Ia Oranaaaa! 🎶 Welcome to this exciting new travel story!
In this series, I aim to bring to you real-life travel experiences from different types of travelers who have recently visited Bora Bora and French Polynesia. Whether you're a solo traveler, a couple, a family, or a group, you're sure to find something relatable and informative in these stories. These experiences come from individuals with varying budgets, so you can get a better understanding of what to expect if you're planning a trip to Bora Bora.
This week, I am excited to share Maria's story with you. Maria, an amateur Polynesian dancer from Illinois, traveled to French Polynesia for the very first time with her husband for their honeymoon. They had the opportunity to stay for a total of 7 nights, splitting their time between Moorea and Bora Bora.
Maria's story is truly inspiring and one that I'm sure you'll enjoy reading. She recounts her adventures from the moment they landed in Papeete, to the time they spent exploring the beautiful islands of French Polynesia, to the cultural experiences they had, and more. Her story will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the beauty and diversity of French Polynesia and might just inspire you to plan your own trip there.
If you have a travel story that you would like to share with others, please fill out the form at the end of this post. Your story could be featured in an upcoming post and inspire someone else to travel and explore French Pol.
Table of Contents
Planning & itinerary
🇵🇫 What made you want to discover French Polynesia?
I am a Polynesian dancer based in Illinois (TheBarefootHawaiian), and this is how I discovered the different islands in French Polynesia. I secretly told myself that when I get married, this is the place where I want to go for our honeymoon, and luckily my husband is also up for it since he likes water activities. The pandemic hit, and we have to hold off the trip until everything opens up!
🏝 Was this your first time visiting French Polynesia?
Yes, it was our first time, so we didn't know what to expect aside from the beautiful pictures we saw on the internet.
🗺 Could you tell me more about the planning phase of your trip?
To gather information about my trip to Bora Bora and the Polynesian islands, I joined Facebook groups such as "Off to Bora Bora! (and the Polynesian islands)". I also did my own research, but with little knowledge of the other side of the world, I found it difficult to plan everything myself. In one of the comments on a group post, someone mentioned PacificForLess. I checked their website and inquired about their services, which is how my trip planning began.
Initially, PacificForLess gave me a base quote, which they customized along the way. The planning process took approximately 6-8 months before the actual trip. My husband lets me handle the planning, and we discuss any necessary details together. This makes the planning process easier than having two people trying to plan everything. (lol!)
➡️ What was your itinerary in French Polynesia?
We stayed 3 nights in Moorea and 4 nights in Bora Bora.
❗️Would do anything differently if that was possible?
We loved our stay in Moorea and Bora Bora. It would have been great to spend a day or two in Tahiti as well, especially since many people mentioned the waterfalls and other cool things to do there. Unfortunately, it may be another 10 years before we can return to French Polynesia.
Billie's insight : I agree! While most travelers skip Tahiti, there are plenty of things to do, especially if you enjoy hiking and want to discover the jungle side of this postcard-perfect destination. If you're traveling for more than eight days, I recommend adding two nights in Tahiti at the beginning of your stay.
Accommodation & Food
🏩 Where did you stay on each island?
We stayed at Hilton Lagoon Resort & Spa in Moorea.
In Bora Bora we stayed at Le Bora Bora (Ex Pearl Beach) in an overwater bungalow with mountain view.
❤️ Which resort/hotel was your favorite and why?
Le Bora Bora boasts the best view! We could jump into the water whenever we want. We also loved our room! The exceptional service began from the airport, where they welcomed us, took care of our luggage, and escorted us to an air-conditioned room with cooling towels and fresh juice. They discussed what to expect and updated us on the availability of rooms.
Terehau (who is now my friend on Facebook) escorted us to our room and explained everything we needed to know, which was really nice. We had breakfast included in all of our hotel stays, and the food was great! There were many choices to suit everyone's tastes. The complimentary drinks were a big help, especially after our excursions.
They also provided bottled containers or water bottles that we could refill in the resort, which saved us money. Although our room was far, we still loved it! The only downside was that we could not see the sunrise or sunset because they were behind the mountains, unlike at the Hilton in Moorea where we could see both.
✨ What was your room # and what did your room look like?
Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa : Room #40. We stayed in a villa with a small pool and a terrace where we could enjoy the stars by the mountain at night. There was no kitchenette, but there was an electric kettle and coffee maker, as well as a fridge and a safe-box for our valuables. The villa also had a nice outdoor tub and faucet to wash off the sand from our feet before going inside. We booked a private transfer from the port to the hotel and stopped by their grocery store to buy some snacks, which my husband likes to have, especially at night.
Le Bora Bora : Overwater bungalow #321. It has a balcony with lounge chairs overlooking the beautiful Mt. Otemanu. At the foot of our bed, there is a glass-covered table where we can look down to the water with the coral reef and see some fish, which was very cool. Same in Moorea, there is an electric kettle and complimentary restocking of drinks. There is no kitchenette to cook, which would have been nice, and no microwave either for both hotels.
🍽 Where did you eat during your stay? Any special restaurant that you would recommend?
We included breakfast in our package for both hotels so we don’t have to worry about that and we are big on breakfast. Believe it or not, we were more tired than hungry when we got to the hotel, lol!
In Moorea, we bought bread, cheese, and sausages so we could make sandwiches. We also brought soups in packages, which I think was a smart idea, and some protein bars. On the first night in Moorea, we had the Polynesian Dinner, which was amazing! The show and the food were both very good.
