The Best Airport Hotel in the World? A Review of the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa

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Located just over a mile from the biggest airport in French Polynesia, the InterContinental Tahiti Resort and Spa is undoubtedly the best airport hotel I’ve ever seen.

To say the InterContinental Tahiti is an airport hotel is a little bit of a stretch, I’ll admit. The property boasts multiple pools, overwater bungalows, a full “Lagoonarium” stocked with sea turtles and diverse fish species, a watersports center, a swim-up bar, and three on-property restaurants.

But one of its best features is its proximity to Papeete Airport (PPT) – the biggest airport in French Polynesia and the connecting hub for flights to and from any of the nearby islands.

 

Overwater bungalow at sunset

 

PPT’s daily flight schedule is loaded with early morning departures and arrivals, meaning travelers often need an overnight layover to make their itineraries work. Enter the InterContinental Tahiti, which acts as an airport hotel but in reality is really much more.

 

IHG Tahiti exterior

 

It may not have the modern amenities of the highest-end IHG resorts on the island of Bora Bora and it’s certainly not the nicest place to stay in French Polynesia. Some aspects of the resort, like the rooms themselves, are probably in need of an update.

But if you’re looking for a one or two-night stay on a bigger trip to French Polynesia, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a better option than the InterContinental Tahiti.

I stayed at this resort for a night before an early morning flight out of PPT in October and – spoiler alert – I loved my experience. Read on for my full review.

 

Getting to the InterContinental Tahiti: Location & Check-In

Location is key for the InterContinental Tahiti, and the rest is really just gravy. Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia, and that’s where you’ll find the country’s biggest international airport: Papeete Airport (PPT). Right next to it is the InterContinental.

 

Intercontinental Tahiti French Polynesia

 

In fact, the hotel is so close to the airport, that I literally walked there in the early afternoon of the day I checked in. The walk was two kilometers long, or about 1.3 miles.

Had my wife been with me or if I had a bigger suitcase, I may have opted for a taxi instead. But as it was, I just had a backpack, so I hoofed it along sidewalks the whole way. It was not a tough walk if you choose to do the same.

 

Walk to IHG Tahiti

 

On my way back to the airport the following morning, I opted to book a taxi (which the front desk did for me at check-in.) It cost me $20 with tip, which was exactly as was quoted to me by the front desk employee.

The proximity to the airport means you get a great view of some of Air Tahiti’s beautiful white and red ATR 72 planes coming in from the other islands of French Polynesia but without tons of constant airport noise.

But the best part of this resort’s location is its view of the nearby island of Mo’orea.

 

Moorea from IHG Tahiti

 

Oh, and the sunset view was screensaver-worthy, too. It stopped me in my tracks on my way back to my room from dinner. Stunner!

 

Sunset at Intercontinental Tahiti

 

Check-in is straightforward and pleasant at the InterContinental Tahiti. The entryway to the indoor-outdoor lobby points you right toward a view of the ocean and Mo’orea. The check-in desk is inside and to the left, while the concierge desk is on the right.

 

IHG Tahiti resort

 

There was only one person in line in front of me as I went to check in in the early afternoon. The red ropes creating a line snake made me think that crowds do tend to swell at check-in here from time to time. I was back in the lobby area a few hours later and there was still no line, however.

 

Check-in IHG Tahiti

 

The lobby itself is spacious and nice. Getting the ocean breeze through the hotel lobby was really lovely.

 

IHG Tahiti Lobby

 

At check-in, I was given a free drink coupon for having IHG Platinum Elite status. I redeemed it at the lobby bar and hung out in this lobby sitting area for an hour or so. It was a little rainy and cloudy the day I arrived, but this was a nice spot to wait out the weather.

 

Lobby area

 

The next morning gave me a first-light look at the lobby area, too.

 

Lobby area IHG

 

And, of course, the view from this lobby balcony is spectacular. Below you can see the main pool area, the Lagoonarium behind it, and then the nicest overwater bungalows at the resort behind that.

 

IHG Tahiti view from lobby

 

In the distance are the high mountains of Mo’orea island.

 

InterContinental Tahiti Property

The InterContinental Tahiti is a large, sprawling property with a focus on the ocean and its Lagoon area.

 

IHG Tahiti resort map

 

This map shows where all of the main hotel rooms at the resort are, as well as the overwater bungalows, watersports center, the theater, and the tennis courts in the back.

After checking in, you can either walk or, if you have lots of luggage, be driven in a souped-up golf cart to the building that houses your room.

 

Walkways through IHG Tahiti

 

The buildings all blend in nicely with the surroundings. There are three or four stories on each of the buildings, but nothing that extends far into the sky.

