Famed for its sparkling blue waters and lush green landscapes, the French Polynesian islands, which include Tahiti and Bora Bora, vividly color many a travel daydream. Visions of thatch-roofed bungalows perched over turquoise waters beckon visitors to the islands of this tropical paradise. Imagine being effortlessly transported from one gorgeous stretch of white sand to the next while sipping champagne on the deck of a luxurious South Pacific cruise ship or making friends with dolphins while basking in warm Pacific waters.
Happily, there are two equally tantalizing ways — staying in a luxurious resort or venturing offshore on an island cruise — to experience Tahiti and nearby islands, and both allow you to soak up the sunshine, swim with dazzling reef fish, or simply kick back and enjoy life.
Luxury on land
Stay on a Polynesian island and you're surrounded by water wherever you choose to hang your sunhat for the night. But not all water views are created equal. Make the most of your getaway by splurging on an over-water bungalow. Stunning views of peaks reminiscent of mythical Bali Ha'i, along with breakfast delivered via canoe and quick access to swimming, are just a few of the delights of lodging on the water. Simply peer through your transparent floor for up-close views of tropical fish mingling with brightly colored coral. For active types, top resorts typically offer complimentary use of kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and snorkel gear. When it comes to dining, your choices are casual Polynesian or chic French restaurants.
A few of your lodging options include:
- Arriving by boat at the stunning InterContinental Bora Bora Resort. The first guest rooms built above the warm, aqua lagoon in romantic Bora Bora appeared at the InterContinental, which has since grown to include a state-of-the-art Thalasso Spa and glass-floored wedding chapel.
- Being swept away in a villa with its own bubbling whirlpool on the terrace at the St. Regis Bora Bora. Bungalows here feature butlers to tend to your every whim.
- Snorkeling in solitude in a private lagoon at the InterContinental Moorea. The resort is home to trained dolphins and offers numerous opportunities to swim with these fascinating creatures. The spa, Polynesia's first, features flower-filled baths and body scrubs with pineapple or vanilla oils.
Seduced by the sea
A blast from the conch shell on board the luxury cruise ship m/s Paul Gaugin means you've reached the beaches of the idyllic island of Taha'a. Here, you'll be greeted by sweet Polynesian melodies strummed on a guitar. Obliging attendants wade through the surf, bearing trays of iced rum punch served in coconut husks adorned with pink blossoms.
The conch blows again when you reach Motu Mahana. Disembarking onto the shores of this private island is like stepping into a Polynesian postcard.
On board the ship, visitors experience a warm Polynesian ambiance, from the decor and entertainment to the gracious Paul Gauguin staff. Between sipping cocktails (all included in your fare) and slipping into cooling lagoons, you learn to properly tie a pareo and make poisson cru, a marinated fresh fish favorite.
You'll also be seduced by the superb cuisine, elegant staterooms with ocean views from private balconies, and multi-island itineraries.
The islands' French component is accented at the ship's La Veranda restaurant, one of three onboard eateries. Parisian chef Jean-Pierre Vigato oversees the exquisite dinner menu.
For a taste and touch of Tahiti, nothing compares to the exclusive "Dinner Under the Stars," available twice during seven-night cruises from Papeete. This exceptional evening unfolds (literally) on the ship's folding aft marina platform. Think champagne, an intimate dinner, tropical breezes, and a glorious sunset followed by sparkling starlight.