Find paradise in French Polynesia

Enjoy the honeymoon of your dreams on the French Polynesian islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea…

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Waterfalls cascading down forest-lined mountain valleys, translucent lagoons glowing in the sunlight, markets overflowing with exotic fruit, vegetables, handicrafts and cultured pearls, dolphins racing alongside boats, powder-soft sandy beaches, soothingly warm turquoise sea to soak your feet and the friendliest people you’ve ever met. Welcome to the exotic islands of Tahiti.

Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and part of French Polynesia, this picture-perfect archipelago has long been heralded as a honeymooners’ paradise. While similarly hyped destinations usually don’t quite live up to Photoshopped expectations, this is one place that seems to <exceed> preconceptions – and that really is no easy feat.

Absorb the Polynesian culture

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Tahiti’s capital, Pape’ete is lively and rugged; traffic inevitably snakes its way along the major roads during the morning rush hour (which begins at 6am), while the local markets are in full swing by 7am. The popular Marché du Pape’ete overflows with island-print shirts, dresses, handicrafts and salad bowls but the atmosphere isn’t competitive, instead you can stroll through the stalls without being hassled – although it is worth holding out for one of the many pearl boutiques for a honeymoon souvenir.

Pearls are big business here and you can purchase a single stone for as little as CPF10,000 (approximately £67). The Musée de la Pearle will help you understand how they are cultivated in such large numbers.

Away from town, rocky coastlines play home to scuttling red crabs, beaches are small but quiet and there is a distinct volcanic mysteriousness that seeps from the lush-green mountains of the interior, right out to the crystal clear waters of Matavai Bay in the north.

Set back from the bay is the elegant Radisson Plaza Resort, where the welcoming crispy cotton sheets envelope you in after a day of exploring. Relax with traditional Marquesian music and dancing (think grass skirts and echoing drums) at the hotel’s buzzing Hiti Mahana restaurant, while deciding between the mouth-watering international and Polynesian menu. Fresh mahi mahi with caramelised bok choy or tuna salad dressed with coconut milk? It’s a tough choice; perhaps you can share and work it off with a soothing stroll in the rare black sand.

Rooms at the Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti (http://www.radisson.com/tahiti) begin at €175 plus tax [approx. £137] per night. Air Tahiti Nui (www.airtahitinui.co.uk, resa@airtahitinui.co.uk) flies from Paris to Pape’ete, Tahiti via Los Angeles from £1,450, which includes the Virgin Atlantic connection from London to Paris.

Kick back on mesmerising Bora Bora

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It’s the stunning swirls of translucent turquoise that will blow you away as your Air Tahiti propeller jet lands at Bora Bora’s beach-side domestic airport. In the distance, and at the centre of the main motu (island), the majestic moss-covered, Mount Otemanu dramatically rises high into the bright blue sky, with a few candyfloss clouds scattered around it.

A private boat – the only means of transport here, apart from the occasional golf buggy – will take you from the airport to motu Piti Aau, where the beautiful over-water villas of the St Regis Resort spiral out into the shallow azure like octopus tentacles.

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Each cute thatched-roof bungalow is isolated from its neighbour by a selection of palms and cascading of fuchsia bougainvillea. Its dark Siberian Ash door the perfect way to lock the world out.

Inside the sweet scent of vanilla fills the room from the overhead Pandanus leaves used to construct the roof. Glass flooring allows you to watch as shoals of fish dart around the reef below, and if you’ve opted the two-bedroom villa, you’ll enjoy your own private pool.

This may be an island filled with big-name resorts, but this motu feels anything but crowded. You can expect the best service here; staff greet you by name, there’s a butler on-hand and for an exceptionally romantic night, book a dinner for two on the resort’s private island, where you’ll dine, alone, under the stars.

By day, flit between the infinity pools or beach, skim the sand with your toe as you rock off for a nap in your hammock or melt into the treatment beds at the Miri Miri Spa, on yet another private island.

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When – and if – you’re ready to leave the tranquillity, book a half-day island safari with Lagoon Service, who will take you out into the reef to spot sharks and stingrays. Black tip and lemon sharks have no interest in humans; instead they’ll glide around you, minding their own business, while you take in the incredible sight using snorkels and fins. The rays are a friendly bunch and will insist on brushing passed you as you paddle in awe around the shallow lagoon.

Rooms at the St. Regis Bora Bora (http://www.stregisborabora.com) start from 125,000XPF [approx. £820] per person, per night. Air Tahiti (www.airtahiti.com) operates domestic flights between most of the French Polynesian islands. Air Tahiti Passes enable discount travel between several islands (www.airtahiti.aero)

Adventure on Moorea

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Untouched, lush greenery spreads wildly into the distance, while the occasional burst of steam indicates a raging waterfall or river escaping from the mountains. Moorea is a place for adventure-seeking couples and although guided hikes and mountain walks are readily available, it’s the seasonal whale-watching experience that will leave you awestruck. If you’re honeymooning between the months of July and November, join Harold Wright, the founder of Moorea Dolphin Expeditions, on his daily excursion into the Pacific Ocean – and watch his team use sonar technology to track nearby humpbacks. Once their position has been established, you have the choice of either watching from the boat or grabbing a snorkel mask and joining them in the water. You won’t regret witnessing these incredible 16-metre long creatures swim elegantly, and peacefully, around you.

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Back on land at the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa, watch a crimson sunset fade behind the thatched over-water villas, before heading to the Arii Vahine restaurant for the day’s fresh catch, made to order. Finish off your evening at the creperie located along the villa boardwalk, where you can share freshly-made pancakes while watching reef sharks play in the shallow waters below.

Prices at the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa (http://www3.hilton.com) begin at 27,300XPF plus tax (approx. £180).

Half-day excursions with Moorea Dolphin Excursions start from 10,000XPF per person (approx. £67).

For more information on The Islands of Tahiti, visit www.tahiti-tourisme.co.uk.

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[Originally published in Wedding magazine, February/March issue]

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