A truly boutique barefoot-luxe escape, intimate private-isle hotel Vahine Island (aka Island of the Women) has just nine bungalows, shaded by coconut trees with dreamy views over a turquoise lagoon. You're within easy reach of vanilla-toting main island Tahaa, but you'll feel a world away, lulled into languor by sun, swaying hammocks and simply superb meals on the sand. Go outrigger canoeing, sea kayaking or snorkelling, then kick back for sunset o'clock.
Nine standalone bungalows, including three suites.
11am; check-in, 1pm, but both can be changed subject to availability and an additional fee.
Double rooms from £516.29 (€603). Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates including breakfast. Half-board prices will automatically be added (breakfast and three-course dinner at €130 an adult a day, €65 for ages 10–12); full-board (including a two-course lunch) is €167 an adult a night, €84 for ages 10–12 (2023 rates).
There's no disability access here.
At the hotel
Private beach, sea kayaks, Polynesian pirogues (outrigger canoe), snorkelling gear, beach volleyball and badminton ground, library, laundry, free DVD/film library, board games, boutique, free WiFi throughout, helipad. In rooms: TV, minibar, free bottled water, tea- and coffee-making kit, air-conditioning and ceiling fans, beach shower, terrace with hammock and sun-beds.
Our favourite rooms
All nine standalone bungalows are decked out in simple, romantic Polynesian island style with seductive terrace views over the lagoon towards Tahaa or distant Bora Bora. For the most space and privacy, bag one of the Beach Suites, which are twice the size of the standard Beach Bungalows and sport a separate lounge and second terrace overlooking the coconut grove. If you want to be out in the lagoon, the three Overwater Bungalows offer killer views and an aquarium table for ogling subaqua action.
There's no swimming pool at Vahine but with a lagoon this alluring you won't care.
You’ll find Fare Spa on motu Miki Miki, neighbouring motu Tuvahine; it has an open-air massage room next to a crystal-clear lagoon, with views of the neighbouring isle.
Reef shoes, a rash shirt and reef-safe suncream (you won't be allowed in with regular suncream) for aquatic larks; your tune-loaded iPod for sunlounger sessions.
Over-nines are welcome, and will love the freedom of this chilled-out, barefoot-luxe island. An extra bed can be added to Villa Royale and a sofa bed can be made up in the Beach Suite, both for €92. Under-12s cannot stay in the Overwater Bungalows.
We love the tables out on the sand for lagoonside lounging and dreamy Tahaa Island views.
Breezy, beachy, boho and barefoot.
Vahine's informal restaurant, where you can eat in the shady, island-style interior or on tables spilling out onto the sand under the coconut palms. The decor blends plain wood and woven-leaf walls, with Japanese-esque sliding doors opening to the beach. Breakfast is usually served indoors, starring local delicacies such as home-made yoghurt with Tahaa vanilla, croissants, mango marmalade, omelettes and tropical fruits. Enjoy airy lunches outside looking out over the lagoon, with à la carte dishes including traditionally marinated poisson cru. Come evening, gourmet candlelit dinners, with daily changing menus, are whipped up inside. Due to Vahine's remote location, half-board is compulsory and full-board optional; the hotel is the also the island's only occupant, so you'll do most of your dining here.
Airy, open-air Le Tohonu bar blends Polynesian style with local materials, from volcanic stone to a mix of bamboo, ironwood and coconut trunks. You're welcome to quaff drinks before or after dinner, with tropical cocktails such as the signature Vahine, blending rum with vanilla, pineapple, guava and grenadine. As well as board games and books, there's usually a cultural show once a week in high season, with local singing, dancing and a Polynesian barbecue and buffet evening.
Dinner is served at Vahine's restaurant from 7pm until 8.30pm; Le Tohonu bar stays open all day from 10am until 8pm.
Boutique retreat Vahine Island is located on Motu Tuvahine, a bijou isle north-east of Tahaa Island in French Polynesia's Society Islands.
All international flights to French Polynesia land at main island Tahiti's Faa'a Airport. From Tahiti, it's a 45-minute domestic flight to Raiatea Island, just south of Tahaa, which hosts the airport for both islands. Call our Smith24 team to find the best route for you and book your flights. Please note that flights must land between 9am and 3pm on the day of arrival, and depart between 10am and 5pm for same-day boat transfers.
The hotel can organise a shuttle boat to pick you up at Raiatea Airport, if you advise them of your flight details; the captain will meet you in the intimate arrivals hall and escort you to the waiting boat five-minutes' walk away. Just look for the Vahine Island welcome board. The trip to Vahine, 10 kilometres away, takes around 35 minutes and costs €98 each (XPF11,660) for a return. For your safety and comfort, the hotel doesn't operate night transfers across the lagoon, so be sure to choose flights within daylight hours. Time your arrival at Raiatea between 8am and 3pm and plan your departing flight for between 10am and 5pm. For flights falling outside these hours, you may need to spend a night on Raiatea (Vahine can advise on local hotels). Helicopter transfers are also available.
Worth getting out of bed for
You've got 23 acres of seriously blissful tropical island all to yourself, shared with a maximum of 19 other guests, so there's no excuse not to unwind. Watch wading birds while you read on your bungalow terrace or scope the too-blue lagoon from the breezy outdoor restaurant tables, soundtracked by chill-out tunes. Although there isn't a full spa, you can request a relaxing massage in the afternoon. Feel the need to shop? The hotel's boutique sells local souvenirs such as vanilla pods for cooking or flavouring sugar.
There are rich coral gardens to explore, and you're likely to spy Technicolour fish, rays and small, unthreatening black-tip sharks. Complimentary activities on land include beach volleyball and badminton, as well as kayaking, stand up paddleboarding and canoeing. Strolling round the island is also fun, where you can find out more about the flora, fauna, shells and reef life.
Trips further afield are up for grabs for an additional fee (that you can book with reception on arrival), including deep-sea fishing expeditions. Trekking and 4WD jeep adventures on rugged, low-lying neighbouring Tahaa will also appeal to active types, as well as visits to its famous vanilla plantations and pearl farms. Culture-lovers might prefer to tour the Maori historical sites, or marae, on Raiatea Island, including historic Marae Taputapuatea. If you'd prefer to be aerial, Vahine has its own helipad for flights over Bora Bora.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this castaway isle in French Polynesia, and unpacked their vanilla pods and pearls, a full account of their romantic beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick postcard from Vahine Island near Tahaa…
Searching for the antidote to stressful modern life? Then close your eyes and imagine your ideal tropical island. Palms are swaying, the water's ridiculously blue and your to-do list comprises of strolling, swimming, sunning yourself and sipping (fruity cocktails, of course). We're happy to report that you can make that fantasy real, care of blissfull getaway Vahine Island in French Polynesia.
Putting the 'purr' into 'perfect private island', this mini marvel of white-blonde sand and lime-green coconut trees is home to just nine airy bungalows, all with laid-back lagoon views. Sure it's a journey to get here; a flight to Tahiti, before winging your way to neighbouring island Raiatea and boarding a little boat. Once here, though, you'll unwind in minutes. Days consist of hammock-hopping, snorkelling, sea kayaking and outrigger canoe forays to the nearby reef, interspersed with delicious French-Poly dining by the sand. Break up the chilling with a trip to larger sister island Tahaa opposite, famous for its vanilla farms and penchant for pearls. After drinks at sunset o'clock, retire to your boudoir where barefoot luxury rules (think simple islander style, with a choice of overwater or shoreside stays).
Personal, peaceful and pristine... the word 'boutique' is often overused, but it was made for intimate Vahine Island.