To experience French Polynesia is to fall under the spell of island fever in its most enchanting form. Cast away any preconceived ideas about "Tahiti and Her Islands"—the flight time is only two and a half hours longer than to Hawaii, and these islands receive fewer visitors in a year than Hawaii does in 10 days.
Getting there is easier than you may think. Tahiti can be reached in seven and a half hours from Los Angeles via Air France, Air New Zealand, and French Polynesia’s own carrier, Air Tahiti Nui, with the latter having added nonstop service from New York beginning in July.
The island experience begins even before take off on Air Tahiti Nui with the lilt of indigenous music and a flight staff attired in traditional island garb. While French Polynesia may represent the ultimate exotic dream destination, travelers need only a valid passport to make this dream come true.
A visit to the region begins and ends in Papeete on the island of Tahiti, the strategic gateway to the South Pacific. Throughout the islands, there is an abundance of four- and five-star resorts and several new high-end properties are under development. Within minutes of Papeete’s international airport are Le Meridien Tahiti Hotel (138 rooms), Sheraton Hotel Tahiti (190 rooms), InterContinental Beachcomber Resort Tahiti (265 rooms and bungalows), and the nearly completed Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti (165 rooms), featuring a black sand beach.
A half hour’s ferry ride or a few minutes on Air Tahiti, the domestic inter-island carrier, transports visitors to the lush and dramatic scenery of Moorea (Cook’s Bay, Moorea, pictured above). Restaurants, sightseeing, and shopping complement an impressive array of accommodations including Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa (95 rooms and bungalows), Sheraton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa (106 bungalows), and InterContinental Beachcomber Resort Moorea (143 rooms and bungalows).
The process of choosing between multi-starred resorts and top-tier hotel brands disappears on Taha’a, home of the Tahitian vanilla industry, where the island’s sole property offers the ultimate in seclusion. Le Taha’a Private Island & Spa (60 bungalows) is the most intimate and exclusive property in the islands, with spectacular beachfront and overwater bungalows offering views of crystalline lagoon waters or neighboring Bora Bora.