Finding paradise in French Polynesia

The InterContinental Resort and Spa in Tahiti
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By Gerry Barker

Photos/Video by Gerry Barker

It was one of those “pinch me” moments when the invitation arrived. Windstar was deploying a new ship in Tahiti — Star Breeze — and would I be interested in a taking their 7-night, “Dreams of Tahiti” cruise?

Interested? Let’s just say no arm twisting was required.

After that initial rush of excitement, the next order of business was making arrangements to get from our home base in North Palm Beach to French Polynesia, a place we have never visited. As we looked into flights, a familiar name emerged: French bee.

Last August, we flew French bee from Miami to Paris for a river cruise (read about it on Splash here). I discovered they also serve Tahiti, with connecting flights from Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, New York, Boston, San Diego and a direct flight from San Francisco. We opted to fly out of San Francisco, then board French bee to Papeete, Tahiti — a trip of just over 7,000 miles each way.

Since we last flew the airline, they have been added to TSA precheck, which, if you haven’t enrolled and fly very often, is well worth the effort and expense. It makes navigating the airport security lines much more tolerable.

Besides offering a range of affordable options — Basic, Smart and Premium — along with a la carte choices of extra legroom, meals and baggage handling, a real plus of flying French bee are their planes. They fly state-of-the-art, fuel-efficient, Airbus 350 XWB (extra wide body) aircraft, with increased sound insulation and cabin air that is refreshed every three minutes.

Each seat is also equipped with an entertainment screen where travelers can choose to view movies and TV shows, play games, track the flight or get’s a bird’s eye view from external cameras. Wi-Fi is also available.

The flight to Tahiti left around 11 pm from San Francisco, and touched down at Papeete’s Faa’a International Airport some eight hours later, arriving at 5 in the morning local time. We were seated in Premium, which included two meals, wine and champagne and a travel kit with a sleep mask, socks and toiletries.

At the airport, we were warmly welcomed by two musicians and a dancer as we made our way through customs and passport clearance. In less than 24 hours, we had flown a good distance around the globe, finding ourselves in the Society Islands, an archipelago of 118 islands in the middle of the South Pacific between Sydney and Los Angeles.

Tourism, which is the main industry here, is rebounding from the pandemic. In 2022, Tahiti Tourism reported 242,907 visitors (218,750 were classified as tourists) and in 2023, the number was 304,000 visitors (261,813 tourists), with the majority coming from North America and France.

The InterContinental Resort and Spa

It was still several hours before we would board Star Breeze, so we gathered our luggage and got a taxi to the InterContinental Resort and Spa, where we were meeting a fellow travel writer. As soon we stepped out at our destination, we knew we had arrived in the paradise depicted in books and movies: Indescribable blue waters, thatched-roof, over-the-water huts and trade winds swaying the palm trees.

It truly does take your breath away.

After partaking of the breakfast buffet, we explored all the resort has to offer, including a pool and lagoon where fish swam in crystal-clear waters. Everywhere you looked was a postcard. And the best part? We are just getting started.

Go ahead, pinch me again.

(Our thanks to French bee for hosting us.)


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