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Why Hollywood is flocking to French Polynesia: “The most magical place”


When it comes to French Polynesia’s perfect destination – just an eight-hour flight from Los Angeles – Sienna India, CEO of ultra-luxury travel concierge Siena Karelrecommends going “to the smaller islands like Taha’a where [Tahitian] vanilla is from.”

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello have done just that by joining Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa (from $895 per night). Guests of the overwater suites and beach villas can swim with sharks, take helicopter or yacht tours, and drift snorkel through a spectacular crystalline coral garden channel with rainbows of tropical fish. The resort recently implemented a sustainability agenda that dramatically reduces plastic waste, plus completed renovations of its two $2,886-per-night Royal Pool Beach Villas, which feature plunge pools and not one but two outdoor tubs and showers.

Island hopping is a popular activity in the 118 atolls and islands of French Polynesia’s South Pacific – as has been done by Diane von Furstenberg, gathering Bradley Cooper, Irina Shayk, Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper and Allison Williams for a ride on her yacht .

The first time she visited the islands, Chelsea Handler (who has a new Netflix special, Revolution) chartered a yacht – “which I’m sure is very recognizable,” she jokes – for a dive trip with nine friends to the islands of Rangiroa, Fakarava, Nuku Hiva and Tetiaroa, diving twice a day in different spots, often with white and blacktip reef sharks. “They would take us to cool places, like a place where four o’clock is rush hour and all the sharks are passing by. The same goes for dolphins, where they all swam through this channel at some point during the day. It was one adventure after another,” says Handler THR.

Handler later returned to French Polynesia for the World Surf League competition in Teahupo’o, where she and her boyfriend, then-WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt, hung out in a beachside shack. “From there we went to the Four Seasons resort Bora Bora, and that was probably the best vacation of my life,” she says. “It was just the most magical place I’ve ever been. I cried the day we left.” One possible reason: the “ridiculous” service. “They gave us jet skis and we went to another island, had lunch, swam around and came back, and as soon as we stopped they brought us the last drink we drank, which in my case was always a frozen mango margarita,” she says.

The resort’s three-bedroom beachfront Villa Estate (starting at $15,945 per night) is most popular with people in the entertainment industry, including over the years Jimmy Kimmel (who survived the most elegant tsunami scare ever and wrote about it for HuffPost), and Jennifer Aniston with Justin Theroux, who had a buddymoon with friends including Courteney Cox and Jason Bateman.

Handler says the water around Bora Bora is “seven different colors, going from light, light aquamarine to this deep, deep turquoise and then to navy blue. My girlfriend and I went snorkeling, albeit with edibles, but we came out two and a half hours because it is so beautiful.” She is already plotting an opportunity to return.” All I could think was, “I need everyone I love to be in this place and see and experience this place.

A beach villa at the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort in French Polynesia.

St Regis

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban reportedly occupy the 13,000-square-foot Royal Estate Villa The St Regis Bora Bora Resort (from $931 per night), the same resort where Kristen Bell, Vince Vaughn and Bateman filmed the 2009 movie Couples retreat. Justin Bieber spent his vacation at the resort’s Overwater Royal Otemanu with a giant floating pool. The ultimate Bora Bora reset is a $20,000 per night package that includes accommodation at The Royal Estate Villa, daily private yoga, a personal chef, spa consultation, private Polynesian performance, customized wellness program, coral plants and a sailing trip at saber sunset on the complete catamaran with champagne. Also occupies that iconic vibrant turquoise lagoon: Conrad Bora Bora Nuiwhere Paris and Kathy Hilton stayed in 2022. It has a floating helipad, a decorated new French chef and a Manta Trust partnership with a resident marine biologist.

Conrad Bora Bora Nuia - Overwater Villas with Pool - French Polynesia

Pool Overwater Villas at the Conrad Bora Bora Nuia in French Polynesia.


There are also real private islands like Nukutepipiowned by Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberté, and the ultra-exclusive vacation spot that is the legacy of Marlon Brando, the hugely enduring and beloved A-list The Brando (from $3,625 per night). Located on the private atoll of Tetiaroa, it is surrounded by manta rays, sea turtles and even humpback whales at various times. It’s where Barack Obama escaped after his presidency to write his memoirs, and the likes of DiCaprio, Jay Z and Beyonce, Pierce Brosnan, Ellen DeGeneres and Winfrey have vacationed. Kim Kardashian spent $1 million there on her 40th birthday during the pandemic.

The Brando - Resort - Tetiaroa - French Polynesia

De Brando on Tetiaroa in French Polynesia.

The Brando

The Brando’s 35 villas have serious environmental credentials, such as a zero-impact air conditioning system that cools with deep-sea water, an organic garden, a scientific marine research lab, and even an ice-cold deep-water bath experience. In 2021, Rebel Wilson celebrated her birthday at the resort, which was a 1962 filming location Mutiny on the Bounty. She called it Rebel Island for a week while hanging out with friends including Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow and Arielle Kebbel. The group had a shipwreck mermaid dinner, an 80s themed pool party and swam in a secret lagoon, explored remote islands and snorkeled. She told Page six at the time: “Rebel Island was something I dreamed up years ago and The Brando made all my dreams come true. It was beyond epic and inspiring. This place is absolute heaven – no wonder Marlon Brando adored it.

A version of this story first appeared in the March 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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