South Pacific

Bora Bora & more on a Paul Gauguin Cruise

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A Cruise on MS Paul Gauguin in French Polynesia’s Society Islands is Unforgettable and Completely Unique

Cruising with Paul Gauguin is unique and different in so many ways.

First, there is the size on the ship. With a maximum capacity of 334 passengers and a staff to guest ratio of 1 staff member to every 1.5 guests, the vibe, feel & level of service are a complete departure from what you may have experienced on a larger mass market ship.

The check-in experience was jaw-dropping. Literally, from the time that we arrived at the embarkation pier through the medical screening process** to the greetings, documents, getting a cabin key & making out way to our cabin where our luggage was already in room took approx 22 minutes.  We were enjoying what waited in no time!


Compared to a larger ship this is unheard of and a brilliant way to start the cruise off right.

The same convenience is to be enjoyed on a daily basis in catching the tender from ship to pier at each of the destinations experienced. It just couldn’t be more convenient.

True, you will give up a certain amount of diversity in cuisine and entertainment options vs a much larger ship, but the entertainment staff is engaging and authentic. They amplify the experience of the destination beyond just “putting on a show”. Beyond the entertainment staff known as “Le Gauguines”, the access to and the  ability to interact with the chef & other officers is truly a big plus!

Of particular interest while in Taha’a was the carving of the catch of the day – freshly caught Moon Fish was for dinner a couple hours after this video was shot…

As for the itinerary, it is iconic. Bucket List islands such as Tahiti, Bora Bora & Mo’orea as well as off the radar gems like Huahine and Taha’a were included in our itinerary which was the ever-popular Tahiti & Society islands for 7 Nights, but other itineraries a bit longer or incorporating the Cook Islands or the Tuamotus Islands or even Fiji are options as well.

One of the main reasons to choose MS Paul Gauguin is that it offers unmatched access to these iconic destinations. Other ships simply can’t get close enough, but this ship was built for the destination and even includes a watersports marina on the aft of the ship which allows for Stand-up Paddleboarding or Kayaking directly from the ship – and if you are a SCUBA diver then you’re in luck because not only is the team outstanding but the convenience of taking the zodiac from the marina to a dive site usually not more than a 5-10 minute ride is outstanding (as are the dives, with abundant sharks, sea turtles & of course…more!)


Beach Party on Private Motu off of Taha’a is an unforgettable Day in Paradise!

One of the highlights of the entire cruise is the beach day on the Paul Gauguin private motu (one of several small islands surrounding the main island) just off the coast of the island of Taha’a on the 2nd full day of the cruise. It’s like you and several dozen of your best new friends arrive at a comfortable paradise waiting with abundant beach chairs in the sun or the shade of hundreds of coconut palms. The cookout is terrific with lots of engagement with Les Gauguines including a demonstration on how to process a coconut by hand (there’s much more to it than you might imagine but it’s easier than you might think) and yes, there is a floating bar which could not be more relaxing…

On to Bora…

Then of course there’s THE most iconic island – Bora Bora. No island conjures up visions of an idyllic paradise quite like Bora Bora and there’s good reason why – it is simply one of, if not THE most beautiful island on the planet. If you enjoy dramatic mountain peaks, crystal blue lagoons and epic skyscapes it’s tough to beat. Whether it’s biking around the island, catching the food truck rodeo for dinner, paddle boarding on another small motu with private beach or simply enjoying the views as you sail away at sunset there are few destinations more memorable.

But Wait, There’s More!

A full day at Huahine followed up with a full day at Taha’a are then topped with 2 full days to experience Bora Bora, but there’s still 2 more full days to experience Mo’orea, which most people tend to agree tops even Bora Bora for sheer beauty on the island.  The view from the top of Magic Mountain is surreal – and the satisfaction of knowing that you hiked it from sea level is a reward in itself!

While the exhilaration of the 45-60 minute hike to the top is worthwhile, the entire thing can be avoided and still not miss a thing with an organized small group guided tour on an ATV or open back jeep with 8 passengers. The excursion stops at Magic Mountain as well as a few stops at Opanohu Bay, Cook Bay, a pineapple plantation (cooler than it sounds), a juice distillery for some tastings and the highlight of the day –  Belvedere Lookout- stunning!

