Ia Oranaaa! ???? Welcome in this new travel story ????
Storytime is a series where I share real-life travel experiences from different types of travelers who have recently visited Bora Bora and French Polynesia. Whether you’re traveling solo, with a loved one, as a family, or in a group, you’re sure to find something relatable and informative in these stories. Each experience comes from individuals with varying budgets, so you can better understand what to expect if you’re planning a trip to Bora Bora.
This week, I am excited to feature Louise and Michael, who took the time to write a veeeeery detailed review of their second trip to Bora Bora. When I reached out to them about being featured, they were initially reluctant, saying that they may not be the most exciting couple as they spent most of their time underwater… which I found super interesting, as Bora Bora is one of the best diving destinations in the world!
During their trip, they spent a lot of time exploring the lagoon in Bora Bora and also tried out two different resorts. They share their experiences in detail, including their favorite resorts, restaurants, activities and budget, and are already planning a third stay.
Table of Contents
Planning & itinerary
???????? What made you want to discover French Polynesia?
Bora Bora had always been on our bucket list ever since we first heard about it in the early 2000’s. The picturesque ocean, overwater bungalows, and perfect tropical islands looked too good to be real. The clarity of the water also seemed completely unreal. The only special occasion was the timing and pricing worked out . . . we didn’t want to have to wait for a milestone to have to go! Financially, it made sense too compared to what Hawaii costs these days.
???? Was this your first time visiting French Polynesia?
We have been fortunate enough to make this our second trip! Our first trip was last year (2022) after a couple of rescheduling setbacks in 2021 due to the opening, closing, and then re-opening of the islands. We are hoping to make this a regular beach/tropical vacation spot and have already booked our 2024 trip!
???? Let me know more about the planning phase of your trip.
Planning this trip was a lot easier as all the testing requirements were gone; we already had a lay of the land from our previous trip; and had a good idea of what we wanted to do.
That said, the first time we planned this trip, it took a good amount of research. We probably spent a couple of months researching on and off. Forums like the Facebook group and online reviews were incredibly helpful. We’ve always been the types that like to research things for ourselves and plan an itinerary specific to us.
We used Costco for the lodging and boat transfers but planned our own flights to Tahiti and our own inter-island flights. We prefer to fly United so our flight gets into Tahiti relatively late in the evening (around 8:30pm). Hence we stay in Tahiti overnight, take our inter-island flight late in the morning so that we can get to our Bora Bora resort close to check-in time to maximize our time in Bora Bora.
❗️Would do anything differently if that was possible?
Does moving to French Polynesia permanently count? ???? At some point we’d like to explore some of the other islands but for now, we still have more we want to do in Bora Bora. We stayed for 10 nights on our first trip and keep adding nights each trip as we just want to stay longer. The time goes by too quickly and we feel like a longer stay makes sense given the flight costs and total travel time.
We also enjoyed breaking up our stay between a couple different resorts so we can try different places to find what we like best but that does take part of a day out of the trip to pack-up, move resorts, and unpack again.
We’re thinking about 12 – 14 nights is about right for us given our activity schedule and resort change.
Accommodation & Food
???? Where did you stay on each island?
We stay at the Hilton Hotel Tahiti for our overnight stays in Tahiti as they have a sky bridge that connects to the shopping center where there is a Carrefour (think French version of a Super Target). We load up on Noa Noa tea, vanilla, and other gifts of that nature that we bring back for friends as they seem to have the best pricing.
Our first 5 nights in Bora Bora were at the Intercontinental Bora Bora Le Moana. We wanted to stay on the main island so we could try some more local restaurants, get groceries, and check out Matira beach.
We enjoyed the Conrad Bora Bora Nui from our first trip and wanted to end our trip there so our last 6 nights in Bora Bora were at the Conrad.
❤️ Which resort/hotel was your favorite and why?
This is a tough one! We think each resort has its advantages depending on what you are looking for.
Intercontinental Bora Bora Le Moana:
We really enjoyed being able to spend some time on the main island, try local restaurants, see Matira beach, and get more of the local vibe. Service at Moana was great from start to finish.
