Review: InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa (French Polynesia)

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Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.


Today: Review of the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa (French Polynesia)

The InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa is the largest luxury resort on French Polynesia’s main island of Tahiti. Located just five minutes from the airport, it is also the most convenient. Despite its proximity to downtown Papeete (French Polynesia’s capital city) and the airport, the hotel provides a nice Polynesian oasis with some of the best views of Moorea on the horizon. The rooms and overwater bungalows are tastefully decorated and offer all the amenities of a deluxe international resort. Although not ultra modern, this only adds to its traditional Polynesian charm. The InterContinental Tahiti Resort features two freshwater infinity pools and provides an extensive range of activities and dining venues. Elegantly engulfed by tropical gardens, this is the ideal resort to begin or end your visit to French Polynesia.

The InterContinental Tahiti features in my top 10 list of the best resorts in French Polynesia.

Have you ever stayed at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.

In this review (more info and photos below my YouTube video):


PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • The InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa is the best hotel on Tahiti, the main and largest island of French Polynesia. While most tourists will spend only little time on Tahiti and immediately proceed to the paradisiac islands of Bora Bora or Moorea, the island of Tahiti is incredibly beautiful and a destination in its own right. Tahiti’s mountainous interior and wild coastline is adorned with mystical valleys, jagged peaks, thundering waterfalls, coral reefs and crystal clear waters. Highlights of any visit to Tahiti include swimming with humpback whales (August to September) and observing surfers who ride Teahupo’o, one of the world’s most famous and heaviest waves (May to October).
  • With dramatic volcanic peaks and an aquamarine lagoon backdropping its expansive resort gardens, the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa is set on the northwest coast of Tahiti, on the outskirts of the bustling capital of Papeete. The property lies just 2 km (1.3 miles) or five minutes from Tahiti’s Faa’a International Airport and not much more than 10 minutes from downtown Papeete. This super convenient location means the hotel is often booked as a one-night stop for those beginning or ending their stays in French Polynesia (as the inter-island flight within French Polynesia – which mostly operate during daylight hours only – do not always connect well with the international flights arriving in or departing from Tahiti).
  • The resort opened in 1974 as a Travel lodge, was later rebranded into Parkroyal and Beachcomber, and in 2001 was again rebranded as an InterContinental resort. Since then, the property has been fully refurbished three times, the last one done in 2018. It features a typical French Polynesian design, which is evident the moment you step inside the large tropical lobby space, complete with its stone Tiki statue, woven grass Pandanus roof, and carved wooden columns. The lobby opens to a large terrace, which offers a spectacular view of the lush resort gardens, the main pool area and the magnificent silhouette of Moorea island on the horizon. The lobby is also home to two shops – a boutique selling souvenirs & Polynesian handicrafts and a jewelry shop.
  • The InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa is a Polynesian-style resort features 246 rooms & suites spread out between overwater bungalows (at both ends of the resort grounds) and several three-story buildings. All rooms come with a terrace or private balcony and wide sliding glass doors allowing in plenty of natural light. During my holiday, I stayed in a Premium Ocean & Moorea View Room, equipped with two queen-size beds. Featuring a warm and welcoming ambience, the room opened to a spacious terrace with panoramic views of the tropical gardens, Le Lotus infinity pool, the Pacific Ocean and the island of Moorea in the distance. The ensuite bathroom was equipped with a deep soaking bathtub, two basins, and separate toilet and shower cabins.
  • The InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa offers two popular restaurants and three lively bars:
    • The all-day dining Te Tiare Restaurant with its open kitchen has been conceived as an amphitheater in authentic Polynesian styling. Hosting beautiful dinner shows with Polynesian dances, this restaurant offers a theme evening two times per month on Friday and a rich Tahitian Brunch every Sunday. The venue serves a variety of international food from snacks and salads to seafood and meat dishes and each morning, it also offers an excellent breakfast buffet.
    • Le Lotus Gourmet overwater restaurant – known as the best dining venue on the island of Tahiti – offers a refined service for lunch and dinner, in an intimate atmosphere near the sand-bottom pool, revealing a magnificent view of Moorea.
    • The classically styled Tiki Bar is famous for its live bands at sunset every weekend. Popular with both tourists and locals alike, it serves signature cocktails in hollowed out coconuts and pineapples.
    • The Lobby Bar is convenient for late arrivals or early departures. It offers a selection of drinks and snacks and gorgeous sunset views.
    • Le Lotus pool swim-up bar offers tropical cocktails and refreshing drinks.
  • The InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa boasts two freshwater swimming pools. Set in front of the lobby building is the main pool, called Te Tiare pool. This massive pool features cascades and a Jacuzzi, and offers views of the lagoonarium and the Pacific Ocean beyond. At short distance from the Te Tiare pool, in front of the room wings, is another, more intimate and oceanfront pool area. Called Le Lotus, this sand-bottomed infinity edged pool enjoys awe-inspiring views of Moorea. Offering a serene setting for relaxing and sunbathing, the freeform pool comes with a swim-up bar and a Jacuzzi, and is surrounded by an artificial white sand beach with loungers. Both pools are serviced by attendants from 8 am until 6 pm.
  • The InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa is built around a massive lagoonarium, which is located next to the Te Tiare pool. The natural aquarium, called Fare l’a Reserve, was built to help hotel guests appreciate the beauty, diversity and fragility of Tahiti’s reef environment. It houses a reef ecosystem carefully monitored by a team of scientists that recreates the natural underwater conditions for more than 200 aquatic species, including parrot fish, Picasso fish and angelfish. Here, guests learn about a variety of corals, shells and sea creatures and snorkel in controlled environment among the tropical fish. Guests can also join the resort staff at 9 am and 3 pm daily for an exhilarating photo opportunity when they feed the fish.
  • Nestled in the heart of the vast tropical gardens, the resort’s Deep Nature Spa is the source of pure island bliss, focusing on holistic Polynesian-inspired pampering. Deep Nature is the alliance of French well-being know how combined with Polynesian techniques. The spa recently reopened following an extensive refurbishment and offers a menu of relaxing and rejuvenating treatments. Signature treatments include the Bora Bora Bliss Massage, a relaxing full-body rubdown using local Monoï oil and tropical scents, and a Polynesian Taurumi Massage, a multi-faceted therapy that restores inner wellbeing by combining touch and petrissage techniques. A steam bath and cold plunge pool are available to guests, too. Meanwhile, workout buffs can exercise in the resort’s fitness centre.
  • The property is managed by InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, the leading chain of luxury hotels in French Polynesia and one of the first to move into the archipelago. This early arrival meant that the InterContinental resorts secured some of the most spectacular spots in the Society Islands and Bora Bora. Though each property has a distinct personality, the three hotels of the InterContinental brand in French Polynesia all embrace the same philosophy. Each fits in flawlessly with its natural surroundings, with overwater bungalows, and makes great effort to protect both the environment and local traditions. The other two InterContinental properties are both located on the island of Bora Bora (a 50 min flight from Tahiti):
    • The InterContinental Bora Bora Moana Resort is flanked by two long beaches and set in the shade of a splendid coconut plantation. This unique boutique hotel on the main island of Bora Bora features direct access to one of the world’s most stunning lagoons.
    • The InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, situated on a barrier-reef coral island, offers exclusively villas over the water, standing on stilts between the ocean and the lagoon. Its spa is the first Thalasso spa in the world to tap into the benefits of deep-sea water and minerals in all its signature treatments.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

