In French Polynesia, the luxury resort aesthetic takes its cues from the cultures of the South Pacific. But the overwater bungalow and its later incarnation, the overwater villa, are decidedly modern adaptations. Enjoy relevant design above the waterline as writer Drew Limsky explores indulgent accommodations in Bora Bora and Tikehau. 53
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French Polynesia is as vast as Europe, only most of it is water. Some land masses, too small to be called islands, are referred to as motu (islets). Many, like this one, are unnamed and uninhabited.
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Flying in from Tahiti’s international airport, one senses the magic of Bora Bora: one mountainous island surrounded by chains of motu. The
Y-shaped chains branching out from the motu are overwater bungalows, the
accommodations of choice in the region’s luxury resorts.
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At the lavish Four Seasons Bora Bora, pontoons lead to 100 overwater bungalow suites, many boasting views of Mt. Otemanu. They range in
size from 1,080 square feet to 1,720 square feet. Fifteen of them are equipped
with overwater plunge pools.
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The Four Seasons’ ample decks offer outdoor dining and lounging on teak furniture—and direct access to Bora Bora’s famous, fish-filled lagoon.
Overwater accommodations can only exist in calm, shallow, protected waters—like
those of French Polynesia.
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The resort’s villas feature deep soaking tubs and glass panels in the floor.
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The jacuzzi and infinity swimming pool at the Four Seasons overlook the white sand beach.
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Polynesian-style cabanas, thatched with pandanus leaves, line the resort pool. The high arches catch the tropical breezes.
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Columns fashioned from native woods are carved in the style of the local Polynesian culture.
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The Four Seasons’ expansive, elevated spa boasts infinity-edge vitality pools that overlook turquoise canals that feed into the
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The Presidential Villa, hidden from beachcombers by lush, tropical foliage, features a slot-style swimming pool.
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The Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa, slightly more rustic than the Four Seasons, but pampering enough to be a member of Leading
Hotels of the World, boasts a gorgeous location on a sandy motu with a direct
view of Mt. Otemanu.
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That change in color from green to blue is no trick of the eye. From your overwater bungalow at the Pearl Beach, you can swim out in
five-foot-deep water—up to the point where the shelf drops off hundreds of
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The reception desk is backed by a full wall of mother of pearl pendants tied together by string.
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The 80 bungalows feature local tapa wall coverings made from dried, beaten tree bark and black dyes.
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Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort in the Tuamotu island chain is only accessible by boat. This stunning, laid-beach resort has 13 beach bungalows and 24 overwater bungalows created from coconut palm, teak, bamboo and other local
woods. Unlike the “high island” of Bora Bora, Tikehau barely breaks the surface
of the water, so you really feel like you’ve reached the end of the world—and
are in no rush to find your way back.
Article & Photography by Drew Limsky