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4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
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on December 28, 2003
David Stanley's Moon Handbook, Tahiti: Including the Cook Islands, is one of the most depressing books I have read. As a travel writer myself I picked up the book to help prepare for an upcoming trip and this guide is so good, the world certainly doesn't need another one from me. However, having lived in Vanuatu and traveled many times to Fiji, I'm familiar with David's other guides and I anticipated excellence.
It is a comprehensive guide on what to see, where to eat, how to get around and where to stay (for all budgets), which is what you expect from a good guidebook - but it's David's personal stamp that makes it so rewarding. It's informative, honest, and sometimes opinionated with a deep understanding of Polynesian history, culture and lifestyle. There are excellent practical tips on things like health & safety, where to get internet access and even toilets where you should take your own paper - but it's more the personal tips on how to make the transition from 'tourist' to 'traveler' that I appreciated...
"A wise traveler soon graduates from hearing and seeing to listening and observing. Speaking is good for the ego and listening is good for the soul."
This book is a shortcut on the road to becoming a wise traveler. This doesn't mean it is all about getting off the beaten track. Tracks become beaten because there are worthwhile things to experience and they should be taken. David provides the 'must see' highlights as well as information for those willing to explore further. Being a wise traveler is more about attitude than itinerary. As David says, "If things work differently than they do back home, give thanks - that's why you've come. Take an interest in local customs, values, languages, challenges and successes."
Another undercurrent is David's realism and commitment to the environment. He pulls no punches, whether they are aimed at the countries who used this region for nuclear testing (particularly the French) or at those who pillage the Pacific for piscatorial pleasure - "spearfishing (is) like shooting a cow with a handgun."
Allow a few extra dollars in your travel budget for this book and it will be an investment. The reward you will gain from your travels to this wonderful part of the world will be enhanced immeasurably.
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on May 27, 2004
As a producer researching filming locations throughout the Pacific Basin, I have found David Stanley's Moon Handbooks guide to Tahiti and the Cook Islands to be of tremendous value. Having travelled extensively throughout the world, I've often had trouble finding guides that are thorough and accurate. In Stanley's book, I've found just that. Rich with historic, cultural and practical information, along with numerous illustrations and maps, Stanley provides his readers with all of the necessary and critical information required in order to get the most out of a travel experience. To anyone planning a trip to this region, I would highly recommend this book.
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on December 17, 2003
I've learned not to travel without a handbook, and this is THE handbook to have about Tahiti.
All superlative adjectives are deficient in describing this book. It is a bible, a self-contained encyclopedia of information about Tahiti for the visitor to the islands.
This is the fifth edition, and author David Stanley and the Moon Handbooks editors have refined it to perfection, unless a volcano necessitates a new island chapter.
A list of categories of information it provides would be endless. One can only write that it covers every category imaginable, including the basics of transportation, lodging, activities, and personal caretaking. Radio stations, yup. Language glossary, yup. Metric conversion, yup. Comprehensive coverage.
Mere examples of some of the details, each expounded in detail, provided in this book would be email access, ferry schedules, dolphin-watching...and illustrations of the Tahitian dance movements for "perfumed" and the essential "to love." The Tahitian dance movement for "to love" is "here," which is appropriate to such a paradise, although if you travel to Tahiti you may come to apply "to love" to "this handbook."
The typeface is small but readable, which enables such an information-laden volume to be compact and lightweight for your pack or purse. Organization and presentation could not be any better, and I have copyedited more than one hundred books, so my opinion is meaningful.
Searching the Internet for information about Tahiti is both inefficient and deficient, drastically, compared to using this handbook as a guide.
Rob Kay's foreword states that Stanley has been visiting French Polynesia for more than twenty years. The "About the Author" section reveals an important point, that he does his "research" (oh, if all jobs entailed such labor) incognito, not identifying himself as a travel writer--to avoid atypical treatment--when he visits restaurants, hotels and hostels, tour operators, etc. This approach serves his readers--us--rather than serving the vendors and himself. Other travel writers should give up their gimmick of getting special service and strive for such professional honor.
Consider the retail price to be one-third of what you actually pay, because you will use it thrice. Once to plan your trip. Once as a traveling companion which has answers to all the questions that arise during your vacation. Finally, as a guide to your memories when you have returned home and want to regale others or yourself with descriptions of the paradise that is Tahiti.
I'd give this book one hundred stars if I could. It's all you need. Look no further for information about Tahiti.
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on May 12, 2011
Moon Tahiti, the 7th edition of renowned traveler David Stanley's work in the Moon Handbooks series, is as comprehensive, up-to-date and enlightening as ever. Containing 47 detailed and easy-to-use maps, the guidebook describes the must-see sights, activities, restaurants, and accommodation available not only on Tahiti, but on all the other islands in French Polynesia as well, including invaluable insights into tourist highlights on Moorea, as well as on the Leeward, Austral, Tuamotu and Gambier, and Marquesas Islands. In addition, in his inimitable environmentally aware way, he provides an informed analysis of the land itself, its flora and fauna, its history and government, its economy, its people and culture, and the arts and entertainment opportunities granted by French Polynesia, so that the book is a valuable source of information for tourist and armchair traveler alike. For the former, he supplies a chapter on such essentials as transport, visas and officialdom, customs, and health and safety, while for those who wish to approach their trip with the added insight to be gleaned from other sources he provides a glossary, phrasebook, and a list of suggested reading and Internet resources.