  • Unfortunately, due to the local regulation, the InterContinental Tahiti does not provide free airport shuttle, despite the aiport being only a 5 min drive away. There are two options to get from the hotel to the airport:
    • The first option is to reserve a private transfer, the rate of this service for one person is 4500cfp plus 100cfp per piece of luggage. The rate for two people is 6000cfp plus 100cfp per piece of luggage. With this option a driver will wait for you outside the custom area holding a sign with your name on it.
    • The second option would be to take a taxi. Taxis are found just outside the arrival gates and no reservation is needed. The rate of a taxi from the airport to the hotel, is approximately, 1500cfp plus 100cfp per piece of luggage. Taxis will only take local currency. There is an ATM machine at the airport or a currency exchange at the airport.
  • Since the hotel is less than a mile from the start of Tahiti’s Faa’a International Airport, there might be some occasional noise from aircraft movements. When a wide-body aircraft takes off from the runway end near the hotel, the engine sound is clearly audible, even inside the rooms (which are not completely soundproof). It’s nothing too bad though since Tahiti’s Faa’a International Airport is a rather quiet airport with only a few international departures per day (which – unfortunately – mostly take place in the early morning or in the late evening).
  • One of the InterContinental Tahiti’s greatest assets is its location. Due to its convenient proximity to the airport, many guests choose the InterContinental as a transit hotel, staying here for one night either at the start or the end of their holiday (as the domestic flight schedules doe not always align well with international departures). The resort also serves as a crew hotel for many airlines that are based outside of French Polynesia. As a result, the resort is often fully booked and might feel busy, especially after the arrival of an international flight when many passengers proceed to the hotel at the same time (with often long queues at the check-in desks in the lobby). Also keep in mind that the resort is not within walking distance of lshops or restaurants.
  • The InterContinental Tahiti features beautiful and expansive seafront gardens but it lacks a real beach. There is a small beach near the watersport center, but it is far from French Polynesia’s best, with a small rock wall separating the water and sand. There are also some artificial areas of sand by the manmade lagoonarium as well as around the serene and quiet Le Lotus pool.
  • Being almost 50 years old, the InterContinental Tahiti is by no means a modern property. There is no denying that the resort is showing its age and it does feel a little dated in certain areas (despite multiple refurbishments), although everything is very well maintained. While this might be an issue for some guests, I actually didn’t have any problem with the charming, somewhat older decor since it reflects French Polynesia’s traditional design, creating a sense of place.
  • While the InterContinental Tahiti is a beautiful resort with a convenient location, it is not a destination hotel, simply because the island of Tahiti should never be the final destination of any holiday in French Polynesia. I highly recommend to travel from Tahiti to one of French Polynesia’s other 118 islands, such as Moorea and Bora Bora which rank among the beautiful islands in the world and which are a far better place for enjoying a relaxing beach holiday. That said, the InterContinental is worth more than a overnight stay as an introduction to French Polynesia since Tahiti island offers some sublime attractions not to be found on the archipelago’s other islands (as mentioned above).

