We survived an engagement, wedding, and honeymoon, all in the infamous year of 2020. We absolutely love sharing our story, which has been endearingly called by everyone who knows us – a “real-life fairytale.”
Before meeting my real-life prince, I worked in the travel industry. I was sent to the South Pacific on familiarization trips to help me better market the destination. The first time I laid eyes on the crystal-clear blue waters of Bora Bora, I knew instantly that I would be back, but with a husband by my side. To make this dream a reality, I started saving for my future honeymoon, and two years later, I met the man of my dreams.
“I’m so glad you look like your picture!” Those are the first words Bree excitedly exclaimed upon first meeting me in person. We matched on a dating app called Coffee Meets Bagel on January 9, 2019. As two old-fashioned individuals, we never imagined we would meet our future spouse this way, but obviously God had other plans! After ten months of dating, we got engaged at Disneyland the day before it shut down for the pandemic. We wasted no time and began planning the dream honeymoon that Bree had been saving for.
One huge obstacle we faced in planning our honeymoon was the passport agencies were all backed up 4-6 months with no expediting! We had already booked our trip to French Polynesia, and with the months ticking away, we were beginning to worry. In our desperation, we reached out to the highest powers that be: three of our local and state senators. It was all just wishful thinking until Christian received calls from all three! Ultimately, it was our local senator who rushed Christian’s passport with just two weeks to spare. We were beside ourselves with joy!
During our wedding and honeymoon planning, we were so grateful to have found Traveler’s Joy. We had planned to stay on 3 different islands, each with its own special experiences and activities, so Traveler’s Joy was essential to organizing every detail to share with our loved ones. Plus, we had way too much fun putting together our profile! French Polynesia is no doubt an expensive destination, but because of my pre-savings, and the generous $4K from our family and friends through our Traveler’s Joy honeymoon registry, we had the $25K needed to fund our ultimate, dream vacation!
Our wedding day was undoubtedly the best day of our lives, and it was about to be followed by the best 2 weeks of our lives. After the wedding reception, our limo took us to Terranea, a beautiful resort on the ocean in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, where we stayed for 2 nights. It was a perfect rest stop for us to relax and unwind a bit before embarking on our 3-island getaway to Moorea, Taha’a, and Bora Bora for 16 days and 15 nights! It wasn’t until our negative test results arrived and we took our seats on the plane, that we were able to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
We took a red-eye out the evening of November 1. Taking our seats, we looked at each other wide-eyed. We were finally on our way to Tahiti! Because I (Bree) had been there before, I planned the entire trip without letting Christian see even one single picture of any of the islands or any of the hotels we’d be staying at. Christian had never been outside of the United States, so it was a dream for me to be able to plan this trip as a surprise for him! What he also didn’t know was that I had brought along 16 gifts, one for every day of our honeymoon. Some gifts I’d be wearing, others he would have to open, and one…well, you’ll have to read to find out!
First stop: Moorea! Adventure Awaits!
We arrived at the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa well before our room was ready, so we took the opportunity to enjoy a delicious buffet breakfast at the Arii Vahine restaurant overlooking the gorgeous turquoise waters. My husband was instantly awestruck at the beauty surrounding us. Even though the sights were familiar to me, they almost felt brand new as I experienced them again through my husband’s eyes.
Christian was ecstatic as he stepped into an overwater bungalow for the first time. The room was stunning with a big rainfall shower and claw bath and a comfortable King bed with a view of the ocean right off our balcony. We couldn’t wait to jump into the water!
Our first activity was the Excursion Safari 4x4 with Albert Tours. This was the perfect tour to showcase the majesty of Moorea; however, it is not for the faint of stomach. We sat in the back of an open air jeep with another pair of honeymooners. Thankfully we had seat belts because it was a steep and bumpy ride to the top of “Magic Mountain.” We blasted the Indiana Jones theme on our phone for added effect as we were tossed around the backseat. We hiked the last portion to the highest plateau where we were greeted by a breathtaking 360 view of the monumental mountains and beautiful bays. We felt like we were on top of the world. Christian and I seized the opportunity to reenact our wedding waltz with such a stunning backdrop. It was truly magical.
