When you fantasize about a dreamy bucket-list vacation, plucked right from a screensaver, you're probably visualizing the eye-popping islands dotting the South Pacific. Including Tahiti, Fiji, and more, these islands offer beauty that almost exceeds anything the imagination can conjure. Here are eight stunning picks to see before you die... if not all together in a single, superlative trip!
1. Bora Bora
Is there a place on earth whose very name conjures more mystery, wanderlust, and beauty? Indeed, the majestic beauty of the Tahitian island Bora Bora may make it the grand dame of aspirational island destinations anywhere in the world. The dormant volcano Mt. Otemanu rises dramatically from its center. Bora is surrounded by motus (little islands) and a turquoise lagoon, making it a pristine destination for diving and snorkeling. It's also the home of some truly over-the-top overwater bungalows; for lodging, consider the epic Four Seasons or St. Regis properties. As well, a new Conrad Bora Bora is reopening as a revamp of the former Hilton Bora Bora Nui.
Located in French Polynesia's Society Islands, Tetiaroa was once a vacation spot for Tahitian royalty. (Imagine the kind of natural beauty you're after when you're looking for vacation from Tahiti!) More recently, it became famous for its purchase by Marlon Brando, who spent as much time there as possible until his death in 2004. Now you too can get away to this paradise at the resort known as The Brando, the newly built five-star property amid posh villas with private pools, two French-influenced bars, and restaurants, and exotic flora and fauna.
It also happens to be the place where post-POTUS Barack Obama spent a month plugging away at his memoirs.
Does it get any more dreamy than a whole island that smells like vanilla?! Indeed, Tahaa, also located in French Polynesia's Society Islands, is enclosed by a coral reef it shares with neighboring Raiatea. It's known as Vanilla Island for its vanilla production, and it's also known for its stunning pearls. (A spot of shopping, anyone?) Stay at the secluded Le Taha'a Island Resort & Spa.
4. Easter Island
If you make it out to one of the world's most exotic and remote islands, you're sure to be the envy of all your wanderlusting friends. Yes, that's Easter Island, way out to the east of Chile, where giant, stone statues called moai make up the famous landscape; they are relics from the Polynesian people who likely settled here around 1200 A.D. Indeed, Easter is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world.
5. Laucala Island
If it's stunning island island landscape you're looking for, Fiji will do you right. Specifically, try Laucala Island, with its 25 villas, all done up as glam versions of traditional Fijian homes, all offering privacy tucked into various different northern portions of the island. No wonder it feels so exclusive: It's actually the largest private island in the Southern Hemisphere. And there are famous names attached (including one synonyous with money): In 2003 Red Bull head Dietrich Mateschitz bought the island from the Forbes heirs.
Rangiroa, a string of coral ringing a turquoise lagoon, is known as one of the world's top destinations for scuba. From the air, the atoll looks like a pearl necklace on the water — a sight that could literally steal your breath. The 240 tiny mutus — each under three feet high above the water — stretch for 110 miles. The main villages of Avatoru and Tiputa have just a few roads, coral churches, craft centers, local restaurants, and shops for visitors to explore.
Tikehau, with its white- and pink-sand beaches, looks precisely like a postcard IRL. Think friendly people springing from garden-decked homes, and and endless supply of fish to gawk at; in fact, the density of the fish in the lagoon is so high that Jacques Cousteau's research group declared it to have the highest concentration among any other Tuamotu atolls. Visitors will indulge in endless hours exploring the lagoon through snorkeling, diving, and boating, plus wandering the village known as Tuherahera. If you're staying over, the only main resort is the Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort, located on an idyllic motu dotted with palms and white sand.
While Bora Bora tops Tahiti's islands for popularity as a honeymoon destination, definitely don't sleep on pristine Moorea: Reached easily by ferry or puddle jumper from Papeete in Tahiti — the main city into which international flights arrive — the island is distinguished for impeccable natural beauty. Eight dramatic mountain peaks rise from the lagoon, and two symmetrical bays, Cook's and Opunohu, seem summoned right out of a dream. To make matters even more romantic, the island is shaped like a heart from overhead. Top that.
Can't make it offshore this summer? Head to Florida, where Universal Orlando's Volcano Bay is set to open May 25. The innovative new water park will be steps away from Universal’s other theme parks, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida, five themed on-site hotels Universal CityWalk’s dining, shopping, and entertainment.
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