Travel Steals & Deals


It's okay to admit it: not a day goes by that you don't get the urge to pull a Gauguin, chuck it all, and head to the South Pacific. And it's not like you have to hop a tramp steamer anymore: if you want to live out your fantasies and run away to Tahiti or Bora Bora or Fiji, you can be leaving on a jet plane any day of the week.

Before you run off to paradise, however, Travel Adviser begs you to lower your expectations. Paradise ain't what it used to be and, frankly, never matched the myth. Fiji has its share of clip joints and coups, and Tahiti is still recovering from the riots that erupted when the French government resumed testing nuclear weapons there. Few people traipse around naked (the Fijians especially frown on it) and you have to be careful where you cavort barefoot: many of those gorgeous beaches are naturally booby-trapped with coral fragments. And don't come running here if your idea of paradise is great golf courses, world-class tennis, or even fabulous swimming pools.

Paradise for pennies
If you need to chuck it all and don't have an inheritance to live on, the 8-day "Two-Island Escape" from Pacifica Vacations (800-571-1101) may be for you. For $899 per person (double occupancy), you'll get round-trip airfare to Tahiti from Los Angeles; a two-night stay on Tahiti and five nights on Moorea; airport transfers, and inter-island ferry service. What's the catch? The hotels are strictly standard issue, not the thatchted-hut accommodations of your dreams. And you'll pay another $150 per person if you travel in July, August, or December.

Type-A Getaway
If you can't conceive of chucking it all for as long as eight days, try the "Ultimate Romantic Long Weekend" from Tahiti Vacations (800-553-3477). This 4-night package costs $1,499 per person (double occupancy) and includes roundtrip flights from Los Angeles; two nights on Bora Bora and two on Tahiti; daily breakfast; a bottle of wine; and airport transfers. The accommodations are at beachfront Sofitel properties, which are nicely done French resorts.

The Fiji Fantasy
If you've got the bucks and the determination to do the South Pacific in high style, head to the Vatulele Island Resort, which is nestled on a barrier reef about 30 minutes by air from Nadi, the site of Fiji's international airport. The resort itself consists of 12 super-deluxe bures (bungalows), each the size of small home. This is probably as close as you'll ever get to that South Pacific fantasy. Book your bungalow as part of an 8-day/6-night package from Brendan Tours (800-431-8446). Prices start at $3,288 per person (double occupancy) and include the works: round-trip flights from Los Angeles to Fiji and then to Vatulele; five nights in a bure; all meal and beverages; most sports activities and island excursions; and a dayroom and an overnight stay at the Sheraton Fiji Resort in Nadi.

This column originally appeared in Travel Holiday magazine.

Copyright 1993-2008 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.