Popular with honeymooners and families alike, this large coastal property is located on Moorea, a quiet, lush island known for its beautiful mountain scenery and ample hiking opportunities. The hotel sits right on the lagoon and offers garden rooms and bungalows, many with their own private plunge pools, as well as fabulous overwater bungalows with glass floor panels in the living rooms and private decks with direct stair access to the warm waters below. Free kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and snorkeling gear are available for those who want to explore their aquatic surroundings, though there’s plenty to do back on shore—from lazing on the white-sand beach (or in a hammock) to getting a massage with traditional Tahitian monoi (gardenia) oil. One of the highlights of a stay here is the chance to visit the hotel’s overwater bar, allegedly the only one in the country, where tiny sharks congregate every evening at sundown for feedings.

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Hilton's Moorean Eden

As you walk out onto the tarmac at Tahiti‘s Faa’a Airport, the craggy volcanic outline of Moorea lies on the horizon portending unknown French Polynesian pleasures. After the 10-minute flight, you drive along the one road circling the island to the lush, 104-bungalow Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort. Then a gracious lady named Francine drapes a delicate handmade string of shells around your neck. Couples are mingling in the lobby at the tour desks planning their day. From there, you walk over a wooden bridge above a koi pond surrounded by thick ferns, tall palms and fragrant “tiare” gardenia. It is then when you come face to face with the otherworldly talcum-soft white beach and overwater bungalows suspended above the transparent sea. It is quiet. People speak in hushed tones close to each other, hypnotized by the scenery. Everyone is touching, moving together slowly between the sand and freakishly beautiful water. “It seems like time has stopped, doesn’t it?” asks GM Olivier Larcher, during our tour. “In Moorea, you wake up with the sun and go to bed early. You’re very in tune with the natural rhythms and connected to the environment.” In 2010, the resort completed a $15 million renovation and it was ranked the #1 romantic hotel in the world by TripAdvisor readers. “It’s very much isolated here,” says Larcher. “There’s not a lot of activities; it’s really a place to kill a book in a couple days and share some undisturbed time with people important to you.”

Saving Money While Enjoying the Sunset View in an Overwater Bungalow

The sunset views from our horizon-view, overwater bungalow were stellar each night of our trip. These views and the extra breeze you get from a horizon-view room made it worth the extra cost both times we visited. While the resort bars were also nice options for sundowners, buying a bottle of nice French white at a local grocery and keeping it chilled in our room fridge was also the perfect way to enjoy a sunset cocktail. (It also helped to defray some of the extra we paid for those horizon-view rooms.) Because jet lag had us up very early most days we also enjoyed watching the pre-dawn monochrome turn into lovely vivid colors as the sun came up over a cup of coffee. The in-room Nespresso machine was a welcome feature since room service starts a bit later. If we return we’ll be packing several sleeves of Nespresso pods to bring along so we can enjoy as many cups as we’d like. While you could maximize your use of the view with room service meals, we found the breakfast buffet to be the best quality and best bargain of any meal at the resort. The quality and variety of food from sweet to savory and health-minded to indulgent was stellar. Room service, by contrast, was overpriced, a bit slow, and lower quality. We frequently took a morning snorkel from our bungalow before breakfast then went to the breakfast buffet on the late side. This turned breakfast into brunch and combined two meals into one!

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