Why you’ll want to cruise to Tahiti with Windstar Cruises  - Globe Guide

Why you’ll want to cruise to Tahiti with Windstar Cruises 

What’s the best way to explore the islands of Tahiti? On a yacht, of course!

I’ve been a huge fan of Windstar Cruises since sailing through the Caribbean with them, and when I found out that they specialize in the South Pacific I knew it would be the perfect way to see French Polynesia.

The Star Breeze

Think about it: you only have to unpack once, get to wake up in a new destination each day, and it saves the headache of organizing things like the flights or ferries required to get between popular spots like Tahiti, Mo’orea and Bora Bora in the Society Islands.

Plus, French Polynesia is outrageously expensive, so having all of your accommodations, meals and transfers covered during a Tahiti cruise is incredible value.

Admiring the view in Bora Bora

Windstar’s small ships only hold a few hundred passengers so it never feels too busy on board, every stateroom is a well-appointed suite, and the food is among the best you’ll find on the high seas–they’re affiliated with the renowned James Beard Foundation, after all.

From specially curated experiences to epic outings, here’s what to expect when you cruise to Tahiti with Windstar Cruises.

Itineraries with Windstar Cruises: Tahiti and beyond

Windstar’s French Polynesia cruises range from one week to 21 days. They all start in Tahiti’s capital Papeete where the international airport is, and most guests spend at least a couple of extra days here pre or post-cruise.

There are also package add-ons to stay overnight in one of those famous overwater bungalows by heading back to Mo’orea after disembarking, or during the two-day stop in Bora Bora. Windstar can arrange this, or passengers are welcome to book those stays on their own.

Bora Bora

Every itinerary spends some time in the popular Society Islands, and the longer trips head to the Tuamotu Islands to visit the islands of Rangiroa and Fakarava which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

There are also a couple of sailings to the far flung Marquesas Islands, which is a great way to visit this incredibly remote destination since flights from Papeete to Nuku Hiva (the largest island) usually cost about $1000.

Chief Tihoti in Raiatea

Dreams of Tahiti with Windstar Cruises

The most popular itinerary is Dreams of Tahiti which we did, and this seven-day French Polynesia cruise stops at the best known spots in the Society Islands along with some lesser-known gems.

Pearl farms, secluded sandbars, stingray encounters and even dolphin pod sightings at sunset were among the highlights of this phenomenal voyage; here’s what it looks like day to day.


Most North American flights arrive and depart late in the evening, so you’ll likely fly in the day before the cruise sets off and want a day hotel for disembarkation day.

The InterContinental Tahiti Resort is a good pick, as well as the Hilton Tahiti which we opted for (and subsequently got engaged at on Valentine’s Day–what a trip to remember!).

The marina in Papeete

The Hilton has a convenient location just five minutes drive from the airport and downtown area, multiple restaurants including a fabulous breakfast buffet, and a gorgeous infinity pool with views looking across to Mo’orea.

The Hilton

Every room has a view of the water, rooms are modern and the beds are incredibly comfortable. Click here to book

In Papeete, we walked around the downtown area to visit the market (Le Marche de Papeete), checked out the tiki statues at Hotel de Ville (city hall), and dropped into the Tahiti Pearl Market to admire and learn about the different types of pearls.

Since we also had a full day after the cruise while waiting for our evening flight, we rented a car for about $100 to drive around the island which I definitely recommended. You can hang out on the beaches, check out thundering waterfalls and walk through Grottes de Mara’a.

Grottes de Mara’a
Grottes de Mara’a

Here are some other day trip options:



This is one of the most popular Tahitian islands for good reason: think jaw-dropping scenery, lots of activities and sapphire seas.

We opted for a guided tour with Windstar to see the highlights of the island like the Belvedere lookout point and archeological sites. But we actually had even more fun back on board where the water sports platform had been rolled out behind the ship, and spent the sunny afternoon chatting with other guests on a trampoline-like floatie and stand up paddleboarding.

Touring around Mo’orea

Post-cruise, we returned to Mo’orea for a night and stayed in an overwater bungalow at the Sofitel Kia Ora Mo’orea Beach Resort.

Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort
Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort

The bungalow was pricier and felt dated compared to ones I’ve stayed at elsewhere in the world; however we loved the gorgeous sunsets, beach and infinity pool, and being able to snorkel in the water right from our deck (we saw a giant turtle and manta rays!).

Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort

The Sofitel is a short drive from the ferry terminal, and two companies operate ferries between Papeete and Mo’orea multiple times per day. Tickets cost about $15 each way and the ride takes 30 minutes.

Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort


If you only book one excursion during your Windstar Tahiti cruise, make sure it’s the ‘Faaroa River with Motu Beach Break’ in Raiatea (pronounced either rah-tah or raya-taya depending on which local you ask), which was absolutely fascinating and fun from start to finish.


We were met at the dock by Chief Tihoti, who is chief of the river valley and almost completely covered in tattoos.

He’s a total character, and entertained us with stories about the land and traditional customs, and played the nose flute and a conch shell as we glided down the river in a motorized Polyensian outrigger canoe.

Chief Tihoti

A canopy of bamboo groves and Tahitian chestnut trees enveloped us as we travelled further into the tranquil waterway, at one point passing another group from our yacht who’d opted to kayak along it instead.

After making our way out, we were whisked over to a deserted motu (island) where we got to spend the rest of the tour snorkeling and spotting stingrays in the clear water, lounging on the beach and learning all about palm trees and coconuts.

Later that evening, Chief Tihoti came on board to share the story behind Polynesian tattoos, explaining how shark teeth and ink drawn from nuts were originally used for the ritual that dates back a thousand years, while banana leaves and coconut (monoi) oil helped with healing.

The depicted images would symbolize each person’s role in the community and their genealogy, since birth certificates didn’t exist.

Chiefs also get tattoos on their face (as Tihoti has), and he estimates he’s personally tattooed more than one thousand people since the 80s, though techniques have obviously changed quite a bit over time.

Motu Mahaea (Tahaa)

When I first read through this day on the itinerary I wasn’t that excited about it as it didn’t sound like there was that much to do. In the end, it turns out that’s exactly what we needed and it was one of our favourite stops of the trip!

Tahaa is a quick boat ride from Raiatea, so we only cruised for about two hours early in the morning and woke up anchored off the coast.

While there are a few shore excursions on offer like visiting a vanilla plantation or ripping around on jet skis, the real highlight is that Windstar takes over an idyllic island for the day where the hard-working staff miraculously transform it into a private beach club.

Loungers are set up along Motu Mahaea overlooking the shallow water where you can go snorkeling, a bar serves up ice cold drinks all day long, and there’s even a barbecue and live entertainment.

We had an incredible time simply wandering along the sandy shoreline, going for a dip in the water and soaking up the South Pacific sunshine. It was truly like having a slice of paradise all to ourselves, and you’d better believe we were the last ones on the boat back to the ship.

Bora Bora

Safe to say this is the stop that most guests look forward to the most–Bora Bora is a bucket list, renowned destination after all, and about a dozen passengers got off during the first night there to enjoy a quick stay in an overwater bungalow.

Overwater bungalows at the Conrad in Bora Bora
Overwater bungalows at the Conrad in Bora Bora

With two full days in port, we made the most of it starting with an impromptu scooter rental (about $50 for two hours through Avis) to putz around the island.

Turns out there’s not a lot to see on land and the famous bungalows are actually off the coast and only reachable by boat, so we managed to get around the whole thing in about an hour.

Our afternoon activity was the Snorkel Safari and Stingray Encounter, to properly explore Bora Bora’s dazzling underwater world. A jovial crew greeted us at the dock, and we set off on a short ride in a lagoon cruiser to a shallow sandbank known to be frequented by stingrays and black-tipped sharks.

The sightings started before we even got in the water as the curious creatures swam up to the boat to greet us, and we spent the next hour or so snorkeling with them.

Our guide reassured us that they’re essentially harmless and friendly, and no matter which direction you looked you were bound to see either a stingray or shark–often both.

It was an incredible experience, capped off with another swim around a vibrant reef aptly-named the Coral Garden thanks to its stunning formations.

The next evening, Windstar put together a signature experience with a beach barbecue on a secluded motu just for us. We sipped on cocktails, took barefoot walks in the sand as the golden sunset transformed the skies into a rose hue, and dined on a Tahitian feast complete with spit-roasted pig.

