Inter-isle travel in Polynesia is either by ferry or by airplane. We traveled by ferry, as it was much cheaper and easier with the bikes. Our large red ferry pulled into the port of Huahine after a 9-hour trip, unloading cargo and merchandise and then our bikes. A couple of men had come into port to recuperate their merchandise, but as the ferry pulled away from the dock, so, too, did the men disappear back into the darkness of the night, leaving us all alone to wonder at this small town on this small island where we found ourselves.

The first thing I noticed, really, was the small sand beach by the port and the tiny, brightly colored Christmas lights strung up over the main street. The gently lapping water, the sand, and the warm evening air all combined to give Huahine a very islandy feel. Tahiti was much more populous and the city feel was never far, but here in Huahine, we immediately felt as though we had reached a remote island.

I looked with interest at the shop windows lining the main street (there is only one road in Huahine, a circular route that follows the circumference of the two islands that are joined by a small bridge). There were Internet cafes (horrendously expensive), a supermarket, a tobacco shop, and a couple of clothing and souvenir shops.

After several hours of searching for Franck and Loretta’s house in the very dark night, we finally found it and Stephane and Franck exchanged news and laughed together like old friends. I was happy for him; he’d been so looking forward to coming here.

Franck and Loretta had moved to Huahine in 2001, when they acquired property from Loretta’s family. The property had been untamed, overgrown jungle on the water’s edge. They worked hard to clear it, spilling a lot of sweat and blood. They now have four bungalows that they rent to tourists – all built and decorated in authentic Tahitian style. They are constructed of wood, bamboo, and palm leaves, and decorated with dozens of fresh flowers every day. They cook up fabulous meals to serve their guests: pineapple and shrimp salad, coconut-encrusted tuna, papaya and cream, bananas flambee, crepes. They are served in exquisite style, and always beautifully arranged with fresh flowers. We ate with the family after the guests had been served, and always something mouth-wateringly delicious.

Their land sits directly on the water and the sunsets can be magnificent on a good day. As you sit or swim in the shallow depths and look back towards the property, all that can be seen is one bungalow sitting on the beach, with palms in the foreground and a lush greenery climbing up the surrounding hillsides. You can imagine yourself “seule au monde,” as much as Robinson Crusoe ever was.

But what really distinguishes Franck and Loretta’s Pension Tupuna is its garden, which must surely be one of the most magnificent private gardens the world has ever seen. After painstakingly clearing the land, Franck planted tropical fruits and exotic flowers galore. He now has 42 types of fruit, several types of spices, and between 200-250 different species of plants, including gorgeous tropical flowers. The plants are always flowering, falling by the dozens each day and somehow reproducing enough overnight to have just as much the next day! There is always plenty for the bungalows, the dinner plates, and the hair. It’s like a continually flourishing Garden of Eden.

We started each day in Huahine in a truly islandy way: breakfast of fruit from Franck’s tropical garden (Heaven on earth!). We spent the daytimes talking with Franck and Loretta or Loretta’s daughter Vaite and her boyfriend Jeremy. Franck likes a good laugh and regaled us with funny stories. He dances to Spanish music with his one-year old son, Alexandre, and he and Stephane played backgammon by the hours. I loved when Loretta would laugh her wonderful laugh, which is so joyful. Their one-year old son Alexandre likes to dance and is already a knock-out.

We went swimming in the very, very warm waters at the edge of the property or at a nearby islet, then watched the sky change color at sunset, as tiny fish skipped in front of us, trying to escape the jaws of some larger fish. Franck took us out on his pirogue (typical Tahitian boat), where we could swim in the hot, transparent turquoise waters just off the barrier reef where Europeans first saw surfers 300 years ago.

The water around the island was impossibly beautiful, in all its varied shades of blue. We biked around the two islands of Huahine, stopping at the local pearl farm (Polynesia is known for its pearls), watching the crabs skitter across the road, and admiring small, one-story houses by the sea that were bordered by flowering plants, papayas, and coconut palms. We watched a succession of beeping 4x4s drive around the island, waving large flags behind them, tooting their horns and playing loud music in celebration of Sarkozy’s win in the presidential elections that day.

Huahine was truly beautiful and our stay was made magical by the hospitality of Franck and Loretta and by the unforgettable times that we spent with them.