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If you look up "paradise" in the dictionary, you'll probably see a photo of one of these South Pacific paradises. Both are tranquil archipelagos with blue lagoons and reputations for attracting privacy-seeking celebrities (Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban honeymooned at the St. Regis Bora Bora in French Polynesia; Bill Gates and his wife spent their honeymoon at the Wakaya Club in Fiji). But that's where the similarities end.
French Polynesia, a string of French-influenced isles that are home to legendary honeymoon hot spots like Tahiti and Bora Bora, is the birthplace of the overwater bungalow. Otherworldly Fiji is best known for the friendliness of its people, a thriving Melanesian culture, and a string of secluded private-island resorts. Go to either place and you will find your flight will be packed with newlyweds just like you. Ready to find your fantasy island? Check out this list of the best resorts in Fiji and French Polynesia and get ready to fall in love all over again.
Best Overall: Laucala Island, Fiji
This private Fijian island seduces its guests with holidays so out of this world they might ask for a pinch from the smiling, ready-to-grant-any-wish staff. One of the sexiest honeymoon resorts in Fiji, there are just 25 indoor-outdoor villas, and each has a unique design, though sprawling private pools that abut powdery sand and massive bathtubs are a common theme. You won’t hear “no” at the all-inclusive dream of a resort, whether you wish to order five entrees—prepared with ingredients grown and raised on the 3,500-acre island—from different global cuisine-themed menus to savor with fine wine from your villa’s bar in a lush al fresco spot, or have a jet ski parked just in front on which to zoom around at your leisure.
With so much space it feels like each couple has the place to themselves, though you may meet others in the spectacular palm-fringed glass-sided pool. There’s world-class surf and an 18-hole, 72-par golf course, plus beachside horseback riding and submarine adventures, scuba diving and spa rituals, so a honeymoon on Laucala is as active or lazy as desired.
Best Snorkeling: Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa, French Polynesia
Bora Bora is synonymous with French Polynesia, but there are islands of equal tropical paradise status. Take this private islet close enough to see Mount Otemanu and the vanilla island (Taha’a) but refreshingly remote feeling with only 58 overwater bungalows and beach villas. It’s the sole Relais & Chateaux property in the country, which is like a stamp of approval indicating the cuisine is incomparable. Indeed, from Polynesian-themed buffets and live grill that come with a side of traditional Tahitian music and dance to quieter French-Polynesian fusion dinners at Ohiri and seaside lunches of poisson cru, it’s mouthwatering.
The design throughout is special, incorporating elements signature to the islands—think a lobby that echoes an outrigger canoe, coconut handicrafts, and a verdant treehouse-like restaurant. Deep-sea fishing, sailing, diving and waterfall hiking are on offer, but a morning snorkeling through the coral garden—which feels like floating through the best aquarium in the world—is the most awe-inspiring use of your time.
Best Luxury: Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, French Polynesia
The cerulean-coated daydream that pops into a person’s head upon hearing the words “Bora Bora” is pretty much reality at this paradisiacal resort, as luxurious, gracious and detail-oriented as it gets. The overwater bungalows are some of the world’s most gorgeous, designed to appear like a traditional Polynesian village. But the overwater suites have their own infinity-edge plunge pools disappearing into the lagoon and are hands-down epic for honeymooners.
Exciting water activities range from couples snorkeling in a private lagoon with coral grafting to help support underwater life to swimming with rays and sharks before visiting a local fisherman’s house for a traditional lunch. Stay in touch with the environment during a rubdown in the couple’s spa suite, complete with lagoon-view Jacuzzi.
You can have a sunset dinner on a private palm-studded motu beneath the star-filled sky, or watch the sky light up in pinks while sipping fruity cocktails from a thatched pool cabana or the Asian-inspired, sushi-slinging Sunset Bar. Live music nightly makes it even more fun to eat freshly grilled fish with your toes in the sand.
Best Overwater Bungalows: The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort, French Polynesia
The anticipation builds from the moment you spot this iconic Bora Bora resort, with its overwater bungalows branching out from long arched pontoons, from the air. Expansive at 44 acres, it’s large enough to offer everything you could want from a week in paradise but intimate enough that privacy is no issue. If spotting colorful tropical fish from the floor of your wood- and marble-clad bungalow doesn’t appeal, book a beach villa—both have options for private pools, always a great idea when on honeymoon, and are within steps of mesmerizingly blue water.
Either way, a butler is on hand for anything you need. Release any lingering stress related to wedding planning with a body wrap in the Clarins spa, on its own private island. Go boating or jet skiing around Mount Otemanu, search for sea turtles amongst technicolor fish in the private Lagoonarium sanctuary, swim up to the pool bar for watermelon-y Bora Marys, or dine on the catch of the day in Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s famed Lagoon Restaurant, one of four gourmet options.
Best Sustainable: The Brando, French Polynesia
Love the planet and love over-the-top pampering? The Brando offers sustainable luxury on the dreamy atoll of Tetiaroa, just a 20-minute private flight from the island of Tahiti. This all-inclusive private island resort is one of the most environmentally sensitive in the world, with LEED Platinum certification and innovative tech practices such as coconut biofuel and seawater air conditioning.
