Scintillating Tahiti

One of the most unforgettable sights in the world is Tahiti looming from the sea while on board a vessel manuevering to make land on this legendary and unforgettable place. Under skies tinted with a shade of blue that’s never really been defined, matching seas stretching all the way to impossibly green islands rising on the horizon and the sound of water lapping at the ship’s hull, one invariably asks himself the question: “Might this be Paradise?”

After all, no spot has captured Western imagination as being so synonymous with Eden. So it comes as no surprise that it has been lauded as the South Pacific’s Sexiest Romance/Honeymoon Destination for the 10th consecutive year in Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Awards.

Indeed, the mere mention of French Polynesia—a lush region about the size of Western Europe consisting of 118 islands and atolls separated into five different archipelagos sprawling roughly halfway between Australia and South America—evokes visions of sheer tropical bliss.

“Tahiti is often referred to as romantic, beautiful, pristine, etc.,” says Jonathan Reap, director of communications for Tahiti Tourisme, North America, “however, the [Recommend magazine’s] award for the sexiest honeymoon/romance destination must be directly linked to the overall experience that honeymooners and romantics alike find in French Polynesia. Throughout the islands, couples will find our signature accommodations—the overwater bungalows perched over temperate, pristine lagoons—warm tradewinds, sugary white sand beaches, verdant mountains and plenty of romantic activities.”

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As if that mental image wasn’t enough, the islands offer a diverse landscape and a powerful, inherent beauty spiced with a potent Polynesian finesse that even the most jaded tourist wouldn’t fail to be captivated.

In addition, Tahiti is a rich market for North American travel agents, since more than 30 percent of island visitors hail from the U.S. and Canada.

Goway Travel—this year’s recipient for Best Tour Operator, South Pacific in the Readers’ Choice Awards—offers a wide choice of packages to the mythical islands.

Goway’s product manager, Meghan Boyd, who is also keen on Tahiti, says, “Tahiti is lush tropical landscapes of crystal-clear azure lagoons surrounded by soaring volcanic peaks, of love and romance. Islands Escape, a Goway package, offers the opportunity to experience all of this with air-land inclusive escapes to Tahiti and the nearby islands of Moorea, and Bora Bora.”

For example, the 8-night honeymoon escape package with stops in Tahiti, Bora Bora and Tahaa starts from $5,569, including airfare from Los Angeles on Air Tahiti.

Another very attractive Goway product is aimed at “couples looking for a romantic getaway,” Boyd adds. “This Tahiti and Bora Bora escape departs from Los Angeles and is priced from $2,999. It’s a spectacular value. After one night spent on the main island at the Sofitel Maeva Beach Resort, couples hop on a short 45-minute flight to Bora Bora for five nights at the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort & Spa in a Motu bungalow. The package includes daily breakfast and all relevant transfers.”

Bora Bora Lagoon Resort & Spa is located on Motu Toopua, a small island in the middle of Bora Bora Lagoon. It is surrounded by blue tri-color water with views of Mt. Otemanu’s enchanted emerald peaks.

Resort features include the Maru Spa, four restaurants and bars, six different styles of accommodation and other amenities.

Accommodations in Moorea for those traveling with Goway are at the Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort on the edge of a superb lagoon with views of Tahiti.

According to Boyd, the resort recently underwent a facelift and “features 114 bungalows built over the water. The beachfront resort is surrounded by landscaped gardens. Amenities include two excellent restaurants, a bar, an outdoor swimming pool and day spa. Moorea has one of the world’s most beautiful beaches and a variety of motorized and non-motorized water activities can be arranged for guests.”

The Moorea packages starts from $2,699 including roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles, a welcome with fresh flower leis, all transfers, five nights in Moorea (including daily breakfast and dinner) and departure assistance.

The beauty of Tahiti cannot be fully grasped unless a visitor takes a peek beneath the ocean’s surface to marvel at the wondrous marine life thriving in warm water.

Tikehau, Manihi, Fakarava, Rangiroa, and three nearby atolls are deemed among the best dive spots on the planet. Fakarava is a 2-hour flight from Tahiti, but a world removed. Financed by taxes levied on the booming black-pearl industry, the atoll’s main street is now paved. The best pain-au-chocolat in the South Pacific is sold in a humble shop along the avenue from a boulangere decorated with chandeliers made from conch shells.

An hour’s flight west, Rangiroa is the largest of the Tuamotu atolls, its lagoon is huge: 40 by 20 miles. At its far western end lies the shallow Blue Lagoon with what may be the bluest water in the world and full of strange and colorful marine life.

Tikehau’s Pearl Beach Resort is relatively new, the prototypical hammock-in-paradise experience. It has bungalows hang over the water with metal ladders allowing direct access to the beach. Tahiti—paradise indeed.