 

IHG Tahiti rooms

 

On the far south end of the property is the Le Lotus area. Below is a photo of the Le Lotus pool – an infinity pool with an island on it overlooking the ocean. It was deserted when I went down as I swooped in right after the rain stopped.

 

Swim up pool bar Le Lotus

 

Thrifty Tip: Have a long layover in Tahiti, but don’t need to spend the night? You can purchase day passes to the Le Lotus Pool! For $80 on weekdays or $95 on weekends for adults, you can lounge poolside instead of in the airport terminal. It’s a great option for travelers who want to soak up the sun and relax. There are bathrooms right next to the pool to allow you to shower and change before your flight, too. Beats an airport lounge!

The Le Lotus pool area was the better of the two pools, in my opinion, although many families opted for the larger main pool.

 

Le Lotus beach pool

 

Le Lotus also offers a hot tub and a swim-up bar (in the background of the photo below). The swim-up bar was a fun touch. I had a great mojito looking out at Mo’orea over the ocean.

 

Hot tub pool swim up bar

 

This little bridge to an island at Le Lotus was also cute. It’s mostly a photo op, but a pretty good one when the clouds aren’t covering Mo’orea.

 

Island at Le Lotus pool

 

All over the resort are lounging areas like this. There were hundreds and hundreds of seats. I’m sure on sunny days these are full.

 

Pagoda seating

 

On the Le Lotus side of the resort is one set of overwater bungalows shown here.

 

Overwater bungalows

 

Back at the main building of the resort, where I checked in, is the main pool. The shallow splashy area is good for kids and families. As the weather grew sunnier throughout the day, more and more families found their way out here.

 

Main pool IHG Tahiti

 

There are hundreds more chairs and umbrellas set up all around the main pool, too.

 

Main pool

 

The most unique (and in my opinion, coolest) part of this resort is its sprawling Lagoonarium, also called the Fare l’a Reserve, a natural aquarium that showcases and preserves some of Tahiti’s reef ecosystem. I saw huge sea turtles, some baby turtles, and more colorful fish than I’ve ever seen in this little habitat.

The Lagoonarium is meticulously cared for and its full-time staff tend to it nearly all the time. You can do a 1-hour guided tour of the Lagoonarium as a hotel guest to learn all about the sea turtles, too.

 

Aquarium IHG Tahiti

 

You can even lounge around and swim on one half of the Lagoonarium, too.

At night, a small part of the Lagoonarium is kept lit up, too, so you can see some of the fish milling about underneath a bridge. I failed to grab a picture in my moment of awe.

 

Lagoonarium

 

All the way around the Lagoonarium and throughout the resort are these walkways. At night, they’re subtly lit to help you get around while still keeping the sky dark.

 

Walkway around the lagoonarium

 

This event space (below), which the hotel calls the “theatre” is where the InterContinental hosts weekly “cultural demonstrations.” While there was no demonstration the day I visited, they included Pareu (or skirt) knotting, coconut opening, basketweaving, dancing, and more.

 

Performance area

 

Visible from the main pool area and a short, 2-minute walk away is the watersports center. From here, you can rent jet skis, go out on boats, or do just about any other water-themed excursion you could imagine.

 

Watersports center

 

Behind the theatre and the Lagoonarium are the newer overwater bungalows, too.

 

Overwater bungalow 2

 

InterContinental Tahiti Rooms

The room I booked was a King Classic Garden View, but the room I was given faced the ocean. It’s possible my room was upgraded somehow due to my IHG elite status, although they never informed me.

 

Room IHG Tahiti wide shot

 

Either way, the room itself was about as basic a hotel room as I’ve stayed in. It’s a short hallway with a bathroom in it, a closet, a bed, a TV and desk, and a window.

 

Room hallway

 

Everything about the space screamed ordinary hotel room.

 

Hallway closet

 

The jacuzzi took up much of the bathroom, which was nice and spacious. It was a more than comfortable hotel room bathroom. And the tap water is drinkable at the InterContinental Tahiti, which is a luxury we really take for granted in the U.S.

 

Bathroom IHG Tahiti

 

The double bathroom vanity was a nice touch as well.

 

IHG Tahiti

 

The toilet and shower both had their own rooms within the bathroom, opposite the jacuzzi tub.

 

Toilet and shower IHG Tahiti

 

This Tiki Tahiti soap is the soap of choice throughout French Polynesia. I saw it everywhere. There was also body lotion available next to the sink.

 

Bathroom mirror and soaps

 

From the window side, you can see the room is fairly spacious. There’s a chair on the left side of the room and another at the desk.

 

Room wide shot

 

The desk had an arsenal of outlets, including a built-in adapter for U.S. plug-ins, too. There were USB ports and regular power outlets, too. This came in handy the night before a long-haul flight back to the States. I left with everything at 100%.

