The Ultimate Travel guide to Bora Bora

Being an avid traveler, I have a never ending list of destinations that I want to visit; but none came close to BORA BORA! This exotic tropical destination has been no 1 of my bucket list since forever and I still cannot believe we were able to visit it last month! Let alone visiting it normally, but visiting it in 2020 seemed like a far cary from reality. We had initially booked our trip for June 2020 over a year ago but of course with COVID had to cancel that. But thanks to French Polynesia safely reopening again on July 15th with strict entry and stay travel requirements I was able to make my dream a reality in this crazy year that is 2020.

French Polynesia has over 118 islands that is split into 5 very diverse island groups with so much to offer for everyone! This time we only visited Tahiti and Bora Bora, but I am convinced we will definitely return back to explore the other beautiful islands of French Polynesia. Bora Bora was everything I had imagined and more! It completely exceeded my expectations in every way. This idyllic South Pacific gem is an epitome of a luxurious island escape and is well known for it gorgeous views of the mountains, crystal clear lagoon, overwater villas and incredible marine life.

If you have Bora Bora on your bucket list , don’t stop at just saving an image of it – its absolutely possible to save up and make your dream trip a reality! It is the perfect vacation for a honeymoon, family vacay, special occasion or just to cross it off your list. This guide will cover everything if you need to know to travel to Bora Bora  – from testing requirements to where to stay to other tips; so definitely bookmark this post to refer to plan your dream vacay to Bora Bora (whether its during this new pandemic era or later once we are past this).

 

 

TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS TO FRENCH POLYNESIA :

 

French Polynesia opened up to international tourism on July 15th and is one of the few countries that is open to the US right now, albeit with strict entry & stay requirements. As an FYI- things can always change so for the latest updates please check out Tahiti Tourism.

Also you might need a Visa to travel to French Polynesia if you don’t have an American passport so do check the French consulate for that. If you need a visa , you would need to apply at a French consulate closest to you and apply for a French Overseas territory visa.

If you are planning travel to French Polynesia during the pandemic, here is a quick rundown of what you would need :

  1. Proof of a negative RT PCR test carried out within three days prior to your international air departure.
  2. Present the receipt of the health registration on the Etis.pf platform upon boarding
  3. Self Test 4 days upon arrival : In addition to the test required prior to departure, a self-test provided by French Polynesia, will need to be carried out on the fourth day after arrival in the destination.

I have explained all these requirements in detail as well as our entire experience and tips for testing, etc in this BLOG POST HERE.

 

HOW DO YOU GET TO BORA BORA ?

 

Views of Mount Otemanu from the plane!

If you are headed to French Polynesia from any international destination, you will be first be flying into Papeete airport that is located on the main island of Tahiti. While booking tickets look for the airline code PPT. If you are flying from the US, it is closer than you think especially from the west coast – just a 7.5 hour direct flight from SF/LA ! If you fly from :

  • LAX – Air Tahiti Nui is your best option from Los Angeles.
  • SFO – United is your best option . (** There is also a budget airline called Frenchbee that flies direct from San Francisco, but they are currently not running due to the pandemic so keep checking their site if you are interested for that. They have insane deals like $500 RT tickets if you are lucky!)

Once you get to Tahiti – you might have a few hours or an overnight to kill. You may find yourself on an international flight that either arrives to Papeete late in the evening OR departs from Papeete super late at night (on your way back). Most people just stay here for a few hours or a quick overnight before flying out or taking a ferry to the to the other islands such as Bora Bora, Moorea and so on. If you are going to be in Tahiti for a few hours before or after your island hopping adventure and need a quick guide on what do in Tahiti – check out my 24 HOURS IN TAHITI travel guide for more!

The only way to get to Bora Bora from Tahiti is via Air Tahiti (* don’t confuse this with Air Tahiti Nui).  They have a few flights everyday so its convenient to choose. In my experience it is very difficult to modify or change reservations so its best to book your internal flights once you are absolutely sure of dates. This short 45 min flight is one of the most scenic flights I have been on! It is open seating, so you want to get to the airport early to get in line to *try* to get the best seat in the house. I say *try* cos even though I went super early ( we went so early that we were literally the first ones in the airport waiting room area haha!)  I got the last remaining least fave window seat on the left  – the one under the airplane wing. ( cos it blocks your view partially, oh well!).

