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What a perfect time to share this with you. We are in the very beginning of the summer season and the pictures you’re about to see were all about Mother Earth’s glory. We’ve featured many trip reports in the past, from Hawaii, to Costa Rica, to the Maldives. I’m so glad that we’ve got something different – French Polynesia, Danny’s visit to Hilton Moorea.
Danny booked this trip via a Travelzoo deal that he found. He and his girlfriend went on this journey in the month of May. He and I were in touch and I had given him questions and pointers to think of for his trip report, and here it is….Danny in his own words.
I’ve been traveling for quite awhile, but was mostly with the military. I got out of the military in 2018 and really missed traveling. In 2019, I did a bit of travel but it was all within the US. When 2020 hit, I didn’t go anywhere and just racked up vacation time. So I started in January 2021, and I had gone on vacation every month, Maldives, Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, and this last trip was in Moorea.
I was looking into Moorea after seeing a picture on Instagram last year. It was also around the time Nelson (Jason’s brother-in-law) mentioned he was going to Maldives on a big group trip. As far as other destinations that came to mind, first It was Bora Bora but it was way out of budget. I then ended up deciding to go the Maldives and had Moorea as back up. Thanks to Nelson for convincing me, Drew J. also helped a lot on prepping for Maldives.
The Travelzoo deal
I bought a Travelzoo voucher. I saw it pop up and didn’t hesitate to get it. This was the deal:
- $2699 for two
- 5 nights’ accommodation in a King Overwater Bungalow
- Daily breakfast
- 2-course lunch at Rotui Beach Restaurant & Grill
- 3-course dinner at either at Rotui Beach Restaurant & Grill or Arii Vahine Restaurant;
- OR two-course dinner (1 savory and 1 sweet crepe for two) at Toatea Overwater Creperie
What did you do to prepare for this trip?
I booked our flights with Air Tahiti Nui in March while the prices were still low. It was $771 each ticket, but ended up upgrading to premium economy $600 each ticket since Biz was sold out. Not bad since if I would have booked the flight closer to the departure date, they were going to be around $1600 per ticket.
COVID prep work for the flights
I had to take three COVID tests before the trip. Two were free and one I had to pay for to get one-day results because the first two were taking forever. My flight was scheduled Tuesday night at 11:55 pm. I took the first test Saturday, second test on Sunday as back up, and third test on Monday. The first test ended up arriving about an hour after the third test I paid the expedited results for. As far as the COVID test that I took back in California, the only time it was requested was during check in at LAX.
Arriving in Moorea
Once we arrived in Moorea, we had to take an antigen test upon arrival. It was free of charge. However, they’re planning on charging for this test soon. We got our results in less than 15 minutes. You get a number and if your number is on their board, you’re good to go. We’ve been to four different countries since the pandemic started. Hands down, Moorea was the most organized I’ve seen. Even more than those local test centers in the US. Overall, it was a 30-minute process at Moorea’s airport.
From the airport to Hilton Moorea Resort
From the airport, we took a ferry. It was $12 per person each way, or $40 round trip for two. The ferry took about 30-40 minutes to arrive at Moorea. It was so easy getting around and people were actually very welcoming. We arrived at the port in Moorea, we walked across the street to get a rental at Avis. I upgraded to automatic because my girlfriend wanted to drive and the original reservation was for a manual transmission. Total rental was $430 for 5 days. We picked up the car at 8am, and returned it at noon 5 days later.
We drove to Hilton Moorea but we weren’t able to check in until 2 pm. They said we could use the facilities before check in but we decided to drive around to see where to stop later on during the week. So we drove around the island which took 40 minutes and stopped to eat. Roads were pretty much the same as Hawaii. No issues. Typical island vibe. Got some lunch and ate at a popular local spot called Snack Mohana, recommended by everyone we spoke with.
Finally, Hilton Moorea
Upon arriving, the front desk and resort staff impressions? They were really courteous and very helpful. The receptionist remembered me from calling two days earlier on a possible rescheduling the dates due to not receiving COVID test results. We were given an overwater bungalow. Just felt different from the Maldives bungalow. They picked the room for you since its based on tiers. So the room I got was in the middle tier so I was able to get a room in the middle vs. towards the end of the property. It was good because the other rooms were quite a walk.
The island reminded me of Kauai but it was way better. The water was clearer than Maldives, different types of fish would come up to you while snorkeling. It was also not an adults only resort, there were kids but we didn’t really see them around.