 

Desk

 

The piece of paper on the desk alerted guests to the mayflies that tend to swarm around the resort at sundown. They recommended keeping your doors closed during the hour around sundown. I did not experience any of them the day I was there, however.

The Wi-Fi at the InterContinental Tahiti was speedy and reliable.

 

IHG Tahiti Wi-Fi

 

The free “Standard Plan” was more than powerful enough to stream some Netflix to fall asleep to and to download a ton of content onto my iPad for the flight home the next day.

When I arrived, the hotel had these treats laid out for me as well. They didn’t last an hour…

 

Welcome treat

 

But the best part of the rooms is these small patios. The table and two chairs look out over the Le Lotus pool, swim-up bar, restaurant, and the ocean behind it.

 

Patio and doors

 

The view from this bottom floor room was great. I was pleased with how well-kept the property was. They spared few details in the landscaping here.

 

View from the room IHG Tahiti

 

Restaurants and Bars

The InterContinental Tahiti Resort and Spa has a few great options for food and drink.

It all starts in the lobby at the – you guessed it – lobby bar!

 

Lobby bar

 

The lobby bar has premium spirits, wine, and beer. They whipped me up a mojito that I loved. It also boasts fantastic ocean views and views of the rest of the resort.

If you’re making a quick getaway in the morning, the lobby bar also sells a light breakfast and coffee.

On the first floor of the main building is the tiki bar (left) and the main dining restaurant (right).

 

Tiki Bar and main restaurant exterior

 

The main restaurant is a high-end buffet for dinner and breakfast every day. There were dozens of employees buzzing around setting up the buffet (right) when I was leaving my dinner at the Tiki Bar.

The spread looked phenomenal. If I’d been with a travel companion or family, this would have been a great option.

 

Main restaurant buffet setup

 

For my one dinner, however, I opted for an early bird dinner at the Tiki Bar.

This extremely blue drink, called the Ruahatu, had tequila, triple sec, and something called “Spicy Blue Curaçao Syrup”. Whatever it was, I was a fan.

 

Tiki Bar cocktail popcorn and olives

 

Guests are also served a tray of popcorn and olives before their meal, too. For my main course, I eviscerated this delicious poke bowl.

 

Tiki Bar poke bowl

 

The dining option I didn’t get a great glimpse of was Le Lotus, which is the French restaurant at the resort. It’s on the south end of the resort and looked like another great dining experience.

 

Le Lotus French restaurant

 

Part of the dining room is overwater, too. When Mo’orea is visible or during sunset, dining at Le Lotus is likely spectacular.

 

Le Lotus exterior

 

How to Book the InterContinental Tahiti

If you’re sold on staying at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort and Spa, here’s how to book it.

First, search using Google Hotels to see the best rates. In almost every case, booking through the hotel itself offers the best deal. Still, when it comes to hotels, I like to use Google to see if I’m missing out on big savings.

 

Intercontinental Tahiti Resort Google Hotels Search

 

From there, you can click “Visit site” or just take your dates and plug them into the InterContinental Tahiti home page.

As you can see below, you can search for cash, a combination of points and cash, or solely award bookings. You can also select the box to show the taxes and fees, which are high at this property.

Fair warning: Finding good award availability at the InterContinental Tahiti is really hard. I ran a few dozen searches at random dates throughout the year and couldn’t find a single day that was bookable with IHG points.

 

IHG Tahiti search

 

Here are some of the other room options that come up, along with their prices.

 

Classic rooms

 

There are some additional premium rooms available before you get to the overwater bungalows, which all go for more than $1,000 per night.

 

Overwater bungalows

 

When you select the room you want, a few booking options will come up, including refundable and non-refundable fares with breakfast included or not.

 

King Classic Garden View booking options

 

The lowest rate, the non-refundable, non-breakfast option, totaled $434 at checkout with all the city, tourism, and sales taxes included.

For my booking, I chose the “free cancellation 3 days prior” rate without the breakfast, and it cost a little over $500 U.S.

At Thrifty Traveler, we don’t accept freebies. We use our own points, miles, or cash to pay for every single flight or hotel you see reviewed here – including this one!

 

Moorea behind the IHG Tahiti

 

Bottom Line

The InterContinental Tahiti Resort and Spa might just be the best airport hotel in the world. With great food, unique amenities including several pools, and incredible views, this full-service resort near Papeete Airport (PPT) on Tahiti is the perfect place to jump-start or cap off a trip to French Polynesia.

While I wouldn’t build a vacation around staying at the InterContinental Tahiti, for one or two nights on a layover in or out of Tahiti it’s certainly worth a visit.