The Beauty of Bora Bora
Steamy bungalows, romantic blue water . . . and sneaky sharks? All are reasons why the Tahitian islands are a haven for couples.
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THE HONEYMOONERS ARE UBIQUITOUS. They cuddle on the beaches, and they maneuver kayaks across the clear, turquoise waterways. They hold hands and canoodle at dinner in dimly lit restaurants. French Polynesia, and the Tahitian islands in particular, couldn’t be more romantic. And then there’s me. Bitter, party of one. Granted, there isn’t much sympathy meted out for traveling to Tahiti. But heed my advice: Unless you might enjoy feeling like the ultimate third wheel at a garden party in paradise, take along a significant other.
My itinerary includes visits to the islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. Tahiti is the main hub of this South Pacific chain——most travelers fly into the Papeete airport. It’s akin to Oahu in the Hawaiian islands. Both are more congested and built-up than their verdant sister islands. Savvy travelers might stay a day or two on Tahiti, and then head off for greener environs.
While on Tahiti, my bachelor-pad digs are in beachside Le Meridien. The property has an artsy bent. Its L’Atelier is a space for artists——or wanna-bes——to paint or otherwise create. An artsy, creative touch woven into the guestrooms: inspirational sayings on various knickknacks. My favorite is a soap dish inscribed with an Oscar Wilde-ism: “Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.”
The hotel staff speaks English, though French and Tahitian are the official languages. Electrical outlets are the 220-volt variety, and adaptors for your cell phone charger are available at the front desk. But you may not need to bother. I had no cell service the whole of the visit. This left me in an unaccustomed netherworld—— no high-speed dial-up on the complimentary Internet access in the hotel lobby, no phone and no way of telling time (my cell is my timepiece, and Le Meridien rooms don’t have clocks).
So off I go to downtown Papeete. There’s a marketplace and walkable retail area. I sample the native beer, Hinano, and watch a local man fall off his barstool at Trois Brasseurs (and it was only 11 a.m.! I think . . .). I also passed by Tahitian Pearls. A newlywed couple from the hotel——natch——had told me about this shop. They’d spent hours here, blissfully stringing together a personalized pearl necklace. Awww. . .
FROM TAHITI, Moorea is just a 30-minute ride on the Aremeti ferry. The heart-shaped island, also called the Island of Love, was the inspiration for James Michener’s mythical Bali Hai in South Pacific. Honeymooners who aren’t staying on Moorea often hop over for lunch at the Sheraton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa. It’s renovating 106 rooms, including those super-sexy over-water bungalows, some of which have electronically movable walls between the bedroom/bathroom and come with flat-screen TVs (not standard in the Tahitian isles, by any means).
There’s one 37-mile road that encircles Moorea. A fantastic way to see it all is on a guided tour offered by Moorea Transport. A half-dozen of us hop into seats in the back of a covered pickup truck. Our guide, Bubba, is a native. Throughout the dazzling drive, he stops and fills us in on local customs.
Bubba informs us that pineapples were imported here by explorer Captain Cook. He points out the mountain——shot for a total screen time of five seconds——that made it into the film version of South Pacific. He plays flute through his nose (ancestors thought too many lies came from the mouth). There are cooking tips, like how to roast meat underground inside large bamboo poles. We get to sample local vanilla. And Bubba takes us to the top of Magic Mountain (tackily named by tourists, it turns out). Magic Mountain has a summit that juts into the sky above Cook’s Bay. It offers a 360-degree panorama of volcanic mountains and the azure shoreline.
The Bubba tour ends at Jus De Fruits De Moorea. A wide range of fruit juices are added to pineapple here and marketed under the Rotui and Sunwave brands. And the on-site Manutea Tahiti distillery creates fruity liqueurs and creamy alcoholic drinks. We’re poured samples of banana rum, pineapple coconut and an 80-proof vanilla rum that is “good for brushing your teeth with, or starting a car,” cracks Bubba.