Popular Getaway Location Celebrates 50 Years


Thoughts of a holiday on a tropical island, often bring to mind images of traditional, thatched cottages, positioned on stilts, high above the clear blue lagoons and offering panoramic views of the natural beauty on offer. These overwater bungalows were invented in 1967 – 50 years ago – and have now become commonplace on the beautiful islands of Tahiti, the tropical paradise which welcomes up to 200,000 visitors each year. This year sees the first three overwater bungalows celebrate 50 years since being built to provide a solution to the lack of sandy beaches on the island of Raiatea. These three innovative buildings were the brainchild of Hugh Kelley, Muk McCallum and Jay Carlisle, the ‘Bali Hai Boys’.

The ‘Bali Hai Boys’ travelled from California to the Tahiti islands in the 1960’s and saw an opportunity to generate tourism throughout the area. Their hotels on the island of Moorea prospered thanks to breath-taking views, beaches and underwater activities. In order to attract holiday makers to Raiatea, which offered plenty of views and stunning locations but lacked the sandy respites of traditional getaway spots, the overwater bungalows were designed to offer views of the ocean and were among the first buildings to feature glass flooring above lagoons and transforming the island into a much sought-after destination.

The original three bungalows, which formed part of the Bali Hai hotel complex, have inspired hoteliers over the past 50 years. The Tahiti region is now home to 884 overwater structures, offering luxurious stays across seven islands and which are operated by 22 individual hotels. The traditional pandanus leaf-thatched bungalows have inspired more modern and luxurious structures, often featuring terraces, first class services and the iconic glass floors – which are fondly referred to locally as ‘Tahiti TV’.

In May, the islands of Tahiti were recognised as the top honeymoon destination in the world in the annual BRIDES’ Honeymoon Awards Survey for the fourth consecutive year. Tahiti Tourisme, a hub for information on all aspects of life in the South Pacific region, have attributed the secluded areas, intimate hideaways and romantic overwater bungalows as some of the main factors in this decision.

For more information, history and facts about the 118 islands in the Tahiti region, visit www.tahiti-tourisme.com.