Well buckle in, because there is a lot to say about this resort. In a word…INCOMPARABLE!!!! I apologize beforehand for this lengthy review, but it has to be. Please take the time to read because this place deserves it!!! I have been very fortunate to stay at some very top tier hotels and resorts ( I am a self proclaimed Madarin O addict) and I have never seen such a stunning location or unparalleled service in my life…We really, really, really hated to leave and I was a bit worried before our arrival that it might be a bit too laid back and we would run out of ways to just…relax. But they spoil you so bad from the time you arrive that that is really next to impossible. This is one of those resorts where they are almost too helpful, like when I asked for just a little saran wrap to take some cheese and a croissant with us on a boat ride and instead they returned with a double paper plate homemade Bento box like thing…wow.. it’ s just cheese… But not to them!
Arrival 25 Sept 2013
So when you arrive at the airport they greeted us by name (I have no idea how they knew as there were other guests before and after us) and then swept us off to our own large boat to take us over to the resort, without us even needing to identify our luggage…It made it ! We were greeted at the dock by cool towels and our butler Konstatin Wagner, and much more on him later. Because of the time of the flight, we arrived at 8:30 or so in the morning so we didn’t expect our room to be ready, having read on TA about this beforehand, so we had packed our swimsuits in our carry-on and just changed into them and hit the beach until the room was ready. They did park us at the lounge with a pool table, snacks and coffee maker (which you need to repress the button after you brew your cup or it will keep going, to my witnessed cup juggling until I figured that one out!) but we made our way to the beach anyways but did return another day for a game of pool!
You swear the beaches are painted because they are so blue. The hotel is just beautiful and immaculate. It is a big resort so we did borrow bikes from the rack but did not feel that it was so big that we needed to hide them as our own. They collect them from the rooms each night and we let them. It’s really just a 10 min. walk but call and they will come pick you up in the golf cart, which you can even pre-arrange, if you’re that type! The main bar is so cool and open and for you cigar smokers, go ahead and torch it up…very relaxing place to do so and well ventilated. It is open smoking anywhere. But as far as cigars, I brought my own and good thing…While nothing is cheap at the resort, $80 for a cigar is painful. Bring your own and you’ll really enjoy. And the resort never felt crowded at all while we were there because it is so spread out. And right across the lagoon is Mount Otemanu which makes it even more “Disney-esque”. We went to the feeding at the langoonarium and actually got in the water with our masks, fins and snorkels and watched the feeding from the water.
Food and Beverage
It’s French and it’s expensive, but don’t expect French Laundry..It is very good, and again, the setting is incredible. The breakfast buffet is excellent and they have everything. One day they even had a Bloody Mary table set up. Then there is an egg menu as well…Eggs Benedict are killers, as are the little banana muffins..We ate three dinners on property and two of them off (St. James and Villa Mahana reviewed separately). We ate at SushiTaki (very good..$213 for two of us) the new Italian restaurant just opened (very heavy and a bit salty, even for me cause I love the stuff…$136 for two) and then The Lagoon . This is a must, but not so much for the food, which is good, but for the setting and experience. We went to the 6:00 sitting and Thanh Mi , the adorable hostess (more on her later) put us on the terrace smack dab in the middle and the view was just unreal. Sharks swim under the restaurant and can be seen through the floor. I had the Parrotfish which was just a bit tough but the tuna tartar appetizer is fabulous. We stayed after and sat at the bar and had Manhattans and a cigar and joked with a young newlywed couple trying different types of single malt scotch. Very fun. Dinner for two, $325…Drinks are like LA or New York where a $20 martini is not hard to find and we did grab a little Woodford Reserve Bourbon and some vodka at LAX duty free and then bought vermouth from the bar at the resort, which was very reasonable, $50 total for 2 large bottles (dry and sweet.). But we ended up not even drinking our own stash all gone (6 days and nights), although carrying your small flask of vodka down to breakfast when they don’t have the Bloody Mary table set up is a welcome addition to your mango juice! No tie for dinner but I did wear a jacket to Villa Mahana and to Lagoon, but I have a tendency to over pack and overdress!…Linen shirt and slacks are plenty…
We were very lucky and we were upgraded to the Royal Overwater Two Bedroom Pool Villa (#122) and at over 2800 sq. ft., it was STUNNING!!!! I used one closet in one bedroom (she used the other) and the spare bathroom as my bar, and there was a large common room and then a huge deck with our own fresh water pool (not heated but who cares) and lounge chairs and tables for morning coffee. And the view of the mountain right out your door and turquoise water you could ski on!!!!!!!!!!! It truly is the best over water villa on property, although there are bigger rooms but those have a beach entrance , not over water. Yes, we did walk out in the morning and fall into the water off our deck and no, we did not pause to grab our suits….Outside shower to rinse off as well…No bugs, no mosquitoes…not one….
