Guest Author - Ann Carroll Burgess
Ready for pure relaxation? Pack your pareo and set your course for Tahiti where warm winds and the warmest of welcomes await you.
Warmth of spirit is the most notable trait of life in French Polynesia. This is not an attitude reserved for tourists it is everywhere from the supermarket clerks at Carrefour to the driver of “le shuttle” (the local transit service) that waited for us to catch up and ride. It’s easy to understand how centuries of visitors from Fletcher Christian to Marlon Brando have been seduced by Tahiti and its people.
The InterContinental Hotel Tahiti in Papeete would be the first stop in our visit to the Society Islands group of French Polynesia and our welcome here, complete with a refreshing tropical drink, was as warm as any you will find in the islands.
Clustered in a crescent shape facing the island of Moorea, the InterContinental Tahiti is a collection of three-story buildings and over water “motus” (little bungalows on stilts where you step from your room directly into the water. Our room with a panoramic view of Moorea was appropriately furnished with coconut wood and rattan with paintings evoking Gaugin’s signature style. There is something very old world about these rooms, a touch of the 18th century in the postered beds and louvered doors.
But the rooms are 21st century with mini-bars, hair dryers, deep soaking tubs and separate showers, tea and coffee making equipment and even an iron and ironing board. You could spend your entire stay ensconced in your room, but you would miss so much that the hotel has to offer.
The InterContinental Tahiti is a very complete resort with two pools, lots of stretches of sandy beach, hammocks hung in tree-gladed spots, tennis courts, a business centre, an aquatic activities centre and even a “lagoonarium.”
Let’s start with that lagoonarium. Set at the edge of the water this is a natural saltwater pond that has been enclosed in order to create a controlled natural reef environment complete with living corals, anemones and tropical fish. And here’s the best part – you get to swim in it! Parrot fish, racoon butterfly fish, tangs and triggerfish all will vie for your attention.
There are plenty of other places to snorkel, including a sunning pontoon to which you can paddle your own kayak. The aquatic activity centre can arrange for a dive or two. If even the thought of that much activity tires you out you can always take a circle island tour by boat to watch dolphins.
With all that activity you are going to work up an appetite and the two restaurants in the hotel are ready to meet your hungry demands. The Tiare restaurant has been built in an amphitheatre style – perfect for the dinner shows it presents on three separate evenings. In the morning you can select from a full or cold buffet, or just simply coffee and croissants. At night the buffet is once again in service with a wide range of French, international and Polynesian specialties from which to choose, including the humble, but always appreciated club sandwich and fries.
The dinner show we saw was great fun in a hip-pulsating, drum-throbbing Tahiti goes Hollywood style. Les Grande Ballet de Tahiti is an audience-pleasing troupe that knows how to play to an audience. The performance was as much fun as any Las Vegas show and a good deal more special when performed under a starlit sky.
There was so much to do it was difficult to make choices. If you need some help in deciding head to the concierge desk, with any luck “Mama Tina” will be there to share her island expertise – which prevented us from making a foray into downtown Papeete on a Saturday afternoon – when everything is closed!
Should you need to stay in touch with the outside world there are internet connections in your room and a staffed business centre complete with computers (with keyboards in both English and French), scanners and printers.
I’d like to tell you that I energetically paddled a kayak to that pontoon. I could have. But instead I napped on crisp white sheets. I could tell you that I played a winning game of tennis on the hotel courts. I could have. But instead I caught forty winks under a thatched umbrella by the fresh water pool.
To be honest, I love luxury hotels, particularly when the money is well spent. The InterContinental Tahiti is an excellent example of value for precious travel dollars. So why come to a luxury enclave? To be pampered. To while away an afternoon on a private beach miles from the madding crowd. To rediscover the inner peace within you -- with a little help from excellent service and warm, gracious smiles.