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It was the dreadful day of checkout, and we reverted to our old ways. My partner and I ignored the luggage pickup notice and proudly dragged our suitcases across the wooden slats that connected our overwater bungalow to the lobby, past pink sand, beach bungalows and the spa. Our pace was airport casual — quickened, but not offensively so. Or so I thought.
Fara, a staff member rolling a baggage holder, quietly intersected us, pointed to our bags and said “too fast.” He lowered his shoulders, took a deep breath and relieved us of our baggage.
“Have a nice breakfast,” he said.
We should have known better. For one, we were on Tikehau, an island that — even by French Polynesian standards — is supremely unspoiled and sparsely populated. A part of the Tuamotu Archipelago, Tikehau lacks the hotel product found on islands such as Tahiti and Bora Bora. And since it’s little more than a gorgeous lagoon and a collection of motus, there’s not much to do except for playing and lounging by stunning waters and the island’s pink sands.
Secondly, Tikehau Pearl is the island’s sole luxury offering. Tikehau’s other accommodations — a handful of pensions (family-run guesthouses) — also offer beautiful views and access to water activities, but rooms are much more rustic, the vibe tends to be more casual and meals are eaten communally. The property also has space. Located on its own motu (Motu Tiano, which is a 15-minute boat ride from the main village of Tuherahera), the property occupies 10 acres with only 37 guestrooms.
It’s no wonder then that the resort’s guests tend to be couples who prefer to keep to themselves. Here, guests have the ability to customize their vacation to their preferences. This largely has to do with the staff managing the behind-the-scenes operations with the precision of a larger hotel, thanks to general manager Anne Tran-Thang.
One morning, for example, I needed to complete some work on my computer before breakfast time (which officially begins at 7 a.m.). Staffers were confused why my partner and I were at breakfast so early — remember, Tikehau is the capital of chilling out — but they allowed us to caffeinate and dig into the morning spread, anyway.
Working while going on holiday here is made challenging by design. Wi-Fi access is available only sparingly and in the lobby and dining area, which means that when we were in our Overwater Suite — one of 24 overwater rooms — we had no choice but to succumb to relaxation. The oversize 1,001-square-foot suite makes the conversion from workaholic to cortisol-free islander quite easy with a huge terrace overlooking transparent water and a skyline made up of nothing but a wavy horizon and the occasional low-slung cloud.
It’s also clear that the designers of our Overwater Suite intended for guests to spend time in the bedroom and large bathroom. The bed is a cozy king, crowned by a regal white mosquito net. Blackout curtains ensure that the room gets pitch dark, too.
Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort is located on a private motu on Tikehau, an unspoiled island in the Tuamotu Archipelago. // © 2017 Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort
Considered the most luxurious accommodations on the island, Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort is the only option for overwater bungalows in Tikehau. // © 2017 Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort
Rooms feature Polynesian products such as teak wood and coconut palm-thatched roofing. // © 2017 Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort
In addition to overwater bungalows, Tikehau Pearl offers beach bungalows. // © 2017 Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort
When taking a break from relaxing, guests can borrow the resort’s snorkels, fins and kayaks. // © 2017 Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort
Then there’s what really separates the suite from the property’s other overwater categories: the attention to the bathroom, which features a tub with a side panel that overlooks the water below, as well as a standalone shower and his-and-her sinks. (If guests are maintaining their modesty, worry not: There is a rolling door that separates the bathroom from the bedroom).
The design here is decidedly Polynesian, featuring local products such as coconut-palm-thatched roofs and teak furniture, but executed with a sophisticated approach. Nonetheless, this is close-to-nature living, so expect quirks — we saw the occasional gecko and ant, and had occasional water temperature issues in the shower.
Breakfast at Poreho Restaurant might be a bit sparser than what luxury clients are used to, but probably only gluten-free vegans will have issues. There are creamy scrambled eggs, French pastries and baguettes, jam, fresh fruit, fruit salads, bacon, breakfast potatoes and some cheeses and cold cuts.
In general, the farther clients deviate from islands with high tourist arrivals — such as Bora Bora and Tahiti — the more limited their food options will be (and the more likely that they’ll be at the mercy of their accommodations for all their meals). With that said, dinner here is a real score. Guests receive a menu with various Polynesian and European options, an expansive wine list and beautifully presented food.
During the day, guests can lounge around the hotel; take a dip in its wading pool (but, with the lagoon hugging the resort’s motu, the pool is more of a decorative feature); or play some beach volleyball. There’s an activity center where guests can help themselves to snorkel masks and fins, kayaks and fresh towels. For an added charge, the property can book lagoon tours as well as snorkel and scuba diving trips at Tuheiava Pass, a wonderland of fish.
Guests can even rent a private motu for the day, but given the hotel’s remote location and intimate vibe, it will most likely not be necessary.
Air Tahiti flies from Papeete, Tahiti, to Tikehau via a short and scenic 50-minute flight that’s offered regularly.
Flights from Tikehau to Papeete make a brief stop in neighboring Tuamotu island Rangiroa.