One thing that a short blog post like this can do is to open your eyes to this type of bucket list experience, but one thing this blog post cannot do is come even remotely close to capturing the full experience. French Polynesia’s Society Islands feature unmatched beauty for sure, but the warmth and beauty of the crew and the people who call French Polynesia home is something that must just be experienced for yourself.

When it’s time for you to check this off of your Bucket list then reach out to “Your friends….in the travel business” at EZTravelPad.

Email us

We’re here to help – we have experience that a call center cannot match – we know people – and we work to help make your experiences as memorable as they are seamless.

Why Kauai?

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Kauai – The Garden Island

Kauai is referred to as the Garden Isle partly because it offers 3 of the 5 tropical botanical gardens in the U.S. and partly because if feels as though the entire island is a huge garden….lush, tropical and gorgeous

True, parts of the island get a tremendous amount of rainfall (the most on earth) – but other parts are much less moist and receive much sunshine as well so choosing the right area to fit your needs is a big part of crafting the best overall experience

Below is a picturesque waterfall experienced on a short hike …



Kauai is a really laid back island – super friendly – a place where all of the locals seem to know each other (because there are only about 65,000 people who reside on the island…)

Cuisine can be anything from basic (food truck) to gourmet with many farm to table dining options available

Nightlife is almost non-existent so this is not a place to go party…it is a place to commune with nature, relax, disconnect…and experience some adventures

Typical resorts such as the St Regis, Marriott, Sheraton & more will pamper you in style… or out of the way resorts such as Waimea Plantation Cottages will take you back to a simpler life with few frills in 100 year old cottages originally used on the plantation and offering unmatched serenity

Landscapes are stunning…from the

Napali Coastline


to …

The Waimea Canyon

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to the beaches around Princeville



or even…if you can believe it…a hotel lobby!



it’s amazing – for such a small island there really are a tremendous amount of experiences, varied landscapes, varied climate zones, etc. On an ATV excursion we went through a mountain tunnel from 1 valley to the next and in just over a minute experienced the largest rainfall differential that exists anywhere on the planet so depending on the specific location that you select your vacation could be in one of the wettest parts of the planet – or in a spot where very little rain falls…

There are numerous experiences to add into a package from the usual and traditional-

  • Luau
  • Hiking
  • Snorkeling
  • ATV Driving
  • Zip-lining

to the unusual…

  • Tubing through an ancient irrigation ditch
  • Exploring Napali coast in a raft
  • Helicopter over the Waimea Canyon

Here is a brief video depicting just a few of the adventures that can be experienced

Sure – you can do things on your own, but why?

EZTravelPad can connect you with some extra perks that you would not otherwise be entitled to, offer some complimentary advice, make your experience much easier and bring the price in at or lower than you can yourself…so reach out to us for much more info when you are ready to start planning your getaway to Kauai

Intercontinental Thalasso Resort & Spa – Bora Bora in French Polynesia – A Review

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Intercontinental Thalasso Resort & Spa in Bora Bora is Phenomenal



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The Intercontinental Resort & Thalasso Spa is located on a motu (small islet) just off the main island of Bora Bora in The Society Islands of French Polynesia – or in short- The South Pacific. Actually the name of the spa is The Deep Ocean Spa so check out that link….

As the name implies, this resort is all about the spa. From the moment you step foot into the reception area you immediately notice soothing mood music – relaxing – totally. The decor, layout and furnishings are all designed to be in harmony with the spa nature of the resort….

Initially I wondered, what is a Thalasso spa? As they say everyday is a school day, so if YOU don’t know – here goes….

A Thalasso spa specializes in Thalassotherapy (derived from the Greek word ‘thalassa’ which means ‘sea’). The spa uses the beneficial aspects of the marine environment- the climate, sea water, seaweed and algae, mud and sand—all for therapeutic purposes. This spa even uses the seawater for air conditioning!

Sea water is sucked from a depth of 3500 feet (trust me- it’s cool down there) and circulated amongst the buildings on property for cooling purposes. The water is available from this fountain in the spa and guests are encouraged to take a daily sip – maybe 1/2 oz or less for better health. I did, and it’s not bad…


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Like nearly every resort in French Polynesia the bulk of the buildings are bungalows. All guest rooms are in bungalows at this Intercontinental resort, as are the massage therapy rooms which are located in the overwater bungalows pictured below.  Guests can enjoy a soothing massage while relaxing as they watch fish swimming in the reef immediately below the massage tables – Clear viewing windows in the floors allow an up close experience and are a fixture of most overwater bungalows in the area, another part of the experience of French Polynesia…


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Had a long flight and feeling like your ankles are swollen from the lack of mobility combined with the warmth and humidity of the climate? This may be just the ticket- a Deep Chiller Walk pool. The pool of cool water is approx 25 feet in length and designed to  allow you to walk back and forth in shallow cool water while being pounded by current…nice!

