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A Tropical Family Vacation: Tahiti and Bora Bora with Kids

One family takes a dreamy once-in-a-lifetime trip to French Polynesia

ParentMap author Lesa Linster
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Published on: May 22, 2024

View of the water and bungalow suites at Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
Photo:
courtesy Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora

In the heart of the South Pacific, nestled in an endless expanse of turquoise waters, are the enchanting islands and atolls of French Polynesia. While this area of the world is legendary for honeymoons and romantic getaways, we had to ask: is it also a place to vacation with your kids? The answer is a resounding yes.

If you’re looking for a tropical family getaway that is safe, luxurious and uncrowded by design, this is the place for you. It is said Hawaii gets the same number of visitors throughout a single weekend as French Polynesia sees over an entire year.

In French Polynesia the time zone is the same as Hawaii and English is spoken by nearly everyone you encounter. Kids have fun learning Tahitian phrases and calculating currency, and welcoming locals are quick to share cultural customs and history. The stunning beaches and colorful coral reefs provide endless opportunities for swimming, snorkeling and building sandcastles. We loved that the water was refreshing but never cold, and the waves were so gentle I didn’t worry about our kids getting knocked around.

The view of the water from Te Moana in Tahiti
Blue skies and sandy beaches await in Tahiti. Photo: courtesy Te Moana Resort

Traveling to Tahiti

Tahiti, the largest island and capital of French Polynesia, is known for its volcanic landscapes, towering waterfalls and vibrant markets.

Getting there: Air Tahiti Nui offers several non-stop flight options from Seattle through a partnership with Alaska Airlines. Kid-friendly onboard amenities include coloring books in both French and English, colored pencils, cozy socks, an eye mask, pillow and blanket. Be sure to download your favorite movies and tv shows before your flight. While Air Tahiti Nui offers in-flight entertainment, it’s fairly limited on choices. You can preorder age-appropriate meals and snacks, all included in the ticket price. The Boeing Dreamliner offers spacious seats and windows can be dimmed digitally, allowing for an early bedtime before arrival.

Getting through customs is quick and easy, and visitors are greeted with fresh flowers and live music. But be sure to plan transportation from the Papeete airport to your Tahiti accommodations ahead of time. Flights from Seattle arrive late, and no one wants to find a taxi in a new place with tired kids.

An aerial view of Te Moana Resort in Tahiti
An aerial view of Te Moana Resort in Tahiti. Photo: courtesy Te Moana Resort

Where to stay: Located waterfront on the west side of the island, just 10 minutes from the airport, major landmarks, biking and hiking trails, Te Moana Resort is an ideal place to stay in Tahiti. Relax by the infinity pool with swim-up bar (complete with kid-friendly drinks), kayak in clear bottom boats and take in spectacular sunsets over the island of Moorea.

The pool has beautiful views and inviting water at Te Moana Pool
Grab drinks (including kid-friendly options) at the swim-up bar. Photo: courtesy Te Moana Resort

Accommodations range from standard rooms to three-bedroom options with full kitchens and dining space. An outdoor daily breakfast buffet is included, where you’ll spot a wandering rooster looking like he stepped straight out of the movie “Moana.”

What to do: Immerse yourselves in the bustling Tahiti markets and rich Polynesian culture. Both kids and adults will enjoy a visit to Papeete Market (Marché de Papeete). Open Monday–Saturday, it offers a wide array of goods for locals and visitors alike. Here you will find fresh-caught fish, grab-and-go cuisine, tropical fruits and exotic flowers. Merchants also sell local goods and souvenirs including handmade body oils, black Tahitian pearl jewelry, traditional art and clothing.

People shop at the public market in Tahit
Head to the market for fresh fruit and flowers. Photo: Lesa Linster

What to eat: Those wanting to jump headfirst into local fare should look no further than Vai'ete Square Night Market. Centrally located in Papeete along the waterfront, the Roulottes on Vai'ete Square are known for offering a wide variety of local and international cuisines. The market is packed full of diners and features more than a dozen food trucks along with live music and entertainment.

Don’t miss the chance to try poisson cru, widely considered the national dish of French Polynesia. It’s made up of raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk, and diced vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions. We were surprised what a hit it was with all three kids.

Boy smiling, eating lunch by the water in French Polynesia
Kids can enjoy trying new flavors when traveling around French Polynesia. Photo: Lesa Linster

Traveling to Bora Bora from Tahiti

Bora Bora, often referred to as the "Pearl of the Pacific," is famous for its overwater bungalows, incredible marine life and unparalleled beauty.

