Ask the honeymoon expert

ASK HONEYMOON  EXPERTS: RENEE MEYER  

Owner/ Founder of Unforgettable HoneymoonsRenee Meyer Honeymoon Expert

Renee has been planning honeymoons and destination weddings since September of 1994 when she first started Unforgettable Honeymoons.

Her advice has been sought after by major news publications such as Newsweek, USA Today, LA Times and NY daily news.  She spends most of her time consulting couples who contact Unforgettable Honeymoons, and traveling the world to find new and exciting resorts to feature on the web site Unforgettable Honeymoons!

The preparation and planning for a honeymoon or romantic trip can be stressful and time consuming; couples spend hours online surfing for weeks to try to find answers! Its very frustrating trying to find an expert to assist in the area of honeymoons and romantic travel, that is why we have our ask the honeymoon expert page on our review site.

If you have a question for Renee, please email Renee and your question may be posted here on our site!

Shari Edwards and Mark Conlon ask:
We want to go to the South Pacific, but we are confused about the difference between Tahiti and the Fiji Islands! Can you tell us the difference?

Renee Meyer:
Honestly, this is the question that I hear very often at Unforgettable Honeymoons!   Most couples think that Fiji and Tahiti are the same destination!   Some even think Fiji is an island in Tahiti or vice versa.  Here are some  facts and information below.

There are significant differences between Tahiti and Fiji:

Most couples don't realize there are significant differences between these two island paradises. Making the wrong choice could ultimately lead to a disappointing honeymoon in the South Pacific. Many Couples look at images and photographs of destinations such as Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea and Fiji and make their decision based on what they see. They don't realize that the beauty of a destination is not enough to create the ultimate honeymoon experience and that planning a Tahiti Honeymoon or Fiji honeymoon is a lot more involved than just picking up the phone and booking a hotel or seeing a package online, thinking it’s perfect and expecting to have an amazing honeymoon.  It’s very important that honeymooners sit down and really discuss the type of experience they are looking for before jumping in and booking a trip that looks good – and that they consult a professional travel company who has a lot of experience with the South Pacific. 

The Basic Differences between Fiji and Tahiti:

Fiji Islands: Fiji consists of 330 mostly unspoiled islands, English speaking (Former British Colony) independent, and a 10 hour non stop flight from Los Angeles. (Flights almost nightly) Fiji is a 4 hour flight from Sydney, and 2 hours from New Zealand. Many couples stop in Sydney or New Zealand on their way to or from Fiji. *NOTE: you can also stop in Hawaii on the way to Fiji and the way back.

Tahiti/ French Polynesia: Tahiti is comprised of 118 islands spread over five great archipelagos; however there are only a handful of islands that actually can receive tourists. The main ones being the Island of Tahiti, Moorea, Le Tahaa, Rangiroa, Huahine, Manihi, and Bora Bora. Bora Bora being the most famous of these islands. Language French and Tahitian. Tahiti is an 8 hour non stop flight from Los Angeles. Tahiti is halfway between California and Australia. (7.5 hours flying time from LAX airport)French and Tahitian are the official languages, but English is spoken and understood in tourist areas. Brushing up on a few basic French phrases and learning Tahitian greetings are appreciated.

A Couple Asks:
Do Fiji and Tahiti Look the Same?

Renee Meyer:
You'll find stellar white sand beaches in both Fiji and Tahiti. Both have beautiful mountain ranges, valleys and lush green landscape. Both are absolutely stunning! The ocean is crystal clear, turquoise and warm at both locations. There are many more islands that are closer together in Fiji making it easy to island hop without an airplane, whereas inTahiti you need to fly between islands.

Fiji Resort Style: Private Island Hideaways

In Fiji there are very few big chain hotels whereas in Tahiti mainly consists of larger corporate chain hotels (even though the rooms are bungalows they are run by Sheratons, Hiltons, ect)

Most of Fiji resorts are individually owned islands run by families, or resort management groups.

Fiji's resorts are all bungalows (in Fiji they call them "Bures") style hideaways geared for couples and romance. A typical Fijian island hideaway is on its "own" or shared island and consists of anywhere from 1 to 50 or so bures,  a main dining bure, a water sports center and spa. Each bure is free standing and beachfront, some may be set back from the beach and even some yet may be "tree house" bures. The private island Fiji hideaways are usually owned by individuals from Australia or the US. Many of the Fiji island resorts offer meals and most activities to guests, alleviating the stress of economic decision making throughout the day. Private picnics, snorkeling, guided hikes, meals, tips, all of these are usually included with the total price.

