We went back and forth for months before I became overwhelmed with other wedding planning and finally delegated that responsibility to my (then) fiance, Chris. When he told me he decided on the exotic and tropical French Polynesian Islands (Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora), I was thrilled! High five for the fiance!
He found a great (and reasonable) travel company, Island in the Sun, who helped us decide where to stay and what excursions would fit our ideal honeymoon. That was just perfect, because we instantly plugged those into the gift registry at Traveler's Joy. That way, if someone purchased a particular excursion for us, we would have to do it, because I knew they would want a full report upon our return.
We included things that we wouldn't typically do, either because it was outside of our budget or it was a little too thrilling for our comfort, like "snorkeling with sharks" or para-sailing. With those "wilder" additions, we made sure that we would take full advantage of our once-in-a-lifetime vacation and let no opportunity go to waste.
Our plans were to leave the day after our wedding. It was November 13th, so French Polynesia was actually just coming into its summer season, which was a perfect escape from the cold winter weather at home. With a budget of just under $10,000, including airfare, shelter, and sustenance, our honeymoon was officially planned.
Most people will react to the idea of traveling to the South Pacific with, "Isn't that really far away?." From LAX, it's actually only a seven-and-a-half hour flight, which is really not so bad.
Our second most common response was, "Isn't is really expensive?" I have to tell you, the cost of going to Vegas might be more. It's traveling smart that gets you places on a budget. We took time to search for the best deal, shared meals (it's more intimate that way), and aren't suckers for over-priced souvenirs. Mind you, we still brought home souvenirs, ate plenty, and experienced the vacation of a lifetime with a little help of a particular honeymoon registry site that allowed us to go on so many great excursions.
Traveling abroad is not as daunting as you might imagine it to be. We are "smart packers", so we limited ourselves to one carry-on each. Which not only cuts down on excess weight, but on the expense of checking in luggage and the worry of losing it somewhere in transit. All we really needed for our honeymoon were sandals and a bathing suit, anyway. But, in all seriousness, the most important words of advice we have are to remember your bug spray and wear sunscreen!
Once we landed at the Faa'a Airport (faa'a, faa'a from home), we went directly to our suite at the Manava Suite Resort Tahiti to unpack and unwind. This was a newer resort in a nice location near Papeete. Staying in Tahiti for more than one night was an option for our travel package, but really an opportunity for a great adventure for anyone going. There, we visited waterfalls, caves, the bustling and historic downtown city, water gardens, and spectacular mountaintops. Don't limit your time with the itineraries of a tour group. Go rent a small car, and venture out on your own. It's a small island, you can't get lost.
Day three and we were in Moorea. Yes, we could get there by ferry, but our itinerary insisted a small airplane was to transport us. The view from the airplane was reason enough. Left side always. The people on the right will hate you, but your camera will love you. From there, we were swept away to the Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort where we stayed in their garden bungalow just a few short steps from the white-sand beach. We rented a car and ventured out to the ancient ruins. On the way, we stopped at Jus de Fruits, who offered a FREE happy hour! We thought we'd be tasting fruit juices, but we were tasting fruit liqueurs! And they were not at all stingy on the serving size. "Manuia!"
Once we were far enough into the rainforest, admiring the ancient ruins, the clouds swelled and it began to rain (which is apparently not unusual for a rainforest). It was one of the most surreal parts of our journey. The warm rain poured over us, sheltered only partially by the canopies of the magnificent trees far above us. If you're not sure-footed, hold onto your honey! If you are, pretend you're not, and hold onto your honey! It was so romantic!
We scurried quickly back to our bungalow somewhere between the lush, vibrant tropical flowers and the warm white sand beach, and jokingly sang "In the tiki tiki tiki tiki tiki room". Hey, we had to, given the circumstance. We decided this was where Never Never Land was, as we made our way around the majestic Cook's Bay. If you're going to swim with the dolphins, do it here! Le Meridien has an excellent staff to give you the experience of a lifetime with their Apnea Program, and don't forget about their turtle sanctuary!
After landing at the Motu Mute Airport, we were on one of the many small islands, skirting the main island of Bora Bora. The hotel transportation staff immediately wisps you away on their private boat to the Bora Bora Nui Hilton Resort and Spa. It was only day six and we were in heaven.
We were residing in one of their quintessential over-water bungalows and had a bottle of champagne eagerly awaiting our arrival. I can't even begin to describe to you the care-free feeling of freedom that rushes over you when you take the first plunge into the lagoon, off the edge of your own private deck. Equipped with four or five glass cut-outs, you can see all kinds of tropical fish dance around the vibrantly colored coral gardens beneath your bungalow. If it weren't for the adventures that awaited us, we wouldn't have left the resort.
Para-sailing would be our next great adventure. Do this before you get too much sun, as that can make things a little... rocky. The wind lifted us up into the bright blue sky above the turquoise waters below. We were at peace, sailing above the beauty of it all, fully enamored by the experience.
Our next day was spent touring the city and bargain-hunting for Tahitian pearls. Look for the outdoor tables with locals manning them. There's where you'll find and support the local economy.
After we returned to the resort and indulged in their fantastic lunch menu, a small boat took us out to explore the lagoon and all the creatures that take refuge from the ocean there. Against our better judgment, we slowly climbed down the ladder of the boat into shark-infested waters and watched as the hilariously reckless guide threw fish bits at them.
Moments later, we were bombarded by giant sting rays that were as happy as puppies to be fed. They would methodically swim up to each person and beg for food by fondly flapping their fins against you. The guide, after having put every passing creature in or around his mouth, picked up one sting ray and tossed them onto the last coward out of the boat, which happened to be me, the blushing bride. Terrifying, yet freeing from any reservation.
After he brought us to our own private picnic on a secluded motu with authentic Tahitian barbecue, our boat ride home was entertained by our guide simultaneously playing a ukulele and driving a boat. The man loved his job. And that alone, made that excursion our favorite. It was a must-do. Whatever you do, don't plan excursions back-to-back. The natives there are on "island time" and the last thing you want to be doing is fretting about not making your next appointment. You will not depart or arrive on time. It's the way of the land.
As we hopped from the shark boat to the Love Boat we met the photographer, covered in Polynesian Tattoos and a tan that would put Fabio to shame, who would be taking romantic pictures of us at sea. If you and your husband are a tad camera-shy, like we are, we would suggest the coco-champagne first. It was a delightful experience to get to relax and disappear into the sunset on our last day on the island with our coconuts in hand. The pictures are worth every penny, as taking the standard picture of yourselves with your arm at length, gets a little old. While the pictures he captured are worthy of a travel magazine.
Ten enchanting days later, we're back in the U.S. with our new Polynesian tans, proof of our incredible adventure.
Deciding on the French Polynesian Islands of Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora for our destination was a choice we did not regret! We would highly recommend it as a honeymoon destination to those who are just beginning their lives of travel and adventure! Traveler's Joy was a perfect opportunity for us to get exactly what we wanted for our wedding gift and do more than we had ever dreamed we could do.