The Is­lands of Tahiti Cel­e­brate 50 Years of Over­wa­ter Lux­ury

Tahiti Tourisme is cel­e­brat­ing 50 years of over­wa­ter bun­ga­lows, the strik­ing over-the-wa­ter ac­com­mo­da­tion that helped put the Is­lands of Tahiti on the map.


In 1967, Tahiti be­came the first des­ti­na­tion in the world to take ac­com­mo­da­tion into un­charted wa­ters, build­ing suites over its is­lands’ beau­ti­ful blue la­goons in a move that ce­mented the So­ci­ety Is­lands as one of the world’s most sought-af­ter hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions.

The first hum­ble over­wa­ter bun­ga­lows were built in Ra­iatea and Moorea by the “Bali Hai Boys” – Amer­i­cans Don “Muk” McCul­lum, Jay Carlisle and the late Hugh Kel­ley – who trav­elled to the re­gion af­ter be­ing swept away by James Mich­ener’s South Pa­cific.

Fifty years on, there are nearly 900 over­wa­ter bun­ga­lows spread across eight of Tahiti’s 118 is­lands, with the pic­turesque ac­com­mo­da­tion be­com­ing as fa­mous as the des­ti­na­tion’s daz­zling la­goons.

Orig­i­nally built as tra­di­tional stilted coral homes, over the past five decades the Is­lands of Tahiti’s over­wa­ter bun­ga­lows have evolved into pala­tial suites boast­ing pri­vate ter­races, in­fin­ity pools, ham­mocks, spa baths and in-room glass floors…fondly re­ferred to as Tahiti TV.

The iconic Ho­tel Bora Bora, the first ho­tel built on Bora Bora, which is set to re­open as an Aman Re­sort in the com­ing years, added over­wa­ter suites in 1970 and now eleven Bora Bora re­sorts from the St Regis to the Four Sea­sons and the Sofitel, all of­fer the pic­turesque style of ac­com­mo­da­tion which has helped to make the is­land a pop­u­lar play­ground for hon­ey­moon­ers and celebri­ties alike.

The first two-storey vil­las were in­tro­duced by the Hil­ton Bora Bora (now the Conrad) in 2009 and made fa­mous by the Kar­dashi­ans in 2011, with the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Bora Bora Thalasso cur­rently con­struct­ing its own split-level suites, which are set to open later this year.

Tahiti Tourisme Di­rec­tor Aus­tralia/ New Zealand, Robert Thomp­son, said Tahiti’s pop­u­lar­ity as a high-end des­ti­na­tion can be traced back to the in­tro­duc­tion of over­wa­ter vil­las half a cen­tury ago.

“Noth­ing com­pli­ments Tahiti’s strik­ing nat­u­ral beauty more than her over­wa­ter bun­ga­lows. This lux­u­ri­ous style of ac­com­mo­da­tion blends seam­lessly with the is­lands’ crys­tal-clear la­goons, laid-back cul­ture and French so­phis­ti­ca­tion. Over­wa­ter vil­las are a huge part of what makes Tahiti so re­mark­able and why it has been the world’s pre-em­i­nent is­land des­ti­na­tion for five decades,” Mr Thomp­son said.

Le Meri­dien Bora Bora over­wa­ter bun­ga­low

Tike­hau Pearl Beach Re­sort

Le Taha'a is­land re­sort & spa

Conrad, Bora Bora Nui over­wa­ter vil­las

Four Sea­sons, Bora Bora over­wa­ter vil­las

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