The Tahitian islands have always been considered paradise on earth. The 19th-century French painter Paul Gauguin found his nirvana here and so will you. Beachcomb on postcard-perfect black-sand beaches, like Venus Point, on the main island of Tahiti, cruise the lively nightlife scene in Papeete, the urban hub of these islands and explore the surrounding isles. Who knows? Like the long-ago Bounty crew, you may decide to jump ship and stay forever.
The island of Bora Bora, with the dramatic Mt. Otemanu set in the center, is one of the most picturesque places on the planet. The surrounding lagoon might be an Impressionist painting come to life—a dozen shades of blue ripple between white-sand strands and vibrant tropical vegetation. The sunsets here are truly spectacular, especially when viewed from the larger island’s motus (sandy islets). On land, cycle along the 19-mile road that rings the island’s edge. Pick up handcrafted treasures, like colorful pareus (sarongs), and be sure to sample the locally brewed Hinano beer.
Bure-side at Manihi Beach Resort on Manihi island
A room at the luxe Manijhi Pearl Beach Resort.
Black pearls are cultivated at more than 60 farms set on stilts in Manihi’s Lagoon. The luscious colors range from peacock blue and eggplant purple to fly-eye green and sleek silver. Buy them solo at the floating farms, or visit the jewelry shop at Manihi Pearl Beach Resort, where you’ll find the pearls set into modern platinum or silver designs.
left: A vahine (woman) greets visitors to paradise; right: Tahiti's lustrous black pearls
On Tahiti’s twin island of Moorea, velvetgreen volcanic peaks are wrapped in wispy clouds, and fjord-like bays are flanked by coconut groves and fragrant rain forests. Overnight options range from camping on the beach to utlraluxe hideaways with overwater bures (bungalows). Swimming with dolphins, boating and feeding the nonthreatening sharks are just a few of the popular activities in the dazzling lagoon. And the island is loaded in tradition: Moorea’s lush Opunohu Valley boasts a large number of ancient Polynesian stone temples called marae.
Moorea's velvety peaks
Located on the island of Tahiti, a mere five minutes from French Polynesia’s only international airport, the InterContinental Resort Tahiti has a picturesque swimming lagoon, infi nity pool and overwater bungalows. Most of the 263 guest rooms blend modern conveniences like Internet and flat-screen TVs with traditional Polynesian decor. Don’t miss: Les Grands Ballets Tahiti, an interactive dance revue (room rates start at about $190 a night; tahitiresorts.intercontinental.com).
Ready to relax at the InterContinental Resort Tahiti.
Adventure seekers have plenty of options in Tahiti. For some unique thrills and chills, book an excursion with Top Dive. You’ll swim among lemon and black-tip sharks, eagle rays and barracuda in the open ocean beyond Bora Bora’s reef (excursions start at $75 for a tank dive; topdive.com).
Admiring a host of butterfly fish
An underwater vision
Photography: Courtesy of Tahiti Tourisme and South Pacific.