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 7/10
  • Design: 7/10
  • Pool: 9/10
  • Rooms: 8/10
  • Food: 8/10
  • Breakfast: 8/10
  • Spa: N/A
  • Service: 9/10
  • Value for money: 8/10
  • Overall experience: very good 8/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like InterContinental Tahiti (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Save money: IHG has a loyalty program which I reviewed here and which allows you to collect points and exchange them stay for free stays at IHG properties, such as the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa.
  • Room tip: the best rooms are the premium rooms on the first and second floor in one of the two buildings near Le Lotus pool. Couples may prefer the overwater bungalows
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

French Polynesia is best visited between June and September when the climate is at its driest and the weather is balmy (but windy). However, this is high season, so it will be busy and the hotel rates are skyrocketing. The months on either side of this period (May & October) are known as the shoulder season and offer comfortable weather too, but with lower prices and less wind. Although French Polynesia can be visited year-round, the months of November to April bring more humidity and cloudy days, with tropical showers passing at greater frequency than other times of the year. However, they are often interspersed with periods of sunshine. This is a humid time of year, though, which can be uncomfortable and I recommend choosing a hotel with A/C if visiting during these months. The islands rarely suffer from tropical storms except during years when El Niño affects ocean currents.


HOW TO GET THERE

Airlines from around the world offer direct flights to Faa’a International Airport in Papeete, Tahiti. From the airport, it’s a short 5 min drive to the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & spa.


PHOTOS

Below is a selection of my photos of the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa. To view more photos (including breakfast and dinner), click here.

INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI RESORT & SPA OVERVIEW
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI RESORT & SPA OVERVIEW
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
LOBBY
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
LOBBY: CONCIERGE DESK
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
LOBBY (VIEW)
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
LOBBY: BOUTIQUES
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
SEAFRONT & GARDENS
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
SEAFRONT & GARDENS
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
SEAFRONT & GARDENS
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
PAVILION HOUSING THE ROOMS & SUITES
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
PREMIUM OCEAN & MOOREA VIEW ROOM
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
PREMIUM OCEAN & MOOREA VIEW ROOM: WELCOME AMENITY
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
PREMIUM OCEAN & MOOREA VIEW ROOM
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
PREMIUM OCEAN & MOOREA VIEW ROOM
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
PREMIUM OCEAN & MOOREA VIEW ROOM
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
OVERWATER VILLAS
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
OVERWATER VILLAS
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
TE TIARE POOL
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
TE TIARE POOL
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
TE TIARE POOL
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
LAGOONARIUM
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
LAGOONARIUM
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
LAGOONARIUM
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
LE LOTUS POOL
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
LE LOTUS POOL
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
LE LOTUS POOL
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
LE LOTUS RESTAURANT
INTERCONTINENTAL TAHITI
TE TIARE RESTAURANT

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