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Tying the Knot

Considering French Polynesia as a destination for your wedding? There may exist a more romantic view than this, but if there is I am unaware of it. Imagine exchanging your vows in front of a huge plate glass window featuring Mt Otemanu as a backdrop – and standing on a clear floor with the reefs below….. this is the wedding chapel that dreams are made of.

A memory that will never, ever fade

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Yes, I have an inside shot of the view, but trust me- it just doesn’t do it justice. Maybe a more professional photographer can- check this link


So yes, the spa is amazing – the wedding chapel is to die for – but what about the accommodations? How are the bungalows? Are they nice? How are the views? See for youself at their website. Suffice to say that the huge picture windows that are located at the foot of the King-sized beds in the bedrooms of the bungalows will afford a view like no other – provided that you know what to ask for…..


So is the Intercontinental Resort & Thalasso Spa the top resort in Bora Bora? Probably not for everyone. Some might opt for a larger resort – others may choose somewhere a bit more family friendly….but if you are a spa enthusiast who supports Green initiatives and you want to totally relax during your escape in paradise then this may be the best resort for you in all of French Polynesia…..

Can you book it thru some online “discount” source?

Sure- but why would you when the voice of experience is waiting for you – “Your friends….in the travel business” are here to help – Consider EZTravelpad – your source for unbiased advise and best price.

Vahine Private Island in French Polynesia – a Review

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Vahine Private Island Resort is Paradise in French Polynesia

Have you ever dreamed of living on your own private island – away from everything and everybody?

Well you can almost accomplish just that at Vahine Private Island Resort – named by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the world’s Top 25 Escapes, and with good reason.

To get there from say…Chicago would go a little like this- Flight to L.A. Change airlines and take Air Tahiti Nui to Papeete, Tahiti. Change airlines again (may require an overnight in Tahiti) to fly to Raiatea to catch a boat transfer to the small island of Vahine -about a 30 minute boat trip from Raiatea past Tahaa to Vahine.

Alternately, you could fly from Tahiti to Bora Bora & catch a private helicopter to Vahine from Bora Bora


Vahine 1

arriving by boat you can expect to be greeted by Sophie (or another representative) who may be waiting with a cool fruit cocktail beverage and refreshing towel. I found the entire staff to be completely charming.

As the name suggests, this island is very private. There are a total of 9 guest bungalows so you and your travel partner will comprise more than 10% of the total number of guests on the entire island!

Finding a solitary place to relax is no problem….

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As you can see below, the chef and his staff do not have state-of-the-art culinary equipment to prepare our lunch, but often times excellent and low-tech are a good fit and I can assure you that our dining experience was excellent

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Simple- grilled meats and seafoods, ceviche, fruits – all extremely fresh and prepared to perfection.

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Sometimes the food at a restaurant is excellent, but the ambiance is sub-standard. Not this time…as you can see in the background, this restaurant has a killer view of Taha’a and is completely open air and just steps from the beach

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So the place is beautiful, small, private with a top-notch staff and excellent food – but how are the rooms you may ask? Well this should give you a sense……….

Below is a deluxe beach bungalow as viewed from the exterior – charming!

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The deluxe beach bungalow is a bit larger than the standard beach bungalow. In both cases the bungalows are located on the water (as opposed to over the water)

There are 3 standard, 3 deluxe, and 3 over water bungalows, so the choices are not overwhelming….but the authentic Polynesian construction and decor are. Simply Irresistible

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The 3 Overwater bungalows located out in the lagoon that separates Vahine from Taha’a actually have a view of the island of Bora Bora in the distance – one of the best views in all of French Polynesia

Vahine 8

So this is supposed to be a review- right?

Ok then, enough with the niceties….

How’s the pool? – There isn’t one

Is the ice machine close to the room?  Nope

Are you close to any “Hot” nightspots?  Absolutely not…..

Is the lounge a good place to go dancing at night?  Not really

Is there a better place to escape from it all for a few days and become one with nature in paradise? Maybe not….

