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 flexible subject to availability.
Double rooms from £570.60 (€636), including tax at 15 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates exclude compulsory half-board which will automatically be added to booking (breakfast and three-course gourmet dinner at €91 an adult a night); full-board (including a two-course lunch) costs €116 a person a night.
Nearby Tahaa is dubbed the 'Vanilla Island', so expect vanilla to flavour tasty local dishes and drinks.
At the hotel
Private beach, sea kayaks, Polynesian pirogues (outrigger canoe), windsurfers, snorkelling gear, floating pontoons, beach volleyball and badminton ground, concierge, library, laundry, free DVD/film library, board games, boutique, free WiFi throughout, helipad. In rooms: TV, DVD player, minibar, 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. Choose from traditional Taurami treatments, including massage, body scrubs and facials, that incorporate natural products, including coconut and mango. There’s also has a relaxation area with an outdoor Jacuzzi and a private lagoon.
Reef shoes and a rash shirt for aquatic larks; your tune-loaded iPod for sunlounger sessions.
Children over 10 are welcome, and will love the freedom of this chilled-out, barefoot-luxe island. Babysitting is available on request.
We love the tables out on the sand for lagoonside lounging and dreamy Tahaa Island views.
Breezy, beachy, boho and barefoot.
French chef Terence Trouyet turns out delicious, fresh Polynesian-meets-Mediterranean cuisine at Vahine's simply styled, 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 spanning prawn and mango spring rolls with mint, filet of mahi mahi with papaya salad and sauce vierge, and tuna tartar with pineapple, honey and soy (save space for flambeed banana and caramel). 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 Tane 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 9pm; Tane bar stays open all day from 10am until 10pm.
There's no room service as such, but your bungalow minibar comes stocked with a tempting mix of drinks and snacks (at extra cost).
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.
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 35 minutes and costs €70 each (XPF8,400) a person 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 7.30am and 5pm (or 5.30pm from 1 October to 31 March); depart between 8.30am and 6pm (or 6.30pm from 1 October to 31 March). For flights falling outside these hours, you may need to spend a night on Raiatea (Vahine can advise on local hotels or contact them before you book your ticket to discuss your travel plans). 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, on your deck, in the coconut groves or out on the beach. Feel the need to shop? The hotel's boutique sells local souvenirs such as vanilla pods for cooking or flavouring sugar.
If you want to stir your stumps, a Vahine 'beach boy' is on hand after breakfast to organise two or three daily activities, including snorkelling, windsurfing, sea-kayaking and outrigger canoeing (locally known as pirogues) offshore. There are rich coral gardens to explore, and you're likely to spy Technicolour fish, rays, dolphins and small, unthreatening black-tip sharks. Complimentary activities on land include beach volleyball and badminton, as well as demonstrations of leaf weaving, sarong (pareo)-making and coconut chopping. Strolling round the island is also fun, and there are naturalist tours if you want to find out more about the flora, fauna, shells and reef life.
Trips further afield are up for grabs for an additional fee, from lagoon tours by motorised pirogue, deep-sea fishing expeditions, private motorboat excursions and picnics on uninhabited motu out on the coral reef. 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. You can also check out waterfalls and Faaroa River on Raiatea. Scuba divers can discover wrecks and vibrant underwater Passes near Raiatea and Tahaa. If you'd prefer to be aerial not sub-aqua, 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.