Photo by Brandon Presser (Bora Bora). Courtesy of locations.
If you're willing to travel to the other end of the planet, head straight to the place where romance was invented: French Polynesia. Famed for its Tiffany-blue waters and tropical islets, Tahiti and its neighboring Society Islands conjure dreams of the perfect honeymoon, and the hype is real.
The best way to explore the archipelago is with Windstar (WindStarCruises.com), a luxury yacht service offering week-long sailing trips in the waters between the region's most iconic isles, including the legendary Bora Bora. Stopping at a different destination every night, docking in shallow coves hugged by the deep green of impenetrable jungles, the boat allows travelers to sample the vibes of each island. There's wreck diving in Raiatea, beach biking in Moorea, and private-island paddleboarding in Taha'a.
With sails fluttering high in the South Pacific seas, Windstar eschews cruise stereotypes with a maximum passenger complement of fewer than 150 people. In fact, every evening at sunset the crew boards the top deck to salute the vessel, aided by orchestral crescendos, as the sails are raised and the yacht begins to glide to its next port of call.
Enjoy the personalized service from a staff keenly accustomed to satisfying any of your honeymoon needs, whether it's a meal at Candles, the private under-the-stars dining experience on the top deck, or something more heart-pounding like a twin Jet Ski adventure cavorting with giant manta rays.
Sailing with Windstar also grants you exclusive access to what Tahitians call motus, tiny islets hemming the edges of every island's lagoon. Privately owned and maintained, they are accessible only by boat. Windstar keeps several of them in its clutch, shuttling passengers back and forth for VIP beachside fun, and, toward the end of the week-long voyage, a vibrant sunset feast complete with Polynesian flavors and compelling fire dancing (like a luau without the manufactured tiki tackiness).
Perhaps the most whimsical experience that Windstar affords is a day with Poe and her brother aboard her va'a (Tahitian outrigger) as you snorkel through one of the house reefs of her native Huahine, then retreat to her family's land for a cooking class, coconut-chopping lessons, shell picking on her private beach, folk-song sing-alongs -- and other quirky intangibles that broaden one's perception of these faraway islands and the people so vividly depicted in Paul Gauguin's work.
With yacht departures every Friday, the Society Islands are slowly transforming into an evergreen honeymoon destination, without the maddening crowds.
If you want to stay on terra firma, there's no better option than the Four Seasons Bora Bora (FourSeasons.com). The choice destination for celebrity couples, French Polynesia's most classic stay seamlessly blends its familiar tenets of international luxury with the surrounding landscape: dozens of overwater bungalows serviced by expertly trained staff. It's the Bora Bora of your dreams.
Honeymoon romance is the driving force behind every design detail in your private villa: oversized bathtubs, giant showers, ocean views from bed, glass panels on the floor that let the water below play with the ambient light, and -- most important -- a sweeping wooden balcony with direct lagoon access for a dip in the world-famous Bora Bora blue (and a bit of skinny-dipping after the sun goes down).
If you do manage to free yourself from your overwater palace, don't miss the opportunity to explore the resort's private reef -- a coral conservation project started by marine biologist Oliver Martin, who resides on site and is eager to lead guests on a snorkeling safari. Like an aquarium, the turquoise expanse is filled with friendly tropical fish, all of which found their way into the enclave, lured by a fresh crop of coral, grafted by Martin himself over the course of seven years.
While the Four Seasons embraces a classic take on luxury, its signature restaurant, Arii Moana, promises a taste of Tahiti. Local flavors include a "poisson cru" (Polynesian ceviche) marinated in coconut milk, shrimp from Moorea, local lobster and mahi mahi, and for dessert, a flaky mille-feuille enhanced with vanilla from the island of Taha'a. For guests without a westerly view from their private bungalow, the Sunset Restaurant and Bar delivers on its name, and diners can enjoy a more casual experience where local produce is accented with an Asian flare.
When you grow tired of gazing at Mount Otemanu, Bora Bora's signature limestone outcrop rising high up from the sea, try a stay at The Brando (TheBrando.com) on the low-slung sandy atoll of Tetiaroa. Named for the legendary actor (the island was once owned by Marlon Brando, whose descendants now hold shares in the project), the property is gradually earning a reputation as a worthy contender among the high-end spots nearby.
The state-of-the-art villas spare no comfort, never mind the fact that the resort occupies one of the most dazzling tracts of land on the planet: a series of islets loosely tethered around a transparent lagoon. Daily tours of the sanctuary shed light on the local bird and marine life, and highlight some of the hotel's conservation and environmental projects, like off-grid power strategies and research on mosquito control.
At roughly $3,000 per night, the Brando is toying with a contrived, semi-inclusive scheme (one massage is included per couple, but not two, and concierge requests after 10 p.m. come with a hefty fee, for example), but once the kinks are worked out and the focus shifts more toward service instead of moneymaking, the hotel will undoubtedly shine.
Air Tahiti Nui offers direct flights from Los Angeles to Papeete, and the flying time is roughly eight and a half hours -- surprisingly quick considering your honeymoon has you flying halfway around the world.