A colourful aromatic island garden where tropical flowers bloom all year round, Moorea is a 30 minute boat trip from downtown Papeete. A heart shaped island dominated by Mount Tohiea rising 1200m above the South Pacific Ocean, Moorea is made for lovers. Lovers of wild native gardens. Lovers of kaleidoscopic gardens concealed beneath the sea. Lovers of Polynesian culture, music, dance and hand-crafted artifacts.
So too, lovers of romance, charmed by the laid back nature of traditional island life in a dramatically picturesque landscape. Part of the Windward Island group which make up the Society Archipelago, Moorea feels another world away from civilisation.
Disembarking from the ferry Aremiti, the air is heavy with the scent of tiare blooms, the national floral emblem of Tahiti. Akin to a gardenia, tiare’s white blossoms are used to make beautifully scented flower crowns and necklaces. Late in the wet season, swirling clouds drift across forested craggy peaks that dominate the skyline. Despite the grey light, the turquoise lagoon beyond the shore shimmers, a bejeweled underwater garden concealed beneath a velvety sea.
I’ve only the briefest time in Moorea so I intend to make the most of it. The first thing I do after checking into Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa on the north coast is head straight to the Manea Spa. Spoilt for choice between hot stone massage, rain shower massage, Polynesian acupressure massage, pineapple monoi (coconut oil) massage or a scalp and foot massage, I opt for a traditional Polynesian massage scented with vanilla, which grows in these islands in abundance.
All treatments at Manea Spa begin with ten minutes relaxation in the steam room. Ever since living in New Zealand, where I found the cold climate debilitating, I’ve loved a steam room. Ten minutes is nowhere near long enough for me to stretch out on a bench and breathe in the moist warm air. A wash down in the jet shower room follows before I disrobe and allow my therapist to work her Polynesian magic on my tension-riddled body.
Using a coconut oil base infused with vanilla, a traditional Polynesian massage is a whole body experience designed to relax the mind and body, leaving the skin richly moist and soothed. The therapist uses her fingers, hands and forearms to apply light pressure, all the while massaging and moisturising sun-parched skin.
Face down to begin with, back, shoulders and neck, which hold most of our bodily tension, are massaged gently, The funny thing about having a massage is how time seems to hover in suspended animation. Totally blissed out, the prevailing thought that runs through my mind is how much I don’t want this 50 minutes to end.
A little international indulgence that rarely finds a place in my life when I’m at home, spending time in a spa is one of things I promise myself I will do more of whenever I’m on a massage table. I could never understand how my ex-husband would rather have teeth pulled than be massaged. Though perhaps, that explains more about why he’s now my ex.
My treatment ends with a scalp massage designed to send me off into la-la land, as if I wasn’t already there. Leaving me to slowly bring myself back into the world, I chill out for a further ten minutes before rising from the table. Iced ginger tea and a chilled face washer bring me back into the conscious world.
Suffering distinctly from ‘spa hair’ with no dinner date for the evening, I decide not to shower, allowing the aromatic oils to further absorb into my skin, the aroma of vanilla lingering overnight.
Treatment: Monoi Maitai (Relaxing Massage) 50 min XPF13,000 / AUD130
Signature Treatment: Rumiavai (Aquatic Massage) 90 min XPF165,000 AUD165. “Delivered in a private warmed spa pool, your body, floating on the water, is smoothly or firmly massaged and stretched in ways not possible in land-based massage, releasing nervous tension, a caring and nourishing experience.”
Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa, Moorea, French Polynesia
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