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|Bora Bora, French Polynesia|
|Where: South Pacific Ocean|
- Romantic vacation
- Beach vacation
- Symbol of tropical luxury/romantic vacations
- Unique tropical setting
- Overwater bungalows facing jagged mountain and turquoise lagoon
- One of the most developed nations in South Pacific
- Polynesian culture
- Healthy protected marine life
- Long flight
Why visit Bora Bora?
Bora Bora became a symbol of exotic honeymoon destinations. French Polynesia in general is a perfect destination for luxury tropical vacations and honeymoons. There are some less expensive options on the islands, but most people come with expectations of luxury and romance. As many other couples, we visited Bora Bora because of its fame, but fell in love with the country and came back to later visit Rangiroa, then Moorea. Every time we have a big birthday or anniversary we think of French Polynesia. It is the only tropical destination we went three times and hope to come again.
Bora Bora stands out because of its unique geological formation. It is an old volcano with jagged peaks that is encircled by a coral atoll. To make things more beautiful the ring between the mountain (Otemanu) and the atoll forms a shallow lagoon filled with blinding turquoise water. The ring-shaped atoll and protected lagoon allowed building of overwater bungalows with stunning breathtaking views of the mountain and the lagoon. There is no setting like this in the World. There are beautiful volcanic islands like Moorea, there are ring shaped atolls with shallow lagoons like Rangiroa, but there is no perfect combination of the two like in Bora Bora.
As there are many islands in French Polynesia some tour operators offer island hopping, usually combining Bora Bora with Moorea and other islands. If you do combine islands, stay at least 5 days at each, otherwise you will be exhausted moving around. Remember that first few days are spent flying and adjusting to jetlag.
Where in the world?
Bora Bora is an island in Oceania, in the middle of south Pacific Ocean. It belongs to French Polynesia. The country consists of over 100 islands scattered over a large area. The main island is Tahiti with the capital Papeete. French Polynesia is an autonomous territory (overseas collectivity) of France.
Due to its popularity several airlines fly to French Polynesia. The national airline Air Tahiti also has a good network and is cleared for international flights. The gate to French Polynesia is through its capital - Papeete's Faa'a International Airport (PPT). For traveling from most of the world, there is usually a stop at a closer hub such as Los Angeles (LAX), Vancouver (YVR) or Tokyo (NRT). Air Tahiti Nui is planning a non-stop flight from Paris which will be about 16 hours. Presently it takes 10 hours from Tokyo or Vancouver and 8 hours from Los Angeles. You will need to take another short (1 hr) flight to Bora Bora (BOB) from Papeete. This last flight is the most enjoyable as it will give you an opportunity to see the views from above. This segment is usually booked on the same ticket as your main flights. It is served by Air Tahiti on a large jet airliner, not a small aircraft.
The power supply in French Polynesia is 220 Volts 60 Hz, European plug with two round prongs. Some hotels may have additional 110V with North American plugs, but do not count on it, assume it will be 220V with two round prongs.
Official language is French but most people speak English as well, especially on the islands with large tourist flows. We have not encountered a person who did not speak at least some English in Bora Bora.
The currency is the Comptoirs Français du Pacific, or French Pacific franc (CFP). It has a fixed exchange rate relative to Euro. 100 CFP = 0.838 Euro or 1 Euro ~ 120 CFP.
Vaccination and infections
According to CDC no vaccination is required in addition to the routine vaccination established in most countries (subject to your country of origin and your personal vaccination). Typhoid and hepatitis vaccines are recommended. There is NO reported risk of malaria in the country. Prevent yourself from insect bites to avoid insect transmitted infections (dengue, zika, west Nile etc.). Yellow fever is required for entry if you come from an endemic area. Please see updated information for health at CDC site or health authority in your country.
Residents of EU are exempt from visa. For most other countries visa is not required for stays of less than 90 days. The list of exempt countries is here. If you require visa, Schengen visa is not a substitute. Please check updated information from your country of origin and time of travel.
When to go?
Temperatures are almost the same all year round, 24-30 degrees Centigrade. There is only a slight dip by 2 degrees during the southern winter, June through September. These are also the drier months. It can rain more in November through March. We have been to French Polynesia in April and June. Contrary to the averages, April was drier for us, but we cannot compare it with the statistically rainier period between December - February. It seems that April through October are the better months to visit the South Pacific.
Where to stay?
