The Pacific: Bora Bora

Resorts, local culture and a sunset cruise

Hot Property: Finding a Tahaa Pearl
ONE TO WATCH It's hard to imagine how the overwater bungalow formula could be improved, but Tahaa Pearl Beach Resort & Spa, which opened in the summer of 2002, on a motu five minutes from Tahaa island, does the job just fine. A mesmerizingly clear turquoise lagoon surrounds the property, giving it much more privacy than found in nearby Bora-Bora. Already a sophisticated European crowd has been flocking to these 48 bungalows and 12 beach suites, all with a boat motif: etchings of boats on rosewood doors and panels by a woodcarver from Raiatea. The food is also exceptional, often experimenting wildly with flavors but never going overboard. Excellent dishes include sautéed mango and scallop with coriander in a lime and cinnamon sauce, and duck foie gras with vanilla, papaya, and ginger chutney. Room to get: Bungalow 4, with a postcard view of Bora-Bora. Rooms, $665-$915; 689-50-84-54;

—Laurie Werner

Be Sure To Pack
• Christian Birkenstock sandals for beachcombing and trail-walking. $185.

Measuring Up: The Two Bora-Boras
THE LAYOUT 54 thatched-roof cottages—15 of which are overwater—all fronting the bluest part of the lagoon.
WHO GOES THERE The near-purist. Opened in 1961, this is Bora-Bora the way nature intended. Furnishings are spare; CD players are billed as the source of entertainment.
WHAT'S GREAT Besides the location, the excellent staff.
WHAT'S NOT Back bungalows are noisy. Stay close to the beach.
ROOM TO GET One of the 12 pool fares with an outdoor deck and plunge pool. Or Overwater 110, not as private but with the best views and snorkeling. Rooms $675-$950; 800-477-9180, 689-60-44-60;

THE LAYOUT 120 bungalows—84 of which are overwater—set on a private islet across from the main island.
WHO GOES THERE Those who want Bora-Bora by way of Las Vegas. Each room has three glass insets in the floor to view the fish below, a full-music system, and two TVs.
WHAT'S GREAT The spa: three open-air bungalows with treatments like a coconut and turmeric body scrub.
WHAT'S NOT This epic resort is out of proportion with the island itself, and the prices can be shocking. The service was truly inept—waiters who didn't process orders or didn't understand them and room service calls that went unanswered.
ROOM TO GET The hillside Royal Suite 415. Avoid Royal Suite 126: It's too close to the floating lobby. Rooms, $590-$2,230; 800-782-9488, 689-86-48-49;


Islander To Know: Patrick Tairua
When he's not cutting his way through the jungle looking for ancient sites, Patrick Tairua is organizing snorkeling trips to the lagoon and tours all over the place in his open-air Jeep. You see all sorts of things: Tairua is a descendant of tribal chiefs and is deeply knowledgeable about the island's history and archeology. He looks the part too: chiseled face, no shirt, bare feet, a pareo. Rates, $350 a half-day, $850 a full day, includes lunch $; 689-79-19-11;


Great Finds: Gems!
At Bora-Bora Gallery in Matira, jeweler Frédéric Missir combines gemstones and pearls in asymmetrical, impressively complex patterns ($400 for a simple pearl ring to $32,000 for a necklace of diamonds and pearls; 689-67-66-75). Antibes-born Garrick Yrondi creates dreamy portraits of Polynesian women and scenery. Stop by his studio outside Vaitape to see his oils ($2,300-$30,000) and sculpture ($500-$2,000; Villa Rea Hana Amanahune; 689-60-57-15). Besides hand-painted pareos, Alain and Linda Jauneau sell ceramics, bronzes, and sculpture at their Galerie D'Art Alain et Linda ($10 for a small ceramic dish, $9,000 for a bronze sculpture; between Vaitape and Hotel Bora-Bora; 689-67-70-32).


Boat To Book: Taravana
Richard Postma takes guests outside the reef in his 50-foot catamaran, to fish or just to see the sunset. Full day, $1,200; sunset cruises, $65 1; 689-67-77-79;


Hotel rates range from the lowest-priced double to the highest-priced suite in high season. In most cases VAT is not included.

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