It seems like every year there is pressure to have the most fabulous New Years vacation ever. Right after Thanksgiving, ‘What are you doing for Christmas? Where are you going for New Years Eve?’ becomes peppered into every conversation. In reality, it’s just another night, but who wants to stay at home when tout le monde is jetting off to an exotic tropical destination or an uber chic ski resort. If you want to make your friends green with envy and also experience paradise this holiday, not many places can top the islands of French Polynesia.
As the winter and early spring months are considered low season in French Polynesia, there are some last minute deals and major discounts to travel to the South Pacific, whose beauty is indescribable by words and should be experienced rather than studied. Since the age of exploration, many famous artists and writers have traveled to French Polynesia and never left, and instead, turned their fond memories into the subject of musicals, literature and art that have transcended time.
Perhaps it was the magical beauty of the island, the exotic beauty of the Polynesian women, or the enchanting dance of the Polynesians that captivated these foreigners. For over a century race mixing has been happening in French Polynesia with European blood mixing with Chinese and South Asian; the result being ‘Demis’ aka Eurasians.
The easiest way to get to French Polynesia is via Air Tahiti Nui with direct flights from LAX to Tahiti, which usually entails an overnight stop before and after your island hopping journey. The best and most convenient place to stay is at the Intercontinental Resort Tahiti in Fa’a which is close to the airport and features a private beach, a lagoonarium and luxuriously appointed over water bungalows with a view of Moorea. www.airtahitinui-usa.com
A must see is Bora Bora, which is one of the most beautiful islands in the world and the photo seen in most screen savers. With its location between the coral barrier reef and Mount Otemanu in the middle, the Intercontinental Bora Bora has stunning views from every vantage point of their over the water bungalows. On the glass bottom floor you can feed the tropical fish or dip in the crystal clear water with white sand from your terrace. Not only is the hotel gorgeous but it’s also eco-friendly, as all the air conditioning is created from deep sea water from the ocean beyond the barrier reef.
The highlight of the hotel is the Thalasso Spa, which uses luxurious deep sea salt water treatments in rooms with glass bottom floors to view the colorful fish swimming below. www.tahiti.intercontinental.com
Some of the best snorkeling in the South Seas is in Bora Bora because the water is protected by a reef so there is no fear of an undertow. If you’re more adventurous you can swim with the sharks and rays. Though sharks are a species badly in need of a new PR campaign, not all sharks are blood thirsty carnivores. In fact, I think the human versions of sharks have much more reason to be feared. By day the lemon and nurse sharks are moving but they are half asleep, and swim up to you without taking a nibble. Also fun is feeding the friendly stingrays. As you stand in the salt water these docile and graceful creatures brush up next to you as they are looking for food. The way to feed them is to hold your hand flat with the food as their mouths are on the bottom and you can pet them on the top. Just be sure not to touch their tail.
Many consider Moorea to be the best of both worlds, not only does it have world class snorkeling and diving in crystal blue waters, but it also has a lush rainforest mountain with hiking trails that follow the in the footsteps of the ancients and their centuries old open air temples and altars, as well as vantage points at the peak that have such vast views you can see the curvature of the earth. The gorgeous white sand beaches of Moorea also served as the inspiration for Bali Hai in South Pacific.
Cruising in Paradise
Though French Polynesia is best known for Bora Bora, Tahiti, and Moorea, it’s a country comprised of 130 islands surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, many of which are not heavily populated or developed and the easiest and most luxurious way to see the country is by cruise. One of the top Polynesian cruise lines is the mid sized ship, Paul Gauguin, that holds 330 passengers and has the ability to sail in and out of shallow seas to visit remote islands in the far reaches of the archipelago and also private motus (small islands). The majority of rooms have terraces with floor to ceiling doors to admire the beauty around you and offer three restaurants to choose from with a Michelin starred executive chef at the helm serving French, Polynesian, and international fare. This holiday through Dec 10 they are offering nearly 75% off of the standard fares plus free airfare for select sailings of 7- 10 days. www.pgcruises.com