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Affairs Of The Heart

March 16, 1986|JERRY HULSE | Hulse is the editor of Traveling in Style.

Countless other honeymooners choose the Hotel Bora Bora, with its over-water bungalows in French Polynesia. At Hotel Bora Bora, visitors can pore over a menu listing curried island crab, grilled mahi-mahi , oysters on the half shell, Camembert and escargots delivered from France, lamb flown in from New Zealand and papaya that hangs in fat clumps outside one's door. Guests are provided with face masks, fins and snorkel gear for exploring the lagoon, as well as with bicycles for circling the island. Immense breakers pound the reef, as they have for an eternity. Without question, the lagoon at Bora Bora is the most beautiful on earth.

One could do worse than choose Beachcomber Island in Fiji for a honeymoon--or for a place to fall in love. On Beachcomber Island no one hurries. On the entire island there is not a single car. Instead, outriggers are used to get around this speck of sand with its umbrella of palms and endless summer days. When I visited Beachcomber several years ago, the high priest was Dan Costello, an Irishman and former cattle rancher who chose the island as a place to escape with his family. Only he had too many friends, so he kept building thatched cottages until one day he found himself in the resort business. On Beachcomber, days become lost to time. Lovers of all ages and persuasions flock there: Australians, Americans, Britons, New Zealanders.

Others with a penchant for a similar low-key vacation / honeymoon need look no farther than to a few peaceful days on the Big Island of Hawaii or heavenly Hana on Maui. Few destinations provide a lovelier setting. I recall driving to Hana once in a pink-striped jeep over a path that made the Burma Road seem like Wilshire Boulevard by comparison. The road has been improved, and now Hotel Hana-Maui is undergoing a multimillion-dollar face lift. The setting, though, is Hana's attraction. It is here that romantics escape from crowds and high-rises, and where the air is rich with plumeria and ginger. Just down the road, couples sunbathe on one of the Pacific's storied black sand beaches while others run off to explore Hana's Seven Sacred Pools and visit the peaceful spot where Charles Lindbergh spent his final days.

The pages of our Lover's Guide grow thinner. Of a dozen destinations, there remain only Soniat House in New Orleans, Petite Auberge in San Francisco and La Mancha in Palm Springs. The latter, with its push-button fireplaces and private swimming pools, was designed for lovers of all ages. Indeed, it is the choice of countless honeymooners--a popular retreat for discerning travelers and Hollywood film stars.

Soniat House, hidden away in a quiet corner of New Orleans' French Quarter, is old with the comforting charm of an earlier century. Guest rooms are filled with French and English antiques, including wonderful old four-posters and elaborate tables. No two of the rooms are alike. A spiral staircase curls upstairs to a porch where guests peer at gas lamps that flicker on at dusk. At the same time, the houseman places candles along the bricked courtyard with its fountain, water lilies, potted plants and carriage lamps.

Other French-style warmth pours forth from the fairest of San Francisco inns, Petite Auberge. Barely 2 1/2 blocks off Union Square, Petite Auberge simply glows. No one I have recommended it to has registered a single complaint--not a single squawk, which should tell you something about this marvelous inn with its individual fireplaces and beds that are graced with lace pillows and satin bows. Brass fixtures sparkle at the doors, and there are the rich tones of burnished wood. At this inn on Bush Street, flowers, rather than mints, are placed on the pillows at night. Shoes are shined, books are free and TVs are hidden discreetly in handsome armoires. After all, if one is in congenial company, is there a need for Dan Rather or Barbara Walters?

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