Pro tip : For the best views of Mount Otemanu and Bora Bora lagoon :

Sit on the left side of the plane when you are going From Tahiti to Bora Bora and on the right side when you are coming from Bora Bora back to Tahiti!

In terms of geography – Bora Bora is a big lagoon which has one big island in the centre and many small islets surrounding it. Most of the resorts sit on these private islets or “Motus”. There are also some resorts and airbnb’s on the main island too. The Bora Bora airport is on an island, so no matter where you stay once you land in Bora Bora you will also need a boat transfer.

Cutest airport in the world!

If you are staying on the main island – Air Tahiti has a free ferry transfer from the airport to the main island. If you are staying in a resort, they have their own boats for transfers. Depending on your reservation, transfers may or may not be included in your overall package, so double check this with the resort when you are booking with them. The resorts all have very helpful concierges who will be happy to assist you with booking transfers.

 

BEST TIME TO VISIT BORA BORA ?

 

High season runs from May to October and is certainly the best time to go due to less rainful and incredible weather. We specifically chose August as it is the driest month of the year (but also note that it is when the water temperatures are slightly cool and there are trade winds so it could be extra breezy). Of the 8 days we were there, we had only 1 day of rain and pretty much had incredible weather throughout!

High season also means expensive rooms, flights and everything else in general. For this reason – you can also consider going in the shoulder months of April or November. Personally I would try and avoid the peak rainy season from Dec to March especially if its your first time to the destination and you don’t want to take a gamble on the weather gods for your bucket list vacay! I remember going to the South Pacific in February a few years back and it literally rained on us all week long :(. But I have also heard of people taking their chances and having incredible weather during this time; so it totally depends.

 

IDEAL TIME TO SPEND IN BORA BORA ?

 

I would recommend a bare minimum of atleast 4-5 days. Ideally a week would be the perfect sweet spot (which is what we did) – that way you can split your time across 2 different resorts (or even a resort and an airbnb) to get 2 different experiences.

If you are island hopping in French Polynesia and Bora Bora is just one of your stops, then spending 3-4 days in 1 resort would also work well.

 

FEW QUICK THINGS TO KNOW :

  • Language : The official language is French, but the indigenous languages, including Tahitian, are still widely spoken in each archipelago. English is also widely spoken, especially in tourist areas.
  • Plugs :  the power plugs are type A, B, and E. The standard voltage is 110/220 V, and the frequency is 60/50 Hz. I never travel without my trusty universal adapter !
  • Currency : The main local currency of French Polynesia is the French Pacific Franc (CFP). 1 USD = 101.40 CFP. USD is widely accepted in most places, but it helps to have local CPF’s for small purchases.
  • Cash/credit cards : We were fine with only our credit cards at most places ; except at the local markets in Tahiti. I would recommend the ATM at Tahiti airport ; but there are also ATMS in other islands.
  • Tipping : Tipping is not expected by hotel and restaurant staff, but it is still a way for the visitor to reward good service and show appreciation. There are no rules or customs as to the amount of the tip.
  • Drinking water : You can drink the tap water in Papeete and throughout the island of Bora Bora. In the other islands, ask if you can drink it or not. If in doubt, use mineral water from sealed bottles.

 

WHO IS BORA BORA FOR ?

 

EVERYONE! Its a great bucket list destination for couples, families, girls trip, etc. While we did see many honeymooners, we also saw a good mix of families, older couples, etc. Since we are still amid the pandemic, we didn’t see any large groups.

 

WHERE TO STAY IN BORA BORA ?

 

PC : IC Thalasso

While the quintessential Bora Bora holiday is a luxe vacay in an overwater bungalow there are other cheaper options too. I have a whole section on cost ranges below, but this is a brief overview of stay options.

  • If you go the resort route – check out my favorites below. There are many resorts all around Bora Bora in the luxury and mid range category. Prices depend on where the hotel is located (on its own private motu or on the mainland), time of year you go, offers they have going on, etc. A quick search of hotels on Hotels.com will give you a rough idea of costs in all the resorts around so that you can browse and have a feel for the pricing before committing. I would recommend booking with the resort directly as they usually have great deals throughout the year. You can also book via a travel agent or even through Costco ( I have heard they sometimes have insane deals for Tahiti!)
  • If you go the airbnb route – most of them are all located on the main island.