If you come to Bora Bora you need to stay on the outer atoll to enjoy the view. Most resorts on the outer atoll have overwater bungalows. There are also beachfront bungalows, but you may want to spend a bit more to fully enjoy the experience. It is not a cheap vacation anyway. The bungalows may not fully face the central island to have a good view. We recommend checking resort maps and ask for specific bungalows emailing the resorts. They may say "it is not guaranteed" but may take a note. You may also have a choice at check-in. Some resorts have perfect views from all bungalows and some resorts have different prices depending on the view. Another desirable aspect to choose an overwater bungalow is to be further away from the shore, at the very end of the bridge-walk.
As far as we know only one resort on the outer reef does not face the lagoon - Conrad (Hilton) Bora Bora. It faces the ocean. All other resorts face the lagoon and have a similar view of the mount Otemanu, just at different sides around the island. We stayed at the Pearl Beach Bora Bora. It was a good deal for what we wanted. Also, they had a dive shop on site. Most other resorts did not have a dive shop at the time. Please check all up-to-date details when you pick a resort.
Where to eat?
Resort restaurants are good and offer a blend of adapted French and Polynesian cuisine with abundant sea food and fruits. There are also several good restaurants on the main island. The resorts run shuttle boats between the resorts and the central island. Ask the front desk to call the restaurant and they will send a taxi to pick you up at the pier. Taxi is included with a dinner. You can also use the shuttle boats to venture into the main island during daytime, to do pearl shopping or buy something in a general store. We bought some wine and champagne for our room.
What to do?
Activities at the resorts
The main purpose of going to such a place is to enjoy the view, relax, and celebrate the occasion that brought you there. We spent much of the time swimming in the calm crystal clear water and relaxing on the deck. The resorts have house reefs for snorkeling. Food in French Polynesia is a blend of French and Polynesian cuisines. Obviously, abundant sea food and fruits. There were Polynesian night twice a week, but entertainment schedule will differ between resorts. Special occasions are the specialty in Bora Bora. You can book honeymoon packages, wedding ceremonies, and special private dinners. Special breakfasts are available as well. The staff can bring it on a canoe to your bungalow. These arrangements are routine in the resorts.
SCUBA diving was easy and suitable for novice divers. There were no currents, the dive profiles were shallow, and the water was warm with good visibility. We dove with the shop at the hotel and it was convenient to be at a dive site within 15 minutes from your resort. There are generally two areas for diving: in the deeper part of the lagoon, and on the outer reef. We enjoyed diving at the outer reef, closer to the airport. There is mostly hard coral in French Polynesia, and guaranteed sharks. Sharks are protected animals in the country (shark sanctuary) and no foreign ships are allowed the barbaric finning. We dove at many places and could compare protected and unprotected areas. It is painfully obvious how quickly uncontrolled fishing depletes the marine life. The good news is that in French Polynesia marine life is close to what it used to be. Sharks of several species are abundant and, for anxious divers, we have not seen any dangerous species. In addition to sharks there were rays, turtles, octopi and abundance of reef fish.
Even if you are diving, a trip for encounters with the rays and small sharks is fun. Many people do not like the idea of feeding marine life, but the amount of food released does not make the animals dependent on it. It only attracts them. It is the same as sharks aggregating at the waterfront restaurants, which is common in Moorea. The sharks that are fed are small black tip species, harmless to people unless you try to feed them with your hand. The boat usually goes to a semi-shallow area and food is thrown in the water. Small sharks start running around competing for food. The visitors can jump in water and watch the show snorkeling. Then boat goes to another area where in waist-deep water the guide starts feeding sting rays. The rays are used to people and can be lured to your chest for a photograph. The trick, for the feeder is to hold the bait firmly and protect fingers. Although the rays do not have teeth they can suck your finger in and then squeeze it hard. The force of suction is quite strong. After the feeding the boat can go to another area, for snorkeling on a reef. Watch the video below.
Central island and pearl farms
You can visit the central island on your own, using the shuttle boat at the resort. You may need to prebook taxi to get you from the boat to town, depending on your resort location. Ask the front desk. There are several pearl shops on the island. Do not expect rock bottom prices as the destination attracts people with money. The loose bargain pears are usually in large boxes not on display, but you would need to go through a lot of them to select matching pearls for a string.
Pearl farm is frequently included as a stop on a day trips. We did a 4x4 safari. The driver took us into the interior, higher on the mountain which gives a panoramic view. We visited a local house and drove along the shoreline. the pearl farm was a very educational stop. We learned the technology of pearl farming. Please see the video below.
We have no affiliation with any booking agency/site, attraction companies or resorts. We simply share our experience and opinions. Some information may be outdated, please check with primary sources.