The main island of Tahiti is an often overlooked, but incredibly special destination. From towering waterfalls, pearl markets, epic surf waves and beautiful beaches, Tahiti has so much to offer. So if you’re planning a trip to French Polynesia, be sure to stop in Papeete and the surrounding towns for a few days of exploring. We had the opportunity to stay at the newly converted Ia Ora Beach Resort, now managed by Sofitel. We’re excited to tell you all about it so read on!
The Ia Ora Beach Resort is approximately 10-15 minutes from the airport, making it a particularly convenient hotel if you arrive late at night. Situated on a large lagoon, the resort is truly beachfront, with stunning sunset views.
Taxis will run you approximately $35-45 dollars to the airport (depending on the time of day). Papeete, the central town on Tahiti is approximately 20 minutes away. There are a handful of restaurants located just outside the driveway of the hotel, and it’s easy to get there by foot.
The resort is wide and does have expansive views. The beach itself is fairly small, the but pool has a “built-in” beach, where most families hung out during the day.
Lobby & Check in experience: 4/5
We arrived around 12:30pm and were greeted with mango juice and cold towels. It was a welcome reprieve from the humid, sunny day we were having! Our room was not yet ready, but we were provided with a free drink coupon for the two of us and we went to explore the property. The offer of a complimentary beverage was a nice treat, and something that we have rarely received in the past if our room wasn’t ready before check in time.
The lobby itself is open air, with ample seating. There is typically a fountain along the edge that looks out towards the grounds, but it was unfortunately drained during our stay. There is usually lots of seating, and even a bar, in the lobby, but everything was shut down presumably due to the fountain. Regardless, there is a beautiful view from the lobby and I’m certain when the fountains are running, it’s spectacular.
When we were able to check in around 3pm, we quickly found our way to our 5th floor Panoramic View Room. The view itself is of the property and the lagoon in the horizon from our balcony. Since we were in the main tower, we did look directly over the fountains, which again, would be lovely if the fountains were running.
The room itself is 515 square feet (48 square meters) and has a large king bed in the center, facing an inset TV. Note: the TV has only one English channel (CNN). The room is newly updated, with new flooring, decor and light fixtures. There are some wonderfully Tahitian elements, such as the lighting fixture in the corner as well as the cool matching decal on the balcony doors.
The bathroom is spacious and contains a standing tub, free-standing shower and a double vanity. We enjoyed the Lanvin products in the bathroom (although find it odd that the upgraded room categories are provided Hermes products).
The closet is the only part of the room that feels disjointed. There is very little hanging space and almost no shelving to put clothes on in the closet. Most of the hanging space is consumed by the ironing board, making it difficult to fit more than a few articles on the hanging space.
Lastly, there is a strange piece of art hanging in the entrance-way of the room. We couldn’t quite figure it out and it was strangely aggressive feeling for a beach resort. Let us know in the comments if you can figure out what it is:
Overall, the room was very comfortable, quiet and we enjoyed its central location on property.
These days, it’s hard to rate a hotel 5 stars if they are missing a gym. Health and wellness have become such a critical part for many people’s travels. The hotel also did not provide in-room weights or access to a neighborhood gym, which may have made up for the lack of facilities.
Despite this, the hotel is beachfront and they provide both pool and beach service. The pool has a sand bottom and mimics a beach, which is super unique. They also provide complimentary snorkeling gear (with fins) as well as kayaks and paddle boards.
The Sofitel offers a couple of on-property dining experiences: Le Carre and La Plantation. Le Carre is the fine-dining option on one side and the casual restaurant on the other. The high-end side is oceanfront and offers a couple of pre-fixe menus starting at around $70 per person. We did dine here one evening and absolutely loved it. The quality of the food and the service were exceptional. The dessert we ordered was served literally on top of the table, by the pastry chef.
The casual side of Le Carre was quite disappointing. We ate dinner there on the second night and found it to be a stark contrast from the fine-dining side of the house. They claimed to be out of butter for the bread, served us white vinegar instead of balsamic (have you ever smelled white vinegar? woof) and the service was very slow. We are hoping that we happened to be there on an off night, since the experience the night before was so exceptional.
The breakfast was a large buffet, but it’s worth noting that the property caters more to the locals than to their guests during brunch on Sundays. Therefore, Sunday brunch was incredibly packed and many guests had to wait for a table. The buffet was also very different on Sunday and they swapped out their usual fresh-squeezed orange juice for the non-fresh kind. The theme of swapping out food seemed to permeate the rest of the buffet as well. I will say, however, that their croissants were to die for.
Overall, the service was excellent. As with most Tahitian people we have met, people are so kind, helpful and friendly. Housekeeping was prompt, efficient and very polite as well. While we stayed on property, Max’s parents were there as well and my mother-in-law became so close with some of the staff that a lovely woman even gifted her a beautiful pearl bracelet when we left.
As mentioned, we had one dinner experience that was less than excellent, but we choose to assume we were there on an off night and was not the norm.
The style of the Ia Ora Beach Resort is modern with Tahitian elements throughout. The updates Sofitel has made to the resort are high-end and clean-feeling. We really enjoyed the cohesive feeling of the property and absolutely loved the Tahitian patterns and designs elegantly placed throughout the property.
The sandy bottom pool was another unique feature of the resort, and while we did not spend much time in it, it was a beautiful view from our room and families on property loved it.
Overall, the Ia Ora Beach Resort is an excellent option if you’re looking for a relaxing, beach-focused vacation while on Tahiti. It serves as a great home base for exploring the beautiful island, particularly if you’re planning to island hop before or after your stay.
Disclaimer: We were hosted by the Ia Ora Beach Resort, Tahiti. The opinions expressed do not represent the hotel’s opinions.