Bora Bora is as magically beautiful as what you see in the photos. The colors of the water stopped me mid-sentence on a daily basis while walking from our overwater bungalow to the beach. By the end of the week, I had multiple photos of the same exact scene, but they were all stamped with a different day and time.
The clouds shifted each evening, offering a newly spectacular sunset experience. Because Tahiti’s time zone is only three hours ahead of Los Angeles, I was wide away each morning of our trip between 5:00AM and 5:30AM, just in time to enjoy the sunrise. On more than one occasion, I opened my eyes to the stunning Otemanu, leapt out of bed to capture this beauty in the morning light, and then crawled back in to my warm bed for just a little bit longer.
What to expect when you visit Bora Bora
Vibe: The ambiance in Bora Bora is centered around pure relaxation. You’ll find some families, but not many, a lot of honeymooners, and the occasional group of friends. If you’re looking for peace and tranquility surrounded by a landscape that may just inspire you to read a book a day, you’ll be able to enjoy Bora Bora for as many days as this sounds like heaven. On the other hand, if you love beautiful scenery but the idea of lazing on your private terrace or by the beach all day long sounds boring and rather uninspiring, then 2-3 nights will likely fill your paradise cup. Live music can be enjoyed until 10:00PM and most people retreat back to their bungalows shortly thereafter.
Budget: Plan for $1,500/night in Bora Bora. While traveling during some key months and paying for the room that you’re dreaming of isn’t necessary on every trip or in every destination, it really is necessary in Bora Bora. If you’re traveling all that way, now really isn’t the time to pinch your pennies. If this is truly your dream destination, I would honestly suggest you save a little bit longer to design this trip properly rather than go now and skimp on the details. It will be worth the wait.
An overwater bungalow with a view of Otemanu begins at $1,000 per night in low season at the Sofitel or Le Meridien and increases up to $2,000 per night in high season at the St. Regis and the Four Seasons. (Low season is November - March, High season is April - October) Many hotels will run promotions throughout the year which offer “Stay 5 Pay 4” rates or an options half-board/full-board meal plan. While all-inclusive isn’t my style, in Bora Bora, you don’t have any outside options to consider for lunch and dinner. You will undoubtedly be eating in the hotel you’re staying 90% of the time. The only opportunity to eat elsewhere is if you go to the main island, which is a half-day excursion minimum, therefore you won’t go everyday or if you take the boat to a sister property (Le Meridien offers a complimentary boat to the St Regis for dinner).
In addition to meals, a portion of your budget should be reserved for the spa and motorized water activities. Something I was surprised to discover when exploring my overwater bungalow was that there weren’t any coral nearby, therefore, there weren’t any fish. The stunning colors that you can enjoy in Bora Bora come from a combination of crystal clear water, white sand, and the reflection of the light. As soon as you have corals and fish in the water, the colors are effected. While still beautiful, this is a scene you’re more likely to see in Fiji or on other islands in Tahiti, such as Moorea and Taha’a. Bora Bora is unique in that there aren’t any corals except in very specific areas, so, in order to snorkel with the tropical fish, black finned sharks, and stingrays, you need to go on a full day excursion out to the coral garden. Hence, a budget for excursions.
Transportation: Although expensive, Bora Bora isn’t conducive for staying “just a couple nights”. From Los Angeles, you’ll fly for 8.5 hours, directly into Papeete, the main city of Tahiti. Upon arrival, you’ll gather your bags and re-checkin for your 1-hour flight to Bora Bora. You’ll most likely have a 3-4 hour wait in Papeete to allow enough time to make this connection. When you leave Bora Bora, you’ll have to do all of this again, except backwards. When considering all of these flights and the waiting time, I wouldn’t recommend anything shorter than a 4-night stay in Bora Bora.
You should definitely travel to Bora Bora if…
If you’ve traveled to Hawaii a dozen times, you’ve seen all the islands, and you’ve done all the things, consider Bora Bora for your next trip. Compared to Hawaii, Tahiti offers a similar flight time, similar time zone, and an elevated experience.
If sun and sand is your style and you’ve already visited all the other island destinations (Hawaii, Fiji, Thailand, the Caribbean, Greece)
If you’re celebrating a major milestone (honeymoon, wedding anniversary, birthday, etc). Whether you travel with your partner or a group of friends to celebrate an occasion, Tahiti is a wonderful place to relax and pamper yourself.
Unexpected insights from our FAM experience
Bora Bora is not only for couples. Consider traveling to Bora Bora with a group of friends. You’ll all have your own private bungalow, you can enjoy breakfast together (or not), do your own thing during the day, and regroup for dinner and drinks. Traveling with a group of travel professionals on our trip was the icing on the cake. With a small group of people, our conversations were always engaging, we had a fabulous time pairing off during the day or hiding away by ourselves for short amounts of time, and at night, we drinks and live music together.
I expected to be able to snorkel and see fish from my overwater bungalow. It was really interesting to me that many hotels offer a small glass floor in the overwater bungalows, but there’s not really anything to see… Take an inflatable floatie with you to relax in the water!
For guests staying an extended period of time in Bora Bora alone (4+ nights), most hotels will offer the option to combine an overwater bungalow experience with a beach bungalow experience. The beach bungalows offer private access to the beach or the lagoon and are just as stunning as the overwater bungalows. As you are truly spending quite a bit of time in your bungalow, I would highly recommend including both experiences during your time there to change up the scenery. Even better if you’re staying at the St Regis, your butler will pack and unpack for you when moving to a new bungalow!
Let’s start planning! Where do we begin?
Work with a travel advisor to book this trip. We cannot stress this enough. While it may just seem like a flight and a hotel booking, booking with a travel advisor can secure additional amenities such as daily breakfast, an potential upgrade (upon availability), discounted spa services, and a complimentary, roundtrip boat transfer to and from the airport, and most importantly, notifying our partners on property of the arrival of our VIP client days before you arrive. *The amenities included are different at each property and may be updated in 2018.
Contact us 8-12 months in advance and if possible, with some flexibility in travel dates. Flights sell out often and therefore increase in price rather quickly. Hotels offer promotions on a regular basis but can restrict dates. Advance planning and flexible dates will enable us to keep an eye on promotions and maximize your investment to the best of our ability.
Consider if you’d like to focus your entire trip on Bora Bora only, or if you’d like to visit 1-2 other islands as well. If you’d like to include experiences on other islands, we highly recommend saving Bora Bora (the best) for last!
In addition to the above benefits of securing this booking with a travel advisor, we will also confirm all details in advance such as your spa reservations, in which restaurant you’d like to have dinner each night, and your daily excursions. While a little independence and some flexibility is wonderful for a more typical vacation, the more we confirm in advance in Bora Bora, the more you can enjoy each and every second in paradise.
Be sure to let me know in the comments below if you have questions about anything I didn't cover in this post!
Whitney’s love of experiential travel began when she studied abroad in New Zealand. Upon returning home, this seemingly small decision led her on an unpredictable path to do everything in her power to continue exploring the world. Within one year, she headed to Africa for one month to visit a friend who was volunteering with animals in need of rehabilitation support, and upon graduating only 6 months later, she moved to France for no other reason than the study the language and experience the culture firsthand. Fast forward 8 years, 2 languages, and 20 countries later, Whitney has successfully combined her passion for foreign languages and experiential travel with her professional experiences and launched Undiscovered Sunsets, a bespoke, experiential travel agency.