We’ve all seen the photos: crystal-clear water, powder-like sandy beaches, swaying palm trees. But what’s often forgotten is, with halo-like atolls and towering volcanoes, just how dramatic the French Polynesian land- and seascapes can be, and how the region is as well-equipped for adventure as it is for relaxing. What’s also typically neglected is the fact that the accommodation here is diverse, ranging from artsy bungalows to decadent over-water villas. Here’s our pick of the best luxury hotels in French Polynesia, all are bookable through Culture Trip.
A brief boat ride from Bora Bora airport, Le Bora Bora combines 108 villas and bungalows in an almost impossibly Polynesian setting of turquoise waters and towering mountains. When you grow weary of the views – if indeed that’s possible – there’s a host of activities in which to take part, including sunset cruises on the resort catamaran and 4×4 tours to see World War II remnants.
The private island of Motu To’opua is home to the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, one of the best resorts in Bora Bora. Accommodation here ranges from suites to over-water villas (including the almost legendary two-storey Presidential Villa), with private pools as standard in all. There’s a host of respected dining outlets, and the Conrad brand means you can also expect international levels of service.
Located on tiny Motu Tavararo, part of French Polynesia’s Tikehau atoll, Ninamu Resort spans eight quirky, artsy “hand-crafted” bungalows. With an emphasis on sustainability, the building materials are local, power comes from solar panels and produce from the resort’s organic garden. As such, air conditioning doesn’t come standard in all bungalows, but charm and a host of adventurous activities do.
Hilton Moorea packs a bit of everything. The 106 rooms at this luxury hotel in French Polynesia are situated both on land and over water, and have both modern amenities and downright prehistoric views of the jagged volcanic mountains of Moorea. Don’t miss a glass of champagne or a galette (a Breton-style buckwheat crepe) at Toatea Bar & Creperie, the only overwater dining experience on Moorea.
Your adventure begins with a thrilling 30-minute boat ride from Raiatea airport (or private helicopter transfer from Bora Bora) to this luxurious private-island resort in French Polynesia. The 9ha (23 acres) here are home to three over-water bungalows, two beach suites and four beach bungalows. Enjoy quiet moments on a pristine beach and sunset views over Bora Bora. Or snorkel in private coral gardens, kayak, windsurf, and row on a traditional Polynesian pirogue. Tropical breakfasts, gourmet lunches and romantic French-inspired dinners are served in a charming lagoon-view open-air dining room.
Located on Rangiroa, Hotel Kia Ora’s impressive open-air reception and views of a turquoise lagoon instantly immerse you in the island vibe at this luxury resort. Choose from an over-water bungalow with a glass-bottom floor, garden villa with a private plunge pool, or beach bungalow with an ocean-view hot tub and semi-private beach. Boozy sunsets at the Miki Miki bar over the water are not to be missed.
One of the more historic hotels in French Polynesia, the five-star Sofitel Moorea still shines. The resort sits on the longest white-sand beach on Moorea, which means you’ll enjoy views of its crystal-clear lagoon and sky-piercing lush mountains. You can also choose between an over-water, garden, or beach-view bungalow, each with a private balcony. A lavish Polynesian-inspired breakfast is included, and the Vue Bar is the place to be come sunset.
Just minutes from Faa’a airport, this luxury resort in Tahiti is the perfect way to bookend your French Polynesian adventure. The romance begins in the magnificent lobby where you’re greeted with stunning views of neighbouring island Moorea. Once checked in to an over-water bungalow, lagoon- or garden-view room, explore the lush tropical gardens or take a dip in the open-air aquarium teeming with tropical fish. Book a jet ski to explore the lagoon or simply relax by one of two pools with a tropical cocktail in hand.
Just off Taha’a island, the five-star resort Le Taha’a is a naturally elegant Polynesian escape. Built around majestic trees and surrounded by lush vegetation and flowers, it has 58 suites and villas, and a traditional Polynesian look. Over-water bungalows have a glass-bottom floor that opens to feed the fish below. Restaurants on the property vary from a casual barefoot atmosphere to elegant fine dining.
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, which sits on a private islet, is a lush tropical paradise under the majestic peak of Otemanu with over-water bungalows and lagoon views. It offers a slew of bespoke experiences, including the chance to explore the Ruahatu Lagoon Sanctuary with a marine biologist. And rather than order dinner from a menu, you’re invited to fish with your chef on a private boat. Afterwards, they prepare your catch for a spectacular private waterside dinner.
Located on a private atoll, the Brando is a favourite among the eco-conscious crowd – with solar energy powering the resort and cool sea water used in the air conditioning. This luxury French Polynesian resort can only be accessed by private plane, but the villas are nestled in a tropical paradise where biodiversity is fiercely protected. You’ll discover an abundance of nature from exotic birds to manta rays, reef sharks and turtles.
Unwind and find inner bliss at this marvel of a resort that offers bespoke butler service for a seamless stay. The St Regis Bora Bora has manicured tropical grounds to meander through, or you can relax by the lagoonarium (protected waters home to plenty of marine life) and dine at signature restaurant Lagoon by Jean-Georges. The adults-only pool is a paradise for couples, while the main pool features a swim-up bar.
With epic sunrise and sunset views and garden bungalows with private terrace and plunge pool, you won’t feel short changed at the Hilton Moorea if you don’t book an over-water bungalow. It’s the only all-bungalow resort on Moorea, and it’s situated between two stunning bays with a 4ha (10-acre) lagoon to explore.
When you want to get away, Tikehau Pearl is where you want to be. With a pink-sand beach, wild coconut grove and just 29 bungalows, eight suites and one villa, you are immersed in a remote romantic oasis. With a dive centre on site, you can adventure by day and relax by night at the oceanfront Poreho Restaurant.
Looking for more top hideaway in paradise? Check out our rundown of the best resorts in Bora Bora.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
The Culture Trip Travel Team contributed additional reporting to this article.
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