Following our incredible wedding in Charleston, South Carolina, we were in desperate need of some rest and relaxation and felt that we had planned -- mostly through the assistance of Travelers Joy -- a wonderful couple of weeks of rest, respite, relaxation in two distinctly impressive locations: a tropical retreat and paradise in French Polynesia and sampling the wine varieties in Sonoma. A far cry from the intensity and volatility of life in the finance world of Manhattan!
We flew from our home in New York on September 19th, bound for San Francisco. We had decided that neither of us had the mental incapacity to spend two weeks on a beach, and therefore opted to break up the trip with a few days in Sonoma to sample wine country before hitting French Polynesia. French Polynesia had long been a destination I had dreamt of traveling to, and whilst Courtney had done nearly all the planning for the wedding, the honeymoon was all in my domain! The pristine beaches, the topical weather, the warm azure water, and absolute luxury of premier accommodation – what more could one want for a honeymoon?!
We stayed at the Kenwood Inn & Spa in Sonoma for two nights, enjoying the spa with massages, plenty of champagne, breakfast in bed, and some really interesting and lubricating visits to local vineyards. This venue was selected after many hours of intense research online as well as recommendations from friends and work colleagues. It was a recommendation that won out, and we weren’t disappointed as the Kenwood Inn was a perfect retreat with wonderful service and a fine range of wine to accompany excellent food choices.
We very much enjoyed the fantastic weather with travel to and from San Francisco in a Jeep Wrangler – another item we had listed on Travelers Joy. Perhaps our favorite activity was getting an intense 90-minute massage at the Spa at the hotel. We both left feeling like the stress had been lifted from our bodies and we were truly into our honeymoon. On our last evening in Sonoma, we headed into the main square to have dinner at the Girl & Fig, which was delicious and a treat we thoroughly enjoyed.
Excited at the prospect of 10 days in French Polynesia, we made our way to Oakland on the 22nd of September for flights to Tahiti via LAX. The flight was long, but Air Tahiti Nui was extremely pleasant with remarkably friendly service and a smooth take off and landing.
It was already dark on arrival in Tahiti, but we were met with a friendly driver complete with the traditional lei ceremony to whisk us off to Manava Suite Resort which had an impressive lobby with waterfalls, palm trees and a warm Tahitian feel. Told that the best food nearby was down the street, we ventured out for dinner to find a food truck that served grilled food that came highly recommended. It was beyond all expectations and we laughed that our first meal in tropical paradise was in fact “street meat!”
Waking up in the morning, we were literally blown away by the stunning view of the lagoon outside our very pleasant room. After an inspiring breakfast with some of the finest coffee we had both ever encountered and lots of tropical fruit, we spent the day at the pool enjoying the perfect weather, a range of crystal clear waters and the refreshing infinity pool with a large waterfall structure. Sipping Tabu beer and just winding down, we wondered if we should have spent more time in Tahiti before moving onto the more remote islands of Moorea and Bora Bora!
We chose this hotel as it was voted as the premier hotel in Tahiti, and it didn’t disappoint. I was very pleased I upgraded to a lagoon view room as the views were stunning. Not forgetting our marathon training, we had a quick training session in the well air-conditioned gym before heading back to the airport for our flight to Moorea. Perhaps not having done sufficient homework, we were a little frustrated to be at the very small airport for two hours ahead of a flight that lasted all of six minutes! We had landed in Moorea shortly after take-off and once again were riveted by the amazing coastal features as we landed close to the water.
Met on arrival by a friendly transport and activity representative, we were driven for 30 minutes around the bays and islets before arriving at the impressive Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa. We selected this hotel based on its leading ranking from various websites and were delighted when shown to our room – the obligatory champagne was a nice touch, but even better was the private pool that was in the decked yard for our personal use.
We wasted no time in exploring the resort, including the over-water bungalows, the small but pristine beach, and the range of restaurants. The room was extremely comfortable and a perfect romantic retreat. Moorea afforded us a range of activities, that we had set up through Traveler’s Joy, including swimming with dolphins at the Intercontinental Resort, snorkeling around the lagoon waters to see the wide array of spectacular fish, and marine life and the highlight – a sunset yacht cruise where we enjoyed cocktails as the sun wound down on another perfect day in Moorea. We enjoyed the cuisine in Moorea and made an effort to eat outside the resort at recommended restaurants on two of the four nights. We highly recommend Alfredo’s for a fine meal and really friendly staff.
After four nights of bliss, it was back to airport again to travel to Bora Bora on the 27th of September – a lifelong ambition and the realization of long held desires seeing the beauty on movies and pictures alike. The hour-long flight to Bora Bora was uneventful and soon we met a boat crew at the island airport to take us to the Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa.
This high-speed boat was a lot of fun, and 30 minutes later, we received a Mai Tai by the smiling receptionists at the incredible over-water lobby at the Hilton. The hotel was strangely familiar, having seen scenes of a recent edition of “Keeping up with the Kardashians” giving us glimpses of the simply amazing hotel! This was not the reason for selecting the hotel.
Rather it was highly rated and came as a package with our stay in Moorea. On asking if we were sharing our honeymoon with any celebrities this week, we were somewhat relieved to hear that there wasn’t any celebrities or paparazzi to deal with. But, there was a Victoria Secret’s Swimsuit shoot going on this week! Oh great, one week married and I have to endure seeing some of the most beautiful women in the world -- other than my new wife of course!
This little nuance actually provided quite a lot of entertainment as we enjoyed watching the array of bright swimsuits on immaculate bodies parade the beach when we were enjoying meals at the beachside restaurant! We really loved the resort and our over-water bungalow was simply stunning. The deck and walk-in to the lagoon was a special place to take in the sun, enjoy the quality snorkeling, and to watch sunsets over a glass of champagne! It was truly heaven!
We really went to town during our days in Bora Bora and enjoyed some wonderful activities courtesy of our generous friends and the ease of using Traveler’s Joy. We took jet-skis around the entire island, which gave us brilliant photo opportunities and a real adrenaline pumping high. We took ATV’s up to the peak of the atoll to see the incredible views of the lagoons and unbelievable range of blues and azures of the surrounding waters.
Bora Bora is simply a stunning paradise and we were lucky to have perfect weather until the rain came on the day we were due to depart. We also had the privilege of meeting some friends of friends and sharing a fun dinner with some fellow honeymooners on our last night. Meals and drinks were eye-wateringly expensive, but we let it slide as this was a once in a lifetime incredible experience that would never be forgotten. On the verge of being cliché as a honeymoon venue, it has all the trappings to keep you entertained, content, and enlightened. We wouldn’t have had it any other way!
The whole trip was a fantastic experience and we both felt was the perfect way to enter into marriage. Our only regret was that it passed by so fast and we were soon back to the real world of banking and risk in New York City on the third day of October! The total cost for the honeymoon was close to $20,000 which is very expensive, but we really splurged. Plus we were extremely grateful for donations over $4,000 from our very generous friends through Traveler’s Joy. One of the aspects that raised the cost was upgrading all our flights to Business/First class when available. Without a doubt this was a luxury, and it really made the travel very pleasurable when we had a lot of flights over the course of 14 days. It was an unforgettable honeymoon!