With a few exceptions, Tahiti's accommodations are in four areas: on the west coast, where most properties enjoy at least a partial view of Moorea; in Faaa opposite the airport; in the suburbs east of Papeete, where the beaches are of black volcanic sand; and in the city of Papeete, where you can sample urban life à la Tahitien. Consider staying at one of the west-coast, Faaa, or Papeete city hotels if you're stopping here for just a night on your way to or from the other islands or a cruise ship. This is especially true if your connecting flight departs during the horrendous traffic of a weekday morning or evening rush hour.
It Pays to Shop for Room Rates -- Like many big hotels these days, those in French Polynesia adjust their room rates according to such factors as the season and how many guests they expect to have on a given day, and many offer Internet specials on their websites. Accordingly, their published "rack rates" -- which I am compelled to give in this guide -- are nearly meaningless. Be sure to check the hotel websites for discounts and other specials.
The West Coast
Moderate -- Slated to open in 2009 is Manava Suite Resort, a lagoonside hotel in Punaauia, just south of where the highway splits from the old coastal road. All but 12 of the 121 units will have kitchens, and about a third will have direct views of Moorea. Check it out at http://manavasuiteresorttahiti.blogspot.com or contact South Pacific Management (tel. 800/657-3275; www.pearlresorts.com).