HON­EY­MOON­ING IN THE IS­LANDS OF

Wedding Bells (East) - - Destinations -

NYONE WHO HAS VIS­ITED the Is­lands of Tahiti will tell you it was love at first sight. This group of 118 idyl­lic is­lands sur­rounded by the South Pa­cific have long en­chanted vis­i­tors with dra­matic moun­tain peaks, im­pos­si­bly blue seas and trop­i­cal land­scapes burst­ing with ex­otic flow­ers—but the beauty ex­tends far be­yond these ob­vi­ous phys­i­cal at­tributes.

Look be­low the sur­face and you’ll dis­cover a place where unity is in­trin­sic: from the way land and wa­ter work to­gether to sup­port daily life to the way man and na­ture col­lab­o­rate to cre­ate the is­lands’ prized vanilla and pearls.

Even the cul­ture is a mar­riage, blend­ing French

and Poly­ne­sian sen­si­bil­i­ties. And then there’s mana, a com­plex con­cept Tahi­tians hold dear, that has unity at its core. It’s the en­ergy in the land, the sea and the air that en­velops the soul and con­nects peo­ple to this place and one another in an in­de­scrib­ably beau­ti­ful way. Think of it as the elu­sive nir­vana of French Poly­ne­sia—your first visit may only pro­vide you with a glimpse, but it will be enough to serve as the first step to­ward travel en­light­en­ment help­ing you deepen your con­nec­tion to the des­ti­na­tion and each other.

Get to the heart of the is­lands and dis­cover the mana that lies be­yond the iconic over­wa­ter bun­ga­lows of Bora Bora us­ing this cu­rated

honey­moon itin­er­ary.

GET IM­MERSED IN POLY­NE­SIAN CUL­TURE IN RAIATEA

For a primer on the his­tory of the is­lands, make Raiatea your first stop. A quick 45-minute flight from Tahiti’s cap­i­tal, Papeete, this wild is­land sits at the heart of the Poly­ne­sian Tri­an­gle and is con­sid­ered by many to be a place of great spir­i­tual sig­nif­i­cance. The is­land’s most im­por­tant site, Marae Ta­puta­pu­atea, is a tra­di­tional tem­ple and sprawl­ing sea­side plaza where some of the most im­por­tant cer­e­monies in Poly­ne­sian his­tory took place. The marae (sa­cred place) gar­nered in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion in 2017 when it was de­clared a UNESCO world her­itage site. Book a tour with Poly­ne­sian Es­cape’s Tahiarii Pari­ente, one of the area’s fore­most schol­ars, who will walk you through the site and ex­plain why Marae Ta­puta­pu­atea re­mains a place of pil­grim­age for

Poly­ne­sians from as far away as New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Is­land.

Wa­ter has al­ways been an in­te­gral part of life in the Is­lands of Tahiti. Emerg­ing from the sea af­ter great vol­canic erup­tions, these is­lands and atolls were orig­i­nally set­tled by ocean-go­ing peo­ple who nav­i­gated their way to par­adise us­ing the stars as their guide. These days, the area is con­sid­ered home to the most ma­jes­tic swath of sea on earth and its crys­talline wa­ters are one of the big­gest draws for vis­i­tors. The is­land of Moorea, in par­tic­u­lar, pro­vides once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ences at sea for mod­ern-day ex­plor­ers.

Set­tle in at the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Moorea Re­sort

and Spa, a luxe prop­erty nes­tled be­tween strik­ing moun­tain peaks and a trop­i­cal la­goon, then get out and ex­plore the ocean. For ad­ven­tur­ous hon­ey­moon­ers, Moorea Jet Surf, a com­pany owned by veteran wa­ter­man De­nis Gros­maire, of­fers a unique way to ex­plore the la­goon on a mo­tor­ized surf­board, while Co­ral­lina Tours op­er­ates ex­cur­sions that will have you head­ing out past Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay, while spin­ner dol­phins swim along­side your boat. You’ll drop an­chor in a play­ground for st­ingrays and black tip reef sharks where you can hop in the wa­ter and come face to face with these fas­ci­nat­ing sea crea­tures.

Ex­pe­ri­ence over­wa­ter lux­ury at Le Taha’a.

By JEN O’BRIEN

Step into the past at Marae Ta­puta­pu­atea.

Snorkel with black tip reef sharks.

Kick back in seclu­sion at the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Moorea.

Check swimming with stringrays off your bucket list.

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