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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. All are bookable through Culture Trip.
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 getaway. 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. 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, the InterContinental 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 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. It 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.
The Culture Trip Travel Team contributed additional reporting to this article.