We stayed at one of the Overwater Bungalow which are all in the same category except the ones at the end of the piers. The rooms are cozy but we did wish we had a little more space given how much luggage and diving equipment we had with us. The rooms are not as recently remodeled as some other resorts but they are well maintained and well kept. We saw some of the bungalows having some work done so perhaps they are remodeling? The bedding, pillows, towels, and robes were all very nice and comfortable. Moana had a Nespresso maker, hot water pot, and the usual amenities you would expect from a resort.
There are also water bottle filling stations spread throughout so that you don’t have to keep buying bottled water. In fact, our welcome gift included two nice insulated water bottles so we could take advantage of the water filling stations. We also received a welcome t-shirt and pareo.
The lagoon under the bungalows is shallow enough to stand in which makes it a little easier to take underwater photos of the marine life in the area. Even though the lagoon was shallower, we saw plenty of fish, stingrays, eels, and the typical marine life you’d see in the shallows.
One of the coolest things about the Le Moana Overwater Bungalows are the glass coffee tables with sliding tops!
We probably spent hours just checking out and checking on some of the fish we had named. That made the little rock bonnies/coral formations their homes. From what we could see, each bungalow had some rocks and coral underneath to help attract fish. We also had some fish food so we really got a ton of underwater visitors! That said, the fish really seemed to like just plain old baguettes! Just snag an extra one or two at breakfast and you’ll be set!
The one main restaurant at Le Moana had a good breakfast spread and a fair variety of items for dinner. We felt like meals were a good value and room service was prompt with food arriving hot and fresh. But it would be a shame to just eat at the resort and not explore some of the other restaurants on the island. Our picks would be the Bora Bora Yacht Club, Saint James, and Les Délices de Bora Bora for on-island restaurants.
Views from the overwater bungalow are out to the lagoon. Matira beach is kind of to one side and there are other residences on the other side of the resort as you are on the main island. The resort is, however, positioned for perfect sunrise views as the sun rises over the water and Otemanu is also visible from some of the overwater bungalows. Even if you are not at the end of the piers, there is a large deck at the end of the pier open to any guest where you can take in and get an absolutely phenomenal view of the sunrise!
If you want a good sunset view, then just head over to Matira beach which is quite literally a stone’s throw away from the main entrance to the resort. The beach itself has a large covered pavilion too.
One of things that makes Le Moana a great choice is the service. Every morning the general manager, Laurence Levy, would come around to each table to check on all the guests. Ms. Levy also saw us off even though we were the only couple leaving on that particular boat.
Everyone at the resort was friendly, helpful, and any requests from the concierge were quickly taken care of. We even saw some of the staff outside of their work at the resort on the main island and they would take the time to chat with us and check on us! You also can’t deny the value that Le Moana provides. If you want the overwater bungalow experience, or to stretch your budget to stay longer, dividing up your stay or picking the Le Moana is a great option!
Conrad Bora Bora Nui: The luxury experience!
Our experience at the Conrad this year was phenomenal! The service this time was truly exceptional. Being a return guest certainly helps but we also did notice the level of service at the restaurants, especially at breakfast, was notably improved over last year.
We think Conrad has also listened to feedback provided last year regarding the water situation. Given that it is a tropical climate, you tend to go through a lot of water. Last year, we ended up purchasing a number of bottles to get us through our trip. This year, we did not need to purchase any additional bottles as you start off with 2 x 1 Liter bottles and the turn down service will bring 2 more.
There are also other little things Conrad has done to improve the experience. Bikes have been replaced with new ones and were plentiful. Additionally they are refurbishing the rooms and decks. Even though the Conrad has very new rooms compared to some of the other resorts, it is nice to see they are being proactive and constantly improving or keeping up the property. We also received some very nice welcome gifts as return guests that were based on our interests! It felt like every other night there would be some new goodies waiting for us in our bungalow after we returned from our excursions or dinner i.e. welcome gifts, fresh coconut drinks, chocolates and champagne.
Our room this year was an overwater bungalow with a partial Otemanu view and seemed to be recently updated with a new stain on the wood, almost no signs of wear and tear on the inside, and the big sliding door to the patio worked perfectly and did not stick at all.
