Leisure travelers seeking beautiful beaches are better off heading to the white-sand shores of Moorea or Bora Bora. But there are Tahitian stopover stays — and even a destination resort set on the island once favored by Tahitian royalty — with waterfronts that are nonetheless striking. Take a look at the best beach hotels in Tahiti, the largest island in French Polynesia.
All of the 35 private beachfront villas have a path leading to a private stretch of immaculately raked white-sand beach. (Other things that every villa has?: modern Polynesian-style design, private plunge pools, media areas with flat-screen TVs and sound systems, walk-in marble showers, outdoor tubs set behind wooden privacy screens...) This all-inclusive, eco-friendly resort offers all sorts of unlimited activities, like diving trips, tennis, Polynesian dance lessons, cooking classes, yoga, and water sports; The calm waters of the sheltered lagoon allow guests to explore the crystalline water via paddleboards or outrigger canoes. But the most popular pastimes involve lounging on the pristine white-sand beach or by the huge beachfront infinity pool and gazing out at the brilliant blue lagoon.
The upscale 91-room Tahiti Pearl Beach Resort is set in a prime beachfront spot in a residential area along Lafayette Beach, a black-sand beach that looks out onto Matavai Bay. The uncrowded beach is considered one of best on Tahiti's north shore, but guests of the hotel tend to prefer gather at the open-air restaurant and lounge -- both within earshot of the crashing waves -- with a tropical cocktail in hand to take in the views. The resort's greatest asset and centerpiece is its huge oceanfront infinity pool and accompanying oversized hot tub. Daily, guests can hop into the pool to participate in aqua aerobics or wander away from the activity for a walk along the black-sand Lafayette Beach.
One of the Intercontinental Tahiti's greatest assets is its location. Set on a lush 32-acre peninsula surrounded by a turquoise lagoon, the resort looks directly across 12 miles of sea at sister island Moorea. The beach isn't French Polynesia's best (there's a small rock wall separating the water and sand), but guests can access the ocean for diving excursions, water-skiing, and jet-skiing. The hotel is built around a Lagoonarium, a calm, aquamarine body of water with a reef ecosystem. The Lagoonarium is ideal for snorkeling and swimming among the 200 species of colorful fish and sea creatures.
Though the 150-room Le Meridien has all the features of a destination resort, it is best suited as a stopover stay, and there are even day rates available. The hotel's location close to the international airport and cruise pier makes it convenient for those arriving and departing, whether on a cruise, ferry, or plane; many guests are couples or part of tour groups. The upscale resort melds Tahitian architecture with contemporary style, and spacious rooms and suites -- including overwater bungalows -- feature the hotel's signature beds, private terraces, and views of the ocean. Principle features include a huge sandy-bottom pool with a tiki-style bar, a narrow beach (free snorkels and kayaks are provided), two open-air restaurants, and a basic spa. Many areas of the hotel have been renovated, but others are showing signs of wear and tear that aren't in keeping with the Le Meridien brand.