"Re-gifting" and is one of my family’s goofy traditions when we get together for the holidays. My mom is the best at it, because she’s lucky and is always winning little things to use for our white elephant gift exchange. This year, she won a trip to Tahiti as the grand prize of our dream getaway contest, and she re-gifted it to me. This story is about that amazing journey. If you’re interested, you can check out Hapari’s blog on my mom’s generous choice to re-gift her prize.
Tahiti is one of those famous vacation spots that many people have on their bucket list. We always dreamed about French Polynesia, but Hapari made that dream a reality for me and my boyfriend, Shelton. We left the kids with family, packed our suitcases and headed from Orlando to Papeete — Tahiti's capital — on Memorial Day weekend. After about 18 hours of travel (whew!), we arrived in Tahiti at 5:30 a.m. It was still dark, but we could vaguely make out the mountain backdrop. Also, the runway lights reflected off the ocean, so we knew we had arrived in paradise! The early morning ferry was a great choice and offered us sunrise views of Tahiti’s volcanic mountainside and Moorea Island’s crystal clear turquoise waters.
DAY 1: We checked into the Hilton Moorea Resort and stepped into our luxurious over-water bungalow! Our room had iced champagne waiting, a glass floor panel to view the ocean floor below, a private balcony and a swim platform with a ladder leading right into the lagoon. Day one was all about taking it in. We took the beach kayak for a quick over-water exploration of the resort and underwater reefs. Later that evening we sat on the dive platform with our feet in the lagoon and had a champagne toast to recognize the generosity of Hapari and my mother, Donalee, for making our trip possible. As if we didn’t already expect it, reality set in and we knew it would be a great week.
DAY 2: Shelton and I spent the next day exploring the water. I couldn’t wait to put on my bathing suit and jump into the lagoon. I chose my new Eyelet Tankini, from the Tahiti Collection of course! Most of Hapari’s suits work with different strap
configurations and I really liked that this top gave me a strapless option. It stayed up and fit great through many jumps off the swim platform, kayaking and snorkeling. I went back to this suit towards the end of the trip because it was my favorite and made me feel great! We learned that many islands in French Polynesia are surrounded by a natural lagoon, and the water seemed to break about 1/4 mile out which made for calm waters. We could clearly see the reef, fish and sand below in 5-6 feet of water as if it was only a few inches deep!
DAY 3: We woke up to a calming rain, but it quickly cleared up for a nice day. This evening was marked by a traditional Polynesian dinner show that included musing, dancers, fire and an opportunity to make a lei with fresh plumeria/frangipani blossoms. Shelton and I ate lots of fresh fish all week, but this buffet had a particularly impressive spread of raw fish salads, prawns, sashimi and French desserts. It was a great day!
DAY 4: I wore my Twist Tankini for a boat trip around the entire island for sight-seeing and dolphin-watching. We stopped for an hour to snorkel and swim with little black-tipped reef sharks and rays that gather daily in a shallow sandy area between Moorea and another small nearby island. Later, we stopped at the little island for lunch where our guide showed us how to make a Tahitian fish salad with raw tuna, lime, coconut milk and fresh vegetables. It was neat to swim with the rays, but the most remarkable thing of the day was the clear blue water that surrounds the island.
DAY 5: The inner island tour offered a balanced perspective of Moorea Island. We visited a tropical garden, pineapple farm, historical ruins, a mountain-top overlooking the bays and a juice factory. I went for a quick night snorkel after dinner and wore my underwire tankini, which looked great with my Mikado Tummy Tuk Bottoms. The island is very dark at night. In fact, it was so dark that I became disoriented when snorkeling with my little waterproof light and accidentally climbed up on the wrong bungalow’s swim platform! Shelton promptly caught my attention, and I quickly splashed back into the water. We giggled about my mistake, but I’m sure our neighbors didn’t find it as humorous!
DAY 6: We walked down the street for lunch at a local food truck before we took the ferry back to Papeete, Tahiti. There was just enough time for us to spend a couple hours at the local market to pick up souvenirs for our family and shop for Tahitian Pearls.
DAY 7: We stayed at Le Meridian in Tahiti and spent the day poolside and soaking in the sun. This resort had gorgeous gardens and a sandy-bottom pool. Later, Shelton and I caught the sunset and had one last romantic dinner at a French restaurant on the water.
DAY 8: We left early the next morning and waved goodbye to the mountains, flowers and blue lagoon. A long day of travel gave us time to sort through vacation photos and prepare to go back to reality, work, and our home in Florida. It was a fantastic trip and more beautiful and relaxing than we ever imagined. Thank you again, Hapari, for the amazing swimwear and this fantastic vacation of a lifetime.