Fresh off the plane from his trip to Tahiti, Mr. Herff, looking tan and relaxed in his crisp summer linens, had nothing but praise for French Polynesia! After a ten-day tour of the islands, he was all smiles and left the rest of us envious of his island adventure. Though it had been several decades since he had last been there he can attest that it hasn’t changed much – and that is a good thing!
A collection of over 100 islands in the South Pacific in the same time zone as Hawaii, French Polynesia is one of the most exclusive destinations in the world. If lounging on a hammock on the deck of your overwater bungalow is your idea of heaven, this is most-assuredly the place for you. Though populated with over 200,000 locals spread throughout the islands, it is one of those places that is totally unspoiled and an under-visited gem. Home to some of the most beautiful water in the world and exquisite, lush, mountainous topography, you’d be hard pressed to find a location more lovely and tranquil.
This is a place to relax and enjoy nature. You won’t find glorious temples and architecture to marvel or museums stocked full of priceless art. What you will find are waters so clear you may not be able to clearly determine their depth and fish the color of highlighters that will dance around you as you swim. We recommend that you limit your adventures to 3 of the islands: Bora Bora, Taha’a and Moorea. This allows you enough time in each place, with minimal travel time between, to unplug and enjoy your surroundings.
The flight to the main international airport Papeete located on the island of Tahiti is 8 hours from Los Angeles. From there it is a short 50-minute flight to Bora Bora. The most commercialized of the islands, here you will find just about every major hotel chain vying for your dollars. We like the St. Regis or the Intercontinental. Each offers the novelty of the overwater bungalows and views of the lagoon, island or out to sea. Definitely take a lagoon boat tour, or if you are feeling more adventurous a jet ski, to see Mt. Otemanu from every angle. You can spend a whole day snorkeling around your bungalow investigating the coral and sea life, or you can test out your courage by swimming with sharks! Don’t miss the chance have dinner and drinks at the local icon Bloody Mary’s Restaurant and “yacht club.” This is one of those places that encapsulates a true island feel. From the authentic Tahitian cuisine and drinks to the sand floors and exotic chickens scurrying about outside, you can feel time slow down and the cares of life melt away.
From Bora Bora, you can take a quick flight to the island of Raiatea and hop on a boat to the Le Taha’a Resort that singularly occupies a small island just off the island of Taha’a. With a welcome greeting of fresh flowers to wear and more flowers scattered throughout your bungalow and the property, the whole experience will be colorful and fragrant. Here again, you can swim just off the deck of your bungalow and encounter all manner of fish flitting in and out of the coral. If you crave some activity on land we recommend you rent a car on the main island of Taha’a and explore the vanilla plantations or just drive around to admire the flora and fauna of the island. Another incredible experience is to visit the pearl farms and dive for pearls, perhaps you will get lucky and find a lustrous black pearl! Don’t forget to walk to the other side of the resort to enjoy the iridescent sunsets.
If you are interested in a real splurge you must book a few nights at the Brando. Marlon Brando fell in love with the islands of French Polynesia while filming Mutiny on the Bounty. He wed a native and purchased an idyllic atoll where he built a village that was eventually run as a small thatched hotel for over 20 years. After being scooped up by a luxury hotelier it was transformed to the paradise of seclusion and luxury that it is now. Though not over the water, these bungalows come with their own pool and 24-hour room service. This place is not for the faint of heart budget wise but the level of luxury here is over the top in a perfectly peaceful island way.
If you are looking for an island destination that is not the Caribbean and is less modern and commercialized than Hawaii, you have got to visit these delightful islands of the South Pacific. The name of the game here is relaxation and communing with the incredible nature served up by the sea. Pack a light suitcase with a few swimsuits, flip flops and sunglasses and prepare to be enchanted by a place so serene that the only sound to wake you in the morning will be the sound of oars slapping the water as a local fisherman paddles past your bungalow with his morning haul.