arrive in Papeete, Tahiti (PPT) in the early evening. Unfortunately, most onward flights to other islands, such as Huahine or Bora Bora, on Air Tahiti have already finished flying for the day once you arrive. Even the ferry to Moorea is often done running at this point of the day.
This means that whether you are flying Air Tahiti Nui, Delta or United, you are most likely looking at least a one night stay in Tahiti. Even the flights that arrive in the morning after a red eye, such as French Bee or Air France, often leave early in the morning on their way home. This leaves nearly everyone with the need to spend a night on either their first or last night in Tahiti.
My family ended up needing three nights in Tahiti, first, when my father and I arrived before heading to Bora Bora, second, when my mother and brother arrived before joining us in Bora Bora roughly five days later, and third, on our last night before returning home.
As a Hilton property that tries to market itself as a resort destination, I was able to see this attempt . While I planned to review only the first stay there, the experience differed so drastically between stays that I will do my best to find a middle ground.
In this review, I will comment on the standard hotel room since most individuals (especially if booking with points) will be staying in a similar room. I will write up a separate review on just the room itself when we stayed in the King Residence Suite, but comment on the overall service during this review.
This article is part of my Trip Report: Winter Holidays in French Polynesia that includes:
- Lounge Review: Delta’s New LAX SkyClub
- Inaugural Flight Celebrations on Delta LAX to Tahiti
- Flight Review: Delta Economy LAX-PPT
- Hotel Review: Hilton Tahiti Resort
- Room Review: Hilton Tahiti King Residence Suite
- Flight Review: Air Tahiti PPT-BOB
- Hotel Review: St Regis Bora Bora Resort
- Hotel Transfer: Chartering a Private Boat in Bora Bora!
- Hotel Review: Conrad Bora Bora Nui Resort
- Room Review: Conrad Bora Bora Nui Deluxe Overwater Villa with Pool
- Day of Departure in Moorea: My Thoughts
From the pictures online, I had high expectations for the room, but upon arrival that quickly faded. As a Diamond member with Hilton, I had requested an upgrade, but to my disappointment, none were available (or so I thought, but more on that later). After checking in, we headed to our room, which to my surprise was actually on a lower floor than the lobby.
We took the elevator down to the first floor and walked through a series of hallways until we made our way to the room. Our first impression was not favorable. As we walked down the hallway nearing our room, we were hit with a strong, musty smell due to the humidity and moisture.
Wanting to escape the heat and smell, we entered the room only to find that it was barely cooler inside than the open-air hallway. While the room was nice, there were a number of flaws.
Upon entering this room, there is a bathroom to the right and closet to the left with all the standard finishes. After taking a few steps, I noticed a weird bubbling sound coming from the floor. When I looked down, I found that with each step, water was seaping out of the cracks in the wood flooring. At least it explained the mildew smell.
To the right of the closet there was a small bar area with a mini fridge anda water heater. It looked pretty but nothing too special and could have benefited from a true coffee maker/Nespresso machine.
The bathroom had a single vanity with a toilet to the right and a tub/shower combo to the left. The finishes were nice, and I appreciated the light wood touches. However, there was no shower curtain and with half a wall of glass, a lot of water splashed out of the tub area (which could explain the water in the hallway).
Upon venturing further into the room there were two queen beds to the right with the TV mounted on the wall to the left. Below the TV, there was a large bench meant for luggage that turned into a desk. In the back left corner, there was a chair that would also be the desk chair.
The wall abutting the beds had a gorgeous lighting feature and there were also hanging lights above each of the nightstands.
Outside was a small patio with two chairs and a table. It was a great place to have coffee, and in my case, work on some last-minute travel planning. The view wasn’t stunning but at least we got a small glimpse of the water.
Hilton Tahiti is located closer to the downtown area and the harbor compared to other large hotels such as the Intercontinental Tahiti. The ferry to Moorea is within walking distance from the hotel. In addition, unlike many other hotels in French Polynesia, the hotel is just across the street from a mall with a grocery store, a nice way to stock up on snacks before venturing to more remote areas in the region (and to save money on food at expensive hotels).
Upon arrival to the hotel, there is a roundabout with an open-air lobby that has a variety of seating, the front desk , a store, and concierge. In the lobby, we found a gorgeous Christmas tree, which was a nice touch for the holidays.
To the right of the lobby, there is a bar with more seating. Adjacent to the bar is a grand staircase that leads to the pool and restaurants on the lower level. Just behind the staircase there is a terrace that over looks water as well as the pool deck.
The pool is definitely a highlight, and while an infinite aspect would be nice along the length of the water’s edge (rather than against chairs), the abundant seating options are a great benefit. Cabanas are available for rent, but given the ample comfortable seating, the added cost isn’t worth it.
The pool has some shallow-depth areas of the pool that have the iconic white recliner-pool loungers, which are a favorite of mine.
The gym entrance is near the pool and is located next to the spa. Inside, this area of the hotel it isair conditioned. While it has all the equipment one could ask for, it is on the smaller side, and it got quite crowded at times.
We made use of the shower in the gym to clean up before our night-flight home. Even though we had a late checkout, we had a number of hours between leaving our room and leaving to go to the airport. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to check out the spa.
