Like lovers, Tahiti and her islands in French Polynesia are meant to be embraced. It’s a place where intoxicating tiare flowers (gardenias) reign so supreme, they’re given away at supermarket checkouts and used to decorate public bathrooms. In Tahiti – and in Moorea, Huahine and Bora Bora – a stunning array of other sweet pleasures beckon. You can wake up to birds singing; feed the fish from your overwater bungalow; swim with the sharks; cover yourself in fragrant monoi oil; and sun yourself amidst turquoise waters and palm-tree-lined motus (little islands). This is the land of blue lagoons and black pearls. Vive la difference!!
I’m lucky to say that I’ve been to Tahiti four times, and it’s one of those places I yearn to return to, over and over. Put it this way: I’ve never met an overwater bungalow I didn’t like. So no wonder, then that the Islands of Tahiti capped off The New York Times’ list of 52 Places to Travel in 2019, travel app Hopper named Bora Bora the must-visit destination for Millennials this year, and Pantone named “Living Coral” the 2019 Color of the Year. Whew! I’m going there first chance I can get.
No wonder Paul Gauguin loved it here – Tahitian women are famous for their tamure, a wild-and-frenzied dance performed to pounding drums. Their hips sway back and forth while their torsos remain still. It’s a thrill to see it in real life, and I can only imagine how much fun it is to actually dance it.
Don’t miss Bloody Mary’s — as the famous song said, it’s the one you’ll love! The acclaimed restaurant on Bora Bora– opened in 1979 by a Polish man named Baron George– is right out of Central Casting for South Pacific. It’s a thatched-roof restaurant with sand on the floor, and coconut-tree stumps for tables and chairs. All the fresh-caught fish are displayed as you enter (try the flaky parrotfish); entrees include veggies, fruit, rice and salad. Sip vanilla rum punch or the famous Bloody Mary (the secret is dried ground celery). Don’t miss the gift shop.
For the ultimate highlight, visit the studio of Garrick Yrondi, a French-born painter whose oil paintings and watercolors of island life express the pure unabashed joy of Polynesia. Nicole Kidman and Charlie Sheen both have Yrondis in their collections. Yrondi is known for his vibrant explosions of color and his signature motif of two birds kissing. On our visit, he had just sold two oil paintings for $10,000 and $20,000, although small watercolors can be had for about $300. His signature: gorgeous yaka wood frames with 18-carat-gold inlays in a breadfruit design. You’ll also see Yrondi’s sensuous pink sculpture displayed at the airport. His exquisite artwork is an asset to any collection.
Ecotourism and voluntourism are also major travel trends this year, as people look to travel more responsibly and leave a positive impact on the destinations they visit, and Conrad Bora Bora Nui is a perfect example of how resorts are responding to this by offering more eco-friendly initiatives. Now is the perfect time for travelers to experience the luxury resort’s coral restoration program and brand-new immersive reef experience, which promote the rehabilitation and preservation of coral reefs and marine life in the lagoon.
New for 2019, resort guests are invited to take part in an immersive coral reef experience to see its Biorock program at work and learn about the importance of coral restoration. Following a 30-minute guided snorkeling tour of the Biorock structures using underwater scooters, guests are invited to enjoy an ocean-fresh seafood platter and white wine tasting. The Biorock coral restoration initiative uses a special technology that increases coral resistance and boosts regrowth and natural repopulation.
Additional sustainability initiatives at Conrad Bora Bora Nui include switching over to bamboo straws instead of plastic ones; solar panels on all villas; and the use of a sorting center, eco-digester and glass grinder to more sustainably dispose of waste. Protecting the local ecosystem is so important to the resort that they recently replanted one of the last species of the Tiare Anei (native to Bora Bora) at the resort to protect and preserve the endangered flower.
The hotel is also famous for its two-story overwater bungalows — some of the only ones in French Polynesia — in its Presidential Villas. Each villa includes includes a step-down deck with direct access to the water and built-in shower. The crystal-clear waters are yours for the taking; you can jet-ski, sail, paddle-board, snorkel or just enjoy a glass-bottom boat ride. Conrad Bora Bora also features — are you ready? — its own exclusive islet that is ideal for private picnic lunches, or romantic dinners.
When all is said and done, I have just three words for you: Tahitian black pearls. Get yourself to an authentic pearl farm to see the microsurgery performed, and take the opportunity to buy yourself some spectacular strands. You’ll take home the most special souvenirs from your Tahitian trip.
You got that right — you can wear your wanderlust.
For more information on Tahiti and her islands, click here.