Pearl Harbour

The exotic French Polynesian resort of Le Taha’a is the perfect desert island hideaway. Laura Millar romances the isles

Forget Bora Bora – if you truly want a romantic destination where you can gaze into each other’s eyes without bumping into hundreds of other couples all doing the same, book into the compact, but unbearably beautiful, Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa. Yes, it’s a fact that Tahiti – shorthand for the archipelago of 118 islands which are scattered over an expanse of more than 1200 miles in the South Pacific – is a long, long way away (an eleven-hour flight to LA, followed by another eight to the capital, Papeete). But if you’re seeking out seclusion, exclusivity and that far-flung, desert island feel, head onwards northeast from the island of Tahiti itself to Taha’a.

Taha’a is one of the most important in the sub-archipelago known as the Society Islands (a small group which includes Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora). Reached by a 30-minute flight from Papeete to its neighbour, Raiatea, followed by a 45-minute boat journey, Taha’a is the main producer of Tahitian vanilla, and also Tahitian cultured black pearls. 

But just another five minutes away from Taha’a is the charming islet of Motu Tautau, on which is situated five-star Relais & Chateaux property, Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa. So small you could walk around it in less than half an hour, it features 45 overwater villas, which will fulfill all your Robinson Crusoe fantasies, and 12 other villas, which fringe the beach. There are no prizes for guessing which type of villa you should ask for; going to sleep lulled by the sound of the South Pacific ocean lapping around your deck is one of the most delightful experiences in the world.

The overwater villas all have the same layout and charming Polynesian décor, featuring thatched grass, shiny bamboo wood, decorative tapa (bark) cloth, numerous sliding doors and a private deck, but there is a choice of views – to Bora Bora, to the sunset, or to Taha’a – all, in our opinion, are equally magnificent. The resort is set amid spacious grounds, amongst mature trees and ringed by a sandy beach, which is equipped with the occasional hammock, perfect for drifting off in. There is superb snorkeling to be had in a protected coral reef-garden close by, and a small spa offers Polynesian massages and rituals, plus there’s a fitness centre, tennis court, pool and watersports. Past celebrity guests include Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise and Natalie Portman, so you never know who’ll be sitting next to you at breakfast in the main La Vanille restaurant, set upstairs amongst treetops.

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La Vanille is also open for dinner, and serves exquisite cuisine using local ingredients; vanilla really is something the locals are proud of here, so try dishes like baked mahi mahi fish with a subtle vanilla sauce. For a laid-back lunch, La Plage restaurant next to the pool offers classics like fresh fish-burgers and local speciality, ‘poisson cru’ – essentially a huge dish of fresh tuna tartare, mixed with coconut milk, lime juice, tomato and cucumber.

You could just cut yourself off from everything and everyone and never leave your villa, but a day trip to Taha’a, and a guided tour of the island, is a must.

Taha’a is nicknamed ‘Vanilla Island’ because of the dozens of plantations here, which scent the entire area. French Polynesian vanilla is exported all over the world, and is reckoned by top chefs to be the best to use.

A trip round one of the plantations will show you the process from planting the vines which produce the pods, to drying them, to turning them into extract, or selling them whole. It’s fascinating stuff.,

Another must is a visit to a black pearl farm; Tahitian cultured black pearls are some of the most expensive and sought-after in the world, and many farms will let you see how they’re cultivated. Again, you can’t leave here without buying a perfect, spherical specimen in silver, gunmetal grey or pearlescent black. But you’re here for romance, so if your partner knows what’s good for him, he’ll already have bought one for you…


Getting There

Rooms at Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa start from £528 per night, based on two sharing | letahaa.com

Economy fares with Air Tahiti Nui from London to Papeete, Tahiti via LAX start from £1,450 including taxes. For further information and reservations | +44(0) 844 482 1675 | airtahitinui.co.uk | tahiti-tourisme.co.uk

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