Getting there is not as hard as you might imagine. Air France runs a direct flight from Los Angeles straight to Papeete-Tahiti Fa’a’ā International Airport. After a night in Tahiti, you can hop a local charter flight to your island of choice.
Located just over a mile from the airport, InterContinental Tahiti Resort Spa is an ideal spot to call home before heading off to other islands. The resort offers overwater bungalows and spacious rooms with island-style décor overlooking the ocean. The Lotus restaurant, the hotel’s elegant overwater establishment is a must-visit, serving up fresh fish and Tahitian wine, produced locally from grapes grown in coral.
Once you’ve had time to refresh, catch a charter flight to Bora Bora, which will get you there in under an hour. InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa, accessible only by boat, has a sea shuttle service that picks you up at the airport’s dock and whisks you off to the resort in 20 minutes.
Bora Bora was formed millions of years ago after volcanic eruptions sank into the sea, and what was left created a ring of coral reefs that shield the island’s expansive lagoon from the Pacific Ocean. Situated on the reef island (or motu) known as Piti A’au on the east coast of Bora Bora, the resort is a tropical oasis with staggering views of the main island and the peaks of Mount Otemanu. There are 88 overwater-only villas perched atop stilts above the lagoon. Decked in Polynesian-style décor, villas offer spacious accommodations of 1,000-square-feet or more, each showcasing a glass-bottom coffee table that gives you a window into the waters below. Several villas feature private pools with decks and a ladder that leads straight down into the lagoon and its transparent, shallow waters.
The InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa has three restaurants: Sands, a casual beach-side eatery; Reef, an open-air establishment serving up French cuisine and bistro-style dishes; and Le Corail with its gourmet fare and extensive wine cellar. The traditional dish of the islands is known as poisson cru, a fresh-from-the-sea mixture of raw fish, lemon juice, raw vegetables, and coconut milk. It’s a Polynesian take on ceviche that’s so flavorful, you’ll want to take some home with you.
As you might imagine, water is at the heart of the culture here. You can explore it from the surface via kayak, paddleboard, or boat, or beneath it with snorkel gear—all provided by the resort. InterContinental also has its own Marine Eco Center where biologists educate guests about the coral gardens and the many resident stingrays that call the resort waters home. The activities desk can arrange more adventurous pursuits, such as scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, and parasailing. There are Polynesian culinary demonstrations, palm leaf weaving and flower crown making classes, and more.
Rising above the coastline are verdant peaks punctuated by jagged roads, which can be traversed by 4×4 vehicles. A company like Vava’u Adventure can take you on a private tour around the island and up some of those treacherous passes, which seem downright precarious while you’re ascending them, but are ultimately worth the views when you get to the top. Bora Bora served as a military supply base during WWII, and you can still see some of the relics, including massive canons, hidden high up in the hills.
Bora Bora’s underwater world is as vast as it is varied. Because the lagoon is like liquid glass, getting up close and personal with its residents, in all of their vibrant glory, is both thrilling and frightening. Moana Adventure Tours offers a half-day excursion to multiple snorkeling spots across the lagoon where you’ll see species like blacktip sharks, stingrays, and eagle rays (try your best to avoid getting too close to the latter.).
During the six-hour tour, you’ll dock at Motu Piti Aau, a tiny island where a friendly local couple welcomes you onto their idyllic beach-side parcel to refuel on some Tahitian barbecue and poisson cru before setting off to snorkel some more.
Once a summer residence for Tahitian royalty, the remote atoll was purchased in 1967 by the late actor Marlon Brando. At the time, Brando was in French Polynesia filming Mutiny on the Bounty, fell in love with his Tahitian co-star, and decided to stay. Before his death, Brando worked with Richard Bailey, who created some of the region’s resorts, to help him dream up his own self-sustaining luxury property on Tetiaroa. The Brando was born in 2014.
The resort is located 30 miles north of Tahiti and accessed only by The Brando’s private plane, Air Tetiaroa, which gets you there in a 20-minute hop from Tahiti straight to the property’s airstrip. The Brando is popular with celebrities and public figures alike. Famous guests have included Barack Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio, Beyoncé, and Ellen DeGeneres. Each of its 35 villas is nestled in tropical foliage so dense, you can’t see your neighbors. Sizes range from one- to three-bedrooms with media rooms, living rooms, and dining areas. Outside, each villa features a deck, gazebo for alfresco dining, a plunge pool, and private beach situated on a three-mile-wide lagoon.
Brando himself was an environmental steward ahead of his time and the resort follows his vision. Built with local and recycled materials, the Brando has an extensive renewable energy program that utilizes a unique seawater air conditioning system, harnesses solar energy, and relies on coconut oil as a biofuel to provide power.
You can take a guided “green” tour around the resort to see its innovative inner workings, as well as its vast organic fruit and vegetable garden and beehive (because naturally, they make their own honey, too). The nonprofit Tetiaroa Society, which is located on the resort and operates its own Eco Station, engages in all kinds of research to preserve Tetiaroa’s biodiversity. No cars are allowed on the island, but with every villa comes a set of bicycles to ride around for the duration of your stay.
While relaxation and lazing away the days comes second nature here, if you want to venture away from your villa, there’s a luxurious spa with treatment rooms that look out onto a lily-covered pond, a fitness center, infinity pool, tennis court, as well as all the requisite water activities you can imagine. To learn more about the surrounding atolls, take a guided tour with one of Tetiaroa’s naturalists. You’ll travel by boat to explore the flora, fauna, and wildlife, including the coconut crab and red-footed booby, that reside on the nearby islands. The highlight is a stop at The Queen’s Bath, a parcel of aqua paradise where the last queen of Tahiti bathed and exfoliated her skin with the nutrient-rich sand.
Véfour in Paris serves up a fine-dining experience of culinary delights or try Nami teppanyaki with Japanese signatures prepared on an iron griddle in front of you. Cap off the night with a creative cocktail at Te Manu open-air bar and savor the gentle breezes as you look out on the glistening moonlit waters.