If You Only Take One Über-Luxurious Trip in Your Lifetime, This Should Be It
As our tiny airplane readied to land at Bora Bora airport, every single passenger crammed toward the windows for a glimpse at the view. It's unlike anything I'd ever seen: Blinding turquoise water glistened below, punctuated only by the tiny outline of overwater bungalows that extend into the natural lagoon. Postcards and Instagram posts just don't do it justice—Tahiti lives up to its reputation as one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
A spec in the South Pacific, Tahiti sits roughly halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. When I quizzed friends to find out what they knew about the French Polynesian islands, the responses were almost identical: That it's an iconic honeymoon destination, a celebrity haven, and is home to bucket list–topping overwater bungalows. There's more to Bora Bora than Kim Kardashian West's famous diamond earring incident, though.
If you've ever dreamed of ticking off this once-in-a-lifetime trip, there are some vital stats to know before you go. A few key takeaways I learned during my week in paradise at The St. Regis Bora Bora and Le Meridien: Not all overwater bungalows are the same, planning activities is a must, and Tahiti is more accessible than you might think. Here's why, of the 35+ countries I've visited, this is the one über-luxurious vacation I recommend to friends.
Trust me: You've never seen water like this before.
Whatever you do, don't type Bora Bora into Google Maps—it'll appear as a tiny dot in the middle of the ocean, miles away from any major land mass. But don't let that deter you. While Tahiti might seem like an exotic beach destination for those of us who live in the States, it's much more accessible than you think. Located in French Polynesia, the main island of Papeete is an eight and a half-hour direct flight from Los Angeles. Tahiti's most famous island group, Bora Bora, is a 50-minute flight from Papeete. What's more is that the main airport is so small to navigate that it's fairly safe to book a connecting flight with a minimal layover to reach your resort even faster.
Unlike most airports, your vacation starts the moment you land in Bora Bora, too. The island group is just 12 square miles in size, so the airport sits on an idyllic stretch of land surrounded by clear blue water. Our group stepped off the plane, walked through the gate (there are no customs) and got straight on the hotel's boat. Who knew transit days could be so enjoyable?
Bora Bora might be the jewel of Tahiti, but it's also a great starting point to explore French Polynesia. After spending up to a week at one of the resorts, consider one of the surrounding islands like Moorea, known for its majestic volcanic mountains and inland hiking trails. If you're planning a longer trip, take your pick from the neighboring destinations: Beach-hop in the Cook Islands, explore famous Tu Sua Ocean Trench in nearby Samoa, or continue on to hike the breathtaking rugged terrain in New Zealand.
Then again, if your vacation involves purely lounging in an overwater bungalow, paddleboarding with rays, and watching the sunset behind Bora Bora's jagged, Jurrasic Park–like mountain shrouded in a plume of white clouds, you really can't go wrong. Honestly, it's paradise on earth—and then some.