Naturalist guides lead excursions around the isle Marlon Brando described as “the tincture of the South Seas,” think snorkeling, paddleboarding, canoeing and scuba diving. The 35 Polynesian-styled, thatched-roof villas perch atop white sand and look over a lagoon that appears like liquid turquoise stones, home to manta rays and sea turtles.
There are also 3,000-square-foot residences with their own swimming pools, chefs and butlers for couples who wish to really indulge. Fitting for its location, romance is served with every award-winning gourmet meal, and there’s nothing like the locally informed holistic treatments at Varua Polynesian Spa to make couples feel they’ve landed in heaven.
Best Spa: InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, French Polynesia
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect place for a honeymoon than Motu Piti Aau, which means “the islet of two hearts.” The Bora Bora getaway is set on a lagoon so clear it could compete with a bride’s diamond, and ringed with water that could be made of sapphires. There, 84 overwater bungalows boast plush King beds and views of impressive Mount Otemanu, always in sight as couples snorkel, kayak and paddleboard over tropical fish and colorful coral.
For more entertainment, there are Polynesian performances over dinner, for which honeymooners are spoiled for choice since there are six eateries serving a wide range of international cuisines. Opt for private dining under the stars and the gracious staff will serve up intimacy alongside a memorable multi-course meal.
The undersea immersion doesn’t end with beach activities: The Deep Ocean Spa by Thalasso features glass-bottomed treatment cabins so you can gaze into the vivid action below while knots are worked out during a couples’ Tahitian massage. Or test out the thalassotherapy—seawater therapy—treatments engaging nutrients extracted from the deep blue South Pacific waters surrounding the motu.
Best Value: Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji
On the second-largest Fijian island of Vanua Levu, on serene Savusavu Bay, lies the resort to answer the dreams of anyone harboring Robinson Crusoe aspirations. Twenty-five charming thatched-roof bures dot the lush grounds, including special honeymoon bure boasting a second-floor balcony jacuzzi tub with beautiful views slightly set off for a secluded stay.
The Cousteau connection means this is the all-inclusive, eco-friendly place to indulge in daily adventures from diving and snorkeling to kayaking, fishing, and sailing. Complimentary morning yoga is another option. The staff marine biologist leads excursions and shares fascinating knowledge, but you can also be dropped off for romantic desert-island picnics without another soul in sight.
There’s a separate family side to the open-air restaurant where multi-course Fijian-inspired meals are served, or lovers can opt for a special candlelit dinner on the dock, say, after a spa treatment using cold-pressed local coconut oil and exotic Fijian fruit enzymes.
Best Cuisine: Kokomo Private Island, Fiji
Luxury meets sustainability at one of Fiji’s finest properties, a remote private island adjacent to the massive and pristine Great Astrolabe Reef. The couple dozen villas are an idyllic mix of indigenous design elements with a modern sensibility and cutting-edge technology—spacious, airy and embracing the outdoors through personal infinity pools backdropped by the long palm-trimmed sandy beach.
A connection to nature is at the heart of all activities. The resident marine biologist takes couples for snorkeling trips and to plant coral bits in their garden, and they also can go out fishing to experience the pioneering Dock to Dish, a community-supported fishery program comprising all-female small-scale fishers.
Dine on whatever you catch and forage at the art-studded prix fixe restaurant or casually romantic street-food-inspired eatery down by the beach. To work off the sumptuous food, hike through the virgin jungle and jump in a waterfall, or simply give in to the pampering with a hot seashell massage.
Best Adventure: Nanuku, Auberge Resorts Collection, Fiji
For ultimate relaxation along with awesome opportunities to immerse in the culture and environment, there’s Nanuku, on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu. It would win the high school superlative of Best All-Around for its diversity of opportunities—cageless shark diving, glass blowing, Kava ceremonies, fire-walking lessons, indigenous boar hunting, Fijian lovo (in-ground cooking) classes, waterfall hiking and coral planting with a marine scientist are just a few of some 50 rare experiences.
Thirteen fancy Beach Villa accommodations have plunge pools and terraces leading to the sugar-sand beach and azure water beyond. For couples looking to mix it up a bit, there’s the Private Island Escape, which puts them on a perfect little secluded isle of their own for a blissful day or starlit overnight. If dining at the resort gets boring (doubtful) there’s always a Fijian Food Safari to embark on because at Nanuku it’s all about adventure.
Best Surfing: Six Senses Fiji
Hop a boat on the main island of Fiji and shortly you’ll be in the midst of the crystal blue water and blindingly white sand of Malolo Island, the intimate home to 24 luxurious solar-powered villas, each with its own pool as well as intricate hand-carved wood detailing in the chic geometric patterns of the South Pacific. Critically endangered Fijian crested iguanas live on the island, just one of the creatures of land and sea that are within reach.
There's a house-made ice cream parlor, pizzeria and cooking school, and pair of restaurants turning out dishes bursting with locally grown, organic flavors and herbs. Wellness programming at the resort is robust, personalized and high tech, centered at a dream of a spa with unique treatments such as a heated lava shell massage.
Plentiful aquatic activities are available, but with the legendary surf spot Cloudbreak just a boat ride away it’s an unbelievable place to either hone barrel-riding skills or take your first lesson with Tropicsurf.