Many of the restaurants have also gotten a makeover. The menu in the French restaurant has been updated and refreshed to include a greater variety of choices. Banyan, the Chinese restaurant closed during our stay for remodeling, so we did not try that option (but it should be open now from what we heard). They have added a steakhouse option where the Polynesian show is normally held. Portion sizes at the restaurants are larger and we never left feeling hungry.
The breakfast buffet also includes the option to order omelets or have eggs made to order. Any requests for things like coffee were handled quickly and efficiently. We also were able to get in and out quickly for a quick breakfast on the mornings we had to meet our dive boat.
Our island host, Francesca, was outstanding. She responded very quickly to any of the typical requests such as dinner reservations and shuttles to town, but she also proactively checked on us during our stay. She even quickly answered silly questions we had such as identifying random fruit trees for us that we were curious about and helped us get a few extra incense sticks for our room from housekeeping.
Speaking of housekeeping, we have to give them extra credit for the turndown service on one particular evening where a stronger storm came through. It was a strong enough storm where a small boat wasn’t able to dock (we got to watch the attempt at dinner at Upa Upa Lounge), had strong winds and rain coming down at 45 degrees, with just about everyone was getting ferried around in the covered golf carts. Even under those circumstances, housekeeping came around with their customary turn down services. All the staff and personnel we met were friendly and helpful. Some of them even remembered us from last year!
Of course, the property itself and the villas are modern and beautiful. Plenty of electrical outlets, including 110v outlets in the bathroom, large shower stall, giant soaking tub, plenty of room to rest and relax, separate closet with a small desk, large patio with plunge pool and hammock, motorized pop-up TV, comfortable couch, plenty of soft towels, and comfortable soft linens. We suppose the one thing they could add would be a pillow menu like what they have at Four Seasons. The standard issued pillows are a bit too soft for our taste.
Snorkeling was great and there is a large variety of marine life as the resort covers a lot of ground and water. If you want just sandy beaches, Conrad has an exceptional beach with soft sand and beautiful views. If you want an area with deeper water, you can get there too from one of the beaches. And if you want an area with more corals and shallower water, that’s available too on the other side of the resort. Just about each of the overwater bungalows ranges has something different to offer so we’ve never tried to request a room in a specific range as it has been fun bouncing around to try different rooms.
✨ What was your room # and what did your room look like?
Intercontinental Le Moana: We had overwater bungalow # 37 which was about mid-way down the longer pier. We felt this was a good location that was close enough to the main resort but far out enough to enjoy the lagoon and views. It was also close to the ice machine and water refill station. There is a deck with a small table and a couple of chairs as well as a couple of lounger chairs. Below the main deck is another small deck with a rinse shower and ladder to access the lagoon itself. Our bungalow had plenty of marine life all around us. We saw a large variety of fish, stingrays, and invertebrates.
Conrad Bora Bora Nui: During our first stay, we started off in Garden Pool Villa 407. Great views of the beach, not too far from the restaurants, and the same in-room amenities as the overwater bungalow including a large deck to lounge and relax on (less overwater hammock of course). The pool is great for relaxing (and the bugs won’t get you) if you want to just relax and enjoy the views. The one negative is hopefully you are a heavier sleeper or a morning person . . . as the roosters will likely wake you up right around 4:30am every morning. On the plus side, we could go in our “backyard” and pick-up fresh coconuts to crack open at the pool activities desk.
The second part of our first stay had us move to a standard overwater bungalow number 128. You get a view of the lagoon but not as private as you do see the main dock to the resort. Like all the overwater bungalow, the deck is a good size with shaded area, chairs, shower, and plenty of spots to catch a great view. The dock being in sight didn’t bother us and we did get to see the nightly Upa Upa Polynesian show from our deck! If you like marine life, there is also a family of porcupine puffer fish that like to hang out in the area. We saw them on numerous occasions and up to 5 of them at a time! This bungalow also had a partial glass floor on the main deck so you could look down directly at the ocean and what was swimming around. The lower deck has a rinse shower and ladder to get into the lagoon. Great spot to go snorkel and super convenient for getting to the dock or the restaurants.
We also moved to overwater bungalow number 303 after requesting a different room where we had a great unobstructed view of the ocean. The wind is stronger here and the water is a bit deeper and can be choppy in this area but this is also where the spotted eagle rays will pass by. Very little boat or jet ski traffic going this way so this is much more private. It is a bit further from restaurants and the dock but you also have the garden that is on the mini-island where the 300 series bungalows are located.