Getting there: Air Moana is a local inter-island airline launched in February 2023. They provide flights from Tahiti to Moorea, Bora Bora, Raiatea, Rangiroa, Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa. The carrier offers competitive fares, terrific service, and delightful snacks and drinks. An added bonus is the jaw dropping view over the 45-minute flight from Papeete to Bora Bora. Upon arrival you’ll be greeted with flower leis and guided to an open-air boat for the 15-minute ride to your resort.

Where to stay: Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora sets the gold standard for luxury family travel, providing a cultural paradise, impeccable service and unforgettable experiences. The property is a vast tropical grove, abundant with coconut palms, adorable Bora Bora gray crabs, and unobstructed sunrise views over the Pacific and sunsets over the towering Mount Otemanu.

Poolside accommodations at Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
Families can swim, play and relax at the resort. Photo: courtesy Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora

Accommodation options include overwater bungalow suites and spectacular beachfront villa estates. The one- and two-bedroom overwater bungalows are perched above Bora Bora’s inner lagoon at one of its most serene points, allowing you to swim directly off your deck with schools of fish, sting rays, eagles rays and black tip reef sharks (don’t worry, they’re harmless). The beachfront villas offer private infinity pools, white sand beaches, and expansive indoor and outdoor living spaces perfect for small groups and larger families.

Bungalows over the water at Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
Overwater bungalows offer views of the water and swimming access. Photo: courtesy Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora

Included in all stays are paddle boards, kayaks, snorkel gear and lifejackets. Kids each receive a Four Seasons Bora Bora suitcase, hat, water bottle, backpack and activity books. Additional in-room amenities include robes, slippers, flip flops sized to each family member, bug spray, after-sun mist and jars of handmade aloe salve. Be sure to learn the phrase “fresh towel.” These are essentially chilled, scented washcloths offered in many locations and perfect when it’s 85 degrees and humid.

Girl sitting on swing looking at beach and bungalows in Bora Bora
Relax on a beach swing with views of the water. Photo: Lesa Linster

The complimentary Kids Club is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Designed for kids ages 5 to 12, it features a splash pad, clubhouse, and activities such as canoe rides on the lagoon, fishing, hermit crab hunts, snorkeling, introduction to SCUBA, and jet skis for the more experienced.

Three kids playing on the beach with a yellow canoe
Kids can play on the beach and explore the resort. Photo: Lesa Linster

What to do: An absolute bucket list item is the ray and shark snorkeling safari by Lagoon Service Bora Bora. Guides pick you up at the dock and whisk you around the island, stopping in shallow waters to pet stingrays and in Bora Bora’s famous reef to swim with thousands of colorful tropical fish. Finally, you’ll cross the reef into open water for swimming with black tip and nurse sharks. Fresh fruit, coconut bread, drinks and towels are provided.

Lagoon Service Bora Bora boat in the water passing bungalows
A snorkeling safari is an adventure for kids and adults alike. Photo: courtesy Lagoon Service Bora Bora

Pack more reef-friendly sunscreen than you think you’ll need and plan to reapply every hour. The UV index can reach 12, which is uncharted territory for us PNW folks.

You’ll also want to make time to explore the Four Seasons Bora Bora snorkeling channels and alcoves leading from the property’s main beach to smaller lagoons. It’s often empty of people, and octopuses regularly make an appearance at dusk.

One unforgettable experience for our family was working with the resort’s on-site marine biologist to help in restoring surrounding coral reefs. In partnership with WiseOceans, the resort offers the opportunity to choose a salvaged piece of coral that has been broken but is still alive. Kids get to snorkel to the onsite coral nursery and secure it, where it will grow for 1 to 2 years before being placed back on the reef. In addition, they get to name their coral, tag it with an engraved pearl shell, and receive future updates and photos along its journey.

Three people exploring the reef through a Four Seasons Bora Bora program
Learn about the reef from an on-site marine biologist. Photo: courtesy Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora

Where to eat: There are several fine dining options to choose from across Bora Bora resorts, as well as more casual options in Vaitape, Bora Bora’s main town accessible from resorts by boat and ferry. A perfect combination of the two is the Four Seasons Faré Hoa Beach Bar & Grill. Set on the sandy shore of the lagoon, it’s an open-air restaurant with toes-in-the-sand charm. The lunch and dinner menus are friendly and inviting, offering some of the best food around made with fresh, local ingredients and cooked to perfection. Don’t miss the Tahitian fish, tuna poke bowl, and Tahitian lobster. For dessert (or any time of day) their fan-favorite sundae includes Tahitian vanilla ice cream, chocolate and caramel sauce, caramelized pecans, freshly made caramel popcorn, cookies and whipped cream.

Before you know it, it will be time to fly back home, taking with you unforgettable memories of delicious food, beautiful views and incredible ocean adventures.

More dreamy vacation ideas for your next getaway:

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