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Paradise found

On a spa honeymoon in Bora Bora, a newlywed couple leaves stress behind as they explore the natural beauty — and spas — of the island.
The overwater bungalows at Bora Bora Lagoon Resort offer guests an infinite vista of the island’s blue-green water.
The overwater bungalows at Bora Bora Lagoon Resort offer guests an infinite vista of the island’s blue-green water.John Trozak
/ Source: Spa Magazine

Waking up in Bora Bora is a breathtaking experience, especially when you’ve arrived under the cover of night and haven’t been privy to your surroundings. I always find it interesting to see a place for the first time, but this is quite possibly the most ethereal environment I have ever seen. Stepping out onto our private balcony replete with stairs into the clear blue lagoon, my new wife, Dana, and I are greeted by tall palms that beckon us with a friendly wave from the gentle trade winds passing through. There is such a never-ending kaleidoscope of bright blues and lush tropical greens that if you let your eyes lose just a little bit of focus, it’s as if you’re standing in a real-life Gauguin. I look to Dana, whose blue eyes seem to be magnified by the azure ocean that is lapping against the support beams of our overwater room. Taking it all in, we share a giant smile and a long kiss.

Dana usually has a calming effect on me, but today neither of us can contain our excitement. Though we love our thatched-roof, overwater bungalow at the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort & Spa (with its glass coffee table that opens up to the sea below), we can’t wait to get out and become better acquainted with our new neighbors — over 800 species of tropical fish. So we put on the snorkeling equipment provided by the resort and step into the natural aquarium that is our backyard.

As we explore the crystal water, schools of colorful creatures pass by, and they seem to be studying us as much as we are them. Focused by the silence of this submerged world, my thoughts settle on a goal for our honeymoon: to do nothing. As we paddle along, I notice that we are holding hands and communicating with rudimentary signals that not only make us giggle but also encourage us to work as a unit. And now, I begin to imagine something more enticing than doing nothing: exploring and experiencing this island realm as a couple.

Upon returning to our bungalow, I find myself a little crispy. (I forgot to put on sunscreen earlier in the day.) Obviously this isn’t the first time a guest has been sunburned, because the property’s management was sure to stock a small bottle of skin-nourishing tamanu oil in our room. Considered sacred and widely used in traditional Polynesian culture as a topical aid to promote the formation of new tissue, oil from the tamanu tree is especially soothing for the skin after sun exposure. It proves to be just what I need.

In Bora Bora, time simply melts away. There is a rhythm to the island, and once you surrender to it, you become a willing captive. I learn this rather quickly, thoroughly enjoying its contrast to my life back home. The island has a laid-back feel, and nature provides the only clock you will need. For instance, an attendant at our resort clued us
in to a beautiful hibiscus flower that turns from red to orange as the day progresses. Like the mechanical clock we are all accustomed to, the flower follows a steady path. When it is halfway to orange, it is noon. When the blossom is completely orange, it falls to the ground, corresponding to roughly six o’clock in the evening.

Dana and I are scheduled for our first couples treatment — the Time for Two Massage at the Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa — and by the look of the hibiscus, it’s just a shade shy of 10:00 a.m. (Our treatment begins at 11.) Still relaxed from the morning’s underwater  journey, we leisurely make our way to the water taxi for a 15-minute boat ride to the nearby resort.

What I discover when we arrive at the 7,090-square-foot Mandara spa is that spa-ing in Bora Bora is a perfect complement to the island’s natural beauty. Built into the hillside, the spa’s open-air treatment rooms spill with fresh local flowers and sea views while therapies overflow with the island’s beautifying bounty — nourishing coconut milk, fragrant tiare blossoms, protective monoi oil, and refreshing Tahitian grapefruit.

Setting a sensual tone, a cup of local vanilla tea starts off our spa experience. Next, we indulge in an aromatic, side-by-side, 50-minute massage performed with long, deep, soothing strokes given with the thumbs, hands, and forearms of the therapists. With each motion, more and more stress and strain is released from my body. It’s as if my therapist were born with an innate ability to address my problem areas (left knee and lower back), her deft touch adjusting on the fly to fit my needs. My spirit is renewed.

