Review: Le Meridien Tahiti Nui

A delirious traveler groggy from the redeye from LAX to PPT (Los Angles to Papeete) would be pleased to arrive at the Le Meridien.  This beautiful pink A-frame luxury resort is tucked away from the main road about 10 minutes outside of Tahiti’s capital, Papeete.  A cab will take you straight to the hotel for about 2500 to 3000 XPF or a little more than 25 to 30 dollars.  But if you’re looking to save some money, hopping a bus to the hotel is simple and will run you only 250 XPF or about 3 dollars a person.  We did hear from one traveler who was denied passage on the bus because his bags were too big – so take that into consideration.  However, if you think you can handle a little adventure, simply cross the parking lot from the airport and climb the stone steps up to the roadway.  A bus stop is to your right.  Several buses may pass, and eventually you may have to wave one down to get it to stop.  Once it does – simply tell the driver you’re going to Le Meridien and hope they can help guide you off at the right time.  The drivers do NOT speak English, and may respond with a blank stare.  The bus will wind past several round abouts and make a slight right onto an on ramp before continuing about three minutes to the hotel.  If you’re not looking to save a few bucks or aren’t up for an adventure – just hop in a cab instead.

The hotel itself reminds me of something from a high roller’s club in the 70s, but for the most part it has been tastefully updated.  However, don’t expect Le Meridien to be up to par with the high-end, luxury resorts of Bora Bora.

Upon arrival, you’ll climb several stairs leading to a beautiful, open-air, A-frame entrance with breathtaking views over a coy pond built onto the roof of the restaurant and past the sand-bottom pool to the Pacific Ocean.  We arrived about 7am before the resort was operating in full swing, but still found the service at the front desk to be very slow.  Our room wasn’t ready – our fault not theirs – so we were given the keys to a ‘transition room’ to shower and change if we wanted.  We opted for our free breakfast buffet instead (since we are Starwood Platinum, we chose breakfast as our free amenity).  The buffet is expansive, and the price is right on par with what you would pay at an luxury island resort – 3500 XPF per person.  The platinum breakfast option does not include the “hot bar”, but boasts a plentiful supply of fresh fish, rice, island fruits, yogurt, milk, a selection of cheeses and meats, an array of breads including some delectable chocolate croissants, juices, coffee, tea, etc.

Once we were sufficiently stuffed, we opted to use the travelers room to change into our bathing suits.  Big mistake.  It was filthy.  Towels littered the floor, the trash was overflowing and it smelled terribly.  We changed as quickly as possible and darted for the pool.

Ahhh…the pool.  It’s by far the highlight of the resort.  The beautiful blue fresh water stretches between two groomed beaches atop a sand floor.  Chairs are strategically placed with umbrellas between for instant protect from the often harsh French Polynesia sun.  A hundred yards yonder stretches the ocean and a handful of over-the-water cabanas.  The cool waters and swaying palm trees make this one of the most beautiful and peaceful pools I’ve ever visited.

When you check in, you’ll be given vouchers for pool towels, which you then hand over in exchanged for towels at the cabana near the pool and receive back when you return your towels.  The same cabana is where you can pick up free snorkels, masks and fins as well as sign out free kayaks.

The hotel itself is a little dated, but it’s clean.  Throughout our stay the service continued to be slow it albeit non-exsistent. It always took a long while to get the attention of a front desk attendant or the concierge to answer any questions.

We were placed on the Starwood Preferred Guest floor directly above the lobby overlooking the same coy pond you see at check in.  The room is spacious with a wonderfully large bed and soft bedding.  A beautiful expresso maker graces the desk – but it took us a while to figure out how to make a long-drip American coffee.  Eventually, we did but not before spewing hot steam everywhere.

The bathroom was a little outdated but boasts two sinks, a make up mirror, a deep tub and a separate stand up shower, which had a little mold along the caulking.

At night, the music from the lobby and restaurant/bar area can be overpowering so if you’re thinking about making it an early night, you may want to reconsider.  It doesn’t lend itself to a quiet evening.  On Saturday nights the hotel offers a traditional French Polynesia dance show and all you can eat seafood buffet.  In my opinion the 8500 XPF is way too much to pay, but for many it’s a once in a lifetime trip and opportunity and they are willing to shell out the extra money.  If you still want to enjoy the show, but not necessarily the buffet – you can! It’s something the hotel doesn’t necessarily advertise except to place a small notice on the bar table, but for 500 XPF you can grab a seat at the bar on the balcony overlooking the stage and watch the show.  Ordering food and drinks isn’t required, but most people enjoy a light meal and a couple cocktails during the show, and it still totals much less than pricy admission to sit and eat below.

Overall, for the price – I would expect a little more, but I still enjoyed my stay immensely and would recommend it.