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.
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.
01 breakfast delivery at bora bora pearl beach resort & spa 02 overwater bure at hilton Moorea lagoon resort & spa
03 Four seasons bora bora spa 04 tikehau pearl beach resort