French Polynesia

Jon and I traveled to French Polynesia for our honeymoon in June 2015, and it was absolutely amazing! Certainly a once in a lifetime trip for us. I usually plan our vacations in great detail but this time around we used a travel agent to arrange our flights, transportation, activities and hotels. We spent four nights at the Hilton Moorea and five nights at the St. Regis Bora Bora (we decided to skip Tahiti as we were advised the island was less “special” than the others).

Although I typically like to jam pack my days when I travel to see everything possible, I took a different approach with our honeymoon. Given the amount of money spent on our hotel stay itself, we allocated days to just relax and enjoy the amenities of each hotel. Below is our itinerary and trip highlights:

Day 1 – Moorea – Relaxed in hotel with buffet dinner and local Tiki show
Day 2 – Moorea – ATV Island Tour
Day 3 – Moorea – Free day to relax in hotel
Day 4 – Moorea – Jet Ski Lagoon Tour
Day 5 – Bora Bora – Free day to relax in hotel
Day 6 – Bora Bora – 4WD Island Tour
Day 7 – Bora Bora – Shark Feeding & Snorkeling Tour
Day 8 – Bora Bora – Free day to relax in hotel
Day 9 – Bora Bora – Aqua Bike Tour
Day 10 – Bora Bora – Last day in Bora Bora


Moorea

Moorea (“Mo’orea” is the true spelling and pronunciation of the island) means “yellow lizard” in Tahitian which hints at the volcanic and mountainous scenery of the island. Jon and I are adventurous and wanted to have more land activities options, and Moorea was definitely the best island for that. When we arrived at the Hilton, we were greeted with friendly faces, a lei made of fresh local flowers, ice cold pineapple juice and fresh coconut meat. The Hilton itself is a beautiful beachfront resort and has its own lagoon in which you can snorkel, a large pool if you did not feel like jumping into the ocean, and on-site restaurants that offer panoramic views of the island. We stayed in a spacious garden bungalow with a private pool (we saved our over-the-water bungalow experience for Bora Bora).

The ATV Island Tour was a 3.5-hour tour which allowed us to drive an ATV throughout the entire island, and it was awesome! Jon and I took turns driving our ATV (my first time!), and it wasn’t difficult at all to navigate. We drove through Paopao Valley through pineapple fields (be careful not to touch the pineapple leaves as they are very sharp!), got amazing views at the Belvedere lookout point, tasted local jams, fruits and ice cream at the school of agriculture (papaya jam and mango ice cream were our favorites), and did a short hike up the Magic Mountain to get an amazing view of the island. All in all, we loved this tour and it was a great way to see the entire island by land.

The Jet Ski Lagoon Tour also allowed us to see the entire island, but by water. To be frank, I am not as adventurous on the water since I am not a confident swimmer, but Jon swims like a mermaid (ahem, merman), so he took lead on the jet ski. We eventually made our way to shallow waters where we got to swim with and feed sting rays (and even saw some baby sharks swim by!). Apparently the animals are raised by tourism and are familiar with people touring every day so they are very friendly. I couldn’t get used to the sting rays touching me so I was on Jon’s back most of the time when we were in the water (hehe). Amazing experience!

Food-wise, we loved the local food in Moorea (even though we mostly stayed on-site at the hotel). The breakfast spread was plenty and diverse, ranging from local steamed fish with white rice to fresh local fruit such as passion fruit, papaya and coconut to freshly baked pastries and an omelet station. One of our favorite local dishes is the poisson cru which is raw red tuna marinated in lime juice and coconut milk. The dish was fragrant, fresh and flavorful and we ate it every day during our honeymoon.

Bora Bora

Bora Bora is a ~20-minute flight from Moorea. The airport is located on the island of Motu Mete and from there, we took a boat shuttle to the St. Regis. Upon arrival, the experience had a much more luxurious feel than when we landed in Moorea. The St. Regis is a beautiful resort encompassing an impressive 44-acres of land. While we did have several tours booked, we were happy to stay on-site to enjoy all the amenities of the hotel – the Lagoonarium, snorkeling, kayaking, and just enjoying our over-the-water bungalow. Because of the size of the resort, we bicycled to get to and from our bungalow to breakfast, the fitness center, etc. The first thing Jon did when we got to our bungalow was jump straight from our deck (sans clothes) into the ocean (secretly I was jealous that I couldn’t do the same thing)!

The 4WD Island Tour was not as fun nor as impressive as the ATV Tour we did in Moorea. It was very apparent how much more commercialized and industrial Bora Bora is than Moorea. We went up a few mountains to get panoramic views of the island. The best part of the tour was stopping by a local shop to learn how to make sarongs and how to make fresh coconut milk!

The Shark Feeding & Snorkeling Tour took us to several lagoons in Bora Bora and we swam with many varietals of colorful fish. We then went to the deeper part of the ocean where the water went from turquoise to deep blue – this is where Jon swam with sharks (I stayed on the boat). When I asked the tour guide about whether there has been any instances when the sharks got aggressive, he said there was only when instance when a tourist got “nicked” because that tourist accidently hit the shark’s head when stepping out of the boat! At one point Jon was swimming in the ocean and the tour guide threw in bait around Jon so the sharks quickly circled him. Crazy (awesome)!

Our favorite tour in Bora Bora was the Aqua Bike Tour. The tour guide informed us that such a tour exists in only a few other countries (I don’t remember the number but I think it was three other countries including The Maldives). Jon and I were in a submarine-bike-like vehicle and even though the helmets of the bike did not completely close all the way, the physics worked so that water did not get into our vehicle – amazing. Unfortunately Jon and I did not travel with a go pro so we were only able to capture a few photos with the water-resistant camera we bought at the resort.

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In our aqua bike!

Food-wise, we enjoyed the food more in Moorea which had a more local flare than the food the restaurants St. Regis had to offer. This is mostly due to the fact that the St. Regis is very westernized – most of the employees there were ex-pats or French citizens. On-site restaurants included an Italian restaurant, a casual bar and a Jean Georges restaurant (Lagoon), where we treated ourselves during our last night in Bora Bora. I loved our routine in Bora Bora – waking up early enough to bike to breakfast, returning to our villa to take a nap while watching the movie Couples Retreat, a rom-com filmed at the St. Regis (the resort had one channel dedicated to the movie), and biking to the adults-only pool to have lunch at the cabana. My favorite cocktail was called La Hina, which was made with rum, coconut juice and coconut ice cream, served in the coconut itself. I had at least one every day, hehe.

French Polynesia was a dream come true so I highly recommend the country as a honeymoon destination! I hope Jon and I have the fortune to return for a major anniversary :).

Flight Details

Flying from Boston to French Polynesia wasn’t too bad. We had a layover in LAX and from there it was a direct flight to Tahiti. Tahiti is the main island and from there you can fly to other islands. It was about a 15-minute flight from Tahiti to Moorea and a ~45-minute flight from Bora Bora to Tahiti. I typically do not like flying in smaller airplanes but the scenery is absolutely beautiful and there is little to no turbulence.

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View from airplane landing into Moorea
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