In November we spent 7 nights on Bora Bora, 6 nights on Moorea, and 1 night on Tahiti. Total we spent $292.37 on food for the two of us. That’s $146.19 per person. Or, that’s $10.44 per person, per day. Now that might be more impressive if you know that food on these private islands is extremely expensive. Small sandwiches in some of the hotels will be over $20 + tax.
So how did we do it?
There were two main strategies for eating on the cheap, and neither need to involve eating at the hotel. Ever.
First, pack a bag of groceries. Air Tahiti Nui allows 50kg of bags (which is a lot), and since I have Alaska status, we got free checked bags to Tahiti on Air France.
Second, is to try to find cheap local food.
Also, to quick catch you up so far, previous posts talk about:
- How we got two weeks of free hotels in Bora Bora, Moorea, and Tahiti
- Using airline miles to get to Tahiti
- How to get from Bora Bora Airport (BOB) to the InterContinental Hotels for cheap
- Comparing IC’s in Bora Bora: the InterContinental Thalasso vs Le Moana
Now we’ll talk about how we ate for cheap, and tell you the specific places we found that were cheap local spots.
There is a grocery store a block away from the InterContinental Le Moana. Most things are double the the cost back home. A bag of chips will cost $4 instead of $2. And a loaf of bread will cost $4 instead of $2.
On the island you can buy bread for relatively cheap and a number of other needed items.
In the rooms we’re left to a water boiler and a few mugs. We brought utensils, a can opener, and a few random things.
But since we knew food was going to be expensive, and since we were going to be checking bags anyways (due to a long layover in Seattle where we’d go into town), we checked an extra bag entirely of food. Most all of it was gone by the time we left Bora Bora.
What we packed:
- Canned chicken
- Snacks and condiments
Coucous with seasoned canned chicken was fantastic and easy to make. One day we bought some cheese from the market and that made a great addition.
Mom decided to bring mayonnaise and mustard, not my first picks for packing but it turned out well for sandwiches. Used the canned chicken and the bread and cheese from the local market. Inexpensive and good.
Oatmeal was another great addition because it packs small and bulks up with water. We got a 24 pack of different flavored oatmeal packets and having oatmeal in a packet is just as good as getting it from the expensive hotel breakfast. Really. It was one of the smartest buys/packs.
Ramen took up a bit of space and obviously it isn’t great dining. But it’s cheap. However, I hated the ramen.
I went half a week before having to break open the ramen. Sandwiches, couscous, and food from the local market lasted us a while. After two days with ramen for lunch we said, “why don’t we take the shuttle to the main island tomorrow morning”, despite it being our last day at the Thalasso.
Any suggestions for what to pack from a US grocery store to bring and cook with just hot water in a mug? Or not cook at all? And thing’s that are space efficient?
Eating Cheap Local Food
Again, we live out of hotels, so the idea of eating overpriced hotel food is no longer exciting. But if the goal is to try local places, you don’t have to eat at the hotel.
Most hotels have a shuttle to town, and the IC Le Moana is near some places.
Even the grocery store near the Le Moana has a number of cheap options.
- They sell an entire rotisserie style chicken for about $11. It’s good and a lot of food. Can make sandwiches the next day.
- They have chicken, ham, or beef sandwiches for $3.
- They have little rice meals – like fried rice, or rice and chicken – for about $7.
That’s about all the premade meals I can think of. Otherwise it’s just a small grocery store. Also, you can get a cold 1.5L water for $1.
If you can do a $3 sub for lunch, oatmeal for breakfast, and one of the grocery options for dinner… $10 – $15 a day for two people is possible. If you want to eat out a bit, there are restaurants nearby.
I will say, dinner is tough from the Thalasso as they try to keep you on base by charging for the ferry departing Thalasso after 5pm, and the one before that is 2:15pm. Hmm… I would take the 4pm over, know that you can return to Thalasso anytime before 10pm, but 2:15 is way too early for dinner.
But if you’re at the Le Moana, or you shuttle over for lunch, you have a few options…
Let me get specific.
Cheap food near the InterContinental Le Moana
The pizza at the hotel is about $11 (1,300 XPF). However, like all the hotels they charge something like $15 for room service delivery. So I ordered it and then picked it up at the bar. A total joke, but I totally avoided the $15 fee.
There are a number of restaurants in walking distance. You can see them on Tripadvisor, or by walking out any direction (or on the public beach).
The grocery store. 2 minute walk. Walk out (right) to the main road, then take a right (going north east) and it’s on the left. If you don’t see it in 30 seconds… they must be closed.
Cheap food near the InterContinental Thalasso
Take the ferry (as discussed in How to Get from the BOB Airport to the InterContinentals for Cheap) to the Le Moana, then you have the options above.
Cheap food near the InterContinental Moorea
There is a place right across the street that is not good, except they have lots of bottled water. It’s a convenience store and pearl jewler. Of the food options, you pretty much have chips, chips, and chips.
But right down the road is a great store with funky hours.
Take a right out of the hotel (going north) and walk for .4 miles. You will pass a smaller place that’s always closed at the bottom of the hill – it’s half way to the real store. A “magasin” which is what it says on all the grocery stores.
Some mornings they have pre-made sandwiches, egg rolls, mini quiches, etc, but those items go quickly.
Also even though the sign says they’re open from 6 am to 6:30 pm every day except Sundays (when it closes by 10 am,) we definitely went during “open” hours and found it closed. Maybe it was a holiday? It’s a mystery.
Cheap food near the Hilton Moorea
We were there two nights using our free weekend night certs.
When leaving the hotel turn right (west). Near the public beach/park is another magasin, but even smaller. It’s .7 miles away, so still walking distance, but a little further than the IC Moorea. On the other hand, there is more in that area. You might see some places on the way to grab a bite for a reasonable price. The Hilton is further from the grocery store by a little, but has more options in the general area.
There are a number of options a 10 minute walk away. Turn left out of the IC as if you’re going to walk to the airport. At first you’re really just walking on the sidewalk with nothing but a road. But at the bottom you start seeing shops.
There is a big grocery store, and a gas station if the grocery store is closed.
There is a food truck that has some random options. Grilled meats, and random asian food.
We got the lo-mein and is was sooooo huge that the two of us couldn’t finish it all. And it was only $10 for two people! Compare that to the $24 burgers.
But Tahiti is the main island and the cheapest island (except still painfully expensive for taxis). There are plenty of good options in the area, but in this case you just have to walk a little ways to get to them.
Now I need to mention that the fancy restaurants will come pick you up (“free shuttle”), but these places are just as expensive as the hotel. We went to a reasonable place that does a free shuttle, and it was very upselly. Every wine and dessert declined came with a sour face. And the well rated places are very expensive.