The South Pacific has long beckoned romance-seeking travelers with its pristine beaches, unspoiled waters, and laid-back living.By: Joe Yogerst
Tahiti: Picture Perfect Ideal
Imagine a tropical paradise and chances are it’ll be pretty close to the reality that is Tahiti. Here, coconut palms sway over white sands, lagoons boast innumerable shades of blue, coral gardens teem with a gazillion kinds of marine life and cloud-capped volcanoes seem to shoot straight up from the ocean. Hideaways boast rooms that hang out over the water, with windows in the floor so you can watch the fish.
Photo courtesy of La Taha'a Island Resort & Spa
Tahiti is both a large island and a pseudonym for the society islands, that dreamy part of French Polynesia that also includes the legendary Bora Bora, Moorea, three other large islands and endless islets called motus. these are the isles — and the culture — that prompted Fletcher Christian to risk all by organizing the infamous mutiny on the Bounty. They are the landfalls that enchanted Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin. And it’s the place where Marlon Brando fell in love and lived for some time. A French accent adds to their allure, especially in Papeete, the bustling capital city on Tahiti island, which is lined with sidewalk cafés offering freshly baked baguettes and vanilla crème brûlée.
Most visitors spend a day in Papeete and then wing off to one of the other isles. Moorea and Bora Bora are like super-models — you can’t help gazing upon them, wondering how nature could create something so visually perfect. These two also boast the lion’s share of resorts. But all of the islands have something special. Taha’a is a veritable floating garden known for its fragrant vanilla plantations and offshore pearl farms. One of the cradles of polynesian civilization, Huahine is famed for its ancient coral-rock ruins. And giant Raiatea is ripe for hiking and horseback riding through a jungle-shrouded landscape.
Tahiti pioneered the over-water bungalow, and more than 20 resorts on five different islands offer such accommodations. Among the most stunning are those at Le Taha’a Private Island & Spa for the simple reason that the view from your private balcony includes Bora Bora across the channel. That’s not all that makes this one of the best hotels in Tahiti. Sink into a guided snorkel tour through the adjacent coral gardens, an adventure that culminates with a fresh sashimi and ceviche lunch on a sand bar. Hop a helicopter over to Bora Bora for the day or book a Polynesian spa ritual for two (room rates start at $746 a night; lethahaa.com.