scuba diving, hiking and abundance of beautiful flowers, including the rare Tiare Apetahi, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Interestingly, Raiatea is thought to be the first Polynesian island to be settled, so youll find the first royal marae, Taputapuatea (established by 1000 AD), once considered the central temple and religious center of Eastern Polynesia. On Raiatea youll find the Raiatea Lodge Hotel, an opulent and intimate (15 beautiful rooms) accommodation that will make you feel at home yet catered to. As soon as you walk into the lodge, youll be greeted with a fresh squeezed fruit juice and local flowers. The rooms — which are decorated with colorful local flowers all over the bed, bathroom and furniture – come in two classes, standard and deluxe, all of which have balconies overlooking the gardens, pool and lagoon. In fact, the grounds are so lush that in the morning you can sit on your balcony with a hot cup of tea watching the sun rise over the lagoon and a variety of birds singing and flying from tree to tree. Amenities include air conditioning, flat screen television, plush bedding, sumptuous robes, double shower heads and rain showers. Moreover, the lodge keeps guests entertained with a range of free activities like snorkeling, kayaking to Motu Miri Miri (takes about 15 minutes), cycling and swimming in the lagoon or their pool, as well as paid tours to pearl farms, vanilla plantations, botanical gardens and Marae Taputapuatea; scuba diving and boat trips; romantic motu picnics; kayaking the Faaroa River; and more. Dont leave without getting a traditional massage poolside or in your room, or sampling local seafood, high quality meats and handcrafted cocktails made with fresh juices and local flowers in their indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar overlooking the gardens and pool. Private island opulence: Vahine Private Island Resort on Motu Tu Vahine Motu Tu Vahine, which means Island of the Woman, is a private 23-acre island located in the center of the lagoon of Tahaa. Vahine Private Island Resort owns the island, and works hard to ensure an unforgettable private island experience through luxury amenities, a heavenly location and going above and beyond to cater to their guests. Accommodations include over-water bungalows, beach bungalows and beach suites, all of which offer water views, air conditioning, heavenly Molton Brown and local Monoi oil body products, hammocks overlooking the lagoon and local artwork. Rooms also feature Polynesian-inspired decor to help you feel like youre in the home of a local, like showers adorned with seashells, woven peue leaf walls in the bathroom, furniture made of local wood and bardau shingled roofs. The island provides an intimate and opulent experience with white sand beaches, coconut groves, translucent waters and an array of outdoor and cultural activities, many of which are free, including windsurfing, lagoon kayaking, snorkeling, a shell discovery tour of the reef, naturalist tour of the island, coconut show, pareo tying demonstration, an outrigger ride to watch the manta rays, learning to weave coconut leaves, fish feeding and beach games. For a fee, you can also go scuba diving, take a jeep tour of nearby Tahaa, enjoy a helicopter flight over Bora Bora, relax on a catamaran cruise and more. Dont leave without indulging in a traditional Monoi oil massage on your private deck, as well as enjoying the French cuisine made with local ingredients through lunch on the beach or a gourmet candlelight dinner in their indoor/outdoor restaurant. For a cocktail, we recommend the signature “Vahine,” made with vanilla and pineapple rum, guava juice, pineapple juice and grenadine. An upscale family stay: Fare Pea Iti On Tahaa Known as the “Vanilla Island”, Tahaa is where over 80% of French Polynesia’s famous vanilla comes from. It’s extremely lush, with untouched vegetable as well as fruits, flowers and vegetables growing in the wild all over the place. Moreover, because it’s not touristy it has a very slow-paced island vibe that in enhanced by its beautiful jungle landscape. Tour a vanilla plantation or pearl farm, go for a jungle hike, snorkel majestic coral gardens or just kayak the destination’s beautiful waters. While family-run homes and pensions are often looked at as simple, no-frills accommodation, Fare Pea Iti takes it to the next level. A romantic holiday family home, it still has the laid-back homestay feel of a pension but with much more ambiance and modern amenities. They offer three classes of room — a beach bungalow, garden bungalow and a bedroom in the house – with five units total for an intimate atmosphere. In the beachfront bungalows, youll find local Monoi oil products and soaps carved into the shape of