After the treatment, I am feeling much more spry than I have in some time, and we head back to the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort & Spa for a sunset cruise. As the sun sinks, we board and arrange ourselves in the back of the boat as our driver begins to navigate his vessel like a well-thrown stone effortlessly skipping across the surface of a still pond. The sunset begins to glow brighter, and Bora Bora’s daytime primary palette moves from the ocean to the horizon, bathing everything in new light. It seems that as the day winds down, the passing clouds feel comfortable enough to roll over on their backs, exposing their pink underbellies. I feel my better half snuggle up to me, and we share a quiet moment as the sun continues to set. Soon we are basking in starlight without a care in the world.

The next morning, rain pours down as we leave our bungalow for our second round of Polynesian pampering. We take the rain in stride, with Dana suggesting that the island is offering up its own tropical therapy just for us: big, healthy drops falling in massaging waves of wet coolness as we make our way to our water taxi. The rain dance doesn’t last long; after another 15-minute trip to one of Bora Bora’s beautiful islets, we find ourselves bathed in sunshine at the 13,200-square-foot InterContinental Resort and Thalasso’s Deep Ocean Spa, located on Motu Piti Aau.

The first thalasso center to tap the virtues of seawater from the depths of the Pacific, the Deep Ocean Spa was opened with a firm belief that we are all linked to the sea and that each of our cells recalls this ancient connection. Water used in the spa is extracted from the base of plunging volcanic reef walls — an incredible 3,000 feet below the surface. This deep seawater is among the purest and most revitalizing water in the world (it’s particularly rich in active minerals, vitamins, and trace elements) — and it’s harvested in a way that makes the least impact on the environment. I am intrigued by the technology (the cold water even acts as the resort’s air conditioner) and excited to experience the power of the sea.

After looking at the spa menu, we select the Bora Bora Deep Blue Massage. (Other selections include sport massages for achy muscles, jet lag remedies, scalp and foot reflexology, hot stone massage, and couples treatments in the overwater bungalows.) Although not an avid spa-goer, I feel I’m turning a corner — especially when I’m told that though this is a beautifying treatment, it is much like diving into the depths of the Pacific. That is until I notice that my therapist is male — then I start feeling a bit nervous.

Lying side by side, Dana and I begin the Deep Blue Massage faceup. The treatment features Algotherm products, including a moisturizing mixture of carefully (and responsibly) selected marine ingredients. Warmed before being placed onto the skin, the product — combined with long massage strokes — proves to be immensely relaxing. When we turn facedown, I am pleasantly surprised to see that there is a glass window in the floor just below the head cradle showcasing the sea life below. I also realize that any remaining tension in my body has vanished — as has my ungrounded apprehension around male therapists.

After our massage, we enjoy the spa’s outdoor areas, a multisensory playground of water-based amenities (some using seawater). There’s a rectangular water path called the Deep Chiller Walk that you enter via stairs (once inside, seawater jets around your calves and thighs as you walk back and forth); a Jacuzzi; a cold seawater pool called the Deep Sea Plunge (placed next to steam rooms to create a convenient hot/cold circuit); two rain showers that feature various fragrances and colors that envelop you in mist and water (the lights in the showers correspond to the scent); and more. We finish off our time at the Deep Ocean Spa in the seaside tea room, relaxing as we scan the water for humpback whales.

The next morning, feeling rested and hungry, I’m glad that Bora Bora’s answer to room service — a romantic breakfast delivered by canoe — has just arrived. As I watch the table being set out on the balcony, I find myself beaming at the start of another perfect day — a peaceful, repast of omelets, breads, jams, and champagne shared with my new wife.

More spa-ing comes next, and after the Honeymoon Bliss treatment at the Marù Spa — a tandem pineapple scrub, 80-minute Polynesian massage with traditional monoi oil, and bath laced with coconut milk and flower petals — Dana and I take the remainder of the day to enjoy each other’s company while lounging about our bungalow. We are in a state of blissful suspension that we both sorely needed. Iconically exotic, Bora Bora is a heady cocktail for the senses — rejuvenating, inspiring, and seductively romantic.

As we sit here, I’m amazed at how a relatively minute dose of relaxation with loved ones dissolves life’s detritus and gives clarity to what is important. And when it’s time to slow down and prioritize life’s pleasures, Dana and I have come to the conclusion that this South Pacific Eden is truly paradise found.