We ventured out like most couples who’ve just entered engagement bliss; in search of the picture-perfect venue, the creative florist, the accomplished photographer, the tastiest cake, the ideal invitation, the most suitable officiant and the finest gown. The whirlwind had officially begun and within a few months the vendors had been booked and the storm subsided… at least somewhat.
Next task: the honeymoon. The world is full of prospects but only a few destinations would truly qualify as the destination of a lifetime in our eyes, as the honeymoon should rightfully be. Being that my future husband is a commercial pilot, significant effort was spent to find the one place that would rest in our hearts as the ultimate commencement of our married life; a tropical bliss of unrivaled proportions, a place where we’d disregard the pressures of daily life and recall the coincidences that brought us together and events that led us to this point.
We purchased guidebooks. We explored online consolidators and packages that promised the best rates. After weeks of inquiries and careful evaluation, we happened upon Costco Travel, who provided responsive feedback and utmost flexibility to create our perfect French Polynesian getaway: Two nights in Tahiti, six nights in Moorea and four nights in Bora Bora. We booked our honeymoon eight months in advance and were certainly relieved we did being that we were getting married on October 9th, just one day before the highly sought-after 10.10.10 wedding date.
Andy and I were grounded in life. Each of us owned our own homes prior to living together and had many of the housewares that newly engaged couples typically needed. And while there were a few household items that we registered for at the local department store, we wanted our guests to be a part of our honeymoon journey. Traveler’s Joy fulfilled that desire and allowed us to get even more out of the once-in-a-lifetime vacation that was starting to take form.
We viewed other honeymoon registries and recycled ideas to create a catalog of items that embodied our own meaning of perfection. One part adrenaline (think parasailing, scuba diving, wave runner rental, feeding sharks/stingrays), one part relaxation (upgraded accommodations and our very own bath robes/slippers!) and one part total indulgence (drinks at the swim-up bar, romantic meals over the ocean). We even offered our guests active involvement by including a do-it-yourself option to create their own gift, should they not find something that appealed to them on our list. At the various celebratory events it was clear that our honeymoon registry was a sensation, so we added additional options before our main event.
Outside of the normal hiccups (and some not so normal), our wedding day was beyond anything we could have imagined. A gorgeous autumn day in the Bay Area afforded spectacular panoramic views of the ocean and city skyline from our venue. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as we presented the heartfelt vows that we made to each other during our wedding ceremony. Fireworks lit up the sky as we danced to Journey’s “Faithfully” thanks to the nearby Fleet Week activities that San Francisco was hosting that weekend. As we drove away from the venue in our bejeweled vehicle at the end of the night, we wondered how this occasion could have been any better.
We allotted ourselves a full day after the wedding to spend time with our out-of-town guests and complete our last minute packing before our departure. The following morning we boarded our plane to cloud nine and drifted away. Being in the air less than an hour, we already had a tropical drink in hand, readying ourselves for the well-deserved escape from reality. The remaining seven hours of flight were no different than the first, thanks to the Air Tahiti Nui staff. We arrived in Tahiti and were leid with fresh gardenias, our first of many throughout our holiday.
Our package included airfare and transfers, including the van that led us to our first stop, the InterContinental Resort Tahiti in Papeete. Our goal on the island was to unwind while experiencing a day in the life in the Tahitian capital. We rode “Le truk” into town alongside the locals, perused the colorful Municipal Market and haggled over an emblematic souvenir, a Tahitian black pearl pendant, at a local jeweler. We dined at the elegant Le Lotus, what Arthur Frommer promised is “the best setting of any restaurant in the South Pacific.” And it did not disappoint. The resort grounds were delightful with exquisite tropical foliage that appealed to all senses while the resort offered a complete set of amenities. Mission accomplished.
The next day the 45-minute high-speed ferry whisked us away from Papeete to Moorea (thanks to one of our wedding guests!). As we settled into our overwater bungalow at the InterContinental Resort Moorea, we admired the natural beauty that encircled us. Our stay began with a 4x4 safari excursion the following morning – complete with plentiful mosquitoes, followed by a fantastic meal at Rudy’s steakhouse, which we considered returning to given the food quality and value. After learning that many of the local restaurants offer a complimentary taxi service to/from the nearby resorts, we took in the legendary lobster raviolis at Mayflower the following evening, which were also a gastronomic highlight. The resort location was perfect not only for the many tourism opportunities on that side of the island, but also for the grocery store located conveniently across the street, which we made use of for lunches. What is a stay in Tahiti without a typical ham and cheese sandwich on a fresh baguette for lunch?
The splendor of Moorea multiplied as we made our ascent via parasail and even further as we circled the island on scooter. We became desensitized by the countless shades of blue that we saw. We had an up-close encounter with marine life and swam with the dolphins at the Moorea Dolphin Center (located just a few feet from our bungalow), and Tahitian culture came to life at the Tiki Village Cultural Center as the fire dancers emerged. Regretfully, it was time to make our way to the airport to catch our flight to our next destination, Bora Bora.
The aerial view of the French Polynesian islands was breathtaking, as was the descent down to the motu that houses the Bora Bora "aerodrome.” We disembarked to find the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana shuttle boat waiting for our arrival to transfer us to the property. Resort staff led us to our overwater bungalow, where we first experienced genuine euphoria upon entering. We were greeted with fresh indigenous fruits, champagne, bottled water, a t-shirt, a pareo and an absolutely stunning view out every side of the bungalow, including the coffee table that opened up to feed the tropical fish and rays below. We’d never known natural beauty like this. Again, mission accomplished.
We spent our remaining days in the 80-plus degree waters, snorkeling below our bungalow and scuba diving with the lemon sharks, reef sharks and eels (courtesy of Bathys Diving). Our full-day motu excursion allowed us to look into the eyes of the black tip sharks and mingle with the stingrays, which was an impressive affair. We circled the island on a wave runner tour, visiting the set of “Couples Retreat” (with Vince Vaughn and others, filmed in 2009 on a surrounding motu) and rode past the set of the Season 6 “Bachelorette” proposal between Ali Fedotowski and Roberto Martinez. Beauty abound.
And if that wasn’t enough, the culinary delights on the island provided another form of entertainment. Our most superb dinner experience was at Bloody Mary’s, where we devoured the teriyaki glazed wahoo (another Frommer’s recommendation) and vanilla bean crème brulee. Surprisingly, the InterContinental Resort offerings were a close second place in the culinary rankings with their spaghetti carbonara, crepes and abundant breakfast buffets.
The last day of our honeymoon was filled with mixed emotions, knowing that a rough reality awaited us back at home. In our last ditch effort we caught a bus into town to shop for souvenirs for friends and family. We took in the last few rays of Polynesian sun before boarding the shuttle boat back to the airport, whose airport code is affectionately BOB. The short flight flight led us back to Papeete, where we then boarded our international, red eye flight back to Los Angeles.
Our customized package included a majority of the initial travel expenses: all international and inter-island airfares, catamaran ferry ride, all transfers, 12 nights of accommodations at InterContinental Resorts (including all breakfasts and one dinner) and excursions (4x4 safari, Tiki Village and dolphin meet and greet, lagoon excursion). The package price was approximately $11,000. The actual costs were not much more, being that nearly all of those costs were offset by the honeymoon registry gifts that we received ($1,900) through Traveler’s Joy.
“Would we do it again,” you ask? In a heartbeat! A honeymoon of that magnitude deserves to be experienced more than once.