Dining and activities
Food was good, but a bit pricey. I was on vacation so I didn’t mind. Breakfast was the only thing included. We ate at local restaurants mostly since I had a vehicle. It was mostly seafood selection when we drove around. There was a place everyone recommended called Snack Mohana. Local fresh fish daily and once it was out, we had the Coconut Mahi. Delicious! We went there the first day we got there.The place filled up quickly. Another place we went to was Rudy’s for dinner. I highly recommend their Clown Fish. The island was just like Europe, most places open from 11am – 3pm, and then reopen at 6pm – 9pm . There is/was an island curfew at 10pm so everything closed at 10pm.
About the Hilton Moorea, service was excellent. I didn’t really have a problem communicating since I know a bit of French. For activities, we opted to snorkel, and kayak – this was included.
Stand up paddle was also at no additional cost. We did pay extra to go jet skiing. We had a great time and I’m going to wait for Travelzoo and hopefully they offer this deal again.
Credit cards, WiFi, cell phones etc.
We used The Platinum Card® from American Express for hotel fees and food. We also used Chase Sapphire Reserve for the car rental, but we used The Platinum Card® from American Expresss to reserve the vehicle since you get the Avis preferred status (enrollment required). We also decided to use Chase Sapphire Reserve because that card includes primary rental insurance unlike The Platinum Card® from American Express provides secondary coverage.
To stay connected, I bought a SIM Card at the airport. It was pricey for $60 for 5 GB of data. We also used T-Mobile a secondary since I have dual SIM on my phone.T he Wi-Fi was fast in the room but was spotty outside. I think it was just my phone because my tablet didn’t have any connection loss problems.
COVID testing for the flight back to the US
We had to take a COVID test 4 days after our arrival. This was a nasal and mouth test. You take it at the hotel or wherever you want, you just have to give the sample to the hotel by noon so they can send it off to the lab. They give it to you for free at the airport. You don’t get results from this one unless it came back positive. You take it and drop it off at the reception before noon so we did that on Sunday.
Before flying back to the US, we needed to get COVID testing. An antigen test was needed for the flight back to the US.. It was $57 USD per person. The last test was the antigen taken at the airport. You get results in under 45 min. There was a line since they only open about 3-4 hours before the flight.
Check out day
Check out was easy. We took ferry back to PPT around noon. We went straight to the airport thinking I could leave my luggage at a storage place but was told incorrectly. They don’t have one. They say they do but couldn’t find it and when I found it was closed. It’s always closed. I was able to find a luggage storage one near the ferry terminal so I paid another $25 to get back to the terminal to drop off the luggage. The storage place is at a restaurant/lounge. Very helpful and there’s an app for it.
For the overall cost of this trip, I’ll just say $6,000 or maybe more. My grandfather told me “you can’t go back and make memories but you can always make more money.” The flights would have been covered but we ended up paying for them with the card to get 5x points.
The biggest lesson-learned? Buy two of these vouchers next time. That island was really a great place to visit. I wish I packed my drone. I would pay for the expedited COVID test that guaranteed results. I almost had to reschedule my trip because I did not get my results in time. It would’ve avoided the headache.
For my next visit, I would go scuba diving. I’m a little rusty on it since my last dive was 6 years ago. Next time, I need to do a refresher so I don’t have to worry about it there. I highly recommend this Hilton Location. I can only imagine how Bora Bora is. The mountains in the background just made this place look a lot better than the location I stayed at in the Maldives. I also didn’t get the Diamond Elite perks for the Hilton because it was booked using the Travelzoo voucher but I did get the nights and 56K points added to my Hilton Honors account.
Thank you, Danny!!!
Yes, many thanks for sharing your vacation journey with me and our readers. I appreciate you trusting me with your story. If there was a takeaway on my end – when you see a deal, and you’re happy with it – go for it. Many question the validity or legitimacy of Travelzoo deals. Danny weighed his options, found this deal on Travelzoo, and booked it. Travelzoo’s been coming up with a lot of deals lately, and most of them are fully refundable – worry free. I’ve tried to book and have had to cancel one of Travelzoo bookings, and the refund process was quick. Tried and tested.
About Moorea, when Danny sent me the pictures, I didn’t really open them all until it was time to piece together this blog entry. He mentioned that it was just like Kauai but better, and with waters being clearer than the Maldives. After seeing the pictures, I can see what Danny meant. Some of the pictures reminded me of Kauai, particularly Tunnels Beach in Kauai’s North Shore. It’s really that beautiful, one place we love coming back to, so I am not surprised that Danny is considering making a return trip back to Moorea.
While it may not be an all-points booking, I could definitely appreciate how Danny ensured to use the right credit cards to book. He used The Platinum Card® from American Express to get the 5x for the flights that he booked. He also made sure to use his Chase Sapphire Reserve for the car rental since it’s the credit card that provides primary coverage, meaning, the coverage kicks in before involving your personal car insurance.
I know Danny has more plans to travel in the future, and I can’t wait to see where he goes to next.
Editorial Disclosure – The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.