All posts for the month July, 2023

The view from our over water bungalow. No one would complain about that, right?

Five nights on the next island over from Tahiti, our first ever stay in an over water bungalow. It should have been fabulous. Shoulda…

Let’s be clear: the island is really beautiful and the water around us is often stunning. For many people this would be the vacation of a lifetime and so yes, we feel more than a little churlish to complain. There were just so many things the Hilton we’re staying at got wrong. Little things, like requiring a towel card to get a beach towel. I mean, we’re staying at an expensive resort and you treat us like we want to steal a $5 towel? And the big things, like some of the worst food ever. Seriously. We only had dinner here once and it’s distinctly possible that the salmon dish I had was the worst salmon I’ve ever eaten. The worst gym of our vacation. And just unlucky. Not only did it rain a lot, but our over water bungalow was (second) closest to the beach, meaning that every kayaker and snorkeler and paddle boarder was going right past us all day. And it had the (second) worst views, missing both sunrise and sunset. There were literally dozens of rooms that I would have preferred but we drew the short straw. Sad!

The beautiful pool. Who could complain about that?

OK, I got that “first world problem” stuff off my chest. Now it’s time for all that was good or even great. Mostly, it’s just really beautiful. There’s a reason the idea of French Polynesia looms large in our collective fantasies. Brilliant waters, lush forests, friendly locals, grand mountain peaks – they make for a perfect setting. I did several long walks off the resort grounds just to get some exercise and see stuff. Whenever I would encounter a local either walking or bicycling they always smiled and acknowledged me. Heck, it’s so friendly here that a local dog adopted me on one of my walks, joining me for four or five miles and even placing himself between me and a dog that was threatening to chase me. That’s friendly locals!

I’d read the reviews before we arrived and they were pretty damning about the quality of the food (though ultimately not damning enough…) so right from our first night we made a reservation at Rudy’s, a French restaurant run by Belgians (close…) who really care about their food. We ended up eating there three nights, opting for the Moorea Beach Café the night Rudy’s was closed. Both were standouts, especially compared to resort food.

Dinner at the Moorea Beach Club was a treat. When we first got there it was raining and windy so the blinds were closed. Later the weather eased, the blinds were opened, and it was heavenly.

We did one big (big!) excursion while we were here. We rented e-bikes to circumnavigate the island. It was my first time with an e-bike and to be honest I was surprised by how little a difference it seemed to make except on the couple of small hills we encountered. On the hills though, especially later in the ride, it was pretty nice. Altogether it was a little over 37 miles around the island and I have to admit that I was surprised at how exhausted I was at the end. Maybe I am getting old.

Except for the ride itself, the other highlight of the day was stopping a few miles short of our hotel. We were hot, tired, and sore so we splurged: beer, pizza, and dessert (cheesecake for me, a flaming crepe suzette for Mark). We’d earned it, dammit, and I am going to relish that lunch for years!

And then lunch the next day near the end of our bike ride. That pizza deserved a special place in our blog!

The other thing you do at a place like this is snorkel and look at fishies. So we both snorkeled a bit, though ultimately we get bored with it quickly. It turns out though that the best fish viewing could be done from just outside our bungalow. We saw a few manta rays, which are very cool to watch. And even more exciting we saw three – three! – sharks swimming just a few feet from us. How cool is that?

Yup, one of the sharks waiting for us to go for a swim

One final sad note, and perhaps part of the reason why I’m less than thrilled with our stay here. Shortly after arriving we learned that our niece Jennifer – my older brother’s only child – had died. Just five years ago she lost her young son to cancer and I’m not sure she ever recovered. She suffered from chronic pain for years and had been diagnosed with PAN vasculitis, a rare cancer. Just a few weeks ago she opted for hospice care, with an expectation of at least a few more months to live, but went much faster than anyone expected. In just the last five-plus years my brother has buried his grandson, his mother, and now his daughter. That’s tough.

Bora Bora should be more upbeat.

