The World’s Most Inspiring Escapes: The Ultimate Guide to French Polynesia

After a year of stillness, the promise of travel is a glimmer on the horizon. To help focus our wanderlust, we’ve tapped creative locals around the globe to share the places they go in their own hometowns when they’re in need of inspiration—and what they wear when they go. Whether you’re dreaming of the Côte d’Azur or a holiday on the gold sand beaches of Senegal, open your suitcase and start planning your next trip to the world’s most inspiring escapes.

Jamie Pelayo

As co-founder of one of the world’s most singular beauty brands, Jamie Pelayo has traveled the world over, seeking out the most efficacious ingredients harvested from the most beautiful places on the planet. It's this committed pursuit that has set NatureofThings, her two-year-old Los Angeles-based body care line, apart, elevating natural beauty to the nth degree. Smooth stone vessels that seem plucked from a crystalline river house within them transformative soaks and balms driven, yes, by the expected potent botanicals (including plumeria and cedarwood oil), but also by malachite and quartz extracts and “mineral-charged” seawater sourced from a deep marine lake within the ocean. “We call it elemental beauty and wellness, because we’re not just plant based, we incorporate all of the ingredients that come from earth, like glacial clay [from British Columbia] and things formed by fire, like volcanic ash [from Jeju Island],” says Pelayo.

Throughout the brand-building and formula discovery process, French Polynesia has served as a constant inspiration point, acting as an olfactive mirror for the heady floral fragrances in their delicious Restorative Floral Bath Soak, and as a philosophical one for the way in which products should be created and make you feel. “It’s a wild place where all of the elements come together—land, sea, air, sun—for this beautiful balance between people, pace of life, and nature. A lot of the land is impenetrable. Most people live on the rim. It requires a lot to explore the depths.” Though, with a few inside tips, Pelayo assures, you can see some of the world’s most miraculous feats of nature without heroic effort. From the resort that offers the best sunset views to a hidden freshwater river out of a dream, here, Pelayo shares her studied guide to French Polynesia—and what to wear when you’re there.

Le Taha'a

Where to Stay

Le Taha’a: “This is on a private motu just off of the island of Taha’a that’s accessed by their beautiful wooden private boat. It’s such a stunning environment and completely infused with the culture of French Polynesia. The views towards Bora Bora at sunset are stunning and the water is so gentle. It’s just magical nature, which is really what you’re there for. The resort is just a luxurious backdrop for when you need some shade.”

What to Wear

“It’s all about swimwear and caftans. At the resort, you get around by walking or by riding little beach cruisers. You’re either barefoot or in a lovely pair of sandals.”

The Freshwater River

What to See

The Fa’aroa River: “Hire a boat to take you to uninhabited motus and have a picnic. The sea is just so abundant in the Society Islands, and the locals know the reefs. You can go fishing with the guides, snorkel in the Coral Garden just off of the resort or have them take you to the Fa’aroa River, which is also so beautiful. Hibiscus flowers just naturally float down the fresh water. You couldn’t make it up if you wanted to.”

What to Wear

Swimsuits and billowy blouses that let the tropical air breathe through and cool you off.”

Palm tree

What to Eat

Fish & Blue: “Restaurants are pretty much non-existent outside of the capital island Tahiti and the larger tourist islands like Moorea and Bora Bora. Most islands have “Le snack bars,” but there is a wonderful restaurant on Raiatea called Fish & Blue. The food is divine. And for the layover on the way in or out of French Polynesia, spend an evening dining on garlic shrimp and rice at Les Roulettes near the harbor in downtown Papa’ete.”

What to Wear

“Throw on some jewelry,” says Pelayo. Embrace the natural elements in pearls and an equally luminous dress the color of the sea.

Pearl Farm

What to Do

Champon Pearl Farm: “Taha’a is known as the Vanilla Isle (over 80% of Tahitian vanilla is from this small island), but you can also find a few pearl farms there and a great rum distillery. La Vallee de la Vanille is a farm I’ve visited. It’s interesting to see how the process works. The vanilla orchids have to be hand pollinated. You can’t replicate the process with a machine so there’s an inextricable link between humans and nature. It’s the same with pearl production—humans swim out to these pearl cages and trigger a reaction to cultivate the pearl within the oyster. It takes several years to make a pearl. Champon Pearl Farm and Love Here Pearl Farm are a few great local ones to visit. You can also visit a rum distillery called Domaine Pari Pari, made from local Taha’a sugarcane. That’s really fun.”

What to Wear

A featherweight floral dress the shade of the sun and barely-there sandals. “I’m a whites, greys, blacks person. [French Polynesia] is the only place where I’ll wear color. Your skin is tan, the backgrounds are so vibrant, you want to look like a flower.”

*All images courtesy of Jamie Pelayo