Is there a better place for a Destination Wedding? Well, there certainly aren’t many other places that are this quaint and allow you to rent the entire resort! Even if you are not exchanging your vows on Vahine it would certainly be a wonderful place for part of your Honeymoon….

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This is French Polynesia. This is about sleeping until you wake up (around dawn) then enjoying the day to it’s fullest – snorkeling, swimming, windsurfing, kayaking, paying a board game with your mate – or reading a book in the quiet solitude of the South Pacific

Then of course there are other activities that might cost a few $$ – activities such as

  • Visit to a Pearl Farm or a Vanilla Farm
  • Get a massage
  • Tour neighboring islands
  • Scuba diving
  • Deep Sea Fishing
  • and more…

The best way for many to experience French Polynesia is to spend a few days at 2 or 3 different islands. Spend some time on Tahiti and Bora Bora or Moorea – and spend some time at a place that is totally removed from the rest of the world…..

For more info contact someone who has been there and can offer the best advice available – EZTravelpad is here to help every step of the way!




St Regis Resort in Bora Bora, French Polynesia – a Review

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St Regis – The Name Says it All

There are few brand names in the world that evoke images of  quality, elegance and opulence the way that St Regis does. For over 100 years and since it was opened by one of America’s wealthiest men, John Jacob Astor IV, The St Regis Hotel in New York has been one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.

St Regis became a Sheraton in 1966, then Sheraton was acquired by Starwood in 1998 and it wasn’t long before Starwood began expanding the brand worldwide. One St Regis brand resort – the St Regis Bora Bora in French Polynesia, has an entrance and view that may be familiar – ever see the mediocre flick “Couples Retreat”?

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Truly one of the most impressive views in the world as the sun sets over the Island of Bora Bora….

This was the view that Vince Vaughn & company took in as they first arrived at their resort renamed “Eden” in the film.

You may remember some of the other shots in this post since various locations were used in the filming, so if staying in a resort that was used as the backdrop is a bonus for you, this place may be for you.


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This private “plunge” pool is a part of the villa where a little known couple recently Honeymooned- I think they said their names were Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman if I remember correctly – perhaps you’ve heard of them?

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The private patio pictured above and below are also part of this luxury villa that is available if your pockets are very, very deep….

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The St Regis in Bora Bora is one of over a dozen St Regis properties worldwide that stretch from New York to Aspen to Bora Bora to Abu Dhabi and beyond.

After visiting several luxury resorts throughout French Polynesia I have had time to reflect on my thoughts regarding St Regis Bora Bora. Actually my feelings are mixed.

I suppose I think that St Regis Bora Bora has one of the most impressive views in the world, but equally impressive are the Four Seasons and Le Meridien located in close proximity

I also think that the St Regis sported the largest and most luxurious overwater bungalows that I visited (pictured below)

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I also am confident that the bathrooms in the overwater bungalows (pictured below) were the most luxurious and offered a view of Mt Otemanu from the tub and shower-

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I know that the buffet offered on the night of their Polynesian Show was impressive

st regis 8

I may never again drink from a prettier coconut…

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Overall is is difficult to poke holes in a tried and true luxury experience- From the Jean-Georges restaurant on site named Lagoon – to the view – to the grounds – to the bungalows, St Regis exudes luxury and status – yet, I was left a little cold.

Our small group of travel agents were treated like Kings at every other resort we visited throughout French Polynesia. We were wined and dined by the managers at nearly every resort we visited… world-class resorts, some with equally world-class reputations, but not at St Regis. Although we enjoyed the completely engaging company of a lovely associate, upper management was curiously absent. Although we enjoyed a wonderful Polynesian buffet, the Polynesian show was substandard compared to other shows we enjoyed elsewhere.

So is St Regis somewhere I would recommend to a client? Probably

Would St Regis Bora Bora be a good choice for a Destination Wedding? Of course, and they are kid friendly

Would St Regis Bora Bora be a good choice for a Honeymoon or Romantic celebration? Absolutely – the price will keep most families away and it is a completely lovely destination with world-class services and amenities

So my humble advice is this- If value is your motive there are better choices in French Polynesia.

If you want to stay away from the Riff-Raff (as if there were any riff-raff in French Polynesia) then this might be a good choice….until Octomom or The Kardashians decide they need a vacation…..then all bets are OFF

In any case just remember that EZTravelPad is here to help you sort it all out