I just went on a honeymoon. With my family. From Tahiti to the islands of Mo’orea and Bora Bora, our boisterous group of six played “which of these kids is different than the others…” in the South Pacific, ringing in the new year with heaps of new ring recipients, lip lockers, eye dwellers and probably preggers.

French Polynesia, especially its darling Bora Bora, really does live up to the postcard dream. The water is the show-stealer, reaching out in stripes of clear glass, blazing teal and deep cornflower against a sky of inconceivable periwinkle. Seeing is believing that “it really does look like that“!

We stayed at the St. Regis Bora Bora, which was transformed into Eden West for the movie Couples Retreat. We thankfully got to leave out couples skill building at 6am and chose instead to sleep in and check out the variety of activities and stunning views the hotel had to offer, whether from the beachside bar or from the deliciousness of our very own overwater bungalow. The hotel, like many of the island’s luxury resorts, is located on a long motu (small islet) on the eastern side of the main island. The Lagoon Restaurant by NYC favorite Jean-Georges Vongerichten, sushi bar and main cafe boast the most popular of the motu’s evening dining, and many guests of other resorts arrange water taxis to this property for dinner. Someone from the concierge desk greets you at the beach or at the main dock to confirm the commencement of all of your activities; the mini bar is very generous; and the globally recognized Tahitian black pearl icon Robert Wan has a boutique on site.

With the pinch-me amount of room square footage (1,500 – 2,000 sf for standard rooms), a water view even from your closet, the perfect concierge Patrick and the only motu address with views of both the lagoon and the ocean, the St. Regis Bora Bora is a BUY. It’s actually rather ironic I chose it over the Four Seasons as the latter is supposed to be more family-oriented… Rooms from $1,000 (but you can get them cheaper by going through a travel agency). We worked with Chloe at Tahiti Travel Planners.

My only gripes were (1) the rusted bikes are on their last spoke and need to be immediately replaced as their use is the best way for guests to navigate the expansive property and their humiliating decline takes away from the beauty of the beach and (2) the Miri Miri spa was a surprisingly huge disappointment. Trade for: A long walk on the deck until new wheels arrive and a neighborly visit to the Intercontinental’s Thalasso Spa, which has received numerous, well-deserved recognitions for its facilities and treatments. I got scrubbed in coconut, covered in algae and lowered into a floating water bed…Please sir, may I have some more?

I am so blessed to have been able to kick off the year of the London Olympics, the anniversary of the War of 1812 and (for some) the December Apocalypse with my folks, creating a bevy of new memories and firsts that had us all over the moon. If you need inspiration for your list of New Year’s resolutions, here are the South Spacifics we were happy to keep:

Conquer a fear

Learn something new

Chill out

Spend more time at home

Make new friends

Don’t eat at the same ole places

Take the road less travelled

Be more present

Spend more time with your family

Learn to multitask

Never be too old to get excited

Look for that silver lining and keep your fins up

Whether traveling alone, as a pair or ensemble, here is how to recreate our Best of Bora Bora and Mo’orea:

Best solo underwater moment:
Ask your hotel on Bora Bora to book you two morning tanks with Topdive. Not only was my guide Ulysses a smoke show, but I had one of if not the craziest dive experience of my life: not moving a muscle while four 10-12 foot manta rays gracefully glided by. It was In! Sane! Jules Verne might as well have been next to me taking notes for 20,000 Leagues under The Sea.

Best family underwater moment:
Ask Patrick at the St. Regis Bora Bora to request Ramone for a lagoon tour, so you too can say a prayer and hop into black tip and lemon shark infested waters for some light snorkeling. I think my exact words to Ramone when he first told us to get in was, “When life hands you lemons, you get the f#*! outta of there.” After we made it out alive, he served us homemade coconut cake and beer while he serenaded us home on his ukulele, trusting us to drive and that we weren’t lying about actually being experienced boaters.

Best solo overwater moment:
Most of the hotels will have 15-minute water skiing intervals to get towed around. If you ask for 30 minutes, you can get a lesson as a first-timer like me!

Best family overwater moment:
Three words: Jet ski safari.

Best landlocked moment:
Mo’orea is only 60km around, and Bora Bora is a mere 32. We rented a car from Avis and went to find the lookouts, temples and pineapple plantations ourselves in Mo’orea. My sPacific favorite was when the clutch started burning out (egggh…throat clearing…mom’s fault…cough) and we began to slide off the cliff. Some view!

Best lunch:
Call ahead for a reservation at Restaurant de la Plage, which is a hole in the water located on a tiny motu off of Hauru Point on Mo’orea. The restaurant sent a small canoe across to collect us from the mainland. You can always work off your burger by swimming back instead. I was actually late arriving because of my dive, so if you are in a jam and miss the last restaurant-provided boat across, you can bribe a dockhand at one of the nearby resorts to put-put you over…

Best dinner:
Rub some sand between your toes on the dining room floor of Bloody Mary’s, a mainland Bora Bora institution since the 1970’s. You pick out your own freshly caught fish upon arrival and it goes on the grill as you go to your table. By the time you are finished with your first Bloody, it arrives with vanilla sauce on the side. 

January 15, 2012 3 Comments Live a Little, Travel

3 Comments

  1. liz January 16, 2012

    How fun. We thought of you every day.

  2. raspWets February 2, 2012

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  3. Anna February 2, 2012

    Hi Leigh,
    I just barely finished your Aunt Nancy’s nails and just wanted to say hello 🙂 I adore your Aunt–she is always so fun to chat with! Your stories are some of my favorite to hear about! Your website is amazing and I cannot wait to hear more about your travels! Take care,
    Anna Williams

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