The Vanira Lodge is an establishment to keep in mind if you want to discover the most beautiful landscapes of Tahiti. You must get to the peninsula of Tahiti Iti to stay here, but the trip from the airport only takes an hour when there is not too much traffic. If you take the local bus, it will take you longer, but it's an interesting (and cheap) option to get to Tahiti Iti. Once you arrive here, your favoured modes of transport will be a bicycle and a kayak and there are several guided excursions that you can go on to discover the island. You are also totally autonomous here and you will have to cook your own food. The level of comfort in a fare (Polynesian bungalow) is simple and environmentally-friendly (no air-conditioning and no television), and the architecture is tasteful and original. The prices are reasonable if you share a double fare or if you are in a group of 3 or 4 staying in a fare for four.
This hotel review is a translation from the French published on our French site Easyvoyage.com.
The establishment is built on a hillside, at KP 15.6 (on the west coast) on the peninsula of Tahiti Iti. As indicated by the milestone, the town of Taravao is some 15.6 km (10 mi) away. On this coast the tarmac ends a mile and a half down the road, at Teahupo'o surf spot (the famous KP 0). If you want to get to the town of Papeete (some 46 mi away), you should expect a one hour and a quarter drive (if there isn't too much traffic). The airport is slightly closer (40 mi away) and it should take about an hour to get there.
Since it opened in 2005, the Vanira Lodge has made a name for itself by offering a different alternative for your stay in Tahiti. It offers accommodation that you don't usually find in relatively untouched and magnificent surroundings. If you want to get around without hiring a car, the Vanira provides bicycles. You can follow the road for over a mile until you get to the end (Teahupo surf spot), and then follow the coastline along the sand track lined with houses. This will take you to the eastern tip of the peninsula, some 10 mi further on. You can also go on a guided excursion into the mountains (we recommend the one that will take you to the Pari cliffs). You can book these excursions in Vanira Lodge, and if you want to discover the entire peninsula (east coast, west coast, plateau of Taravao) you should probably hire a car (rental services provided by Vanira Lodge, the car park is further down in relation to the bungalows). During the week there is also a bus service that will take you to either coast.
.A diving centre opened in the spring of 2009, in the marina of Taravao (some 10 mi from Vanira Lodge). First dives, sea excursions and certified diving courses are on offer. If you go out for a diving session you will see various cliffs with numerous caves, multicolored corals and numerous fish.
Diving centre of Tahiti Iti Diving, phone: 00 689 42 25 33, e-mail: email@example.com
The Vanira Lodge is a guest fare: all the bungalows include a small kitchen area. The Polynesian classification system for non-hotel establishments (big or small) is as follows:
- 'fare' residences, where the rooms have a small kitchen area
- family accommodation, with meals provided on a half-board basis
- individual rooms, accommodation without a kitchen
This establishment may also be described as a nature lodge (no phone and no televuision), or as a couple's retreat. But you have to choose the right bungalow; some are half open and others are entirely closed.
Of the 5 fares or bungalows that are currently available, 2 include a structure that enables them to be clossed completely (these are the fares Aito and Haari). The three others include an open lounge-terrace, with a railing but no bay window. These are perfect if you want to sleep in the open and if you're not too fussy about the odd creepy-crawly. However, if you want to preserve some intimacy in these half-open accommodation units, forget about lighting your lamp when the night falls.
Prices and reservations on www.vaniralodge.com.
There is a well-indicated track that leads from the main road to the garden of the Vanira Lodge. The garden includes tropical trees and a small swimming pool (21 x 15 ft) surrounded by a few deck chairs. The reception area is in the fare that serves as living quarters to the owners. The rooms are in small huts built on the rim of the forest, in the top part of the garden. There are currently 5 accommodation fares and 2 additional fares are in the planning stages. Each hut is named after the wood that was used to build or decorate the fare: Aito (iron wood), Haari (coconut tree), etc. There is a special car park where you can park your car. The bungalows are slightly further up, some 150 - 300 ft away. The fare Haari is the ideal place for couples as it is concealed behind a bamboo palisade. Furthermore, its architecture includes elements such as a roof made of leaves and plants, sliding doors that enable you to seal off the bungalow and a terrace protected by a pergola. Once inside, you will discover decorative elements that are common to other fares; the woodwork is visible, the bathroom is paved with pebbles, the windows have openings cut into translucent material. If the fare Haari is already booked, you can try the fare Aito. It is less charming but it still has the advantage of an architectural design that enables you to seal it off completely at night. It is also more spacious (440 sq ft instead of 220 sq ft) and can sleep the whole family (4 to 5 people). The same is true for the remaining fares (Kava, Oifa and Maara). However, you cannot close off the lounge areas in these ones; during the day and at night the railing lets draughts in, as well as mosquitoes and geckos (little lizards). It's really up to you to decide if this constitutes a drawback, depending on your travelling habits.
