When Mrs. Selfish and I originally planned our Selfish Year of travels, we had no intention of visiting the South Pacific. That all changed in March when Hilton announced a massive devaluation in their HHonors Award Program. Hotels that once cost 50,000 points a night we’re suddenly going for as much as 95,000 points – an almost 100% increase!
Having acquired a taste for the Hilton’s nicer properties after staying at the Conrad Koh Samui, I started looking into other places to burn Hilton points. So when my cousin in Sydney proposed we meet up at the Hilton Bora Bora, I jumped at the chance.
Especially after seeing pictures of Bora Bora.
Unfortunately, getting to Bora Bora is quite difficult. Only a limited number of airlines fly to Tahiti, and once there you have to catch one of the inter-island flights, which are quite expensive.
To make things even trickier, you’re more or less required to spend two nights in Tahiti as well. Fortunately, Mrs. Selfish had a number of Intercontinental Hotel Groups points saved up, so we ended up booking two nights: one for the flight in, and one for the night before our morning flight out.
Getting To Tahiti & Check-in
Award flights to Tahiti are pretty limited and tend to be through Air Tahiti or Air France. There’s a whole thread on flyertalk devoted to the subject.
Since Mrs. Selfish and I were coming from Sydney I ended up booking flights through Air Tahiti via Auckland for 50,000 American Airline miles each, flying coach on the way over and business on the way back.
Availability was extremely limited, with flights leaving Sydney every Thursday, and returning from Tahiti on Wednesday. Due to the limited supply, don’t be surprised if you see most of the same fellow passengers on the return.
After landing we grabbed the closest cab and made our way to the Intercontinental Tahiti, which was a mere 2.4 km away. Unfortunately, cabs from the airport are pretty expensive and are more sketchy van style, than “use the meter” style. I believe it cost roughly 1200 XPF to get to the hotel, which is roughly equivalent to $13.
Conversely, you can rent a car at a little less than $30 a day, though rental companies will charge you an additional 500 XPF per kilometer (~$.50).
Checking in to the Intercontinental was a breeze, and due to Mrs. Selfish’s Ambassador status we were upgraded to a Lagoon View Room.
The room itself was lavishly decorated in the South Pacific style, with a small balcony. As a welcome gift Mrs. Selfish was given a small fruit basket with local cookies, and three bottles of water. She also received a movie of her choice.
The bathroom was spacious with a huge bathtub, his and her sinks, and separate rooms for the toilet and shower.
Eating at the Intercontinental – bleh
Unfortunately Mrs. Selfish and I arrived around 10pm and took a taxi to the Intercontinental. By the time we had arrived the kitchen was shut down and only room service was available. After much deliberation we settled on ordering two croque monsieurs.
Cold, soggy, and flavorless – all for 1400 XFC!
The croques were cold and soggy, despite the char marks, while the ham and cheese was quite bland. At roughly $15 a pop they were an utter disappointment.
The Joy of Roulottes
For our second stay Mrs. Selfish and I opted to rent a car instead and drive to the wharf in downtown Papeete, which contained around a dozen roulottes (food trucks).
Both Bora Bora and Tahiti have a giant roulotte culture, serving foods that are heavily influenced by French and Chinese cuisine.
The roulottes in Papeete served crepes, pizzas, and burgers among other things. Mrs. Selfish and I opted for Chez Dominique, which served French Polynesian food side-by-side with Chinese food.
I decided to try the Steak Frites with a half order of green beans for 1600 XPF (~$17), while Mrs. Selfish ordered the Poisson Cru au Lait Coco for 1300 XPF (~$14).
The steak was tender and excellently salted, and came with an optional gravy. The green beans were sauted in garlic and oil and were juicy and delicious. The fries were done “frites” style, so were double fried and magnificent. At close to $17 it was a bit expensive, but honestly the portion was so huge that Mrs. Selfish and I could have split it and barely had room left over for dessert.
The poisson cru, was phenomenal. Poisson cru is basically ceviche + coconut milk. Take fresh, raw tuna and cut it into bit-sized chunks. Squirt liberally with fresh lime juice and hit it with salt to taste, then add diced tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, and carrots before pouring on fresh coconut milk. So amazing.
At ~$14 it was totally worth it and my only regret is that Mrs. Selfish and I did not have enough stomach space to do it justice. Seriously – if you try only one dish in French Polynesia, try the poisson cru – you will not be disappointed.
Since we were only staying at the Intercontinental to get easy access to the airport we did not have much time to enjoy the grounds. Which is unfortunate.
They are beautiful.
While Mrs. Selfish and I certainly enjoyed our time at the Intercontinental, I’m not sure this was a good use of points given the nature of our trip. The property is certainly very nice, and therein lies the problem – as a short stopover we probably would have been much better off at the airport hotel.
If you’re looking at staying here I would definitely give yourself a few hours on either side to enjoy the grounds and get a better sense for Bora Bora. Just don’t get the room service.