By Christopher A. Pape
Truth be told, I’m not a beach guy. I don’t have the right body type and to schlep here or there for some sand and sun doesn’t seem appealing; being around European history and culture is my idea of a great time. But, after a stressful 2012, I knew I had to get away from civilization and relax in pure beach beauty.
The dilemma was, where to go? I had been to the Caribbean and the shores of Mexico; Hawaii seemed unappetizing with its avalanche of American tourists. So when I was invited to visit the wonderful South Pacific Management Resorts of French Polynesia, I was sold.
Although, admittedly, not around the corner, Tahiti and her islands hold a special place in the hearts of many Americans. Always popular with the celebrity and jet set crowd, Tahiti is becoming increasingly accessible to a wider swath of the American public; it’s a good thing and tourism helps the country flourish.
Their portfolio of hotels features six exquisite resorts in locations that are among the least touristy and visited of the South Pacific Islands. The collection of resorts consists of Manava Suite Resort Tahiti, Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa, Huahine Te Tiare Beach Resort, Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa and Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort.
These smaller, exclusive resorts all feature fewer than 100 rooms, allowing each guest to have an intimate, relaxing and personal experience when choosing from traditional hotel rooms and suites, as well as luxury beachfront bungalows and even the world-famous overwater bungalows, allowing for a true Polynesian experience.
I arrived in Tahiti; its bustling streets a contrast to the other islands’ isolation. I stayed at the serene Manava Suite Resort Tahiti, conveniently close to the airport, but not so close as to make it undesirable. It’s extreme lushness and impeccable service made the property a standout. I had a beautiful room with an ocean view and after the long flight, the hotel made me feel refreshed and roaring to go.
Early the next morning, I found myself on a plane to Tikehau, a remote coral atoll with only one hotel property, the Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort. Tikehau is located 200 miles northeast of Tahiti in the Tuamotu Islands. The atoll is oval-shaped, has a large central lagoon, and is made up of two major islands and numerous islets. Most of the island is surrounded by a continuous coral reef, which our stunning over-the-water bungalows stood amongst.
From start to finish, I was impressed by everything at this breathtaking location. The service was friendly and dignified; the food was prepared with care and a deft hand and the views were as if they were from a storybook. The hotel is a snorkeling fan’s paradise. With a living reef, the fish were numerous and diverse; it’s definitely worth a try, if you’ve never snorkeled before.
After two relaxing days, I was onward to Moorea Pearl Resort on the bountiful and lushly forested Moorea. A sister island to Tahiti and the second largest of the chain (in terms of population) Moorea has quickly become a favorite of vacationers.
The Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa was in many respects similar to Tikehau – great service, excellent food, inviting accommodations. However, on a fundamental level it’s completely different. Here one is surrounded by a rainforest, birds sing and small lizards dart about. To honor this intrinsic difference, I stayed in a garden suite rather an over-the-water bungalow. With a private plunge pool and an interior that invoked the spirit of French Polynesia; the property was a great choice.
I also had the very fortunate opportunity to do a 4x4 expedition of the island. To say I felt like Captain Cook (he discovered the island for England) would be a gross understatement. The roads (if you could call them that) were definitely the ones less traveled on. With gorgeous and dense pineapple farms and flora that I couldn’t begin to name, it was a trip worth remembering and was emblematic of the island as a whole.
But this journey had to continue and two days later I was on another plane to Bora Bora. Every adjective you’ve heard to describe Bora Bora is completely true. Wondrous, glorious, stunning, breathtaking, and magnificent are some of the words that come to mind.
I was again lucky enough to be in a premium over-the-water bungalow. This time the accommodation was at the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort. They were similar in size and taste to the ones in Tikehau. But, unlike my first destination; there were no coral reefs – just pure white sand glory. Jumping into the warm waters of the Pacific was like bathing in a warm tub. The water around my room was only two and half feet deep and made for perfect and pure relaxation.
To wax poetic about the property is no hard feat. The most spectacular feature is there location; it is the best of Bora Bora. With no other hotel in sight, excellent beaches, shallow water, and views that will change your life, the Pearl Beach is not to be missed. It doesn’t hurt that they have one of the most elegant and pristine spas I have ever been to; the massage that I received was also amongst the best I’ve ever had.
To express all of my feelings for French Polynesia and South Pacific Management hotels would require reams of paper. Suffice it to say that whichever island you choose (Tikehau, Moorea, Tahiti or Bora Bora) you can’t go wrong. From mind altering beaches, water whose color is indescribably iridescent and accommodations that shine, who could ask for anything more? I was spoiled to go on this trip and urge all of you to put Tahiti and her islands (and of course South Pacific Management) on your bucket list. •
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