 

My favorite resorts in Bora Bora in no particular order :

1 ) FOUR SEASONS BORA BORA

 

The Four Seasons Bora Bora was no 1 on my list of hotels to stay at in the world! It is a true gem located in perhaps the best location in Bora Bora. The resort is great for couples and families too. It is definitely on the pricier side – but 100% worth it for the five star luxury and hospitality!  I have always been a big fan of the Four Seasons group having experienced a bunch of their properties such as FS MauiFS Nevis, etc. Exceptional service, luxe overwater villas and an overall incredible experience makes this one of my favorite places we have stayed ever. Check out my full BLOG POST HERE. 

 

2 ) INTERCONTINENTAL BORA BORA RESORT & THALASSO SPA

 

If you are looking for an amazing group of hotels to stay across both Tahiti and Bora, the Intercontinental French Polynesia group is your best bet. They have 1 resort in Tahiti and 2 in Bora Bora. The 2 resorts in Bora Bora are IC Thalasso ( more luxurious and located on its own motu) and IC Moana (on the mainland and slightly cheaper). We absolutely loved our stay at IC Thalasso especially cos of the beautiful views of Mount Otemanu, amazing overwater villas and the very friendly staff. IC Thalasso also is a fantastic option for families and couple alike. Check out my full BLOG POST HERE. 

 

3 ) CONRAD BORA BORA NUI RESORT

 

The newest luxury resort addition to Bora Bora is the Conrad Bora Bora Nui. Roomwise especially this was our fave, cos it was newer, more updated and had a super spacious deck with an overwater pool and hammock. While it dosen’t have a direct view of Mount Otemanu from the resort (only some villas do – like the King otemanu villa that we stayed at), it totally makes up for mountain views with the best private beach in all of Bora Bora – half a mile long with soft white sands! It also has the only 2 storey villa and hillside villas in Bora Bora too, if you are looking for something different. We saw a good range of travellers from solo travellers to families to honeymooners here. Check out my full BLOG POST HERE.

 

More accommodation options – check this page out.

 

AVERAGE COSTS + BREAKDOWN :

 

French Polynesia is no doubt an expensive destination. Of all the 40+ countries I have been to, it certainly is one of the most expensive places ones on the list. So going in with this expectation is essential. There are a few ways to save up (more below in the next section), but its always good to set your expectation right before planning out the trip. I wanted to provide a rough range of costs for various steps in planning a trip to Bora Bora. Actual cost will vary a ton from one itinerary to another so here is a guideline to start with :

1 ) INTERNATIONAL AIRLINE TICKETS :

This depends on time of year, but a rough estimate is about $600 – 1000 RT per person from California (SF or LA) to Papeete. If you are flying from another part of the US you can still book a through ticket via Air Tahiti Nui or United, but the price will be slightly higher.

 

2 ) INTERNAL TRANSFERS :

  • Domestic flights from Papeete to Bora Bora are usually $450-$550 RT per person.
  • Boat transfers from the Bora Bora airport to the resort : This took us by surprise as we were unaware of these high prices so I wanted to be clear about this here :)! So as I mentioned before – if you are staying on the main island, you can take the free ferry by Air Tahiti. If you are staying in a resort and your transfers are included in your reservation then you are all set. If boat transfers are not included they can be about $100 – $150 RT per person! These steep prices are totally “normal” for boat transfers in Bora Bora.
  • Also keep in mind – if you need any additional transfers during your stay ( eg : a transfer from the resort to the main island to explore there ) they are all at additional charges and will vary from one resort to another. You can always ask the concierge about this when you book your stay.

 

3 ) ACCOMODATIONS:

This is usually the most expensive part of the trip. The cost depends on which resort, what kind of plan you choose ( half board or bed and breakfast – there are no all inclusive plans in Bora Bora), what sort of accommodation you choose (beach villa, water villa, villa with a pool, etc), time of year that you visit (cheaper in off and shoulder season) etc.

When I did a quick search online, the cost ranges from just $100 to $2000+ a night in all of the accommodations across Bora Bora. The cheaper ones are usually airbnb’s or smaller resorts located on the main island of Bora Bora.

Most of you also wanted to know cost of a water villa – a good range for a luxury water villa is about $700 – $2000+ per night. This price usually includes breakfast only, so other meals will be at an additional charge.

