Most people, including expats, live in the northwestern part of the island. Unless you want the hustle-and-bustle of Pape'ete, consider finding a place in Puna’auia, a picturesque town with a cool vibe just to the south. Described by Lonely Planet as a “chic suburb”, Puna'auia stretches from around kilometer marker 8 (meaning 8 kilometers from the center of downtown Pape'ete) to kilometer marker 18. It offers the island’s best beaches, a hip restaurant scene, and easy access to many of Tahiti’s major sites. Puna'auia has a handful of attractive residential areas, along the lagoon and high on the mountainside. Most homes have awe-inspiring views of Mo'orea, with its jagged mountain peaks. If you want something truly upscale, check out Lotus, a fancy neighborhood in Puna'auia with the island’s most expensive homes. For those of you familiar with California, Lotus is like Malibu with better views.
If you choose to live on the island of Mo'orea, where there is a slower-paced, more laidback vibe, focus on the north side, where there is more to do. Also, since French Polynesia is located south of the equator, the northern side gets more sunlight. The small town of Maharepa has the most shops, and is relatively close to the ferry and what is by far the nicest supermarket on the island.
Alternatively, the Tiahura area is appealing because of its proximity to small islands ( “motu”) located just offshore. One of them, Coco Beach, has an open-air restaurant with such good food, relaxed vibes, and natural beauty that you will be grateful to live nearby.
It is uncommon to find a furnished home or apartment available for 2-3 months. We found a nice one through the parents’ network at the Tahiti International School. If you are looking to rent for this time period, one option, depending on your budget, is the apartment suites at the Manava resort. Apart from that, check with hosts on Airbnb and VRBO to see if their properties are available for such a long period of time. Also, it cannot hurt to reach out to the property management companies mentioned above, as well as to real estate agents (though their listings are likely to require a one year lease; the penalty for breaking a lease early is usually forfeiture of the security deposit, equal to one month of rent.)
Quite a few furnished homes are available for rent on a long-term basis, typically requiring a one year lease. To find a long-term furnished rental, check the real estate section of Petites Annonces, which is the main website for classified ads in French Polynesia. Any decent listing is likely to be posted there. In addition, reach out to these real estate agencies because you will likely find an agent who will keep his or her eyes out for you: Jeanine Sylvain, Aito, Cogep, and Jean Gerard. Also check this Facebook page for Tahiti rentals. And if you’re seeking to stay in Mo'orea, check these Facebook groups: Mo'orea rentals, Mo'orea accommodations.
My family moved to Tahiti from Mill Valley, California, one of the costliest parts of the U.S. Relative to that, we find certain things cost more in Tahiti (like imported groceries, meals in most restaurants, gasoline, and cell service) and others less (like housing, private school, summer camps, locally grown fruits and vegetables, and some forms of healthcare). All told, we have reduced our cost of living. To better understand the cost of living in Tahiti and how it compares to your area, check out this blog.
When renting a place, you get cheaper rates the longer you commit for. Annual is cheaper than monthly which is cheaper than daily. Expect to pay more for views, pools, and houses (as opposed to apartments). As one data point, my family is renting a 2-bed, 1-bath house in Puna’auia on a monthly basis that has a pool and jaw-dropping view of Mo’orea. We pay 300,000 XPF/month ($3,000 USD).