by Steven Bereznai
The islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora are often used in pop culture to evoke the ultimate dream vacation, combining natural beauty, seclusion, and a sense of opulence. Having recently visited both, along with the islands of Moorea and Tetiaroa (all part of French Polynesia), I can say they live up to the fantasy. Their warm, crystal-blue waters offer views of dolphin pods frolicking while I ride a ferry from one island to another, and lush green vistas cover the tips of extinct volcanoes. No wonder this destination has become the ultimate green getaway, and a choice locale for gay weddings (legalized there in May of 2013, soon after France), honeymoons, and retreats for anyone looking to reconnect with themselves, nature, or their partner.
Yet, because of its own reputation as a tropical paradise, the region also faces a big tourist challenge: how to get guests as close to nature as possible, without damaging it. There are several resorts meeting this challenge in unique ways, prioritizing the environment to different degrees, but all hoping their guests gain some knowledge (and a growing commitment to protecting the natural world) along with their tan lines, without compromis- ing on style or comfort.
For nature-loving travelers looking for a five-star experience, here are some of our favorite French Polynesian escapes.