The interior is highly esthetic and natural, with a lot of visible woodwork and a mezzanine layout in the more spacious fares. the beauty of the interior even extends to the shower (paved with volcanic stones), but the layout is not entirely practical. Beware of the small step (there should be a warning) between the lounge area and the shower; be careful also of the stairway (very steep) that leads up to the mezzanine. If you like the idea of a hut lost in the wilderness though, you'll be inclined to turn a blind eye to these small defects. The best panoramas are to be seen from the terrace (particularly in fares Haari and Aito) or from the sitting room with its railing (fares Kava, Oifa and Maara). If your bungalow is not extended by a terrace, you won't have a recliner. You will therefore have to use one of the garden deck chairs. Facilities aren't the strong point of this establishment, which is chosen for its setting; there is no Internet access, no television and no telephone. However, a safe is available and the lounge area includes a table and some chairs; next to it there is a small kitchen where you can cook all your meals. The bungalows are quite high up, at the edge of the forest, where there is quite a lot of dampness, so the absence of air-conditioning goes unnoticed. Fortunately though, there are several insecticide plugs, which are a definite requirement (mosquitoes and flies are an unescapable element of the Polynesian countryside). At night-time, you ought to remember that the windows and their translucent panes are not all equipped with shutters. The night is generally silent, with the odd animal cry, and guests usually wake up at dawn.
The bungalows include a kitchen area (fridge, small oven, water tap, kettle, and coffee machine) or a small kitchen (with an additional sink and stove). On your arrival, you will find that there are tea bags, coffee and sugar to welcome you in your room. If you need to do some shopping, there is a small grocers at 900 ft from the estate (you can walk or cycle there). If you want more choice, there is a Champion supermarket at Taravao (you should hire a car). You should be aware that the price of food in Polynesia is 20% higher than what you are used to at home. However, cooking for yourself remains far cheaper a solution than eating out. You can order breakfast, which is served in your bungalow and costs ?10. It includes a variety of home-made pastries (banana cake, coconut bun), fresh fruit, fruit juice, bread, butter, local jams and a hot beverage. As the Vanira Lodge does not have its own restaurant, you pretty much have to stock up with food and cook your own lunch and dinner. Otherwise you can go to one of the many restaurants in the neighbourhood. One of the cheapest is the 'End of the road' snack bar at Teahupo'o. Some of the snacks there cost a mere ?2.50. Hamburgers go for ?7.50 but you have to pay extra for the chips. The snack bar also offers proper meals, ranging from Tahiti-style raw fish to barbecues and pasta. It is open for lunch and dinner. There is another snack bar on the side of the road, towards Taravao. In each bungalow, there is a ledger with a list of addresses of local restaurants, shops, pharmacies and banks
The shoreline is some 900 ft further down from Vanira Lodge, but the area doesn't provide access to the lagoon. If you want to use one of the kayaks that the establishment provides, you have to go to the marina (less than half a mile away). You can use the ramp to gain access to the sea, but you must have a vehicle to transport the kayaks. The marina doesn't have a beach, so you have to go a little further for a bathing spot. There are two public beaches (unequipped) nearby. the one at Teapuho'o is a little less than 2 mi away. It is the nicest of the two, thanks to its location (the road doesn't go any further) and its wilderness (black sand by the seaside, with the surf crashing on the nearby reef). If you want to, you can also visit Maui beach, some four mi from Vanira, towards Taravao. It is a white sand bay that lies a little further down from the road, with a snack bar next to it. You should wear plastic sandals or rubber slippers, as the seabed not only includes the odd sea cucumber or coral, but also other dangers, such as sea urchins and stonefish. You'll be fine as long as you keep your shoes on.
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