The over water bungalows

The walkway out to the over water bungalows at sunset

Another sunset picture, this one from our room. It rained nearly all day that day which gets tiring, but I suppose all that greenery on the island needs water…

Our little beach

Bucolic scenes during one of my walks

And another

Our route map for the ride. Rarely out of sight of the sea…

Scenes from a tropical bike ride


One more

There were a few cute kitties at the resort, somewhat less scary than the sharks

Enjoying a well-earned dessert in a slightly pink shirt. I may have been too tired to hold my head up, but I managed to finish the cheesecake.

Our two-night stop in Tahiti. A beautiful pool and some chairs facing out to the ocean made for a pleasant stay.

If there was ever a place that evoked almost unbelievable luxury, beauty, and exotic lifestyles it would be Tahiti. As a friend of our said, when she was a girl I was the place that game show winners went to. How else would a normal human being get to Tahiti?

Well, we’re obviously not normal because here we are. Now admittedly it took us a long time to get here: even with approaching six years of nomadic life we never made it here. So now we can finally check that box.

The morning view across to Moorea, our next stop

Oddly, though, we’re not spending much time in Tahiti itself. These days the great resorts and most beautiful islands are a bit further away, so we only spent really a day-and-a-half here, with another day-and-a-half at the end of our time in the Society Islands.

And what do you do with a day-plus in Tahiti? Not much really. We stayed at a surprisingly nice Hilton resort. No beach or even ocean access, but quiet, a beautiful pool, decent food, OK gym. A pleasant long walk just to see stuff. And whales! Yup, one morning I was out pretty early in an ocean-facing chair, peacefully reading when I thought I heard the distinct sound of a whale surfacing. Turns out I was wrong: there were two whales frolicking! You typically pay good money for a whale watch but there they were, probably no more than a hundred meters from shore.

Take my word for it, those are two whales there, not at all far from land

From here it’s a short boat ride to Moorea, an island just a bit northwest of Tahiti and then a bit further afield to Bora Bora. Those stays will be longer so hopefully we’ll have more to report.

We’ve come to terms with the fact that it rains on-and-off all the time around here. It can certainly create its own beauty.

Lunch at the venerable Halekulani, where the service was amazing — like when the bartender asked if he could take this great picture

After Kauai we made one more two-night stop in Honolulu before embarking on the six-hour flight to Tahiti. Two notable things about this stop:

First, we decided to give another hotel a try. So this time we stayed at Halekulani, a venerable Waikiki hotel that recently went through a huge renovation.So you got the best of all worlds: A great old hotel with a storied reputation and super contemporary design and amenities.

But the best part of our visit was reconnecting with our friends Andrew and Maia Rosen, whom we hadn’t seen in decades. Andrew was one of our classmates at the Kennedy School at Harvard. Maia was his girlfriend back then who went to the Harvard Education School and lived in the same dorm. We’ve kept tabs over the years but just hadn’t managed to connect in person until now — after they’d moved to Honolulu, married, and raised three sons.

Arriving at the credit union’s new headquarters, we knew we were in the right place when we found this life-size picture of Andrew building the place

Andrew is President and CEO of the Hawaii State Federal Credit Union. He suggested we meet him at the brand new headquarters he just devoted a couple years to building. So we agreed — but had to joke a bit about coming to Polynesia to tour a credit union. As we entered the building, Andrew told us how he wanted to build a space where people would love to work. And he insisted that his staff really liked working there. Of course, we kidded, that’s what they’re going to tell the boss!

The building, which they’d barely just moved into after a long renovation, was loaded with spaces for socializing, relaxing, and doing teamwork. The design was sort of Polynesian, sort of Japanese, sort of Zen. And when we reached the top floor we found a huge kitchen/entertaining space with expansive outdoor patios with really comfy furniture. And lo and behold, we met a bunch of super friendly staff, who were hanging out together after work and cooking, drinking, and having fun. And we heard an earful about how much they LOVE working there. It was all very impressive. In my next life I want to work for Andrew at the credit union!

After enjoying some wine on the lanai there, Andrew took us to the lovely and serene Pacific Club where well-heeled Hawaiians gather for drinks, meals, sport, and mingling. Then on to his home near Diamond Head to meet Maia and finish off a wonderful evening of catching up. It was as if no time at all had passed since grad school.

Martinis at the Pacific Club

At home with Maia

The pool and beach from the Halekulani gym

Waikiki at night rom our balcony