THE VIBE : Simple, grown-up tropical beach bungalow on a white-sand lagoon
THE AREA : Fakarava maintains a Polynesian village life while seamlessly integrating the divers, surfers, couples and young French backpackers who are drawn to the palm-lined sliver of a rectangular atoll in the Tuamotus
THE DETAILS: After visiting one that was “too big” and one that was “too fancy,” the island of Fakarava proved “just right” for our anniversary trip. The ladies who run Havaiki deliver a perfect experience – from the air-con beach bungalows to the French-influenced meals, to the personal service for transport, tours and anything else you might need. Tropical flowers line the garden paths, cover the tables, and crown the heads of the smiling staff. Get a spot on the beach because you will want to be in the ocean and taking in the views from sunrise to midday to sunset to moonlight. California couples will love that French Polynesia is in the same time zone as Hawaii and only a few hours farther by plane, but less crowded and less expensive when you reach the outer islands. It is also far more tropical than Hawaii, with white sand, almost 90-degree water, and epic diving: Kaina Plongêe’s trips to both Garuae (north) and Tetamanu (south) passes allow you to see literally hundreds of sharks – heck, Havaiki’s lagoon has its own resident black-tip reef sharks and nurse sharks that cruise right past you as you swim or enjoy a sunset beverage at one of its in-the-water palapas. And you can find peace just biking around the village or lounging around the beach. I’m not saying you can’t bring children – we definitely saw some families around – but it’s one of the places you will better appreciate the slow pace sans kids.