Our first stop set a spectacular precedent for the rest of the tour, which included a delicious smoothie and jam tasting at Fare Tutava, a visit to a pineapple plantation, feeding wild eels, admiring Belvedere Lookout, exploring mossy ruins, and ending at the customary pearl gift shop. All of which was accompanied by historic commentary by our knowledgeable guide. If this was just day one, we couldn’t imagine what the rest of our honeymoon would have prepared for us!
Knowing an essential part to any honeymoon is rest and relaxation, we purposely chose to not overbook ourselves. This meant we had three open days ahead of us to just enjoy the resort and each other. Our deck became our regular hang-out space where we would talk, eat, lounge, read, and cuddle as we admired the transparent waters and listened to the waves lap against our little hut. Much of our conversation revolved around our own lack of credence…not just in where we were, but also in whom we were with. “I can’t believe you’re my husband,” and “I can’t believe you’re my wife,” were repeated incessantly. We were in paradise with our best friend, and we never wanted it to end.
With our phones on airplane mode, we were dead set on reveling in every waking moment, and we truly did. Our three unscheduled days were full of simple, yet instantly nostalgic memories. One unforgettable experience was witnessing the most enchanting sunset either of us had ever seen. We stared in awe as the sky and clouds transitioned from deep orange and blue to vibrant pink and purple. As two die-hard romantics, we eat this kind of stuff up. Speaking of eating, most evenings found us dining at the outdoor Toatea Creperie & Bar, which was just steps from our overwater bungalow. You could see reef sharks and manta rays swimming underneath us, which made for a unique experience! Not to mention, the crepes were to die for.
Our most treasured day in Moorea was an expedition of our own making. We hopped in a rental car after breakfast and drove around the entire island. One site we were determined to find was a waterfall, but our only guide was a cartoon map that resembled a kids’ menu at a restaurant. We interpreted some squiggly lines as a waterfall and just went for it!
Exiting the main highway, we drove slowly over the rocky, unpaved road and prayed our tires would hold out. We drove as far as we could and then began our long trek on foot. Bree ventured ahead with knees lifted high while I took up the rear with my handy cam. Not a minute after I stopped recording, my ears were pierced by a blood-curdling shriek, “EEEEEYAAAHHHHHH! THAT’S THE BIGGEST SPIDER I’VE EVER SEEN!” My terrified wife bounded backwards as I tried not to laugh. The creature was hard to miss. It was black with bright orange designs and easily the size of an ovular bar of soap. Needless to say, Bree’s sense of adventure was thereby dashed to pieces.
After what seemed like an hour, we heard the sound of the adjacent stream transform into a distant roaring. With a couple more turns, we finally came upon a colossal waterfall surrounded by a rocky alcove. We were the only two there with miles of separation from civilization. It was wet, windy, and absolutely astounding…Everything we hoped it would be!
Having completed our biggest checkbox, the rest of the day was wild and carefree. We traveled every road we could find, which led to hiking trails, ice cream shops, and many incredible, scenic views. The skyscraping heights of the surrounding summits made us feel so small. Moorea was as formidable as it was beautiful, and we couldn’t get enough of it.
No question, Moorea was a great island to start off our honeymoon. Even though it is more of an adventure island where you’ll want to hike and explore, the time we spent relaxing, snorkeling, and traversing at the Hilton Moorea was an equally enjoyable adventure in its own right. The one thing we couldn’t wrap our brains around was that we still had two more islands to visit. Our five nights in Moorea felt like an entire vacation already, but we were so glad we had more to look forward to.
Next Stop: Taha’a! A Diner’s Delight!