For this stay, we were in overwater bungalow 101 which technically is not a mountain view (rooms 103 – 106 are the official mountain view overwater bungalow) as you can’t see it directly from inside your room. But, if you walk out on the deck, you can see it from there. This one was also a pool overwater bungalow so you have just one overwater hammock but you gain the pool. This side of the resort you can enjoy beautiful sunrises and has a lot more coral growing in the area. We also had some baby black-tip reef sharks come by and found out later there is a shark nursery in the area.
???? Where did you eat during your stay? Any special restaurant that you would recommend?
We ate at all the resort restaurants and some of the local spots as well. Intercontinental Le Moana really has just one main restaurant. Conrad dinner options include a steakhouse, the French restaurant, Upa Upa lounge, and Banyan Chinese restaurant (that was closed for remodeling this stay). Conrad recently added the steakhouse option (which is located where the Polynesian show buffet is on the weekend) and updated the menu for the French restaurant (located where breakfast is served in the mornings) so the menus were different from what we knew from last year.
We also have had a chance to eat at Saint James on two occasions, the Bora Bora Yacht Club, and Les Délices de Bora Bora on the main island. The Yacht club has some impressive sunset views and good portion sizes.
Saint James is a spot we liked for lunch on the upper deck where there was a nice breeze and view of the lagoon.
Les Délices de Bora Bora is not on the water but is one of the few places we found for dinner that has air conditioning!!! Sometimes it’s just nice to beat the heat and humidity with some good old AC.
Both Saint James and Les Délices de Bora Bora have some good catch-of-the-day options and it is fun to try different types of local seafood.
To be frank, food is not the reason to visit Bora Bora. Part of it is the function of being a remote island location where just about everything needs to be brought in from pretty far away so your meals will always cost more than in other places. Although some prices might match that of a Parisian Michelin 3-star restaurant, the meal will not be anywhere near that level of quality. We simply accept that $5 – $9 cans of Coke at the resorts is par for the course and part of the experience. In our opinion, half board packages that include breakfast and dinner are the way to go especially if you are on a resort where you’d need to take a shuttle boat to access main island restaurant options.
???? Favorite food memory : What was the top meal / top speciality that you tried during your stay?
This probably sounds silly, but our favorite menu item was one of the desserts at Conrad. Although it’s not on the menus this year, one of the dessert options is 3 scoops of sorbet with flavors including strawberry, mango, raspberry, lychee, passion fruit, and pineapple. After trying just lots of different combinations, I think we’ve settled on 2 mango and 1 pineapple as the ideal combination. The pastry chef at Conrad is extremely talented. The selection of croissants and pastries at breakfast were divine!
Activities & tours
???? What activities did you do on Bora Bora?
One of the main reasons we like tropical beach vacations is to experience marine wildlife so our activities tend to be focused on that . . . and just lounging around enjoying the views! Given our interests, we originally selected the Conrad Bora Bora because we heard they had the best snorkeling and the variety of marine life that you can find at the resort is great! We were very pleasantly surprised with the large variety of marine life you could find at Intercontinental Le Moana even though the lagoon is shallower. Because you can stand and snorkel, we were able to find things like smaller more reclusive fish like baby yellow boxfish hiding out in the corals.
A relatively new activity to Bora Bora is flyboarding! Talking to the operators, it took them around 5 years to get permission to offer flyboarding in Bora Bora. While some people take to this pretty easily (probably if you’ve had experience with snowboarding or other board sports) others, like yours truly, might try for 45 minutes and barely get out of the water. It was still a fun experience and a great way to enjoy the water and views. I’ll be back at it next year to give it another go!
Our favorite activity in Bora Bora is scuba diving! In fact, we made a deal that if we went to Bora Bora, we’d also get our scuba certifications done which is exactly what we did last year. We can’t imagine a better location for this given the unique topography of a large lagoon, surrounded by smaller islands, and then more lagoon before the barrier reef with just one main inlet.
???? Can you let us know more about your experience(s)?
