Baltimore Sun, August 2004
Different couples have different agendas when planning a honeymoon. Some what adventure, while others strive for quiet and relaxation. Some couples want the excitement of big cities like Paris, Rome or Tokyo, while others want to explore exotic cultures in Thailand, Hawaii or South Africa. However, most couples will agree on one important element in a honeymoon – romance. And if you’re able to get away for at least a week and have a few coins in the honeymoon piggy bank, there’s simply nothing more romantic than Tahiti.
“Tahiti is called the ‘Island of Love,’ ” says Molly Hurwitz, a travel agent with Burton Travel, about the draw of Tahiti for honeymooners. “The island is very quiet and is a unique, tropical paradise.” Of course, the island of Tahiti is just one of many that comprises the country of French Polynesia – five island groups in the South Pacific south of the equator. While many travelers often mistakenly refer to the country name as “Tahiti,” Hurwitz notes that the most popular islands to visit are Bora Bora, Tahiti and Moorea, with Bora Bora being the main draw for honeymooners.
Bora Bora, the island that inspired the movie “South Pacific,” features powdery sand beaches, unbelievably crystal clear blue waters and top-notch resorts, all set in a laid-back environment with average temperatures in the 70s. Hurwitz adds that “the bungalow resorts are a huge attraction. They are hut-like upscale rooms that are over the ocean.” Many resorts feature these thatched-roof bungalows that literally sit over the turquoise lagoon waters offering picturesque views of sealife that playfully swims below you.
These unforgettable bungalow accommodations was one of the main reasons that New York newlywed Peter Bond and his wife Jessica chose Bora Bora as their honeymoon destination. “We had checked out all the hot spots like Australia, Bali and the Maldives,” says Peter. “Due to the recent terrorist attack in Bali, we shied away from there, and Australia seemed to demand more than two weeks since the country is so enormous. There are so many different areas to see in Australia, and we didn’t want to spend our entire honeymoon traveling. We really wanted to relax, so Bora Bora was perfect.”
Bond adds that Bora Bora’s strategic location also allowed for the couple to incorporate a trip to Kona, Hawaii and extend their honeymoon vacation. “We were fortunate in that we could take a lot of time off work before and after the wedding.” In addition to the week Bond was able to take off before his wedding held in Central Park, the couple was able to take two weeks off for their honeymoon and a week after to rest.
“We spent eight nights in Bora Bora, which was perfect. I had always wanted go there after seeing it featured on ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ many times as a child. It just looked like the sexiest and most exotic place for a honeymoon.”
Bond and his wife stayed at Bora Bora’s crown jewel resort, the Hotel Bora Bora. “It’s the oldest one on the island and has the best location. Frank Sinatra stayed there many times, and I could see why. The staff there gives you everything you need, but they also assume that you generally want to be left alone. A couple could easily go there for a week on your honeymoon and not interact with anyone else.
“We had this amazing bungalow right over the water where you could just jump in the water off your dock,” Bond continues. Bond says that most of the other couples were honeymooners, although actor Rob Lowe and his wife were also staying at their resort the same week. “It was pretty cool to hang out with Rob Lowe,” he laughs.
If relaxation is on your agenda, then Bora Bora is the place to go. “There are few American amenities like television or golf there, which was fine,” Bond says. “I’m an avid golfer but on my honeymoon, relaxing and enjoying the sights was perfect.” He adds that the waves at Bora Bora crash about a mile off shore, creating a lagoon-like atmosphere by the shore. “The water is so clear that you can see hundreds of fish.”
These clear waters and endless coral reefs set the stage for some of the best snorkeling and diving opportunities in the world. The French Polynesian islands are home to over 800 different species of marine life. “The diving was incredible,” says Bond. “We saw sharks, manta rays and gorgeous fish all around this untouched coral reef.”
Besides water activities, Bora Bora and the other islands offer hiking in the mountains, gazing at 900-foot waterfalls and enjoying beautiful fauna. Helicopter rides are a great way to see the sights. The islands also present a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in an array of cultural activities, including Polynesian shows. A Tahitian wedding ceremony – although not legally binding – is a great way to renew your vows. The country’s unique demographics – 75 percent Polynesian, 15 percent European and 10 percent Chinese – add to the exotic flavor.
Shopping is also a main draw to the French Polynesian, especially the world-famous Tahitian cultural pearls, commonly known as black pearls. After shopping, indulge yourself at a luxurious spa that features fresh-flower baths, herbal rain showers and a body wrap in banana leaves.
Hurwitz says that flights to Tahiti go via Los Angeles, primarily on Air Tahiti Nui, to the Tahitian capital city of Papeete. Flight time from Los Angeles is about seven to eight hours, so Hurwitz advises a minimum eight-day stay, especially with the time zone difference, which is the same as Hawaii – two hours behind Pacific Standard Time and three hours during daylight savings time. “Eight days was perfect for us in Bora Bora,” Bond concurs. “If it rains, there’s not much to do.”
French and Tahitian are the official languages, though English is widely spoken. Hurwitz notes that there are many packages available, and couples should budget about $5,000/person for a 10-day trip. Indeed, recent packages on www.weddingchannel.com were $4,000/person for eight days, including airfare, hotel accommodations, airport transports and taxes. Some packages on the Web site also included shark feeding expeditions, jeep safari on Bora Bora, six breakfasts and four dinners, including one at Bora Bora’s famous restaurant, Bloody Mary’s. Some honeymoon packages also included free gifts, photographs and champagne.