French Polynesia is justifiably famous for its pristine beaches and natural wonders, as well as for traditional south Pacific offerings like overwater thatched-roof bungalows and hideaways accessible only by boat.
But now the islands and resorts are upping the ante by adding modern amenities—wireless Internet access and award-winning dining experiences, for instance.
They're also refurbishing, renovating and introducing spas and such amazing activities as art workshops. Here are the best, newest and hottest happenings on the islands.
The blue lagoon surrounding the island of Bora Bora is so crystal clear that it's almost unbelievable: No wonder romance-seeking honeymooners come from all over the world to experience it.
The big news at the InterContinental Resort & Thalasso Spa Bora Bora: an overwater wedding chapel, one of the first in the world. Set on stilts, this small A-frame structure sits at the end of a long wooden pier. At first glance, it looks unassuming, but take just one step inside and you'll feel its magic.
The enormous window behind the altar showcases Mount Otemanu—a craggy peak covered in deep green forest. When you make your way down the glass-bottom aisle and see the bright pink, techno blue- and yellow-hued fish below, you'll literally feel as though you're walking on water.
As the sun sets over Mount Otemanu, a Tahitian priest performs the ceremony, while musicians on flutes and other traditional instruments accompany the proceedings.
The hotel will arrange everything, including photography and music, and they will even provide you with native costume. (Note: Outsiders cannot be legally married in Tahiti.)
The resort's new Thalassotherapy spa—the only one of its kind in the South Pacific—is also a must-do. The overwater treatment rooms, where you can stare at the fish, coral and other marine life through the glass-bottom floor, is a favorite spa feature. Thalassotherapy is Greek for "to be treated by the sea," and all of the spa's signature treatments feature water sourced from 2,500 feet below sea level.
The water has been protected from external harmful influences for thousands of years, so it's rich in minerals, vitamins and nutrients. Try the 20-minute Deep Sea Hydromassage Bath with Essential Oils, which takes place while you relax in a hot bath infused with a soothing perfume of your choice. The Bora Bora Deep Blue Massage features algae extracts to increase circulation and spur the removal of toxins.
At the InterContinental, every villa is an overwater bungalow with a glass-bottom floor, perfect for viewing the cornucopia of fish below. The rooms also boast private wooden decks, so you can jump right into the water and swim and snorkel until your heart's content. There's even a lagoon-view bathtub that's easily big enough for two and an intimate outdoor shower (888-424-6835; intercontinental.com).
On the popular island of Tahiti, the Sheraton Hotel Tahiti has recently undergone a major overhaul. Built in 1960, the resort was the first in Tahiti to incorporate elements of Polynesian culture into its design. The latest upgrade includes floors made from mahogany and from the wood of coconut trees. And all of the 200-room property's bathrooms are now fitted in marble.
The resort has replaced its beach's black volcanic sand, common to many of the lagoon strands, with pristine white sand. While lounging by the lagoon, you'll gaze straight across the Sea of Moon to the velvety peaks of the neighboring island of Moorea.
And while you may feel as though you're millions of miles from home, the new hotel-wide wireless Internet access (yes, workaholics, it's even poolside) can keep you in contact with the rest of the world (866-716-8140; sheratontahiti.com).
Before the French artist Paul Gauguin painted Tahiti, few people in other parts of the world were familiar with the region. By now, Gauguin's paintings have given the islands a timeless romantic allure. Today, a vibrant international gallery has opened at Le Méridien Tahiti: The airy, white-walled space showcases contemporary paintings, sculpture and other works by artists from across the islands and around the world.
The space doubles as a working studio for artists, who also offer workshops on technique and form to visitors. Large windows allow lots of natural light while affording incomparable vistas of the lagoon and ocean beyond. For those of you who prefer working outside, there's a balcony with views of green palm trees, vibrant sunsets and sparkling water.
Come evening, you can enjoy cocktails and exhibition openings at the studio as well (800-543-4300; lemeridien.com).
Pampering and honeymoons pretty much go together. Luckily for visitors to French Polynesia, the region is taking the spa experience to a whole new level. The Sofitel Bora Bora Beach Resort and the Sofitel Moorea Beach Resort both now feature Le Spa, a well-being and relaxation center.
Each spa's treatment rooms offer panoramic views of the lagoon and ocean, with two soaking tubs and outdoor treatment areas. Spa offerings utilize such native ingredients as sand in the scrubs and ultrahydrating monoï and soothing tamanu oils in massages. Book the Ritual Maeva (it's offered at both locations), and you'll enjoy a monoï-oil massage followed by a romantic Tahitian vanilla-scented bath for two.
At the Moorea property, the signature Papaya Cocoon body treatment features papaya fruit enzymes to replenish tired, stressed-out skin. Each room at both resorts has an iPod so you can listen to your favorite sounds during the experience. In Le Spa Bora Bora one of the more popular treatments, the Couples Warm and Cold shell massage (yes, they use real shells), is said to improve circulation and promote muscle relaxation.
Request an outdoor overwater massage, and a tropical breeze will kiss your back as the lulling sound of the waves encourages you to zone out or even nod off (800-763-4835; sofitel.com).
The craze for top chefs has reached the South Pacific with the addition of Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Lagoon restaurant, located in the St. Regis Resort Bora Bora. The menu is quintessential Jean-Georges: a fusion of haute French cuisine with Asian flavorings.
The 45-seat spot overlooks a lagoon, and the décor—ranked among the most beautiful in the South Pacific—boasts vaulted ceilings covered with handwoven pandanus, rich Malaysian yellow willow wood floors and walls painted bright sea-grass green.
The restaurant also features glass floors and panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the ocean and Mount Otemanu. Sliding glass doors open onto a patio, where you can dine alfresco if you wish. Try the foie gras appetizer, a caramelized pâté served with Provençal olives, island passion fruit and lychee.
For your entrée, choose between the grilled Kobe beef, marinated in a sweet and sour soy-caramel emulsion and the roasted island langoustine, served with risotto infused with lemon and Thai basil (877-787-3447; stregis.com).