PAPEETE, Tahiti — Budget travelers making stopovers in Tahiti can find inexpensive lodging at a beach-front sports club.
But be careful how you get there. Many international flights arrive on Tahiti during the inconvenient early hours of the morning and taxi drivers usher weary passengers on expensive rides into the city. Before taking a taxi, check the arrival area for budget hotel representatives.
Several establishments that offer cheap, hostel-style lodgings meet flights and provide guests with free transportation.
Watch for the representative of the Hiti Mahana Beach Club. The club is on a black-sand beach about seven miles from Papeete, the capital.
The Hiti Mahana was opened two years ago by Coco and Pat Pautu. He's Polynesian and she's from Nebraska. They sought to create a water-sports club for city residents and also added camping and budget accommodations.
Sleeping on a Veranda
The campsites cost 700 francs (about $5.30 U.S.) per person a night. Kitchen facilities and equipment rentals are available. On the adjoining property an 1850s mansion provides accommodations for 1,500 francs a night.
Expect clean kitchen facilities and cold showers and an atmosphere of camping out with a hard roof. On warm nights most guests prefer to sleep outside on the second-floor veranda.
The mayor recently bought the mansion, so it's possible that changes will be forthcoming. But the Pautus are adding more budget accommodations to the club, which should be ready within six months.
Beach mats are free, and the club owns a small island that's accessible to swimmers. Sailboards for windsurfing rent for 1,200 francs an hour and snorkeling equipment for 500 francs a day. Bikes are available for 800 francs a day.
There's a daily happy hour at the beach bar, and on rainy days and Fridays, English-language videos are shown free.
Visiting the Waterfalls
Snacks and soft drinks are sold at the office, and each evening Pat cooks a meal for less than 1,000 francs per person.
Staff members help with information on sightseeing and arrange for guests to visit waterfalls. Some nights they also provide free transportation to a restaurant for dinner.
The club is a 35-minute, 135-franc ride from Papeete.
Island transportation service, Le Truck, is made up of individuallyowned colorful vehicles that bounce along the roads, often to the beat of blaring music.
They have no schedules. They leave from the market area of Papeete when the driver chooses. Service operates to the club until about 5 p.m., and to the airport from town until about midnight. Sunday service is very limited.
Club staff can help with information on transportation and budget accommodations for neighboring islands. Moorea is a 10-mile, 60-minute ferry ride from Papeete. The price is 700 francs.
'A Rough Trip'
If you want to visit Bora Bora by boat, plan on having a weeklong stopover, warns Pat. "The trip over is easy, but back can be quite rough."
Ferry and cargo ships provide passenger service to Bora Bora several times a week. The journey can take from 18 to 24 hours, with rates 1,500 to 3,000 francs each way, without a berth.
You can contact the Hiti Mahana Beach Club at B.P. 11580, Mahina, Tahiti.
For more details on budget camping, accommodations and transportation on Tahiti, contact the Tahiti Tourist Board, 12233 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite 110, Los Angeles 90064, (213) 207-1919, or the Tahiti tourist information office on the waterfront in Papeete.