French Polynesia is the definition of tropical paradise. Its lagoons have the clearest waters you will ever see, its resorts are some of the fanciest you will ever experience. French Polynesia has been a top destination for both of us for a long time and we were really excited to finally visit. Coming from New Zealand, it was so strange to go back in time, having crossed over the international time line. We got a whole day back! Crazy.
Lagoon Tour in Huahine
Arrivals in French Polynesia all start in the main island of Tahiti, then internal inter-islands flights take you to your island paradise of choice. Our first stop: Huahine! Often considered one of the most authentic islands in the archipelago, we wanted a taste of local life first. Many islands in French Polynesia are blessed with beautiful lagoons, so when there, take a lagoon tour on a local outrigger boat.
The morning began at a natural aquarium. As soon as our boat arrived, a swarm of tropical fish and sharks showed up, as if on cue. We were so thrilled to swim with them! Dozens of sharks circled as tropical fish crowded around us. A big grouper joined the party at some point. There was so much to see we didn’t know which way to look! It was seriously cool.
The next snorkeling spot wasn’t as good as the natural aquarium in terms of marine life, but in the midst of the snorkeling session, a massive storm rolled in. We all kept on despite the increasing downpour. It was a strange alternative realities moment where above water, all hell was breaking loose. Dark clouds, strong winds, turbulents surface. We could feel the raindrops on our backs. However, in the water, all was still calm. Everything was business as usual and unaffected. Underwater is truly another world.
The storm was fast and furious. Like any tropical storm, darkness leads to light, as the sun transformed the scenery. We then proceeded to a pearl farm and learned how they make the famous French Polynesian dark pearls from beginning to end.
We had a late lunch at the most beautiful deserted beach destination. Our tables were in the water and we savored local dishes like poisson cru as little fishes swam around the clear water around our feet. The day ended with a tranquil ride back around the southern tip of the island as each of us on the boat tried to etch the beauty around us forever in our memories.
Resort Day in Bora Bora
No trip to French Polynesia is complete without a visit to – you guessed it – Bora Bora! Some will say that the island is too touristy and over priced (definitely true), but it is nonetheless stunningly, captivatingly, beautiful. There is no other island out there like it.
Famous for the luxurious five-star resorts and overwater bungalows over turquoise-blue waters, we wanted to experience them first hand. However, staying in one of these rooms at these resorts costs upwards of $1,500 a night (!!!). We opted to stay on the main island and get a day pass instead – which only cost us $55 per person (what a steal). We had access to all the facilities and free activities in the resort for the day and somehow it felt even better than actually staying there (and paying so much).
We spent time at the beach, tried water bikes, kayaking, biked around the island and snorkeled in their lagoonarium. The resort was incredibly scenic and we took hundreds of photos. We also got to tour one of the pricey overwater bungalows. The bungalow was modern and luxurious, with a quick access to the lagoon.
A perfect day concluded with a spectacular sunset over Mount Otemanu. One we had dreamed about seeing and for many years plotted all kinds of ways to create that moment for ourselves. Ahhh. It was absolute, pure perfection.
Making Stingray Friends
As we mentioned earlier, when in French Polynesia, take lagoon tours – so of course we couldn’t miss the Bora Bora one. What made this one special was not just the chance to snorkel with fishes and sharks – there were also stingrays!
As we each hopped into the water, the friendly stingrays immediately came by to say hi. They were so warm and friendly, coming all the way up to us as if they wanted to enfold us in their embrace. We were told to gently pet them on their backs (but never pull their tails!). What softies! It was wonderful. Who knew these animals could be so lovely considering their dangerous stereotype in the media.
After the high of petting stingrays, we marveled at the coral garden. Hundreds of tropical fish swam in the shallow coral reef that stretched in every way. We had never seen such a large area of healthy corals flourishing. How spectacular.
Last Hurrah in Mo’orea
COVID-19 was slowly taking over the world during our time in French Polynesia. We had stayed ahead of it for months already, but it was slowly catching up. Our flight to Mo’orea from Bora Bora turned out to be the last flight on that route before lockdown. With flights out of French Polynesia booked, we had one last night in paradise. The Hilton Mo’orea Resort was our last hurrah.
On our last night, we had one of the most beautiful sunsets that we’ve ever experienced. The whole sky lit up bright red, then slowly turned orange and pink. The bungalows and mountains next to us made for picture perfect foreground and background. What a treat for a final farewell.
We felt really lucky to have gotten through our time in French Polynesia and fulfill a big dream. There were many travelers we met at the airport on our way out who had their own French Polynesian dreams ruined by the pandemic. We feel incredibly grateful overall – had the timing been different, we wouldn’t have had any of our incredible experiences in the past seven months. Thank you! Stay safe everyone.