We did a ton of research on dive operators and went with HiRo Dive as she offers a private diving service. It was perfect for us to be able to get instruction at our pace and Hiroko is one of the nicest people we’ve met! We enjoyed our experience so much that we took our advanced open water classes from her this time and also added a bunch more dives. In total, we spent seven days with two dives per day on this trip which felt about right for us.
We hit almost all the popular dive sites like the Coral Gardens, Tapu Canyon, Tapu Shark Point, Anau Manta Point, and the Aquarium. We started at Shark Point for our first dive and were the only boat out there so we got to see lots of sharks the entire time we were there. Manta point was a huge highlight and we saw lots of manta rays on each dive and usually a sea turtle too! There was tons of marine life in general and we saw something different on every dive even if it was at the same dive spot. We could easily spend many more hours at each location . . . hence the need for a return trip!
???? If you had to pick only one activity, which one would it be and why?
This one is easy! Bora Bora is the perfect place for easy, relaxed diving. Having a private service is even better as we could select the times we wanted to go out, pick the spots we wanted to go to, stay underwater longer, stop to take underwater photos and video of things that interested us, and take time to take photos or videos of Bora Bora during our surface time (arguably, the best views are from the lagoon in a boat). Our guide Hiroko is also extremely experienced and knows the best places and times to go. We would often be the only dive boat at a location or arrive before the other dive boats so we could enjoy the underwater world without other divers or boats in the area. Each time we went to Manta Point for example we were the first boat there and other divers only showed up toward the end of our dive or as we were leaving.
The clarity and calmness of the water on most days is absolutely amazing and part of what we love about diving in Bora Bora.. There were some days where the surface was like glass and you could easily see the coral bonnies and formations that were 40 feet or more underwater from the surface.
???? Shopping experience : Did you go shopping at all during your stay? If so, where did you go and what did you buy?
We shopped for Tahitian pearls from Deep Sea Pearls in Vaitape. Sacha was wonderful to work with and we found the quality and pricing excellent! He was very knowledgeable, patient and took the time to help us with all the necessary VAT paperwork. He also shared an amazing video he took while hiking Mt Pahai- the view of the lagoon from that high up is breathtakingly beautiful.
The shop next door also sells beautifully carved wooden manta rays, sting rays, turtles and sharks. Highly recommend taking a closer look at these works of art.
???? Overall what was the highlight of your trip?
The highlight of our trip was being able to dive and see Manta Rays. It is truly an amazing experience to see these beautiful, graceful, and gentle creatures underwater. On one particular dive the lead manta even had a school of fish with it and came right by us with three other mantas following it as they circled by us multiple times..
⚡️ Did anything memorable happen while you were there, like a special interaction with another person or animal?
Conrad Bora Bora has a weekly evening presentation given by their resident marine biologist about their collaboration with the Manta Trust. You can attend this informative session at the resort and learn all about Manta Rays and the important work the Manta Project is doing in French Polynesia. Learning about these creatures and then being able to dive and see them underwater is such a special treat!
???? What was your least favorite part of the trip? (If anything comes to your mind).
Getting sick from overdoing it! Being down and out with the sniffles while your time in paradise is ticking away is not fun! Hopefully, our experience with that will help others if they find themselves in the same situation.
First, there are a pharmacy located on the main island. We figured we’d just go and pick up some cough drops and maybe a sudafed based decongestant. Well, not as easy as we thought. They have very strict controls on any type of medication and even something that would be the equivalent of an OTC drug like Mucinex requires a prescription.
We found out our only option to see a doctor and get a prescription would be to see a private doctor (as opposed to going to the clinic which was closed for the weekend). Fortunately, our dive guide put us in touch with Dr. Azad (contact information listed below) who was able to see me on a Saturday before the pharmacy closed. His office is located close to the main docks at Vaitape and easy to get to. The cost was about $100 USD for the weekend visit and I was able to get antibiotics, decongestant, anti-inflammatory, and nasal spray from the pharmacy that had me back in the water and diving again in 2 days! The cost of the medication itself was probably only about $60 USD. Being able to see a doctor and get the right meds was an absolute trip saver.
Hopefully, anyone reading this will not have to go through this fire drill. But we’d suggest adding the doctor’s contact information (I was able to find it online after a bit of searching so all the information is publicly available) to your travel document list or notes just in case. Make sure to pack any OTC medication you might need with you from home.