Polynesian tiki, a self-catering kitchen and mini bar, television, sumptuous linens and towels, an over-sized walk-in stone shower, beds adorned with beautiful flowers and delicately draped with baldaquin canopies, and an enclosed patio area to take in the view. The garden bungalows are also nice, with a television, comfortable bed, television, mini bar and table and chairs in the garden for relaxing. To introduce guests to local culture, building materials are locally sourced with rooms featuring local artwork and typical Polynesian home elements like woven peue leaf accents and bardau shingled roofs. Fare Pea Iti also offers a range of free activities, like bicycle rentals, kayak rentals, maps for nearby hiking trails, flat-bottomed pirogue boats, snorkeling gear and even a free course on snorkeling in their in-ground pool to prepare guests for exploring Tahaas beautiful coral gardens. Additionally, while meals are still homemade they are presented in a more ambient manner, with 3-courses, a nice bar selection, smooth jazz music and candlelight. Expect beautifully presented French dishes made with local ingredients. For example, a typical menu for the night may include a starter of poisson cru served in the style of a tuna tartare with lime on the side (instead of cured in lime with coconut milk), a generous helping of fresh caught brown unicornfish in coconut milk with rice and local vegetables and a satisfying dessert of taro ice cream, coconut cream and a crispy wafer cookie. Best of all, its budget-friendly with single rooms starting 125 Euros (about $164 USD) per night.French Polynesia is known as one of the world’s most luxurious destinations. That being said, there is an array of options for those looking for an opulent experience. To help you plan a luxury trip to Tahiti and her islands, here are four of the destination’s top luxury experiences. Traditional Tahitian luxury: Le Meridien Tahiti on Tahiti Tahiti is the beating heart of French Polynesia, the largest of the islands and the gateway to the islands with as its home to Faa’a International Airport (PPT). Tahiti is a natural island, filled with waterfalls, volcanoes, mountains, lagoons, valleys, barrier reefs, tropical gardens, untamed flora and a range of activities through which to explore it. Take a leisurely hike through the Spring Gardens of Vaipahi, enjoy a drift dive with sea turtles and tropical fish, go on a 4WD safari adventure through the Papenoo Valley, swim or snorkel in a powder blue and turquoise lagoon or just relax on a soft white sand beach. Additionally, here you can find archeological sites, markets, a vibrant waterfront, trendy restaurants, energetic bars and world-class resorts. For a modern and stylish hotel with traditional Polynesian touches opt for Le Meridien Tahiti. Walking into the open-air lobby youre actually on the third floor, and you can choose to enjoy the lounge, shopping and bar on this floor or discover the offerings — some of which include the La Plantation restaurant for French and Polynesian fare, L’Astrolabe Bar for exotic cocktails and an open studio welcoming national and international artists — on the other floors. Adding to the ambiance is the fact many floors are only half-enclosed, meaning youre never without a view of the gardens and lagoon. Along with direct access to the water, the propertys botanical gardens add to the ambiance of the property with more than 300 plant species, a carp pond and whimsical wooden walking bridge, perfect for relaxing, a romantic stroll and learning about French Polynesias native flora. And when you get hot, Le Meridien Tahiti features the largest white sand bottom pool in the Pacific. The property offers a mix of over-water bungalows, garden views rooms, lagoon view rooms and suites — all done in a modern design with traditional touches like local artwork and furnishings. You can also expect private balconies or terraces with unforgettable views, air conditioning, flat screen television with satellite channels, separated shower and deep tub, double sinks with toiletries, a comfortable sofa and sumptuous bedding. We recommend the over-water bungalows for a truly opulent experience. And when staying at Le Meridien, youre never far from an unforgettable experience right at the hotel, whether it be through a Polynesian feast and dance show, a class on traditional Polynesian cooking, a massage incorporating Bora Bora white sand or local coconut pulp, kayaking off the beach or enjoying a healthy aquaerobic session. Rustic luxury: Raiatea Lodge Hotel on Raiatea Located in the cradle of Polynesia — about a 40 minute plane ride from Tahiti — is Raiatea, an island known for its archeological treasures, vanilla plantations,
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