|Courtesy Bora Bora Pearl Beach|
Few spas have transported me as thoroughly as the Manea Spa here. The design, the details (colorful sarongs for guests to wear instead of white robes), and the divine locally developed products (sweet monoi oil, pungent but powerfully healing tamanu balm) all made it clear: I was in a real South Pacific paradise, not a branded version. I loved the native treatments, particularly Manea Uaua, an acupressure-and-stretching massage similar to Thai, and Avae Taurumi, "barefoot bodywork," in which the therapist hangs from ceiling bars and massages your back with his feet. Both were a mixture of power and intuitive sensitivity. The therapists are all Polynesian, chosen because massage was handed down in their families, not because they graduated from therapist-training school, and their affinity for their work comes through. I love this spa for its eccentricity, too: The menu includes tattooing, done by a talented Polynesian artist in a treatment room with candles and soft music. — A.A.