Soon after, torches illuminated the darkness as a group of fire dancers emerged from the shadows, swaying to the rhythm of a chorus of drummers. We gasped and clapped with delight as the young men draped in loincloths twirled the blazing sticks overhead like batons, the flames so hot we could feel the heat from the safety of our seats.

When the show wrapped up to raucous applause, a trio of pontoons were waiting at the dock to whisk us back to the ship under a blanket of stars, bringing an end to a fantastic couple of days in Bora Bora.


The vibe of Huahine is so good: it’s pretty, doesn’t feel very touristy and there are a lot of unique things to see.

An archeological site in Huahine
An archeological site in Huahine

We chose a 4×4 island tour in an open-air vehicle, and zipped around to unique attractions like a fragrant vanilla farm, fishing area and museum.

We watched as the guide fed blue-eyed eels, and took a quick boat ride over to a floating pearl farm where we saw a trio of spotted eagle rays skimming along the water’s surface.

Learning about vanilla in Huahine
The pearl farm in Huahine

The on-board experience during a Windstar Tahiti cruise

Windstar’s fleet in the South Pacific includes the luxe Star Breeze, a classy and well-appointed yacht that holds up to 312 guests.

Every single room is a suite (we stayed in a spacious Star Balcony Suite complete with a French balcony, separate seating area and walk-in closet)–read more about all of the room types here.

The expansive pool deck is a popular hangout spot yet never feels too busy, and boasts a jacuzzi, small infinity pool and plenty of sun loungers.

There’s another more private whirlpool on the fifth floor, as well as a gym and spa on the seventh floor with a steam room and sauna that all guests are welcome to enjoy.

The pool deck on Star Breeze
The pool deck on Star Breeze

Meals at all of the restaurants are included, and there’s also a cafe in the Yacht Club which is a great place to watch sunrise with a steaming cup of coffee, or relax with a glass of wine and a puzzle in the evening.

Multiple bars, a boutique, reception area and lounge round out the amenities on the Star Breeze, along with the complimentary water sports platform.

What’s included with Windstar Cruises’ Tahiti itineraries

Windstar’s price points are very reasonable considering the more intimate, higher-end experience of their yachts versus the mega-cruise ships. Plus, keeping in mind how expensive French Polynesia is if you had to pay outright for everything, it’s easy to see why Windstar’s cruises to Tahiti are a great way to explore the islands.

There are two options available: cruise only and all-inclusive. Cruise-only fares include all meals, 24-hour room service, non-alcoholic beverages, access to the water sports platform and snorkel rentals.

For only about $100 per day extra, Windstar’s all-inclusive plan adds wi-fi, gratuities and unlimited beer, wine and cocktails.

There are also guest speakers and entertainment onboard: during our voyage there were nightly musical performances along with cultural experiences like traditional Polynesian dancing and learning how to make flower bracelets.

Windstar’s excursions are fairly priced and very similar to what you find online if trying to book independently. There’s no pressure at all to book any of the tours, and many of the islands are easy to explore on your own if you choose.

Some passengers did find it more economical to group together and hire a taxi for a private tour around the island vs paying per person through the ship, so something to keep in mind if you’re more of an independent type of traveller.


Windstar Cruises reviews: Tahiti itineraries

As someone who does a lot of cruising and is usually the youngest person on the ship by decades, we appreciated the larger age range during our sailing.

While the majority of guests were retirees, there were also a handful of couples in their 30s and even a young family (Windstar Cruises accommodates guests age 8 and up)–it was adorable to see how thrilled the kids were about everything!

Cultural educator Pearl performs during a beach barbecue

I also appreciate how Windstar avoids those frequent annoying on-board announcements over the loudspeaker that are so common on other ships, which are so unnecessary when you’re supposed to be on vacation and trying to relax.

Most importantly, I love that Windstar puts a big emphasis on the destination experiences by maximizing the time spent in port. We had two overnight stays (Bora Bora and Raiatea) which means no rushing back to the ship after a day of fun, and their yachts are able to dock in or anchor near ports that few other ships can thanks to their compact size–hello amazing views!

I thought it would be hard to beat how fabulous our Caribbean sailing with Windstar Cruises was but lo and behold they pulled it off, and I’d absolutely recommend these trips for those looking for an easy, value-filled way to explore the islands of Tahiti.

The Star Breeze in Mo’orea

Globe Guide experienced the islands of Tahiti as a guest of Windstar Cruises. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.



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