Tahiti Resort Style: Large Chain Hotels offer bungalow accommodations

Tahiti  accommodations are more similar to Hawaii. Larger chain hotels such as Sheraton, Sofitel, Intercontinental, and Four Seasons dominate this island paradise. The rooms however are very different than Hawaiian resorts. The rooms in Tahiti are mostly bungalows. Free standing garden, beach and overwater bungalows. All resorts have restaurants, pool areas, spas, and concierge. Everything is out of pocket- all of your meals, drinks, activities, snorkeling trips, luaus, ect. There are no "all inclusive" resorts in Tahiti and guests need to be prepared to budget $500+ USD per day , per couple to cover costs for meals, drinks and activities. These are the most expensive islands in the world to travel to for Americans, everything costs about double the normal rate we are accustomed to in the USA.

Overall Feel at a Fiji Resort Hideaway: Guests feel the ultimate in privacy while surrounded by unspoiled paradise. You never will feel bored, there are endless activities and day trips you can take. The Fijian staff are friendly, warm and very interactive with the guests. Most meals and activities are included eliminating the need to carry around your wallet. Staff members check on guests often making sure all of their needs are met. Fijians are the friendliest people and you'll learn the word "Bula" very quickly (it means hello in Fijian) at most hideaways you can just take a hike or nature walk right from your room, take out a kayak, or snorkel right off the beach.

Overall Feel at a Tahiti Resort: Guests will enjoy the feel of a full service resort complete with work out rooms, internet rooms, variety of restaurants and bars. Most hotels in Tahiti have a concierge to help guests make restaurant reservations, set up snorkel trips, ect. Guests need to create their own itinerary in Tahiti. Staff operate more like that of a Hawaiian or Caribbean Hotel. The feel of the resorts is much like the Caribbean, Hawaii- guests lay by the pool, lay out on the beach, ect. The value for the US dollar is very low in Tahiti making it a bit frustrating for US citizens.

TYPICAL PRICES IN TAHITI , BORA BORA, MOOREA:

- MAI TAI OR PINA COLADA $25-30 INCLUDING TAX

- BREAKFAST FOR TWO IN RESTAURANT : $150-200.00; BREAKFAST IN ROOM $250

- DINNER FOR TWO $250- $300.00; DINNER IN ROOM $400

- MASSAGE FOR 50 MINUTES $180

- SNORKEL TRIP for two W/ SHARK FEED $300

- JET SKI RENTAL $300 ONE HOUR

- T SHIRT $50.00

Things to do in Tahiti:

There are a few excursions and things to do but not as many as one may think! It is more of a laid back destination kick your shoes off and relax!   In Bora Bora - you can see the entire island in 10 minutes, its very small. There are only 2 excursions to speak of- a snorkel trip w/ shark feeding and a 4x4 island tour. Both take about 2 hours to complete and cost $300 for two.

Moorea has an ATV tour for $300 that is very good,  you can rent a jeep and see the island in about one hour.  This will cost $100.00. there are snorkel trips as well.

There are no real “shopping” areas on either island. Tahiti has some shopping in the main port area.

Go to Tahiti if you have your heart set on an overwater bungalow and want a lot of relaxation and down time. It’s a great place to lay back, read a book and take in the beautiful scenery. Do not go if you are at all bothered by very high prices, and being charged for everything, this can add undue stress on your honeymoon.

Things you CAN do on a Fiji Honeymoon-

Private Picnics: The two of you can be dropped off on your own remote beach for the day with a gourmet lunch and no interruptions- either for no charge*  or only about $25.00 per person USD depending on what island you stay on in Fiji. You can even picnic on the same beach that Tom Hanks filmed castaway on) *some resorts include private picnics.

Private Dinner on the beach, under the stars for no extra charge- an amazingly romantic way to dine that you’ll never forget. Some islands provide some live music as well, the band members will stop by your table and play a romantic Fijian song.