We did the around the island jet ski tour and if you own your own jet skis, you may be a bit bored but the scenery is great so it is a really fun activity to do. They stop on a little sand bar and give you fresh fruit and cocoanut.. We did the Hobie Cat for 90 minutes and Olivier was very entertaining but you may want to skip if you did the jet ski, so I would do one or the other…I did a two tank dive with the Bora Dive shop ($170 just me) and they were funny and wild Frenchmen and the dive was a first for me with 10 foot Lemon sharks and a group of huge Manta Rays passing right over my head…never had that before. We snorkeled in the lagoonerium during the feeding and that was kind of fun. We paddle boarded (first for us)…and that was about it….
When you order your drink, and then go out paddle boarding on a whim (as you can when you want at this resort) and the tanned beach staff comes out on their paddle board to tell you that your drinks have been delivered to your little spot in the sand on the beach…and then turns around and paddles back..how could you ever leave!!! It is that good…and more. Everyone is friendly and greets you ALL THE TIME and many times, by name. They speak Polynesian and French and very acceptable English but as in France, we dabbled with our French just cause we like to. One thing to remember is that there is just a little bit of “Polynesian time” here meaning when you order a drink, don’t expect your order slapped down with Carnegie-deli like speed… Relaaaax…look around….it’ll come… All of the staff are great but there are some standouts, at least to us and I’m sure other guests had theirs.
Adelie was the concierge and she arranged all activites and timed them all. If there is any time change, she has them come find you on the beach! Thanh Mi Iling was the adorable hostess in the morning and at the lagoon restaurant as well and she could not have been cuter. She remembered out names and had this fun running competition going with our Butler, Konstantin, for who provided better service…She was so helpful and we knew we could count on her to find us a great spot when we decided to drag ourselves down to breakfast….I hope she stays…
And then Konstantin…As the boat pulls away to leave and he’s standing on the dock waving, you really feel it! I know that sounds corny but you do. When we arrived at our next stop (the Morea Intercontinental reviewed dispassionately elsewhere) we wanted to call him up …”So Konstantin…ummm..whatcha doin?” This guy was unbelievable!!! He would magically show up at different places on property and see if you needed anything. We were sorry we never were able to sit at the bar IN the pool while we were there and the bar was not open yet when we had to leave and he told us to just tell him what we wanted and he would get the drinks there. He offered to unpack and pack our luggage and came by and checked our doors of the villa to make sure they were locked when we went off island..But the BEST of the BEST is that I asked my girlfriend to marry me on this trip and he and the staff helped arrange the whole thing. I had planned on renting a boat and Adelie helped with that and picked out an island that was going to be empty…Tapu.. and then they arranged a boat rental to get there ( a very slow going pontoon…I am a boater so you can imagine when kayakers were passing us how I felt about that!!). But I told Konstantin I wanted to have the ring in a shell that we could open on this beach, so in his spare time he found one and left it in my closet with a note on when and how to get it to him the next day, which I did, just before we left for the boat. During breakfast he took it all and glued the shell shut with the ring inside in a small red pouch (I wasn’t gutsy enough to put it alone in the shell because I felt I could find a red pouch in the sand, but not an engagement ring!!!), and hid it in my gear bag. As we left he told me where it was and when we got to Tapu, uninhabited as promised, I smuggled it into my swimsuit and went for a snorkel and then after a few dives, announced to my bride-to-be that I had found a shell and as a dare, we should eat whatever was inside…and with the small knife from the in-room wine opener, and with just the right amount of glue, it popped open and…the rest…as they say…But from then on, the whole resort knew our story and asked all about it…Konstantin did all of this and just the way I had envisioned it, even better. Since I couldn’t do it myself, he took care of all of the details and caught my fiancée completely by surprise..It also helped that I waited a few days!!! He certainly deserves honorable mention but everyone is great at this resort.
It’s expensive, no doubt but for a once in a lifetime treat…save up and come here…We really miss it already and I am the type that likes to go to different places even after I find one I love…I just like variety…but here!!!! I have to come back…
And ok…If I have to come up with one negative….the pool cues need new tips…
Some people, I guess, are just never happy….Biz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.