TAHITI: French Polynesian Paradise



 TAHITI: French Polynesian Paradise

By Marla Cimini

Global Living Magazine – Issue 5 | February/March 2013

A divine destination that is often whispered in the same breezy breath as the words ‘dream vacation,’ French Polynesia conjures a sense of a tranquil paradise with sun-drenched tropical beaches and sapphire-hued waves lapping at the pristine shoreline.

No matter which islands you decide to visit, Tahiti becomes your own private paradise, complete with palm trees, bright azure skies – and blissful serenity. And with a bit of careful pre-planning, you can create your own endless summer.

Papeete, Tahiti: City Culture in the Tropics

‘Maeva’ is the Tahitian word for ‘welcome,’ and guests truly experience warm greetings throughout all of French Polynesia. The first stop for international travelers is Papeete, the bustling capital city of Tahiti. Although it’s tempting to immediately rush off to one of the more distant islands, Papeete has quite a few cultural offerings that are worth a look. An urban alternative to the pristine and picturesque sea and landscapes, this lively city is home to plenty of activities.

For a taste of the local cuisine, a stop by the food trucks, called roulottes, offers distinct flavors – from Asian to French (crepes, anyone?). Seasoned trekkers know that this town’s central marketplace (Le marché) offers the best opportunities and prices for shopping before – or after – jaunting off to the dreamier locales. It’s the ideal place to get beach-ready and peruse the brightly colored, sarong-like pareos, as well as the coconut oils, jewelry, Tahitian vanilla, and an array of tropical trinkets. Of course, a visit to Tahiti is not complete without sorting through buckets of glimmering black pearls, a decadent rite of passage for most tourists. And if the need arises for some decorative, permanent skin augmentation, fear not. A tribal tattoo artist has a shop on the market’s second floor.

Aside from being considered a Mecca for surfers and scuba divers, Tahiti also features a number of museums worthy of a visit, such as the James Norman Hall Museum that celebrates the famed author; the Paul Gauguin museum; and the Museum of Tahiti and her islands. For those wishing to explore more intensely, half or full-day island tours are easily accessible, and provide a comprehensive Tahiti experience.

For a stay on Tahiti, the upscale Manava Suite resort is a lovely property situated on a lagoon with the largest infinity pool on the island. It’s a short drive from the city center of Papeete, but might as well be miles away, with its spacious, modern, renovated rooms and an attentive staff. Featuring a full-service restaurant and bar, the hotel’s serene tropical ambiance gives guests the opportunity to relax and decompress, island-style.


Heart-shaped Moorea lives up to its romantic reputation from the moment you approach the shoreline, either from the air or via ferry boat. Dramatic cliffs and rugged coastline create a breathtaking aesthetic throughout this stunning island, located just 35 minutes by boat (and 10 minutes by plane) from Tahiti. As the inspiration for author James Michener’s mythical island of Bali Hai, no wonder it is a favorite among honeymooners from all corners of the world.

Visitors touring the island via jeep will marvel at the majestic panoramic views of the mountains, waterfalls and turquoise surf. Spending time on the gorgeous beaches provides optimal swimming, kayaking and snorkeling opportunities, as well as horseback riding along the coast. For some aquatic culture, Dr. Poole’s dolphin and whale tour provides an afternoon of education while spotting these glorious mammals. In the evening, a visit to the island’s Tiki Village cultural center for a Polynesian dance show is not to be missed.

For travelers seeking an exclusive Moorea experience, the perfect choice for a dreamy island getaway is the recently-renovated Hilton Moorea Lagoon resort and spa. With impeccable service and stellar accommodations, this hotel features gorgeous overwater and garden bungalows with fresh, modern interiors, complete with large bedrooms, marble bathrooms with walk-in showers and claw-foot bathtubs, as well as large flat screen TVs. Glass viewing areas in the floors of the overwater bungalows provide guests with aquarium-like views of the colorful fish swimming below, while the garden suites have private plunge pools and decks with cushy lounge chairs. The hotel’s stunning swimming pool stretches toward the palm-tree-lined, 10-acre lagoon where water activities await, such as incredible snorkeling in the coral garden just steps from the beach. For those seeking some added relaxation, the resort’s spa is sure to please, with organic-only products made from local fruits and minerals.

As the only all-bungalow resort on the island, its sophisticated style encompasses a unique overwater bar with views of the lagoon, giving guests the chance to toast the island with a heartfelt Manuia (Tahitian for ‘cheers’). The Hilton also offers romantic beachfront dining at sunset.

Another Moorea lodging option with a distinctly boutique feel is the Moorea Pearl Resort and Spa. With its 94 rooms (overwater, beach and garden bungalows), this charming property also features two restaurants and a wide array of activities and excursions, including an on-site dive center and a vast infinity pool.

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