French Flair, trop­i­cal bliss

Tahiti is an in­tox­i­cat­ing mix of nat­u­ral splen­dour and some of the world’s most in­cred­i­ble hotels. angie Kelly goes is­land hop­ping to road test some of the best.

Signature Travel & Lifestyle - - Destination Tahiti -

the rich, mel­low note of a conch shell trav­els across the la­goon and into our over­wa­ter bun­ga­low, call­ing us onto the deck. a flower-adorned ca­noe is bring­ing a break­fast of fruit, cof­fee and warm pas­tries across turquoise wa­ter. it’s a mar­vel­lous and mem­o­rable start to our day in French poly­ne­sia.

We are at the pearl re­sort off the loved-up is­land of bora bora, where it and a hand­ful of other lux­u­ri­ous hotels are mag­nets for hon­ey­moon­ers and cou­ples in search of the ul­ti­mate ro­man­tic es­cape.

to­day, on this sandy dot in the south pacific, we will snorkel off the edge of our room and see a kalei­do­scope of trop­i­cal fish dart­ing around the re­gen­er­ated co­ral gar­den for which the ho­tel is fa­mous. We’ll kayak, pad­dle­board and drink in the dra­matic vol­canic back­drop over lime-mar­i­nated lo­cal fish and gin cock­tails.

the pearl is set in vast, trop­i­cal gar­dens and of­fers an up­mar­ket yet re­laxed, au­then­tic poly­ne­sian ex­pe­ri­ence. spa­cious gar­den suites have pri­vate en­closed gar­dens, plunge pools and out­door show­ers. beach suites come with brag­ging rights — a swim in the la­goon steps from your door.

Four sea­sons of el­e­gance

pearl’s fa­mous-name neigh­bours have a dif­fer­ent design vibe: ralph lau­ren­style mod­ern amer­i­can luxe meets the hamp­tons. in the over­wa­ter bun­ga­lows at the Four sea­sons, warm tim­ber tones un­der­pin a pal­ette of neu­tral soft fur­nish­ings. rat­tan fur­ni­ture, plan­ta­tion shut­ters and glass in the floor cre­ate an instagram-wor­thy tableau.

a spell in the spa here will al­most ruin you for any other; a mas­sage as you look down through a glass win­dow into the wa­ter fol­lowed by an out­door bath with a view rates a 10 out of 10.

a two-minute swim off the main beach takes you to a spoon­ful of sand with one palm tree and just enough space for a dream wed­ding. as many a honeymooning cou­ple here do be­fore im­mers­ing them­selves in the re­sort’s lux­u­ri­ous fa­cil­i­ties.

and when there is lav­ish el­e­gance paired with nat­u­ral splen­dour, it’s no sur­prise re­sorts like Four sea­sons and the st. regis are adored by deep­pock­eted celebs and the up­scale jet set.

is­lands of Mana

When it comes to splen­did iso­la­tion, nowhere does it bet­ter than the pearl re­sort at tike­hau, in the pal­liser is­land chain, one of the five ar­chi­pel­a­gos that make up the na­tion. ar­riv­ing here, i feel em­braced by Mana, a word that en­cap­su­lates the unique spirit of French poly­ne­sia and its peo­ple.

even the lo­cals are daz­zled by tike­hau’s fa­mous pink sand, teem­ing nat­u­ral aquar­ium and 50 shades of blue la­goon.

a 60-minute flight from papeete on the main is­land, tike­hau is ac­tu­ally a co­ral atoll where it’s said the fish out­num­ber peo­ple by a mil­lion to one. a stroll in the crys­tal shal­lows proves that to be true with baby reef sharks, small rays and count­less species of trop­i­cal fish al­most brush­ing your feet as you walk.

lux­ury here comes in the form of robinson cru­soe-style seclu­sion and fresh French fare with a trop­i­cal twist. as­ton­ish­ingly coloured scenery, a menu in­spired by the sea, plus our over­sized bun­ga­low with its glass-edged bath­tub makes a heady sen­sory com­bi­na­tion.

on our shaded deck with views to the hori­zon, we take our eyes off the or­ange sky at sun­set to take in the spec­ta­cle of a school of reef sharks swim­ming in the il­lu­mi­nated wa­ter around our lad­der.

the pearl tike­hau also of­fers guests what must surely be one of the world’s most idyl­lic days out — a gourmet motu pic­nic. Mo­tus – tiny dol­lops of sand – are also found off hua­nine, bora bora and Moorea, with some tours of­fer­ing gourmet din­ing on ta­bles sub­merged in the shal­lows and waiter ser­vice.

cham­pagne on the beach

on Moorea — a 10-minute plane ride or spec­tac­u­lar half-hour cata­ma­ran trip from papeete — the hil­ton is re­garded as one of the is­land’s top hotels.

the suites were re­fur­bished in 2013 with fab­u­lous beach bures strad­dling the shore­line, half over sand and half over wa­ter.

it’s also the only re­sort po­si­tioned per­fectly on the point of Mount ro­tui to give guests prime view­ing for both sunrise and sun­set.

set on tahiti’s sec­ond most pop­u­lated is­land, the op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­plore be­yond the re­sort are more nu­mer­ous here than on smaller atolls and islets. hop on a scooter and head for the hip and hap­pen­ing French-run Moorea beach café where you can set­tle in for a glass of Veuve and wood­fired pizza.

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01 break­fast de­liv­ery at bora bora pearl beach re­sort & spa 02 over­wa­ter bure at hil­ton Moorea la­goon re­sort & spa

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03 Four sea­sons bora bora spa 04 tike­hau pearl beach re­sort

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