That Stanley truly loves these islands is clear from start to finish. His intimate knowledge of the islands is rivaled only by the fluency of his writing. His balanced outlook on French Polynesia allows him to retain an objective stance throughout, enabling him to pinpoint both the merits and the demerits of the islands. For example, he doesn't hide the fact that the cosmopolitan city of Papeete becomes a ghost town on Sunday afternoons, as "life washes out into the countryside," so best avoid at such times. Stanley's style is concise and factual--he provides you with a great deal of information in a limited number of words. His main intent is to give a complete picture of each place so that you can make informed decisions about how you wish to spend your time in the islands. Stanley consistently keeps the primary focus of the reader in mind, so that no matter whether you are more interested in sports, culture and the arts (his references to the leading French Post-Impressionist, Paul Gauguin, are numerous), the natural beauty of the islands, or the more historic and religious aspects of French Polynesia, you are bound to find much that appeals to your palate.

Moon Tahiti is well illustrated throughout with black-and-white photographs of local architecture and scenes, in addition to maps of many of the 118 islands and towns that form part of this archipelago set in the South Pacific Ocean. Stanley also provides a great deal of background information on various cultural practices, aspects of island lifestyle and fascinating biographical overviews of outstanding local characters that he sensibly sets aside in text boxes scattered throughout the main text, so that they do not disrupt the flow of his central argument. If you have ever dreamed of listening to the rustling of palm trees swaying in the breeze while watching islanders gyrate their sinuous bodies in time to the rhythm of exotic melodies, this book is for you. As Stanley writes, "Welcome to paradise!"
[Reviewer for]
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on April 23, 2012
This book is a good choice and gives lots of ideas. Caution: give yourself lots of time for planning because there are soooo many ideas! It even tells you specific tour operators to contact and also some to avoid. Helpful maps, information on all the islands of French Polynesia.
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on May 16, 2014
This e-book has a lot of local information on Tahiti and all of the islands you would want to visit. It lists hotel, restaurants, excursions with company contact information, local information on what to expect and attractions in each area, etc. Quick to read through. Much better then other available travel books like Lonely Planet.

The only dislike is that it is only available as an e-book. I don't usually carry my iPad around when I am travelling during the day so it will have its limited use. The maps are difficult to read.

It is still worth purchasing to help plan a great trip. I am sure I will find a map once I arrive in Tahiti.
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on September 5, 2011
Unless you are planning a trip soon, you'd better not read this book, because once you're into it, you'll be convinced that the South Seas are going to be the next destination for travel. Once I started this travel book, I couldn't put it down; the maps and pictures are very detailed as is the route to take and daily living expenses and accommodations available. Of course, it is hot, but the sceneery, the experiences are unforgettable and I haven't even left the house yet! Good Job, David Stanley.
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on December 20, 2007
My wife and I are frequent travelers to the South Pacific. Every time we have relied solely on Internet web sites, travel brochures and some travel handbooks we have been consistently disappointed in our accommodations. David Stanley's travel books have always steered us in the right directions. The new Tahiti handbook contains clear maps, contact information, traveling tips and pictures. This book is full of well researched practical information and advice. Most importantly it is information you can trust.
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I'm dreaming about a trip to the French Polynesian Islands. With 118 islands and atolls this area has all the enjoyment of a tropical island paradise without all the tourists. There's a lot to do, everything from swimming with the dolphins, scuba diving, hiking, and mountain climbing. Plus with only an average of only 200, 000 visitors a year (as compare to the seven million that go to Hawaii each year), I know I'll actually be able relax on the beach and enjoy my vacation.

