Pema, SafetyWing’s Nomadic Content Creator, is paid to travel and document 10 amazing coworking destinations from around the world. If you want to see her diving adventures in Tahiti, check out her YouTube video!
French Polynesia is one of the world's most exotic and remote island chains. Blue lagoons, tropical jungles, and overwater bungalows come to mind. And while one might think of the islands as an exclusive honeymoon destination, affordable homestays and coliving spaces are making French Polynesia a growing haven for backpackers and digital nomads.
I chose to visit French Polynesia for its annual migration of humpback whales. As one of the few places in the world where you can go diving to see humpback whales and their calves, it has incredible diving tours.
In truth, coworking in French Polynesia isn't similar to my experiences in hotspots like Lisbon, Bali, or Medéllin. There aren't endless work-friendly cafes with Instagrammable spots. You won't find a good internet connection everywhere, or big digital nomad groups. Instead, you'll get authentic island living, welcoming locals, and an established expat community. There's also a growing infrastructure for location-independent workers, which now includes five coworking spaces in Papeete alone.
While there are no regular digital nomad events, I managed to meet quite a few fascinating travelers during my stay. Don’t let the fact that there’s no established digital nomad community here deter you from visiting.
There is no digital nomad visa you can apply for at the moment. It is a French Collective though, meaning French nationals can come and work as they please. EU citizens can also stay as long as they like without obtaining a visa in advance. It should be noted that anyone without French citizenship must apply for a work permit to work in French Polynesia. These are difficult to acquire, but several of my American friends were able to get residence permits without too much hassle. In truth, most nomads treat working remotely from French Polynesia the same as working from the Schengen Zone, staying up to 90 days in a 180-day period.
I spent most of my time on the island of Mo'orea, which is closest to Tahiti itself. Being so close to the capital and its international airport gives Mo'orea an ease of access other islands lack. There are a few little towns on the island where you'll find a handful of restaurants and cafes, along with smaller grocery stores.
The cost of living is not low, but manageable. I stumbled upon a cute hostel/coliving space on the northwest side of Mo'orea that was around $40 per night. From Papeete, it was a $13 ferry ride, followed by a $3 bus ride. Going out to eat is expensive compared to most places in the world, but very comparable to my last locations - Hawaii and Los Angeles. In my opinion, the seafood was well-priced, and high quality.
Coliving space in Mo'orea
As mentioned, I spent most of my time in French Polynesia at an adorable coliving space called Little Mo'orea. It was a last-minute find on Airbnb but a welcome surprise. Located a 5-minute walk from the shops at Tiahura, it was both convenient and quiet. Additionally, the sharks and stingrays lagoon, the Motu's, and many of the whale tour departure points were all a short drive away.
The house itself was incredibly spacious. There were a male dorm and a female dorm, neither of which had more than two guests at a time (during my stay). There were also private rooms upstairs. As a bonus, the host family ran a fresh market from the kitchen on some days. The mom was happy to offer me home-cooked Tahitian meals during their markets. Altogether they were a lovely family running a beautiful coliving space.
As wonderful as Little Mo'orea was, there are currently no public coworking spaces on the island. I worked from the coliving space in the company of other remote workers and entrepreneurs most days. Freelancers and those working asynchronously seemed to have the best lifestyle here - exploring and swimming in the morning while working in the evenings. The Wifi was reliable, and there were plenty of workspaces. There are, however, several luxury resorts offering remote-work holiday packages that were popular during the pandemic. I didn’t opt for those because they are quite expensive.
Other coworking spaces I visited
For those seeking proper coworking spaces, Papeete is where you'll want to be.
The building is located a stone's throw from the ferry dock. It's the most conveniently located and largest of all the spaces. Membership plans include 1-day, 5-day, and 1-month options. Prices range from $27 USD to $310 USD for the basic coworking space.
This space is only a 5-minute drive away from the ferry and downtown Papeete. There's free parking, and free hot beverages. Onsite facilities include showers, a kitchen, printing, and meeting rooms. Prices are $31 for a daily pass or $355 USD for the monthly membership.
Either of the two make for a great coworking base for those staying on the Island of Tahiti.
Life as a digital nomad in French Polynesia is a dream for those willing to try. It's more expensive and remote than most digital nomad hubs, and those staying outside of Papeete won't have great access to coworking infrastructure. But the castaway lifestyle is a conscious choice. The expat community is incredibly diverse, and the local way of life is a welcome change.
I'm not sure how great it would be for travelers in private rentals, but for me in my coliving space, it was awesome. And if it tells you anything, my short stay convinced me to apply for the French Polynesia residency. In short, If you love the ocean, tropical forests, and faraway places, the Islands of Tahiti are for you.
For more digital nomad destinations, check out Pema's guide for working remotely from Dahab, Egypt.