More than any other destination, this luxury French Polynesia guide proves that fantasy can become reality. Under France’s dominion, the island nation brandishes Gallic savoir faire (think: peerless service, stellar wines and top-notch cuisine). But, it never leaves its Oceania-style, barefoot chic far behind. Home to affable denizens proud to share their 3,000-year-old culture, French Polynesia comprises five archipelagos with 118 distinctive, variously sized islands and islets, set halfway between Australia and California.
It’s the picture-perfect paradise of your dreams. Just ask Marlon Brando, who came to these Pacific islands to film Mutiny on the Bounty, and never really went home again. Amid seas the same painted blues of Van Gogh’s skies and David Hockney’s swimming pools, this magical place has sugary, black- and pink-sand beaches, craggy volcanoes, unoccupied atolls perfect for romantic picnics and thatched-roof bungalows that float above its gentle lagoons.
To best experience its wonders, go island hopping. From its showpiece gem, Bora Bora, to Taha’a, known for vanilla production; Moorea, a hiker’s mecca; Tikehau with its pink-sand beaches; and Brando’s own exclusive enclave on Tetiaroa, French Polynesia offers mana (healing energy) at every turn.
[See also: A Luxury Weekend Guide to Turks & Caicos]
Where to stay
A honeymooner’s favorite, Bora Bora means ‘created by the gods’ in an ancient Tahitian dialect. Famous for diving and snorkeling adventures, overwater bungalows and a romantic spirit, this island is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Upon arrival, expect to cruise to your hotel’s boat dock by water transfer.
Conrad Bora Bora Nui
Even in Bora Bora, some spots are better than others. The Conrad, which debuted in 2017, attests to that. On a white-sand beach in Bora Bora, tucked in a private cove on Motu To’opua, a tiny islet, the hotel flaunts the only unobstructed sunset views on the island. Suites range from sites on the lagoon to beachside enclaves ideal for families. Six restaurants, shark swimming, hiking activities, and a hilltop spa add to the allure. Choose a two-story Presidential Villa, with access to a shuttle boat for reaching the Conrad’s private isle. It comes with three terraces, an infinity pool and butler service.
The St Regis Bora Bora
Royal Estate Three-bedroom Villa
Celebrated for its immense over-water villas, the biggest in the South Pacific, this haven sprawls across so many acres that it offers butler-chauffeured golf cart rides and complimentary bikes for guests to get from one attraction to the next. Boasting the island’s most storied restaurant, Lagoon by Jean-Georges, plus three other eateries, The St Regis gets high marks for its spa, set on a private island, and its Lagoonarium, an exclusive marine sanctuary. Families will find ample space in the Royal Estate Three-bedroom Villa, a 13,000-sq-ft sanctum that opens to its own private beach.
Four Seasons Bora Bora
Three-bedroom Beachfront Villa Estate
A cocoon of unsurpassed coddling, this globally hailed retreat has been recently refreshed, adding a cadre of sum