The Ultimate Bucket List Romantic Vacation: French Polynesia by Yacht

by Brandon Schultz

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday October 14, 2022

The Ultimate Bucket List Romantic Vacation: French Polynesia by Yacht
  (Source:EDGE composite image)

Of the world's most romantic locations and bucket list destinations, Bora Bora is often among the first mentioned. With its tranquil lagoon of glowing turquoise boasting scores of colorful creatures beneath legendary overwater bungalows perched above, the volcanic island is irresistible to the jet set, and for excellent reason. 

But there's more to French Polynesia than this one quiet island; in fact, the five archipelagos of the territory are spread across an area of the South Pacific equivalent in size to Europe. Visiting all of them in a single vacation is unrealistic, but there's no reason you can't visit several of the Society Islands, the archipelago that's home to Bora Bora, while you're in the area, and there's magic to be found on many of them. For LGBTQ+ travelers in particular, this part of the world has long been more welcoming than other, similarly-coveted locales like Seychelles or Maldives. Here's how to hit the islands in style to find ultimate romance for honeymoons, anniversaries, or just because you deserve some unforgettable together time in one of the world's most dazzling island destinations.

The Wind Spirit, part of the Windstar Cruise line
The Wind Spirit, part of the Windstar Cruise line  (Source: Windstar)

The Case for Cruising

Your first idea of an elevated, romantic getaway might not be a cruise, but that's probably because you're thinking of the behemoth party ships that circle the Caribbean or traverse the Mediterranean. There's nothing wrong with those, of course, but you'd be right to think they don't often offer the most exclusive experiences. Leagues from this culture, Windstar cruises sails luxury small ships with a capacity of no more than 310 guests, and the Wind Spirit, currently sailing the Society Islands weekly on the Dreams of Tahiti. Aboard this four-masted sailing yacht, each stateroom comes with ocean views and spa-style bath amenities, there are no wild pool parties, and open-seating meals include nightly dinners that, while not formal, bear a modest dress code that encourages just enough respectability to maintain the ambiance of understated luxury woven throughout this Tahitian escape. You'll find most other passengers to be couples and, with such a small group, the atmosphere is far more familial than the anonymity of a multi-thousand-person ship, offering casual catchups with familiar faces each day, along with boundless opportunity for alone time just about anywhere aboard the yacht, whenever desired. 

For more on Windstar Tahiti cruises, follow this link.

Society Islands
Society Islands  (Source: Getty Images)

The Islands

You'll certainly fly to French Polynesia's capital, Papeete, on the island of Tahiti, to start any getaway in the Society Islands and, while most of the islands are within a short flight of each other and some are close enough for ferry transport, the logistics and cost of island hopping are not as conducive to the carefree nonchalance you'll be looking for in this paradise. Aboard a Windstar yacht, however, you'll sail to new islands as you sleep, waking to stunning vistas each morning with full days to spend exploring the day's island. 

It's the most effective and idyllic way to reach several of the Society Islands without wasting time or budget, with an itinerary including Mo'orea, Raiatea, Taha'a, Huahine, and, of course, Bora Bora, where you'll overnight to provide two full days exploring the Pearl of the Pacific. Unlike some nickel-and-dime cruise lines, you're free to hop on and off the Wind Spirit to explore islands on your own schedule and at no charge whether you've booked excursions or not, and the ship's water sports platform offers complimentary use of equipment like kayaks, paddleboards, snorkeling gear, and a small sailboat when anchored in port. Do consider excursions, though — the coral gardens of Bora Bora are spectacular for snorkeling, docile reef sharks and curious stingrays provide unforgettable swimming experiences across the islands, kayaking Raiatea's Faaroa River reveals epic views around each bend, and most islands offer cultural and historical tours that reveal the unique character of each. 

A state room on the Wind Spirit
A state room on the Wind Spirit  (Source: Windstar)

Added Romance

There are a few opportunities for added romance throughout this journey, and you should be sure to take advantage them. Aboard the ship, the uppermost deck becomes the white-linen al fresco restaurant Candles each night, offering steak and seafood dining under the stars and sails. You'll need to make reservations for this one, but you're certain to be accommodated at least once. On land, the itinerary includes visits to two private islands where Windstar offers exclusive days of castaway vibes far from tourists, including as-you-please water activities, beach chairs and towels, fully-functional restrooms, and a bar at each, with plenty of exploring opportunity if you're down to carve out your own secluded space for two. (Don't worry, you can't get lost or left behind — these islands are very small, and there's no wildlife to worry about, either.) 

Conrad Bora Bora Nui
Conrad Bora Bora Nui  (Source: Conrad Bora Bora Nui)

Those Oh-So-Famous Bungalows

Remember that overnight in Bora Bora? If you plan far enough ahead, this is your opportunity to splurge on an unforgettable night in an overwater bungalow at one of Bora Bora's legendary resorts without having to drop the equivalent of honeymoon budget for 5+ nights. Conrad Bora Bora Nui, in the private cove of Motu To'opua, is Bora Bora's newest luxury resort and comes complete with four white sand beaches in this quietest corner of the lagoon. With a spa, reservation-free cabanas, and Bora Bora's largest infinity pool with a swim-up bar, opportunities abound for next-level romance even outside of your overwater bungalow. If the resort is sold out, or an overnight on shore isn't in your plans, the Conrad offers day passes that include a boat shuttle from Vaitape's main pier, a two-course lunch, 10% discount at the spa, and full access to the property's facilities, including beaches, pool, and watersports equipment. 

Hilton Hotel Tahiti
Hilton Hotel Tahiti  (Source: Hilton Hotel Tahiti)

Tahiti Recharge

Depending on your flight times, you'll most likely want to spend a night or two on the island of Tahiti either before or after your cruise (and why not?!). Just a ten-minute cab ride from the dock, Hilton Hotel Tahiti opened in December 2021 after extensive renovations of what was Tahiti's original celebrity hotel, having welcomed the glamourous stars of yesteryear like Marlon Brando, Brigitte Bardot, and The Beatles. Today, the fully modernized resort remains the closest hotel to Tahiti's downtown hub, is under ten minutes from the airport, and is home to the island's largest pool, with fiery sunset views aside the nearby island of Mo'orea. 

Speaking of views, all rooms face the ocean, including the ground floor "garden view" rooms. Here, even the smallest rooms are spacious, but the suites are especially well-appointed, with full kitchens, terraces, walk-in dressing rooms, and spa bathrooms. Don't miss the opportunity for a traditional Polynesian massage (taurumi) for two at the hotel's spa for some serious couples pampering, especially ideal to ease you into the next step of your journey before or after a long flight. 

Brandon Schultz is the author of 6 travel and lifestyle books, and his work regularly appears in Forbes, Fodor's, Global Traveler, and Thrillist, with contributions to dozens of others including OUT, Out Traveler, and The Advocate. He lives in New York City.