About the only issue I have with the French Polynesian Islands is the cost. Prices can be a little expensive, especially in the larger more touristy islands of Tahiti and Moorea. Fortunately, Moon Handbooks Tahiti has come to my rescue.

As I looked through Moon Handbooks Tahiti, I quickly realized this guide was going to save me a lot of time, frustration, and money. The author shares reasonable ways to save a few dollars like making use of discount air passes, camping on the beach, staying with locals on the smaller islands, and buying groceries. When the savings aren't worth the extra effort, the author candidly tells the reader. I like that because I may be willing to make a little effort to save money but I want to enjoy my vacation too.
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on July 14, 2004
During my two big trips through the South Pacific, I always had one of David Stanley's guidebooks in my backpack. Stanley has been writing guidebooks to these islands for almost 25 years. Like his other Pacific guides, this fifth edition of Tahiti Handbook (which includes the whole of French Polynesia, the Cook Islands and Easter Island) is completely packed with information for the traveller.
Tips for travellers
While planning, Tahiti Handbook will help you find out which islands will be more interesting, easier or cheaper to visit. Stanley gives a good idea of what to expect in the islands, while you can still have a great adventure and discover things on your own.
In the Pacific, this guide will save you money and trouble. Following Stanley's advice to sleep at Tahiti's airport when arriving at night, to wait for the early morning bus instead of taking a taxi to your hotel, will already save you the cost of the book. Accommodations of all categories are described, often including critical commentary. The same applies for restaurants and organized activities. Stanley identifies with any kind of traveller. He answers almost any possible question to arise on other travel matters.
I haven't used this edition of Tahiti Handbook in the field yet, so I can't say much about the accuracy of the travel information inside. However, during my trips through the islands, Stanley's information usually proved reasonably up-to-date. You can never expect everything to be correct, Stanley admits that. For every new edition of his guides, he makes a research trip to check the places listed in his book. On these trips Stanley arrives unannounced and tries to identify himself as little as possible. This way he is better able to experience a place like any other traveller. For this fifth edition of Tahiti Handbook, the Marquesas and Easter Island were visited in addition to more regular places. It would be nice to know what islands were exactly visited. If you feel some information is incorrect or missing from Stanley's guide, you can write him and he will seriously look at your comments.
Lively and critically
The chapters on history, people and places and the references in Tahiti Handbook are an excellent starting point to learn more about Eastern Polynesia. In my opinion, some more attention could have been given to the language section: an extension of the Tahitian and French section and adding Cook Islands Maori, Spanish and Rapanui.
The biggest problem with this book, as with Stanley's other guides to the Pacific, is that you'll want to go to almost every island he so lively introduces. With every new edition, Stanley not only updates travel information, he also perfects his writings. Stanley won't bore you. It's obvious he loves the islands. Still, he does so without writing over-positive about it. Stanley will tell you about the French nuclear testing at Moruroa and Papeete traffic jams. As he puts it on page 3: 'Through this book we've tried to show you the best of the region without ignoring the worst. Paradise it may not be, but it's still a remarkable part of our planet.'
Three in one
Since the previous edition of Tahiti Handbook, the Cook Islands and Easter Island are also included, without making the guide too thick or expensive. The only I only place I miss in Tahiti Handbook is Pitcairn. Since it lies between French Polynesia and Easter Island, you would expect it to be included. It does receive more visitors than islands like Puka Puka or Maiao these days. For information about Pitcairn, you need to get Stanley's South Pacific Handbook.
Maps and photographs
You can find 56 maps in Tahiti Handbook, including ones of more remote islands. Of the main islands; there are detailed maps of towns to show accommodations, restaurants, offices and more. The atolls of the Tuamotu Archipelago are a bit underrepresented. But since these are mostly thin necklaces of land, this is not really important. In general the maps in Tahiti Handbook are fine. Only the coloured map and the index map at the beginning of the book could be better: the lagoons of the coral atolls have all been coloured in like land.
There are not many photographs in Tahiti Handbook: two coloured ones at the beginning of the book and a handful of black and white ones throughout the book. Without doubt this helps to keep the price of the book down. Also, you don't really need photographs here: Stanley's writing will bring Polynesia to life for you.
Take it!
Despite some small critical notes, I still give Tahiti Handbook five stars. There is nothing to match this guidebook. Take it when you go to French Polynesia, the Cook Islands and/or Easter Island no matter what your budget or style of travelling is.
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