Those are just three words to describe the French Polynesian paradise. Bora Bora is just one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ destinations. I have been lucky enough to go there twice so far, the first time in November 2005 and just this past year in April 2011.
If you are lucky enough to be sitting on the side of the plane when you descend into Bora Bora, you are able to get a great view over the whole island and the famed Mount Otemanu. The first glimpse is simply amazing.
The airport size is as far from international monstrosities like Singapore’s Changi Airport and LAX as you can get. Aéroport de Bora Bora is located on a motu and there is no carousel to collect your luggage from. As you arrive, you are greeted by the locals music and singing. The numerous resorts have their own little stalls for your ‘meet and greet’ and to get your boat transfer to your own little piece of heaven.
Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa
The first resort visited (in November 2005) was (and is now known as) the Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa. At the time it was the newest of the Bora Bora resorts and had the largest overwater bungalows. The original accommodation of choice was a Beach Bungalow at the InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora, but when a small tsunami damaged this hotel it led to a big thanks to travel insurance. The insurance covered the difference to stay at the beautiful Bora Bora Nui including an upgrade from the Beach to an Overwater bungalow (King Overwater Villa)! The other standout features of Nui were the overwater reception, 1,000 square metre infinity pool and white sand beach.
Book | Hilton Bora Bora Nui – www.hilton.com/frenchpolynesia
Fast forward to April 2011….
Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach and Private Island
To enable us to stay for a week without the price tag(!), we chose to stay at the Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach and Private Island for the first two nights. Having stayed at Tahiti’s capital Papeete before, it’s not hard to twist your arm to stay in Bora Bora for longer depending on flight connections.
Room | We booked the Luxury Bungalow – Lagoon Front, as my partner is an A|Club member. The room was better than we expected as it had direct access to the turquoise lagoon for less than the price of a 5 Star hotel in Sydney!
Later that afternoon we were taken by the resort’s boat to the private island. The upgraded room was an Overwater bungalow (Island Luxury Bungalow – Room 127). It was larger than the Lagoon Front bungalow and came with a glass panel floor to view the fish (we saw some during our stay), double vanity in the bathroom and its own coffee maker! The bed was comfy (signature Sofitel MyBed) and the room was decorated in Polynesian furnishings.
The snorkeling off this bungalow was amazing. It had it’s own coral bed just off the deck and the small fish came up so close to your fingers you could almost touch them.
Resort | Small and intimate with the signature French touch. The resort has one infinity pool on the main island with an unobstructed view of the private island. Just note that the private island only serves light meals and Happy Hour drinks and you have to take the boat to the main resort to use the other facilities. Like the Nui resort, it is also situated on the other side of the island and has a completely different view of Mt Otemanu.
Eat | One night we attended one of the Latitude 16º themed buffet dinners with the Polynesian dance show. We were lucky enough to reserve a table at the front, so had full view of the show. The dinner buffet had plenty of variety and the quality was good since the island is about 7 hours from Australia. We had one buffet breakfast at Manu Tuki and the options were more than sufficient including French bread and pastries for those who can enjoy – ah French Polynesia.
To do | Happy hour! And the shark and ray feeding tour. This is highly recommended if you want to meet the ‘locals’. You travel around the island with local tour guides, so you can take in the full beauty and different angles of Mt Otemanu and view the different hues of the lagoon (from crystal clear to deep blue). You stop at three locations, the first to feed the reef sharks, the second to have a swim in the shallows of the lagoon and the last to feed the rays. One ray was particularly friendly and gave me a ‘love bite’. Different resorts will have variations of this tour and one also includes a trip to the Lagoonarium (www.boraboraisland.com/lagoonarium/), like a zoo for fish located directly off a motu.
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora (FS Bora Bora).
All I can remember was the check-in process was lightening fast! Before we knew it, we had our standard (in all the south pacific places I’ve stayed at) tropical juice and cool towels and were whisked away on a golf buggy.
Room | Home for the next 5 nights was the Resort-View Over-Water Bungalow (Room 418) located on the east side of the resort. On entry, this bungalow was massive! On one side was the living room complete with sofa, coffee maker and flat screen TV. On the other, was the bedroom with lots of wardrobe space, king size bed overlooking the lagoon and another big TV! In the middle, was the bathroom – in one word ‘impressive’. The bathtub was big enough for four and located next to double opening doors to view (and access the deck to) the lagoon. The bathroom was complete with quality Grohe fixtures including a rain shower and L’Occitane amenities. There were four glass panels to view the turquoise water (shower, WC, bathroom floor and next to the bathtub), as the bungalows were situated in deeper water, the fish were few and far between. We did catch a glimpse of a stingray under another guest’s bungalow though.
