Technically speaking, guidebook author David Stanley lives in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island…but we’re not sure exactly how many minutes per year he actually spends there. This is a man whose passport gathers no moss: his travels have taken him to 185 countries to date (he’s just back from Iran a few days ago, and has his tickets booked for country #186 for this coming September). And he doesn’t just touch down and check the big highlights of a destination off of his list–he exhaustively explores and documents each destination.
We cracked open his latest Tahiti guidebook–now in its seventh edition–and were pleased to find a wealth of information–and CURRENT information, too, which is important here, since French Polynesia has undergone a number of changes in the past couple of years, from a major change to destination wedding regulations to several famous hotels that have been closed for renovation.
The book opens with some really useful maps, which help you understand what the different island groups are. This is very helpful, as you’ll run into countless references on websites to the Tuamotu Atolls, the Society Island, the Leeward Islands, etc. There’s a really great set of sample itineraries, broken down by the length of stay, the styles of the trip (romance; adventure; economy vs. luxury; etc.). You’ll find a ton of very useful information on the logistics: airports, ferries, taxis, buses, and the tips on baggage precautions alone are probably worth the price of the book! There’s a helpful section on currencies, credit card usage and fees, and ATMs as well.
French Polynesia of course is a very popular scuba diving destination, and Stanley does a thorough job of covering your options, diving into substantial detail on what you’re likely to see in the different areas. As someone who’s dived Bora Bora, I found the descriptions of the dive sites both helpful and accurate. If only one could say the same about all of the dive operators’ websites…
There’s a fascinating writeup on the history of Papeete, and a nice collection of maps of the town, including a restaurant and bar map. You’ll find an extensive restaurant guide, including many photos so you can get a sense of the style of the venues. When it comes to the resorts, he’s thoroughly and honestly covered the entire range of accommodations, from the big luxury resorts right down to boutique hotels and B&B’s…even places to camp. And Stanley pulls no punches in his reviews–with brutally honest critiques of some of the most expensive properties in French Polynesia. Clearly, he knows things about these hotels you could only know if you stayed there–things I’ll admit I didn’t notice when I did site inspections of most of the major resorts there just a couple of years ago.
The book closes with a very useful language reference for both Tahitian and French common words and phrases, plus a conversions page for those of us who don’t know our Celsius from our Fahrenheit.
Read this book long before your trip to Tahiti to help you decide where in the islands to go…where to stay…and what you want to see and experience. Read it on the plane there, to choose restaurants and specific things to see and do. But don’t read it on the plane headed home, as you’ll undoubtedly discover a myriad of things you wish you’d had time for!