 

4) FOOD :

Food at the resorts was definitely pricey! So our usual plan was to have a heavy late breakfast, skip lunch and have an early dinner. An average meal cost at a resort is about $150 – $200 for 2 people with food and drink. One way to save up on drinks – get your own bottles at Papeete airport duty free when you fly in! A lot of people recommended this. Neither Anush or I are big on drinks so we skipped doing this.  In Bora Bora, we never really ate outside the resorts anywhere else so to give you a rough idea of how much outside meals might be at local restaurants I can compare to the ones we ate in Tahiti ($40-$60 for 2 people for food only.)

5 ) OTHER COSTS :

Other costs that might not be included in your plan could be additional activities, private dining, excursions, etc. Its hard to put a range on these since it is so varied! But my suggestion would be to check out offers the resorts might be having. They usually have offers such as stay 4 nights, get the 5th for free, stay 5 nights get $2000 in credit to use towards food/activities etc – so definitely worth checking offers. The one activity we did was a lagoon tour (which is one of the most popular tours in Bora Bora) so to give you an idea of cost of a tour like this it would be about $200- $250 per person. This included pick up, drop off from the resort, snorkelling gear, lunch and water/sodas. The price would be higher if you opt for a private option instead.

 

WAYS TO SAVE UP ?

 

Bora Bora is synonymous with being an expensive luxe holiday. Here are some of my tips on ways to save up :

1 ) Choose resorts on the main island or stay on an airbnb. These are much cheaper than staying in a resort on its own motu. You can also eat at smaller local restaurants on the main island and save up on meals.

2) Look for deals at Costco ( I have read on tripadvisor that people got insane deals here!)

3) Check with your hotels on ongoing offers they might have. I have noticed many hotels give you a bigger discount if you book directly through them rather than through a third party travel website.

4) Travel in the shoulder months (April or November) where prices are way lower than high season. Low season would be the cheapest, but I would try and avoid the peak rainy season from Dec – March, especially if its your first time to Bora Bora and you don’t want to take a gamble on the weather gods for your bucket list vacay!

5) Check out budget airline Frenchbee once they restart their SFO to PPT route. They have RT flights starting at even $500!

6) If you have a lot of airline miles or hotel rewards to redeem you can consider doing so here. All the big hotel chains – Marriott, Hilton, IHG, Accor have properties in Bora Bora.

 

FOOD OPTIONS :

 

All the resorts that we went to had mostly offers with breakfast included or credit to use towards meals. Most resorts usually have multiple restaurants on property too. But with COVID, they are always open on a rotating basis. Most resorts are super accommodating with diet restrictions and have tons of options for vegetarians, vegans, food allergies, etc.

We didn’t venture out to the main island but a few popular options here are

More food options – check this page out. 

 

ACTIVITY OPTIONS IN RESORTS :

 

Leaning to make Poisson Cru (Tahitian style of ceviche)

While I can never ever get bored of just laying out in the beach, I get that most people love to have things to do on their vacay. Most resorts have many fun things to do like :

  • snorkeling, water sports (usually complimentary)
  • gym, yoga, etc
  • spa
  • excursions – like snorkeling excursions, sunset cruises, sandbank picnics, etc
  • cultural activities on property – learning to tie a pareo, learning to make floral crowns, learning to speak Tahitian, etc
  • cooking classes – we did this at IC Thalasso and loved it! We learnt to make traditional Polynesian ceviche called Poisson Cru (see above).
  • cultural dance shows in the evening on some days of the week
  • most family friendly resorts also have kids clubs for kids.

 

OTHER THINGS TO DO : 

1 ) Lagoon Tour in the world famous Bora Bora Lagoon 

 

Making friends with sharks and rays!

This is a must do! We did this with Lagoon Service and absolutely loved it! They also have many other tours that they offer. You get up close and personal with sharks, rays, fish etc. It was one of my fave days of the trip. Check out my full BLOG POST HERE. 

 

2 ) Other water activities :

 

Bora Bora is one of the best diving destinations in the world! I would recommend Reef Discovery for this. They would know the best dive/snorkel/scuba sites too if you go on a tour with them. Aside from diving there are so many other activities – jet skiing, para sailing, etc.

