Many queer couples have fantasized about an idyllic South Pacific honeymoon. But what’s the right choice for a couple that wants something a bit less typical — something undiscovered and exotic — and yet still accessible? We found that the tropical island of Taha’a has a little bit of everything, from luxury resorts to incredible cuisine, with side helpings of privacy and some adventure to boot.
Taha’a is part of the Society Islands, one of six archipelagoes that comprise French Polynesia. While many people may not be familiar with the Society islands, chances are that they’ve heard of the two heavyweights in the chain: Tahiti and Bora Bora. International flights arrive into Papeete, the capital of Tahiti. We chose to fly on Air Tahiti Nui’s gorgeous new 787-9 Dreamliners from LAX, and the airline’s Poerava Business Class experience was exceptional, from the in-flight dining to the pod-like seats that fully recline into a flat bed. Plus, we received expedited check in and access to the airline’s lounge before boarding, giving us a pampered feel before even getting board. For the nine-hour flight, upgrading to either Moana Premium Economy or business class is well worth it — after all, this is your honeymoon, right? Now’s the time to splurge.
From Papeete, Air Tahiti provides frequent and comfortable service between the different islands, and our connection was painless. Taha’a and neighbor Raiatea share the same lagoon, sort of a figure eight without a pinched middle. The two main islands are separated by only about three miles of water, and a chain of motus (small islands) are strung along the reef at the outer edge of the lagoon. The islands’ joint airport is located on the northern edge of Raiatea, facing the southern part of Taha’a.
We chose the intimate and luxurious Vahine Island Resort and Spa, located on a private motu, located off Taha’a’s northeast corner. After landing at Raiatea airport, we were escorted a couple hundred feet to the boat dock, where the resort’s speedboat took us to the motu, a gorgeous 30-minute ride through the lagoon’s impossibly clear, blue-green water. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a refreshing juice drink and relaxed in one of the small public buildings that face the beach. The open air “lobby” has an adjoining bar, and a few steps away is the open-air restaurant, also located right on the waterfront.
The resort takes up the entire motu (although there’s ample area to spread out), and there are only nine bungalows — three are overwater and six are beachfront — so this is luxury and privacy at its finest. A variety of watersport activities are included, such as snorkeling gear, canoes, and outriggers. Although snorkeling in the lagoon is amazing and can be done right from the beach, one of the associates will gladly take guests out in the boat to a different area of the lagoon to see other coral, stingrays, and fish.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served in the beachfront restaurant, and you can pay for the food plan upfront, which includes breakfast and dinner. Under this plan, lunch is optional each day, and costs extra. But we found that the volume of food brought at breakfast — fresh fruits, breads, cheeses, and meats — was so great that we could ask our server to pack up the leftovers to take back to our bungalow. That always made for more than enough food for lunchtime. At dinner, we would order wine by the bottle, as (like on a cruise ship) any extra wine left over would be stored for us to consume the next evening. The cuisine here is superb, French with a Polynesian flair — and a lot of fresh seafood.
Our romantic bungalow was one of the beachfront ones, and its spacious deck afforded an incredible view of Taha’a in the foreground and Bora Bora in the distance. We were mere steps from the warm, clear lagoon water, and we took advantage of that, snorkeling amongst the colorful tropical fish on several occasions.
Taha’a is known as the vanilla island, as much of the famed Tahitian vanilla that gourmet chefs demand is grown here. You can book tours that not only let you visit a vanilla farm, but a distillery and a local pearl farm, too. The stunning black Tahitian pearls that are farmed here make for perfect souvenirs of your honeymoon. Locally-owned companies like Terainui Tours will take you on a tour of the lagoon, to snorkel amidst the coral gardens and even swim with the (non-aggressive) blacktip reef sharks — certainly a bucket list item for adventurous types!
Each evening after dinner, we’d walk along the beach and marvel at the baby sharks and other fish that would swim impossibly close to the water’s edge, attracted by the lights in the palm trees. And back at our bungalow, we were instructed to turn on our outside light that was aimed at the water. This was intended to attract fish, as well, allowing us to have a natural aquarium to watch right from our deck.
On our boat trip back to Raiatea airport at the end of our stay, the driver slowed down and stopped halfway through, and we wondered what was happening. He instructed us to look behind us, explaining that often, small lagoon sharks would follow the boat, and he was letting them catch up to us. Sure enough, within a minute, a dozen or so sharks were swimming lazily amidst the shallow green water — just another part of his daily commute, but something special and unexpected that we will always remember.
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