Over our stays, we got a good sense of the food at the property and tried most of the available options. The first night after checking in, we went to the Japanese restaurant named San Sushi Bar. It was tasty and I truly enjoyed the meal. The price tag attached was high but fitting for being on an island in the middle of the ocean.
On our last night, we also tried the other restaurant, Taitea Brasserie. Nothing too fancy, but it did the trick and satisfied our hunger after flying back from Bora Bora. It was nice to sit outside and its ambiance is nice.
The best restaurant on the property is the space where they hold breakfast. The seating is over the water and while there are open-air options, there is also some ‘inside’ seating. Having breakfast next to the glass railing was nice and we could see fish swimming below.
The breakfast spread itself wasn’t anything too spectacular, but it had the basics and was better than most domestic hotels where I have stayed. The made-to-order station seemed to offer omletsand a variety of other egg options. At the table, the server was happy to take drink orders and clear the plates after returning to go back for seconds.
We got free breakfast as a benefit of being a Hilton Diamond member, but gold elites also get this benefit. I am not sure how much they charge for breakfast, but either way, free breakfast is free breakfast.
Service… where do I begin. I guess my trouble is that we had such varying experiences with the service at the Hilton Tahiti. Everything started off well, as you would expect from a hotel charging at this price point.
Upon arrival in our taxi from the airport we were greeted with leis and a small glass of ice tea, which was a refreshing start from the heat of the open air lobby. We immediately got our luggage and got into the line designated as a priority for Hilton Diamond and Gold members, ready to check in, drop our stuff and grab a bite to eat.
However, after easily waiting for 20+ minutes, we left the priority line for the standard line next to us, which was quickly cycling through guests. The priority line checked in one guest in the time it took the regular line to go help three. As previously mentioned, we were not given one of their best rooms, quite the opposite, but I don’t blame the check in agent at that point since they were truly busy.
After entering the hotel room, it was quite warm so we turned up the air conditioning and left for dinner. When we returned, it felt even warmer so we contacted the front desk to try to remedy the situation. We eventually went to the lobby since our over-the-phone communication was not successful.
The agent offered to send maintenance to try to fix the problem or move us into an ocean view room, the one that “wasn’t available” earlier. For me, it is one thing to tell me you can’t upgrade me, but don’t lie to me that you do not have a room available when there is one. I would much rather experience the prior. Ultimately, we had maintenance fix our air conditioning since we did not want to have to share a king bed in a new room opposed to our current two beds.
Now fast forward to the third stay. We were offered the same great welcome by the staff, but this time we were quickly checked in, given one of their better rooms on the top floor, and shown to our room and someone assisted with our luggage. Later, when we needed more bedding and called the front desk, it was promptly delivered.
The 3rd stay was day and night from the first stay (and I hadn’t published anything that would have caused the change in experience). The service was much better during the second stay besides one experience at the pool.
Somehow, the hotel ran out of pool towels and ultimately, we had to wait close to an hour to get some towels. Not that this was their fault, but at a hotel of this price point, this should not be something that occurs.
Hilton charges 80,000 Hilton Honors points per night for standard award bookings at the Hilton Tahiti. However, there are some occurrences when I have seen lower prices, but nothing dramatically cheaper.
The first time staying, the cash rate for the standard two queen room was ~$350 after taxes and converting to US dollars. Compared to 80,000 points, I found the paid rate to be a better deal and opted to pay out of pocket.
However, during the second stay, the room rate hoveredaround ~$550 so I opted to redeem the room using points. This was also a good deal since this stay was upgraded to a King Residence Suite for which the paid rate was in the low $800s at that time of year.
The third and final stay was a pricey one. While the cash rates were in the mid $400s for the most basic rooms, we would have booked on points but there was no remaining standard roomsand Hilton wanted ~136,000 points for one night. Compared to paying effectively 96,000 a night for the Conrad Bora Bora, we knew we were going to be stuck paying.
In this case we paid $490 for a King Residence Suite to guarantee the suite since it was only $60 more a night than a typical hotel room. We are lucky we did because there ended up being no suites left by the time we checked in, meaning we wouldn’t have gotten any upgrades. We also needed more space traveling with the whole family.
Overall, our three stays weren’t cheap by any means, but I am happy I was able to at least redeem Hilton points for one of the stays.
The Last Point
My household has been pretty loyal to Hilton hotels for quite some time now, so when Hilton opens a new property in a pretty cool location, I always try to see if I can work it into my travel plans.
I knew I wanted to check out the hotel, but little did I know that I would end up booking three separate stays at this property. What was most surprising was the varying experiences and accommodations that we received.
While the property as a whole is nice, it seems that maintenance could do a better job keeping rooms in good condition. Additionally, if visiting the property during peak periods, don’t expect the service to be anything spectacular.
While I holistically enjoyed the stay at the Hilton Tahiti, I can tell you it should not be the destination of your trip. Hopefully, one day I will return to French Polynesia and I will happily book another stay. It is perfect for an overnight before or after a stay in Moorea or Bora Bora, but I would not fly that far from the US to only stay there.
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