 

2 ) Main Island of Bora Bora :

 

If you have the time definitely don’t miss the chance to explore the main island. There are so many things to do here from shopping, beach exploring, Mount Otemanu, inland 4×4 tours, etc. Matira beach is the best beach on the main island and most attractions are centered around this area. You can also rent a car from Europcar Bora Bora and explore the island on your own around the main road that encircles it.

More activity options – check this page out. 

 

 RANDOM TRAVEL TIPS & PACKING LISTS :

 

1 ) During your stay wearing a mask (from the age of 11 years old) is recommended in enclosed public places and establishments and mandatory in outdoor public spaces subject to large number of people, including: shops, water taxis/ferry transportation, airplanes, public ground transport, airports and ferry terminals.

2 ) Social distancing in French Polynesia in 1 meter (3ft). Respecting prevention measures at all times and in all places is essential.

3 ) Do not miss your chance to wear a traditional flower crown. The only accessory I pretty much wore throughout our entire Tahiti trip was the “Hei Upo’o” – a traditional Tahitian floral crown ! We got multiple ones throughout our trip and I was beyond floored by how incredibly ornate, beautiful and fragrant these headpieces were. They are given to visitors as a sign of welcome and also worn by locals in order to celebrate a special occasion or simply to celebrate the beauty of everyday life. You can get one ordered for you with your hotel concierge or buy one at a local market.

My no 1 island accessory : a floral crown!

 

4 ) Fave souvenirs from French Polynesia – Tahitian vanilla ( so good for baking) and Tahitian black pearls

 

5 ) Do not miss packing :

  • a good pair of water shoes with you. The sand and water bed is very rough cos of corals, so a good pair of water shoes is so essential.
  • an underwater camera – I love my Gopro Hero black 7!
  • lots of reef safe sunscreen. It is hot and humid and we applied and reapplied sunscreen every few hours.
  • and of course we live in a new COVID era – so pack extra face masks, hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes. etc

For a list of other travel essentials I never travel without check out this blog post.

 

6) I got a few questions on what I packed for outfits. Bora Bora is hot and can be humid depending on the time of year you go. Check out my resortwear essentials in this blog post.

For this trip I packed :

  • day time : loose airy dresses, tops + denim shorts, swimsuits & coverups, beach hat, a beach bag, a waterproof bag (helpful for excursions), water shoes, sandals, sunglasses.
  • evening : a few dressy options. I noticed people weren’t over the top dressed for dinner. Some evening resort style dresses for women and printed shirts with linen pants for men would be perfect. The one thing I wish I packed – a light cardigan! August is the driest and coolest month so the evening can be a little breezy. Fyi – I generally tend to get a little cold always so you may or may not need one. But since its so lightweight, it dosen’t hurt to pack one.

 

6 ) Most popular greetings in Tahitian : “Ia Ora Na” for hello and “Mauruuru” for thank you! I love the Tahitian language it sounds so musical! The locals are wonderful and some of the most warm, genuine and friendly people I have ever met in my life !

Ia Ora Na !

 

GET INSPIRED TO VISIT BORA BORA !

Epic views from sky (above) and sea (below) !

This water though ! Crystal clear, warm and so heavenly…

Countless shades of blue…

and green!

Magical Polynesian sunset skies 

South Pacific in all its glory! Its without a doubt my fave part of the world.

Quiet mornings in our dreamy villa

Trying my hand at a traditional Polynesian outrigger canoe

Bucket list experiences!

Always eating out of a coconut shell – Delicious Poisson Cru (above) and Coconut ice cream (below)!

From sunrise (above) to sunset (below) could never get bored of our private access to the lagoon!

Dreamy pontoon walks

Picture perfect postcards at every corner

Cheers to a trip of a lifetime! Mauruuru for the wonderful memories Bora Bora, we cant wait to be back!

I hope this very long comprehensive travel guide helps you and inspires you to make this bucket list trip come to life! Its truly a special place and one of my favorite places on earth. Feel free to send me any questions you have in the comments below or in an Insta DM.

Thanks for stopping by. xoxo

Jyo

 

Disclosure : Thank you to Four Seasons Bora Bora, Conrad Bora Bora Nui, Lagoon Service and Intercontinental Thalasso Bora Bora for hosting us during our recent trip to Bora Bora. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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