Crystalline azure waters, near-constant sunshine, and overwater bungalows are the images conjured up when one thinks of their dream vacation to French Polynesia. Most people know of Tahiti, which is the largest island in French Polynesia, but there are many others with stunning resort properties like Bora Bora and Moorea.
While this is one of the more expensive destinations to explore, it is worth every penny to experience the local culture and pristine views. But, getting there does not have to be as pricey, and there are some opportunities to redeem miles for award tickets.
Air Tahiti Nui is the primary carrier to reach Papeete (the capital of Tahiti). It flies nonstop to Los Angeles twice daily. Flyers can earn and redeem American miles on its flights, but award space can be tough to find. Award tickets in economy class (40,000 miles one way in economy) are more common, and even if you can find space just for one person, that can be a big money saver for a couple. The only way to check availability is by calling American to check for space. It is also possible to redeem 50,000 Delta miles for one-way economy on Air Tahiti Nui.
Star Alliance fans only can reach Papeete using miles via Air New Zealand. Since flying first to Auckland and onward to Papeete is not a valid routing, it would require two awards to make it happen. But, it could be a fun way to visit both New Zealand and French Polynesia on one trip.
Hawaiian Airlines flies once a week between Honolulu and Papeete, and American miles can be redeemed for a one-way flight in economy from the mainland. For those interested in visiting both Hawaii and French Polynesia, this could be a great choice otherwise the itinerary is not entirely logical for those coming from the mainland. Hawaiian Airlines miles can also be used for the flight.
Another unique travel combination is to fly to Santiago or Easter Island, Chile for a few days and then book a separate ticket for the weekly flight between Easter Island and Papeete. It costs only 12,500 Avios points each way in economy, which is one of the best redemption options if you’re already in South America.
SkyTeam flyers can take advantage of the Air France flight that operates a few times a week from Los Angeles. Miles from Air France-KLM (30,000 miles one way in economy), Alaska (40,000 miles), or Delta (50,000 miles) can be used to book the flight. Economy class is more likely to be available than business class. Award space can be searched on the Flying Blue website or via Expert Flyer.
Getting beyond Tahiti requires a flight on Air Tahiti (not the same company as Air Tahiti Nui), and its flights are not available for award redemption. Prices can be quite high, but if you have credit card points, you can use them to redeem for the tickets via the card’s travel portal.
Ferries are available from Tahiti to Moorea, and both islands have lovely resorts of their own. Especially popular is the Intercontinental Resort, which is only a few minutes away from the airport and can be booked with 40,000 IHG Rewards points. It has overwater bungalows as well as traditional hotel rooms plus a snorkeling lagoon and infinity-edge pool that overlooks the runway’s approach path over the water.
There’s also an amazing offer from Starwood that is putting several French Polynesian properties on sale like the St. Regis Bora Bora (normally 60,000 points), which is now 39,000 points, and Le Meridien Bora Bora (normally 40,000 points), which is now 26,000 points. This offer is valid until the end of February and represents a tremendous bargain.
If you don’t have enough miles in one program, don’t forget that you can transfer miles from other partners like American Express Membership Rewards or Starwood Preferred Guest. French Polynesia is a dream destination and especially popular with honeymooners. Be sure to begin your flight search early so you can get there on the cheap!