Ra’iātea, French Polynesia

Photo: ww.ericpinel.com for Opoa Beach Hotel
Photo: ww.ericpinel.com for Opoa Beach Hotel

Do you go out of your way to find boutique hotels when you travel? You found a small, intimate place when you went to Melbourne. You felt right at home at the end of the day in Lisbon. While the one in Buenos Aires would have been out-of-place in any other city. So why are you looking at a big hotel as you get ready to head to a little island? This is where you need personalized service the most.

You land on the north coast of Ra’iātea after a quick, 40-minute flight from Tahiti. “Sacred Island,” the largest of the Leeward Islands, is enclosed by a single coral reef. The calm water inside the reef is clear with just a hint of turquoise; the choppier water beyond the reef changes from green to azure to navy depending on the weather. Pearl farms sit along the coast. Coconuts, pineapples, and vanilla fill the interior. And your driver, who knows the island like the back of his hand, is more than happy to stop so you can take photos during the drive to your hotel.

The Opoa Beach Hotel is perfectly positioned along the southern coast. The beach, the pool, the restaurant, and, of course, your bungalow all have views of the lagoon with Huahine in the distance. It’s so stunning that you barely pay attention as you’re given a tour of the property en route to your bungalow. No worries, you can ask questions later. The staff is always ready to help. Right now, you just need to focus on settling in.

Photo: ww.ericpinel.com for Opoa Beach Hotel
Photo: ww.ericpinel.com for Opoa Beach Hotel

It certainly won’t be difficult to feel at home here. Except for a blue tin roof, almost everything in your little bungalow is white. Sheer curtains, tied to the sides of the four-poster bed, reveal palm fronds and fresh flowers. Shell-shaped sinks are the first thing you notice in the bathroom. Beach towels were already placed near the sun loungers and the hammock on the deck. While softly crashing waves and chirping birds create an enchanting soundtrack in the background. Plus there’s that gorgeous view.

You spend much of your time on Ra’iātea right at the hotel. Eat fresh-baked viennoiseries, vanilla yogurt, and homemade jam for breakfast each morning. You quickly become addicted to this early morning spread. Sea kayak into nearby finger-shaped bays. Snorkel among eels, sea urchins, red runners, and reef sharks. Fish on the lagoon for small perch and little red snappers. Jump off the pier into the bath-like water. And, eventually, collapse by the pool with a big smile on your tired face.

Canoeing along the Faaroa River, hiking Mount Temehani, and seeing sacred Marae Taputapuātea—all things you wanted and planned to do on the island—can wait. There’s a seafood feast, including Tahitian-style raw fish and carangue, being cooked for you for dinner. No menu was necessary. Opoa Beach Hotel’s staff knows exactly what you like by now.

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