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Taha'a - The Vanilla Isle

Taha'a Pearl Beach Resort

Taha'a shares its lagoon with Raiatea; the reef forms a figure of eight with the two islands in the circles of the 8. Numerous passes punctuate the reef and fresh clear water moves in and out of the lagoon twice a day, making Taha'a in particular a popular pearl farming location. Taha'a is a rugged unspoilt island steeped in history and legend. 140 miles north west of Tahiti, the island was bitterly fought over by the kings of Raiatea and Bora Bora during the 18th & 19th Centuries. The island has over 100 archaeological sites scattered in the forest and on the ocean's edge.

Taha'a is often called the "Vanilla Isle" as it is responsible for three quarters of all vanilla production in French Polynesia. Some 25 tons are harvested from this plant, a species of orchid that grows on and in the shade of larger trees. Small farms can be seen dotted around the island and the many of the owners are more than happy for you to come in and visit. Between July and December the vanilla flowers are pollinated and once fertilised a green pod forms, hanging from the plant like a large French bean. These are then collected from March to July and dried over a period of 2-3 months. The pods are by then black and soft, gently massaged by hand and graded into size. When the pods are ready to be sold they are either bottled in tubes or desiccated and sold in jars, or vanilla essence is produced by squeezing the essential oils from within. During the harvesting season the sweet fragrance of vanilla drifts on the gentle breeze!

Taha'a is blessed with an pleasant climate and the valleys and coastal plains are covered in small farms growing every exotic fruit imaginable; pineapples, the ubiquitous bananas, mangoes, papaya, grapefruit, breadfruit, avacado and noni fruit, a mini pineapple/nut/thing used to make a diet drink. Coconut palms are still harvested for copra.

The rugged interior may not be as dramatic as that of Moorea, Bora Bora or Raiatea, but it is unspoilt and beautiful. The coast is indented by deep bays that rise steeply to forest covered hills, and the island is decidedly non-touristy. The main island has few beaches but the motu that line the north and western reef edge are blessed with stunning beaches and are location of our two preferred hotels in Taha'a.


Located on Motu Tautau on the western edge of the lagoon that encircles Taha'a, the Taha'a Pearl Beach Resort & Spa is the newest addition to the Pearl Resort chain, and is arguably the most luxuriously appointed and beautiful hotel in French Polynesia, if not the entire south Pacific.

The resort was built around the island, rather than with disregard for the island. Paths wind round swaying palms and breadfruits and the main reception area is built round a magnificent tree that grew up through the middle of the building; the staircase from the reception to the restaurant/bar level passes through the upper branches of the tree.

The jetty runs to the edge of a large sandbank that juts out into the lagoon from the island. The boat transfer from the airport at Raiatea takes just 25 minutes (the resort has a helipad if you wish to come in by helicopter!), and once you step on to the dock you are in a world where you don't have to lift a finger. A welcoming cocktail, a personal escort to your room and in-room check-in are just some of the creature comforts of this resort.

The resort offers 60 rooms; 48 overwater bungalows of three categories. All are identical in shape and size but offer varying views. The 14 Moana overwater bungalows have views of the resort and motu, the 26 Taha'a overwater bungalows have views across the lagoon to Taha'a and the 8 Bora Bora openwater bungalows offer an unparalleled spectacle of Bora Bora between the main resort motu and that adjoining it. These bungalows offer unsurpassed facilities! The centre of the massive open plan bedrooms are dominated by a vast double bed. At the foot a large glass table can be opened to feed the fish below, while at the head a desk is ingeniously worked into the headboard. A large sofa by the panoramic window also acts as a bed. Each room with is equipped with TV and hifi system with CD player, IDD telephone, mini bar, safe and tea & coffee making facilities. At the back of the room a pair of sliding doors reveals the opulent bathroom. A deep bath with picture windows to the sea below is flanked on either side by his & her washbasins, and there is a separate shower and loo. To the side of the bedroom a pair of large patio doors takes you to the sun deck, where sun loungers and a shaded table and benches can be found. From here steps take you down to sea level. A freshwater shower is provided for you to freshen up once you have enjoyed your dip in the warm seas! Each bungalow is tastefully decorated with fabulous hardwoods and refined cream furnishings. All the bungalows have air-conditioning and ceiling fans. Leave the windows open, turn the fan on to low and enjoy the gentle sea breezes at night for a sniffle-free holiday!

The resort also offers 12 beach suites, set along the edge of the shore line amongst the plan trees. Each suite is some 1000sq ft in area and offers a bedroom, sitting room, garden with private swimming pool, shower and washing facilities similar to those of the overwater bungalows, but with the added bonus of an open air bath! From both the bedroom and the sitting room access can be made to the large sun deck with views of the sea. The beach is a couple of steps from the deck. The back & sides of the suites are surrounded by a 7ft wall to offer total privacy. As with the overwater bungalows, TV and hifi system with CD player, IDD telephone, mini bar, safe and tea & coffee making facilities come as standard. These suites are ideal for families, as they can easily accommodate four people - two in the bedroom and two in the sitting room, as the sofa also acts as a bed and a rollaway bed can be provided on request. The bedrooms have air conditioning and ceiling fans.

The main building contains the reception, 2 boutiques and dive centre on the ground floor. On the top floor the Tehutu bar offers exotic pre-dinner cocktails and a choice of two restaurants. The Ohiri restaurant is air- conditioned and offers a fine dining experience on par with a top French restaurant in Paris! The Vanille Restaurant is set in a curve with fabulous views of the lagoon and main island of Taha'a is used for the sumptuous buffet breakfasts, a la carte and set menu dinners and seafood & Polynesian buffet nights. Fine wines from France and the Antipodes compliment a delicious blend of French and Polynesian cuisines, with seafood and cuts of freshly imported New Zealand meats being the speciality. Lunch is available at La Plage Restaurant, located by the "infinity" pool, close to the beach, activities hut and pool bar.

The resort's own dive operation, Blue Nui Diving, offers daily trips to the reefs of Taha'a and Raiatea, and there are plans for a high speed dive catamaran to take divers on the 1 hour crossing to Bora Bora when the weather permits. The calm waters of the lagoon are and excellent place for beginners to try their hand at diving, and for experienced divers there are a wealth of shark dives, drift dives through passes and even wreck dives!

For non-divers the resort boasts a floodlit tennis court, beach volleyball, petanque, sea kayaks and outrigger canoes, jet skis, windsurfing and pedal boats. Free use of masks, fins & snorkel can be arranged through the activities hut located by the pool. The resort also has a spa for those who desire a full pampering! Tours of Raiatea and Taha'a, horseback riding and hiking are also available by prior arrangement through the activities centre located in reception. The resorts shuttle boats have a comprehensive schedule of services between Raiatea and Taha'a for those who would like to explore independently.

The Taha'a Pearl Beach Resort is setting new standards in luxury and service in French Polynesia.




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