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.”