The sing-song greetings and choral affirmations of genuine warmth fill the air at the Four Seasons Bora Bora, along with calls from busy sea birds and melodic coqui frogs.
Hello is “ia ora na,” pronounced “yo’ rah nah,” with the accent on the first syllable, and, G, B,B A were you to score it. “Mau ru’ uru” is thank you, pronounced “mah-roo-roo,” with the same melody. Men and women alike pitch their voices a bit higher, tilt their heads, and lift their eyes with every charming greeting, which begins as soon as the puddle jumper lands at the tiny Motu Mute Airport in Bora Bora. Fly to LA, then to Tahiti (eight hours), and stay the night before the 50-minute flight over the bluest water to the French Polynesian island surrounded by atolls that host some of the world’s top hotel brands. Each sends a yacht to meet guests at the airport, for a fresh 15-minute cruise across the bay to the hotel’s dock.
At the Four Seasons Bora Bora, bucket list overwater bungalows are perched in the lagoon, inviting early-morning swims off your own private dock with a bright breakfast table set on your covered deck overlooking Mount Otemanu. A tomato-red tropical print tablecloth is the canvas for breakfast, delivered cheerfully in a Polynesian canoe.
The morning air is like silk, with a lithe breeze promising more of the same. The slow morning rush hour in the bay is on. Small quiet ferries deliver people to work, and fishing boats head out, hopeful. The lagoon is flat, ruffled by the occasional wake. I throw open the French doors from the king-bedroom suite and dive into the water, startling the neighborhood fish and rays.
Later, we meander down the shady paths of the resort to the Te Mahana Spa. The pace is playful, yet peaceful. With breathtaking lagoon and Pacific Ocean views from twin infinity pools, the treatment begins with local juices and fruit, a foot massage, and then continues with rebalancing rituals starring indigenous ingredients like skin-smoothing, Tahitian-black-pearl powder and detoxifying algae sourced from the ocean. A full body scrub, massage, and hour-long soak in a coconut bath leaves us thankful and grounded.
Days are spent lounging by the beach-side pool, dipping into the warm clear sea, paddling across the still water and snorkeling with the resident marine biologist who helps us graft coral that will repopulate the lagoon.
The Eskimos have thousands of words for snow. Here, there must be the same for blue water.
Falling asleep, we left the doors open to watch the dark sky brighten with stars and a new moon. The only sounds at night are the electric carts bumping across the boardwalk, delivering night caps and sleepy guests to bungalows.
Goodbye is “nana.” That’s “nah nah,” like “ha ha,” except with warmth, reflection and an open invitation to return.