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Frequented by misty-eyed honeymooners and couples celebrating mile-stone anniversaries, French Polynesia’s allure starts way before tyres hit the tarmac.
At 20,000 feet (or there abouts) flip the window blind and you’ll be greeted by the archipelago’s signature narrative; island dappled sea, fang-like mountain peaks and low level clouds sitting like fluffy marshmallows just metres above the blue. If it sounds impossibly perfect, it’s because it is.
From Tahiti to Moorea, Bora Bora and everywhere in between, there are plenty of romantic rewards to be sought in French Polynesia. Some are obvious, others are somewhat unorthodox, but however you choose to celebrate your coupledom, there’s a Tahitian treat to satisfy.
1. The traditional
It’s everyone’s favourite Polynesian dream. Stirring from a deep sleep to find yourself marooned inside a billowing cascade of linen – inside an enormous four poster bed – inside your very own over-water bungalow. In paradise no less.
Wooden shuttered doors are pulled apart to reveal crystal-clear Tahitian ocean; cracked by reflecting sunlight and framed by craggy mountain tops, their razor-sharp points piercing a perennial blue sky. Swing one leg out of bed and step onto a floor made of glass – or as the locals call it, ‘Tahiti television’ - the ocean bed will stare back, coupled by a kaleidoscope of exotic fish swimming an inch below your feet. The smell of croissants lingers heavily in the air, a gecko scuttles somewhere in the thatch and the water beckons you for an early-morning dip. Descend the ladder from your bungalow and swim amongst the fish.
2. The not-so-traditional
Those who ignore Tahiti’s mainland and use it only as a hopping-stop for Moorea, Bora Bora and the islands beyond, are missing out on a Tahitian treasure; dagger-like mountains.
Now, you might not consider a mountain summit obviously ‘romantic’ , but you know what they say - couples who sweat together, stay together… Steady now, we're talking about a hike.
With a richly volcanic interior, the main island is also home to Tahiti’s second highest peak; Mount Aorai. Standing at 2066 metres, if you’re fit (and prone to a regular hike) you’ll summit this verdant beast in approximately seven hours. This trail starts as Le Belvedere, 10km from Papeete and is best climbed during the island’s driest months between July and September. The views are sublime; remember those juicy fat clouds you awed from the plane? Four hours in and you’ll be walking in them. Steep in parts and slippery in others, you’ll need a good head for heights, you don’t get views like these without a few knife-edge hillsides.
By no means an easy feat, you will no doubt sweat, ache, huff and puff, but just think… back at your resort there’s a spa!
3. The unconventionally tasty
Slumming it. Not your usual past-time for a romantic getaway, but if you and your better half are looking for a point of difference, try Papeete's waterfront, Place Vaiete. Not only is it deliciously French-sounding, it’s deliciously tasty too. Famed for the rainbow-coloured food wagons (roulottes), punters descend here for the sublime cuisine; piling their polystyrene plates sky-high with French crepes, Tahitian pizza and Chinese chow mein. Far from the realms of crisp white table cloths and crystal glassware, you’ll pull up a small plastic stool and sit beneath the awnings, nudging elbows with fellow diners and swatting mosquitos with your napkin. Cuisine aside, the atmosphere is electric. Open from 6pm, it’s the sun’s descent that really ramps up the ambience. Live music bellows from a nearby pavilion and vendors yell away in loud, boisterous French. Woks spit and pans sizzle, the locals natter and tourists attempt a few complimentary lines of French. C’est très bon. And they’re right, it really is.
4. The road trip
All swimmed-out? Probably impossible in French Polynesia, but if one day you have a hankering for an adventure of the four-wheeled kind, you can do a lot worse than Moorea’s Opunohu Valley loop. By hire car.
Moorea’s forest-clad interior is where ancient Polynesian temples hide amidst the canopies and draping foliage, in an almost Indiana Jones jungle setting. If you and your partner have a shared inclination for adventure, hire a car and forge a route into the deep, dark depths of Opunohu. Wave goodbye to the thrashing surf and venture into a terrain of pineapple plantations and surrounding forestry; looming mountainside and pounding waterfalls. Virtually devoid of development, the only high-rise to tower over you is that of Mount Rotui. An experience of the most authentic kind, boys on bikes pedal past – shouting bonjour as they go, and roosters border the roadside, probably cooing the same. Take the hairpin bends up to the famed Belvedere lookout. Your honed motoring skills will be rewarded with unmatched views across two bays; Cooks and Opunoh. There’s a small snack shop selling treats, so indulge in an ice-cream and soak up the vistas from the top.
And when that’s all done. There’s always the beach and a cool Mahana cocktail.
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