When I am looking to go to a destination that is exotic, beautiful, peaceful & relaxing, the first place I think of is Tahiti. Tahiti, or more accurately, French Polynesia or the Society Islands, is only an 8 ½ hour flight from Los Angeles. It is a place where you can spend magical time away from the daily grind or crowded cities. I know this might not be for everyone, but picture what I am going to describe and decide for yourself.
As you exit the plane upon arrival at Faa’a International Airport on the island of Tahiti, take a deep breath and smell the fragrance from the tropical flowers and feel the gentle warm breeze on your skin. You are greeted by Tahitian music and the beautiful smiling faces of Tahitians as you receive a flower lei greeting welcoming you to paradise.
There are many islands in Tahiti to choose from and all have their own appeal. But they all share gentle warm breezes, crystalline blue water, sugar white beaches and swaying palm trees. Depending on your flight arrival you may be required to spend the first night in Papeete on Tahiti. Upon awakening there is nothing like stepping out on your lanai to peer out at the amazingly beautiful aqua-blue water, with the Island of Moorea 12 miles across the sea. This is when I know that I have returned to paradise.
From Papeete you proceed to whichever island or islands you choose to visit. I prefer to head to Moorea via a ferry, which takes approximately 30 minutes. Moorea is known as the Magic Island, where you will find luxuriant gardens set on perfect lagoons. Moorea calls out to be explored, either along the waterfront road or inland to the mountains. There are coral reefs, cascading waterfalls, uninhabited beaches and secluded coves. The villages, boutiques and restaurants let you meet the warm, relaxed Tahitian people. Moorea is chosen by many painters, artists & writers for its sweetness, preserved environment and charm. During a visit to Moorea, be sure to visit the Dolphin Center (you can swim with the dolphins) at the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa, or try helmet diving to see the beautiful underwater life up close.
Next, I head to Bora Bora, the Pearl of the Pacific, probably the most famous island in all of the Society Islands. As you look out the window of the plane you will be mesmerized by the coral reef of translucent blue water surrounded by ‘motus,’ or green islets, and Mt Otemanu rising up from the center. The majority of Bora Bora's hotels are on its motus, where you will find the famous overwater bungalows. Just imagine waking up in the morning, opening the curtains, stepping onto your lanai, doing down a few steps and jumping into the warmest, clearest water you could imagine. Picture yourself snorkeling, diving, sailing or relaxing on a deserted motu. Other activities to enjoy are snorkeling with sharks & rays, visiting the Turtle Sanctuary at Le Meridien Bora Bora, or para-sailing around the lagoon. Watching the sun set behind Otemanu’s peak is a scene not to be missed. You really get a sense of peace when you stay in Bora Bora.
There are other islands in the Society Islands that you might consider: Rangiroa or Fakarava in the Tuamotu Islands, known as the Pearls of the Sea. These remote islands should be considered if you are an avid diver/snorkeler or fisherman. Huahine, the Garden Island, is considered to be the cradle of ancient Polynesian culture, and many of Polynesia’s most important archaeological sites are located here. Huahine is also known for its world class surfing.
Another way to see the Society Islands is by cruise ship or yacht. Both Paul Gauguin Cruises and Windstar Cruises operate here. As you can see, there is something for everyone and a beautiful, exotic, romantic & peaceful destination for all.
Linda Kahn-Ferrell arranges fabulous South Pacific trips when she's not there.