By: Marisa L. Byers
I’ve always dreamed of vacationing in Tahiti. Now that we’re here, I learn it is just one of 118 beautiful islands that make up French Polynesia. Tahiti is the largest island in the chain and home to the international airport. It is an eight-hour direct flight from Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui to Papeete, Tahiti’s administrative capital, so there’s plenty of time to relax before the adventures begin. Our first surprise is being greeted with a lei; a cool, fresh, aromatic floral necklace
We travel to Tikehau by water taxi. The Polynesians say this small island is a very special world situated between sky and sea. The Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort looks like a postcard, a place forgotten in time. It’s absolutely breathtaking. The 37 guest rooms sit in and around a lagoon, surrounded by a ring of coral and pink sand. Bungalows are designed in traditional Polynesian architecture with the luxuries we crave, very romantic and a perfect escape. Over-the-water units have windows in the floor facing the aquarium below and personal docks so you can sunbathe and snorkel.
Tikehau is known for its scuba diving. Manta rays, sharks, barracudas, and tuna are common sites. Snorkelers get in on the action seeing black-tip reef sharks, stingrays and a variety of fish and coral. The “motu-picnic excursion” is a preplanned adventure. Voyagers go by boat to Bird Island and see 30 different species of birds, then picnic on what feels like a deserted island. While we swim in a lagoon, our guide Bashu prepares poisson crude, Tahitian-style raw fish. He marinates raw pieces of tuna in coconut milk and lime juice, adds onions and cucumbers, and serves it over coconut infused rice. Delicious!
We fly back to Papeete, and catch a ferry for a 17-kilometer ride to Moorea, the magical island. Inside the crystal-clear lagoon we see dolphins swimming alongside the ferry; some lucky guests see whales! The Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa is built on the grounds of the first hotel built on the island. Three young, inspired Californians built the Bali Hai in 1961. The “Bali Hai Boys” continued on to build a hotel on Raiatea in 1966 where they invented the overwater bungalow.
The resort offers paddle boarding, snorkeling along the reefs and kayaking in the lagoon. Countless excursions are available to explore the island. We opt for a jeep ride up Magic Mountain, one of the highest points on the island. The views of water and landscapes are overwhelmingly beautiful. We drive off the mountain and trek along the island’s perimeter visiting pineapple plantations, essential oil and fruit farms. After “roughing it,” we are treated to luxurious massages at the Manea Spa, located inside Moorea Pearl Resort. I spend the evening dining on authentic Polynesian cuisine and taking in the sights. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing the fish below my overwater bungalow. The sky is lit up with thousands of beautiful stars. Some lucky honeymooners are enjoying dinner on the beach at a private table for two. It‘s so romantic.
If pure romance is what you’re looking for, then Bora Bora is for you. We fly from Papeete to the small island airport where the hotel’s water shuttle picks us up and carries us through a breathtaking lagoon with more shades of blue than Crayola has in its box. The water is crystal clear, then suddenly the deepest shade of navy blue. The Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa is something out of a movie, traditionally Polynesian and luxurious. It’s the largest and most impressive resort we’ve visited, a true paradise. Naturally there are overwater bungalows with views of coral and exotic fish living underneath, but the private garden bungalows may make you NEVER leave your room. Why would you when you have your own pool and deck built for two?
As the sunsets, a Polynesian style boat adorned with hibiscus and plumeria picks up a couple from one of the overwater bungalows and paddles them to shore. The couple is carried to the island’s Tahitian attired representative, who leads them through their wedding vows. The breathtaking Bora Bora scenery enhances the powerful moment. After the ceremony, we dine near the water’s edge and stargaze into the pristine sky. The Pearl can make anything happen! The staff makes sure you are cocooned in the romance of Bora Bora.
Bora Bora Pearl’s Manea Spa offers lavish services, including an in-house Tahitian tattoo artist. Couples are encouraged to experience couple-themed treatments. A dedicated couples suite offers a 3 hour and 20 minute treatment that includes a rubdown (scrubbing) with fruits and sand, a body rinse, a jet rinse, a flower bath, oil massage of umehei and a Jacuzzi. If you don’t want to leave your secluded bungalow, they will preform this treatment in your room. I couldn’t think of anything more decadent and sumptuous to do with my partner.
Sadly, we begin our journey home from the glorious islands of French Polynesia. I realize what a life-changing trip it has been. The islands of French Polynesia are magical, each with their own unique charm that beckons the soul. The South Pacific Management Properties are world-class resorts, combining luxury with service and ambiance. Knowing this paradise exists makes the mundane seem bearable. Isak Dinesin says, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” For me, the salt waters of Tikehau, Moorea and Bora Bora do just that.