The staff at the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort and Spa take great pride in nourishing guests; one goes so far as to plait my hair with coconut oil – for strength, she said. Tahitian women, challah-thick braids swinging down broad backs, ooze vitality and strength. This whole island is a hothouse, a botanical bounty flowing down Mount Otemanu so abundantly I feel the island's fertility in my bones.
In this region of the world, massage therapists take it easy with hand-based work, using their feet instead to get into beefier bits. The Avae Taurumi is a deep-tissue treatment where the therapist works the ball and heel of her foot up and down your back. I sign up with slight trepidation as my last one involved a 250-pound woman going Gangnam on my spine. Here, my therapist hangs over my naked body from a wooden rafter, moving with Nureyev-like grace and precision.
Bora Bora's geography is simple: dramatic volcanic remnants in the centre and low coastal land strips fanning out in a fringe. We're on the most pristine, reefless side of the isle, and of all the five-star resorts here, Bora Bora Pearl boasts the prime position. Think waist-high clear water over paper-white sand. The 570-square-feet overwater villas are scented by the plumeria in the air. Each features a glass floor area, which lets you gaze into the sea where the resort's coral gardeners have planted natural formations attracting hundreds of fish.
Polynesians have long used tattoos to indicate status. This is the only resort spa in the region that offers a resident tattoo artist who can adorn guests with traditional Tahitian art. Tu Hei is much sought after for his expertise.
Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa at Motu Tevairoa, French Polynesia; 1-800-223-6800; spmhotels.com; $152 for 50-minute Avae Taurumi. The writer was a guest of the resort..