(most islands in Fiji allow you to do this at least once during your stay for no charge)

Visit an authentic Fijian village and learn about the culture, meet the people

(like a National Geographic experience on your honeymoon, truly the highlight of your honeymoon. Impossible to do in Tahiti)

Buy authentic handicrafts - dirt cheap. Its shop till you drop there with the US dollar being so strong in Fiji . (Pay $50.00 just for just a T shirt in Bora Bora)

Drink KAVA and enjoy LIVE traditional music: every night in Fiji no matter where you are staying you can participate in a traditional Fijian cultural ritual of Kava drinking. you connect with the local culture and learn Fijian songs and folklore. Truly one of the highlights of a Fijian honeymoon will be your nightly Kava and music fix with the Fijian staff.

Dive the Somosomo Straits. Fiji is the soft coral capitol of the world. It is truly a world class diving destination.

GET MARRIED LEGALLY- You can get married legally in Fiji with no waiting period. Fiji weddings are recognized in the USA as a legal wedding. Fiji Honeymoons and Fiji Weddings

Overall, Fiji may be a better choice for couples who are seeking:

A high level of seclusion and privacy-many of the resorts only allow 5-20 couples at a time, this makes a Fiji honeymoon one of the most private types of honeymoons worldwide. You won’t have to worry about getting bored- there are a million things to see and do in Fiji.

Connections with the local culture - visiting a Fijian village is one of the highlights of a Fiji Honeymoon vacation- the people in Fiji still live in remote villages on the islands, they have no electricity, tv, or computers. They live off the land, in communities. They help each other, are happy and always smiling. Meeting the people and visiting their villages will change your outlook on life!

World class diving and phenomenal snorkeling everywhere - FIJI is the SOFT CORAL CAPITAL of the world. Soft Corals are by far the most interesting and beautiful to see under the water. Most Fiji resorts have PADI instruction and a myriad of dive sites within minutes of the island. Many couples choose to take a Scuba Dive course on their Fiji honeymoon. The snorkeling off the beach at some resorts is some of the best snorkeling reefs in the world and you can spend hours snorkeling the reefs for no charge (plus most resorts include free snorkel trips- in Bora Bora or Hawaii you’ll spend nearly $250 or $300 for a snorkel trip with lunch.

A great value for the dollar (the best in the South Pacific)- a Fiji honeymoon is a lot more cost effective than a Tahiti Honeymoon because of the strength of the US Dollar in Fiji. $1.00 US dollar buys $2.00 Fiji dollar, while our dollar is similar to the Euro In Tahiti making everything so much more expensive!

A legally recognized wedding- You can get married on the beach in Fiji and its completely legal. There are no blood tests to take, and very little paperwork to do beforehand. Most resorts take care of all of the paperwork the day of arrival. You can get married the next day in Fiji.

Pampering by hotel staff - The staff to guest ratio at Fiji resorts is much higher than that of Tahitian resorts. The result- staff who know you by your first name within the first couple of days of your visit. The staff are attentive to your needs much more so than that of a big chain resort. You’ll connect a lot more with the local culture and people of Fiji, and this will be a great enhancement to your trip.

Exotic spa services and treatments - at a reasonable rate. Spa services in Fiji are less than 1/2 the price of Tahiti or Hawaii. A full one hour massage at most island hideaways runs about $60-80 USD. and, there is no tipping in Fiji .You’ll pay $175-250.00 for a one hour massage at a  5 star hotel in Bora Bora/ Tahiti.

Privacy: Fiji is 330 islands and a lot more spread out as compared to Tahiti. You’ll feel a lot more privacy in Fiji - one island in Fiji the same size as all of Bora Bora has only one resort with just 17 bures-(Maximum 34 guests) while the entire island of Bora Bora is the same size  as just one island in Fiji,  but has thousands of hotel rooms and couples sharing this one island. The beaches are not all that private or secluded here.

Brandon Davenport asks:
Renee, we are getting married and leaving for our honeymoon the next day. I am worried my fiance will not be able to get on the plane because her name will change after we are married. should we book her airline tickets under her new married name?

Renee Meyer:
Brandon - Your fiance should definitely book her tickets under her maiden name! Her name legally will not change to yours over night, in fact it will be a bit of work to change her name to yours! She will have to go to DMV and stand in line with her marriage certificate in hand to change her license- then, she will have to mail the passport agency her marriage certificate and pay a fee to change her passport. This will take weeks, or even a couple of months.