Tahiti Tourisme is celebrating 50 years of overwater bungalows, the striking over-the-water accommodation that helped put the Islands of Tahiti on the map.
In 1967, Tahiti became the first destination in the world to take accommodation into uncharted waters, building suites over its islands’ beautiful blue lagoons in a move that cemented the Society Islands as one of the world’s most sought-after holiday destinations.
The first humble overwater bungalows were built in Raiatea and Moorea by the “Bali Hai Boys” – Americans Don “Muk” McCullum, Jay Carlisle and the late Hugh Kelley – who travelled to the region after being swept away by James Michener’s South Pacific.
Fifty years on, there are now nearly 900 overwater bungalows spread across eight of Tahiti’s 118 islands, with the picturesque accommodation becoming as famous as the destination’s dazzling lagoons.
Originally built as traditional stilted coral homes, over the past five decades the Islands of Tahiti’s overwater bungalows have evolved into palatial suites boasting private terraces, infinity pools, hammocks, spa baths and in-room glass floors – fondly referred to as Tahiti TV.
The iconic Hotel Bora Bora, the first hotel built on Bora Bora, which is set to reopen as an Aman Resort in the coming years, added overwater suites in 1970 and now eleven Bora Bora resorts from the St Regis to the Four Seasons and the Sofitel, all offer the picturesque style of accommodation which has helped to make the island a popular playground for honeymooners and celebrities alike.
The first two-storey villas were introduced by the Hilton Bora Bora (now the Conrad) in 2009 and made famous by the Kardashians in 2011, with the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso currently constructing its own split-level suites which are set to open later this year.
Tahiti Tourisme Director Australia New Zealand Robert Thompson said Tahiti’s popularity as a high-end destination can be traced back to the introduction of overwater villas half a century ago.
“Nothing compliments Tahiti’s striking natural beauty more than her overwater bungalows. This luxurious style of accommodation blends seamlessly with the islands’ crystal-clear lagoons, laid-back culture and French sophistication. Overwater villas are a huge part of what makes Tahiti so remarkable and why it has been the world’s pre-eminent island destination for five decades,” Mr Thompson said.
Indulge in the ultimate overwater experience with a 12-night package offering a stay in overwater bungalows across three islands including Tahiti, Bora Bora and Rangiroa from NZ$7578* per person twin share. The package includes return economy flights from Auckland, overwater accommodation at Le Meridien Tahiti, Le Meridien Bora Bora and Kia Ora Resort Rangiroa, and transfers including inter-island flights.