Although, 15 minutes walk to the main part of the resort, it was also quite peaceful. You could easily have some fun and jump off the bungalow deck into the lagoon without disturbing the rest of the guests. And you could always call on a golf buggy if your legs got too tired walking back and forth.
Resort | This resort was massive compared to the more intimate Sofitel, but similar to the Nui resort. As this is the newest resort of the ‘big 3’ (Four Seasons, St Regis and InterCon Thalasso), we opted for this one. We were also told Harrison Ford had stayed there a week before our arrival and another guest asked us if we saw Rebecca Gibney. Unfortunately we didn’t.
Every morning the white sand beaches were raked for that extra touch of perfection. The resort also faces, (what I think as) the ‘preferred’ side of Mt Otemanu. The gardens were manicured, and there were not many stray leaves in sight.
There are cute poolside cabanas next to the infinity pool, but you have to be there early to snare one! If you have a day by the poolside, the staff brings you complimentary glasses of iced water and frozen treats, like shots of watermelon sorbet. If you forget your sunscreen or need to clean your sunnies, you can pick up these amenities from the pool hut. FS Bora Bora thinks of everything.
Eat | The package included buffet breakfast at Tere Nui. On our first morning the headwaiter asked if we would like gluten free bread – we were shocked, but then remembered we had put a dietary requirement in the hotel booking! Every day we would see him he’d recognise and greet us, so at a huge resort we weren’t just faces in the crowd. Each day to mix it up, there were a few different hot items. If you stayed longer than 5 days, you might end up with repeats, but this buffet still had more than enough to satisfy any appetite. A fresh egg and omelette station is pretty much standard now at every 5 star hotel or resort.
Cocktails at the Sunset Bar are a must. We loved the view of the west overwater bungalows with Mt Otemanu in the background and also, to the right is a little motu with a single palm tree! There were complimentary snacks of pretzels/wasabi peas, taro chips and (the I couldn’t get enough of) sweet pineapple salsa. The Fried Wagyu beef, Sesame seeds and Sautéed rice was so yum that we ordered it multiple times while we were there. Just watch the side of chilli – it was freakin hot!
Dinner at the romantic Arii Moana restaurant was surprisingly good. We’ve eaten at a lot of the Sydney fine dining restaurants and we were very satisfied. It had fancy plates and friendly service. The desserts were also so delicious!
To do | Indulge in a Romantic dinner in your bungalow. I had pre organised this as a surprise for my partner’s birthday. Because of our dietary requirements, the chef amended the dessert on the three-course set menu and prepared the most amazing chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis birthday cake! The service was so friendly and accommodating and the evening was just perfect. Without spoiling the event for others, this is a must!
If you also want to go ‘all out’, book the exclusive Kahaia spa suite. It has double massage beds with glass panels underneath so you can admire the marine life while relaxing or dozing off. While pricey, this is the ultimate spa experience for couples. Bliss.
Another guest recommended the FS Bora Bora stingray tour, this tour you get to swim with the manta rays. Maybe next time!
Lastly, if you don’t want to pay for some of the recreational activities, the resort’s Lagoon Sanctuary is a private haven to enjoy all the marine life the resort has to offer (no sharks). The lagoon is also home to growing new coral to help conserve it. So grab a pool noodle and snorkel and drift away – you might even stumble upon the local (and very friendly) spotted pufferfish. He loved the camera.
Book | FS Bora Bora – www.fourseasons.com/borabora/ – Stay Longer – Fifth Night Free With Breakfast
This resort was close to absolute perfection…. Why not perfect? Simply, we had to come home.
Thanks to Mel Mc for sharing her experience of Bora Bora. I remember seeing the images being posted on Instagram and immediately looking up the resorts and planning my own trip. All the images posted are Mel’s, unfortunately we could only post a small selection.
You can follow Mel photographing her travels on Instagram: @melmc4
If you have a hotel review you’d like to share with us. Email it to: email@example.com. We’ll post it. You’ll get the glory. For more information about the best places to stay around the world, follow this blog or our @roomcritic twitter stream. Receive our travel stories and hotel links direct to your own Facebook wall, just ‘like’ our RoomCritic Facebook page.