Living in New York City, you can take a cab to JFK and in four hours be sitting on a beautiful Caribbean island enjoying the warmth and relaxation that the city has deprived you of. The fact that this option is right in New York’s backyard left me feeling sort of ambivalent about traveling halfway around the world to a place like Tahiti which seemingly offered what we already had such ready access too.
I have to admit when I am wrong because I have absolutely never been to a more visually stunning place than French Polynesia. On top of that, it’s going to be difficult to find a resort more enjoyable than Vahine Island.
To get to Vahine you need to fly to Tahiti’s capital of Papeete (we flew Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles which was a red-eye which happens to be long enough to actually get some rest; Air France flies to PPT as well) and then hopped on a quick intra-island flight to Raiatea. From there the resort stands a short 30-minute boat ride away. Once you step off that boat onto Vahine looking at the blue waters and bright sun, all is right in the world.
There’s no shortage of incredible resorts around the Tahitian archipelago and we considered several different properties for our trip. An experienced traveler we know recommended Vahine to us and we were drawn to the intimate surroundings and low key nature of the island. There are only nine rooms at the resort so the service is consistently excellent. There’s a lot of interaction with the resort staff, and after only a short time you start to really appreciate exactly how special Vahine is. If you wanted to take a sea kayak out, the staff was happy to accommodate you and everything you needed was right there for you. The same goes for snorkeling or other island activities. There were never any lines or waiting for anything – if you actually saw another person walking around it was almost a novelty. I’ve never experienced such seclusion on a vacation before or since.
The other thing worth noting about Vahine (and I’m assuming French Polynesia in general) was the quality of the food as a French protectorate. The set-up at Vahine is room and half-board, which means that breakfast and dinner are included in the price of the room and you are only responsible to pay extra for lunch. The resort is run by a French expatriate couple who manages the front of house, the kitchen, the service and just about everything else with the help of a small staff. This would make you think that the service would suffer from this, but it didn’t at all. If anything, it enhanced our experience.
What Vahine offers is certainly luxurious, but not in any overt way. It’s more of a quiet and understated luxury experience. The bungalows are more Swiss Family Robinson than anything, but still very well-appointed and enjoyable. (Tip: avoid the overwater huts and go for the west-facing bungalows.) Granted the locale is insanely beautiful – probably the most beautiful place I have ever experienced – but Vahine is more about intimate seclusion and natural beauty than an ostentatious luxury. It’s one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. What else could some city folk hope for? [Vahine Island]
I personally traveled to and stayed at Vahine at my own expense and was not compensated in any way for this review. I received no discounts or upgrades during my stay and I only endorse it because it is awesome.