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Postcard from Bora Bora

One Bora with a Twist

When was the last time you had a tropical fix? If you have to stop and think about your answer, you need one quickly—and we have just the recipe to quench your thirst for absolute paradise: Start with an airline, add several hotels, then mix in two dive centers and a dose of environment-friendly tourism. Blend well with a liberal dash of tradition and voilà! You've got Bora Bora with a twist!

Upon arrival in Papeete, we boarded a twin turboprop ATR72 belonging to Air Tahiti, French Polynesia's inter-island airline. The flight to Bora Bora takes a mere 50 minutes and allows a pleasant view of the leeward pearls of French Polynesia: Huahine, Raiatea and Tahaa. Soon we were swooping in low over the crystal-clear aquamarine water of the lagoon that surrounds this mountainous volcanic island and is enclosed by a wide reef open to the ocean at only one spot. Though only 38 square kilometers in size, Bora Bora is considered one of the most beautiful tropical islands in the world. And since at most only 200,000 visitors travel to all of French Polynesia every year, it is easy to find a lone corner of paradise here.

The beach villa swimming pool at Le Meridien Bora Bora

Le Méridien Bora Bora, and its sister resort Le Méridien Tahiti on the island of Tahiti, were the real reasons we came here, for properties this breathtaking are rare. Set on its own isolated 10-kilometer-long "motu" islet off the east coast of Bora Bora, Le Méridien Bora Bora offers thatched-roof faré-style bungalows either perched set over the lagoon or nestled at the edge of ivory sands. Outdoor terraces allow guests convenient water access. Overwater bungalows have a glass panel in the floor of the living area through which they can view the sea life.

We walked a short distance to the east side of the motu, where giant waves crashed onto the outer reef, and swam in the calm waters of the lagoon. In fact, every water sport imaginable is offered at Le Méridien, from parasailing to scuba diving, and a launch awaits to take guests to the main island throughout their stay. The service is Polynesian-friendly, and the daily-changing fare is French with a Tahitian twist, as in dishes ranging from pan-fried tazard, a delicate white lagoon fish, to roast suckling pig. Since Le Méridien faces the island of Bora Bora to the west, each evening we enjoyed watching the sun set behind craggy Mount Otemanu.

We were delighted by another property designed along the lines of Le Méridien, the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa. Set on the largest of the motus surrounding the Bora Bora lagoon, the Pearl Beach was built with sensitivity to the natural environment. Much of the wood used for the 50 overwater bungalows, 20 garden suites, 10 beach suites, bars and restaurants, for example, was gathered from the resort site itself. Furthermore, the farés are decorated with bamboo, coconut-hemp rope and tapa cloth painted with images from ancient Tahitian legends. Guests staying in the overwater bungalows can observe sea life through glass tables in the living area, and enjoy breakfast delivered by outrigger canoe. A launch ferries guests to the main island for sightseeing, but with a tennis court, mini golf course and movie theater, they may find little reason to leave the motu.

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa

A swift water shuttle take guests to Vaitape to enjoy the local folklore and shops. But there's no Neiman's here. Try Magasin Chin Lee if you have a craving for foie gras, French Camembert or a bottle of Dom Perignon. For a quick snack and a fix on French pastries you must stop in L'Appetisserie.

With just 14 beachfront bungalows and 50 overwater suites, Intercontinental Le Moana Resort Bora Bora is an intimate resort set on Matira Pointe, the southernmost tip of the island. The beach here offers some of the best swimming on Bora Bora and an enclosed "lagoonarium" net through which you can observe sea life.

GETTING THERE:

You can fly direct to Papeete from Los Angeles via: Air Tahiti Nui, 877-824-4846; Air France, 800-237-2747; Air New Zealand, 800-262-1234. To fly via Hawaii, call Hawaiian Air, 800-367-5320.

Tahiti Tourisme North America: 310-414-8484

HOTELS:

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa
Motu Tevairoa
B.P. 169
98730 Vaitape
Bora Bora
French Polynesia
689-60-52-20
800-657-3275

InterContinental Le Moana Resort Bora Bora
Point Matira
B.P. 156
98730 Vaitape
Bora Bora
French Polynesia
689-60-49-00
800-835-7742

Le Méridien Bora Bora
Motu Tape
B.P. 190
98730 Vaitape
Bora Bora
French Polynesia
689-60-51-51

See GAYOT's recommendations for more hotels in French Polynesia



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