Going Our Way: Diving into luxury in the South Pacific

By Carol Sottili
Sunday, January 17, 2010

Who: Maya Hunnewell, 34, and Rich Hunnewell, 36, of Medford, N.J.

Where: Tahiti, Bali or a similarly exotic destination

Why: To celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary

When: Late October/early November for about two weeks

Budget: $10,000

"We have already been to Tahiti (Moorea, Bora Bora), but would like to visit Rangiroa for the diving with hammerheads. We enjoy active vacations (scuba diving, hiking, water activities). We prefer higher-end hotels and loved the over-water bungalow style."

Researching Maya and Rich Hunnewell's proposed trip to the South Pacific cut the cold better than a hot cup of cocoa. Gazing at photos of palm-fronded ocean bungalows while listening to experts describe diving in 80-degree waters amid sharks, dolphins, rays and other sea creatures reminded me that there are places where freeze warnings never occur.

Tahiti and Bali are both superb diving and beach destinations. After talking to two travel agents who are avid divers, I've added Fiji to the list. The Maldives would also be perfect, but luxury resorts there are super-expensive.

Although $10,000 sounds like a boatload of money for a two-week trip, there are plenty of luxury resorts that would take the Hunnewells way over budget. Properties on smaller islands that offer over-water bungalows and/or specialize in diving were especially pricey: Some came in at more than $1,000 a day. High rollers or lottery winners might want to take a look at Fiji's Likuliku Lagoon Resort (888-946-5458, http://www.likulikulagoon.com) or Namale Resort & Spa (800-727-3454, http://www.namalefiji.com); Indonesia's Wakatobi Dive Resort (http://www.wakatobi.com); and Diva Maldives (http://www.naiade.com). And don't forget the super-luxe Four Seasons and Aman properties that dot the South Pacific.

But back to reality. Let's detail the positives and negatives, and the nuts and bolts of traveling to each of our four choices.


The Hunnewells have already been to the French Polynesian islands of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora and have stayed at very nice properties, including the Le Meridien Bora Bora. Many tour operators, including Pleasant Holidays (800-742-9244, http://www.pleasantholidays.com) and Islands in the Sun (888-828-6877, http://www.islandsinthesun.com), offer well-priced packages to these island favorites, but smaller islands are either not offered or cost a lot more.

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