Full disclosure: French Polynesia -- favored for heart-stopping vistas and star-studded accommodations -- isn't cheap. That motu tour? It broke the bank, despite the fact you got to snorkel with sharks. The bumpy-but-beatific safari excursion? Time, and lots of money, well spent.
But after the Hinano (pillaged from the mini bar) runs out, it's time to get practical: You've got a budget to behold. So, glance at the shimmery turquoise water, tighten your belt -- ever so slightly -- and skip the resort restaurants in favor of roulottes, the islands' gathering place and street food equivalent. They'll leave you with cash to spare -- not to mention a satisfied tummy.
One of the greatest concentrations of roulettes can be found at Vaiete Square in Tahiti (Boulevard Pomare, Papeete). When the sun starts to go down, the vans set up shop along the waterfront, attracting hoards of resident families and tourists with tots. However, the vibe shifts late at night, so prepare to encounter a crowd of beer-fueled revelers.
Usually, roulettes allow you to grab grub to go. In the case of those in Papeete, do opt for plastic-table service (tips are not required). Most servers -- when asked nicely -- accommodate diners wanting to enjoy "outside" eats from other vendors (as long as theirs are part of the equation). Do survey the tightly packed choices -- ranging from pizza and steak frites to Chinese stir-fry and burgers topped with fried egg -- before making a decision.
You can get a good introduction of roulettes at La Boule Rouge (Vaiete Square, Boulevard Pomare), a hopping crêperie marked by a blinking, lipstick-red orb. Grab an orange stool -- if you can, since it's perpetually packed -- and drool over the number of savory, pan-fried galettes. Stuffed with everything from pineapple, ham and Gruyère to goat and blue cheeses, there's something for everyone. There are sweet crêpes, too. Go for the one that's oozing with Nutella and bananas and christened with cloud-like chantilly cream.
But don't stop there. Wandering around reveals numerous takes on poisson cru, French Polynesia's national dish of citrus-y, raw, finely chopped tuna bathed in coconut milk with carrots, onion, cucumber and tomatoes. The version at Chez AH Leon (Vaiete Square, Boulevard Pomare, Papeete) is particularly good. It's splashed with nuoc cham (fish sauce), lending je ne sais quois to an otherwise pristine preparation.
Roulettes can be found at or outside of events, too, including during the Heiva Festival, an annual cultural competition of dance, song and traditional sports held each July. Additionally, you'll spot them on roadsides and in parking lots. They often have portable that turn out surprisingly good meat and seafood skewers. Some roulettes come and go, while others tend to be community fixtures.
If you're carrying out, pick up a bottle of French wine from the supermarché. Then, head back to your suite and eat like a king -- without all the financial guilt.
Talk with fellow Frommer's travelers in our Tahiti and French Polynesia Forum today.