We flew to Raiatea and took a boat out to Le Taha’a Resort and Spa, where we were adorned with fresh leis and a flower crown. This resort is located on a private motu off the coast of Taha’a and offers a barefoot luxury experience that I knew my husband would love. The second he stepped off the boat, his jaw dropped at the elegant entry path. He immediately perceived this was a step up in lavishness, which is exactly how I planned it. We had a large beach villa with our own private pool. Our front yard was lush greenery; our backyard was a private beach. We felt like we were in a fancy oceanside resort in the middle of the jungle. Talk about the best of both worlds!
If Moorea was the island of adventure, Taha’a was, in our opinions, the island with the best food! We couldn’t get enough of our complimentary buffet breakfasts and dinners and the freshest fruit you could ever imagine. We even discovered a fruit we had never heard of before called pacay (also called the ice cream bean). It looks like cotton balls, but it’s extremely sweet and melts in your mouth.
One of our favorite experiences in Taha’a was our 4x4 Safari tour. It was a group tour, but no one else showed up. We weren’t complaining! The tour was led by two young locals who did an amazing job of immersing us in their world. They shared the history of their island and even took us to their own family vanilla farm. One of the tour guides heard Bree say how much she loved mangos, so she took us to her home and had her mother prepare fresh mangos for us. We were dumbfounded. The Tahitians are a very hospitable people! Although Moorea’s tour was super exciting and fun, we have to give the gold to Taha’a’s tour due to the personal touches the tour guides offered us.
The miniscule scale of the motu was a welcome change of scenery. We could literally circle the tiny island on foot in about 25 minutes. There were no roads or cars, just footpaths and golf carts. After our tour of Taha’a, the rest of our stay was spent basking in the quiet comforts of the resort: smoothies, massages, snorkeling, long walks on the beach, skinny dipping in the pool, and wandering the jungle, all within walking distance. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, it was time for dinner.
Four nights in Taha’a meant four delicious dinners! However, one of the nights, we booked a special 5-course gourmet meal in the hotel’s most prized restaurant, The Ohiri. You know you’re eating fancy when you are offered an amuse-bouche between each dish to clean your palate! Although quite expensive, it was absolutely worth every bite! And can we just say, Tahitian vanilla makes every dish irresistible!
It was always a little bittersweet leaving each island, and Taha’a was no exception. Though I would miss the food, I knew Bree had purposely planned the best for last, so we stuffed our faces with as much pacay as we could, and set off to board our flight to Bora Bora.
Last Stop: Bora Bora! A Romantic Rendezvous!
This was the leg of the journey I had been most anticipating! We easily booked the most expensive hotel in Bora Bora (The 5-star Conrad Bora Bora), and to my complete elation, I was able to secure the room category (King Otemanu View Pool Overwater Villa) that I had seen in a travel magazine a few years ago. Out of the 116 rooms at the Conrad Bora Bora, there were only 2 of these room types, and we occupied one of them! We were driven to our room in a golf cart by one of the hotel staff, and we could tell that even she was eager to witness our reactions as she exclaimed that we had the best view on the property.
The minute the door opened, we immediately began laughing out of disbelief. Is this a green screen? There is no way that this could be real! She laughed along with us and was delighted by our incredulous reactions. Our bed faced the turquoise, serene waters with Mt. Otemanu grandly towering above the beautiful lagoon that stretched before us. Every room was hooked up to bluetooth so that we could play our music throughout our villa, even on our spacious balcony and pool deck! The shower and tub were humongous! Was this the epitome of luxury? Yes. Would every future hotel we stay at pale in comparison? Likely so.
A few minutes later we got a knock on our door. Every resort had given us a honeymoon amenity of champagne and some small treat, but the Conrad’s took the cake! The kind housekeeper brought in some champagne, a huge, beautiful fruit platter, and chocolates that we couldn’t stop talking about the rest of our trip. We decided to turn up the music, relax on our balcony while enjoying the view, the treats, and each other. Later that evening, after an enjoyable sushi dinner and live music, we returned to our room where I had the pleasure of explaining to my husband what a “turn-down service” is. Still wrapping his brain around it, I grabbed his hand and whisked us outside to try out our overwater hammock. We lay side by side, hands intertwined, staring up at the stars and galaxies while sneaking quite a few peeks at each other.