???? The weather is a factor of stress for future travelers. What month did you visit? Did it rain while you were there, and if so, how often did it rain?
Both of our trips to Bora Bora have been in the month of March. Last year, we went towards the middle to end of March and experienced very little rain. Out of the 10 days we were there, it rained maybe twice overnight for only a few minutes.
Our trip this year, we went in the first two weeks of March and experienced several days of rain and thunderstorms. There were a few back to back days of rain and strong winds. Even though rain didn’t affect our underwater scuba excursions, we were still met with strong winds and larger swells for a few days where it did make going out to the ocean more difficult. We ended up diving in the lagoon instead on those days. Overall, it wasn’t too disruptive and we found the cloudy skies a nice reprieve from the hot sun.
???? What was the overall cost of your entire trip?
About $27,000 excluding Pearl Purchases.
???? Did you use points or member programs to save on accommodations and / or flights?
Hilton Hotel Tahiti – used points for free night.
✈️ What was the overall cost for transportation ?
United Polaris Business Class – $9400
Inter island flights Air Tahiti Z Class – Premium with extra baggage allowance – $1000
Z-class fare gets you a weight limit of 50kg per person and we ended up pretty close at 46kg each as we brought full scuba kits minus cylinders and fins . . . and we tend to overpack. Your diver c-card will also get you an extra 5 kg of weight for each diver regardless of fare class.
???? What was the overall cost for accommodation?
Costco package for 11 nights: $10,800
- 5 nights Intercontinental Bora Bora Le Moana w/ half board, Overwater Lagoon Junior Suite Bungalow
- 6 nights Conrad Bora Bora Nui w/ half board, Overwater Villa (upgraded to Overwater villa with Pool)
???? Activities. What was the overall cost for excursions?
- Scuba diving AOW certification for 2 plus 12 extra dives – $3,100
- Flyboarding – $400
All activities were private with just the two of us.
???? Food. What was the overall cost for food?
With the Costco package, we had the following included in our half board:
Intercontinental Le Moana – daily buffet breakfast, nightly 2-course dinner
Conrad – daily buffet breakfast, nightly 3-course dinner
We spent an extra $1 500 on food and drinks at both hotels. We bought a few snacks and Coke from Chin Lee and also ate at some local restaurants.
Misc souvenirs, tips, cab rides, doctor visit, etc. : $1,000
???? Were there any hidden costs that came up throughout your stay?
Ummmm, the need to go back and book another trip because the beauty of Bora Bora just doesn’t get old?
Last word & tips
???? Do you have tips / advice for other travelers visiting Bora Bora soon?
Bring a change of clothes with you on the plane in your carry-on bags or layer in such a way that you can ditch the outer layers prior to arrival. Even if you land in the evening, the airport is not air conditioned, and it can be very hot and humid. Keep in mind you’ll be waiting to go through immigration, get your bags, etc. which can take a fair amount of time. Likewise for the return portion if your home location is cold. Just change on the plane before you land.
If you are planning on changing resorts like we did and you are booking a Costco package that includes boat transfers, you can simply have the boat from one resort take you to the airport and then take the boat from the airport to your next resort. From the research we did, that tends to be easier and cheaper than trying to get a boat from one resort to move directly to the next resort and it doesn’t take much longer if you schedule it right. There were at least a few other couples that were doing this and our concierge from Le Moana let Conrad know how we were getting there.
Bonus tip: Only one person needs to move the luggage to and from your resorts and take care of check-in and check-out if the other one wants to go on a morning excursion and then get dropped off at the second resort.
Local Doctor Contact Information: Dr. Azad Roussanaly
WhatsApp: +689 87 78 27 27
???? Anything else / any experience you would like to talk about to finish?
Budget a little time to go into Vaitape on your first weekday to hit up Chin Lee for snacks, sodas, and things along those lines. Hit up some of the local stores for souvenirs, shop for pearls, try a local restaurant, or some of the food trucks! Bora Bora is more than just the resort you stay at and you might just find yourself wanting to come back to enjoy some time on the main island.
And, voilà! ????
Thank you again, Louise & Michael, for sharing this review with us! Can’t wait to hear about your next one :D