Bora Bora was the getaway where romance was in full bloom. This is also the island I had prepared to pull out all the stops for my husband, and it took everything in me to keep it a secret over the next few days.
I had been privately working behind the scenes with the hotel staff to plan a 2-hour photo shoot around our resort as well as a private dinner with a personal chef at the most coveted location overlooking the island of Bora Bora. This was supposed to happen earlier in our trip; however, on our Land and Sea All Day Bora Bora Tour, we ended up getting horribly sun-burnt. Between swimming with reef sharks and manta rays for hours, we forgot to reapply sunscreen. During the land portion of our tour, we got the chance to see a few famous sites on the island such as World War II cannons; the very famous restaurant, Bloody Marys; and some of the most breathtaking views imaginable. It was then that we had our tour guide take us back early because the pain had become unmanageable.
For the next two days, we were basically confined to our room during sunlight hours, but the hotel staff was gracious enough to bring us breakfast in bed and a soothing medical ointment which proved to be a godsend. I unfortunately had to tell Christian about the photographer because I needed his help with rescheduling, but I still kept the special dinner a surprise.
Despite our blistering skin, we thoroughly enjoyed relaxing together in our gorgeous villa, admiring the views every chance we could. We were thankful we felt well enough in the evenings to venture out, especially because we didn’t want to miss the authentic Polynesian dinner buffet accompanied by a traditional Polynesian show. It was absolutely delicious and thrilling! The fire dancers especially blew us away!
Finally, the day had arrived that I had been anticipating for months. The photographer planned to meet us at 3pm, so with practically a whole day ahead of us, we jumped at the opportunity to go kayaking around the lagoon surrounding our overwater villa. We made sure to lather up in sunscreen this time, and we spent an hour or so paddling around and drinking in the Garden-of-Eden-like surroundings.
Our photographer promptly met us at our room and began taking romantic shots of us with the amazing views right off of our balcony. We felt like models as we strutted around the resort. We became quite the sight especially as he posed us on the edge of the infinity pool surrounded by curious onlookers. We had way too much fun with this shoot, and it ended with us jumping off our villa balcony (fully clothed) into the tranquil lagoon. It would have been nice if we had remembered our sunburns, but it was definitely worth the epic photo!
As soon as we got out of the water, Bree slyly smiled at me and said, “Now go shower and put on your best outfit. I will be getting ready separately. The staff will be here to pick you up in 30 minutes.” I raced to get ready while my brain went into a frenzy. I heard Bree say “goodbye” and close the door. 20 minutes later, it was my turn. I sat in the back of the golf cart and pondered all the possibilities. I ascended a steep hill and was dropped off at a candle-lit bridge that curved to the left and disappeared into the foliage. I rounded the corner and what I saw filled my eyes with tears. Before me was my beautiful wife in the lovely rose-gold sequined dress she had worn during our engagement shoot 4 months ago. She looked so incredibly stunning I hardly noticed my surroundings.
We were standing beside a large dinner table on a private deck overlooking the vast bay and Mount Otemanu rising in the distance. We hugged and kissed and were greeted by our personal chef. I was overwhelmed with joy and deeply touched by my sweet wife’s thoughtfulness. The food was exquisite, the view was unreal, and the rainbow was a nice touch. Despite the incomparable scenery, we couldn’t stop staring into each other’s eyes. Our romance reached an all time high as we ate, laughed, and reminisced about our first two weeks of marriage and this trip of a lifetime. If we could stop time, we’d still be there to this day.
Our last morning in Bora Bora, we sat on our deck, enjoying the priceless view one last time. “May I have this dance?” I asked my bride as music began to play. We waltzed over the ocean, twirling, smiling, and cherishing our last moments hand-in-hand, face to face.
Our honeymoon was over, but the memories will always remain as clear and unforgettable as the day we made them. While we were reluctant to leave, we took solace in knowing that one day we’d be back to relive it all over again.