On the last day in Moorea, we rented a car and drove around. We went to a local restaurant in downtown Moorea, but unfortunately, I forgot the name of the restaurant. The food was fine, but one cannot be too hungry when going to local restaurants because it takes time to get the order, lol! My husband and I were very hungry, and we had to wait for a good amount of time before we were served, lol. We were planning to go to "Coco Beach" for lunch, but it was too late since reservations need to be made online many weeks beforehand due to their popularity.
In Bora Bora, we were surprised because during the lagoon tour, we became tired and thirsty instead of hungry. The complimentary drinks were a big help. My husband and I went to "Lucky House" on the third day of our stay when we did the ATV and Jetski tour. The guide prepared fresh fruit for us, which made us feel full, so for lunch, we ordered pizza. The pizzas were huge, and we had some left over that we finished for dinner. The pizza tasted very good! It had a thin crust and was handmade. Bloody Mary?! I know I have heard so much about this restaurant, but my husband and I thought we had to share the love with other local restaurants too, and we didn't regret it at all!
Restaurant recommendation? - I think this all depends on what the individual wants. If they want to be fancy, they can go to many places. If they want immersion with the locals, they can also go to many places. The island itself offers so many opportunities, and it is for everyone, from all walks of life. One just has to feel what his/her heart desires during their stay.
💙 Favorite food memory
This might be shocking to you, but the combination of coconut and banana together (a slice of banana with a slice of coconut meat on top) was by far the most memorable for us! I never thought they would taste so good together! Our guide during the Jetski tour told us to eat it that way, and since then it was always sold out among the fruits that he prepared.
Activities & tours
🛥 What activities did you do on each island?
In Moorea : ATV Adventure Tour and the Polynesian Night
In Bora Bora - Lagoon Snorkeling Tour with Shark & Ray Experience, shared half day 9:00am to 1:00p and Jetski & ATV Combo Tour
💬 Can you let us know more about your experience(s)?
Polynesian Night: It was great! I got to see the show with my own eyes as a Polynesian dancer. We also do the same type of show here in Illinois. Before the pandemic, we had a monthly show at Halakahiki Lounge called Hawaiian Night. So, being in the audience this time and watching the dancers was a great experience for both of us! I wish they had fire knife dancers too.
ATV in Moorea : We were glad we did this because my husband and I didn't think we would want to climb/hike the mountain in this heat. We got to see the scenic view, especially at the Magical Mountain, where there was a 360-degree view of everything. It was my first time driving an ATV, and it w as fun and scary at the same time, especially going uphill. Plus, on the other side of the narrow road, there was a cliff, lol! I opted to drive because I wanted to experience it, lol!
Lagoon Snorkeling Tour with Shark & Ray Experience in Bora Bora ; this was the best! We didn't know what to expect. We had seen pictures of stingrays, sharks, and fish circling around people in the water, so we didn't expect to be swimming with Eagle and Manta Rays! We thought we would stop and then they would be right there. Mr. Natura briefed all of us after he picked up other adventurers on what to expect, such as seeing the Eagle, Manta, and Stingrays, snorkeling, and feeding with sharks (which I thought we could not go down and swim with!).
So, when we had our first stop, he said we would find the eagle ray and that we had to swim closer to him. I don't know how to swim, so I put on a life jacket with his help and put on our full-face mask and fins, which helped me a lot in enjoying the excursion! We had to swim quite a distance away from the boat to find the eagle ray, but once we found one, it was worth it! The same goes for the Manta Rays, but we had to swim farther from our boat. Manta Rays are huge and amazing! Going back to the boat was a challenge for all of us. My husband didn't use the fins because he is not comfortable with them, but I am glad I had them!
The current was so strong, and I felt like I wasn't even moving. There was a lady - a tour guide from another touring company who sensed that I was panicking because every time I looked around, I felt like I was drifting farther away from our boat. She was nice enough to guide me and my husband to our boat, and that made me say that "everyone is looking after everyone on this Island!"
After that Manta Ray hunting, my husband and I were tired. He said he wouldn't be going down anymore to swim or snorkel, but he quickly changed his mind after we stopped and saw sharks coming to our boat! We thought we would only watch them being fed, but when Mr. Natura said we could go down and swim, there he goes! He was the second person to go down from the boat!
This experience was amazing! Who can say they swam with sharks?! We can!
Then, here comes the stingray on our next stop! At least we don't have to find them now. Mr. Natura is calling them, and they willingly mingle with us! We touched them and enjoyed their company!
Billie's insight : As a traveler, it's understandable that you might not realize it before booking, but shark feeding is officially forbidden by the government in French Polynesia. However, some tour providers still engage in this activity to keep the animals close to tourists. Although this is the only way to ensure that travelers will see them during the tour, it permanently alters the sharks and rays behavior and harms the lagoon's ecosystem.
While it may be exciting to see these animals up close, I recommend going with a provider that does not feed them if you're concerned about the environment. For more information, check out my post about sharks in Bora Bora.
This experience was so memorable that my husband and I forgot to put sunscreen on our backs. Needless to say, he got a real bad sunburn, and I got some too! We were not able to sleep on our backs when we went back to our hotel, and good thing he followed my advice to bring ibuprofen with him! We tried to find after-sun cream, and we bought it the next day when we were on the mainland. I had him soaked in room temperature water when we got back to our hotel.
Jetski & ATV tour : We were unsure if we could make this activity because of my husband's back, but he muscled through and didn't cancel the tour. The first activity was Jetskiing, and he drove the Jetski because I wasn't sure how to operate it. It was his first time driving too, but he understood the machine more easily than I did.
The Jetski experience was crazy! It was like riding a rollercoaster. My husband said we were going full speed and we had to catch up with the guide. There were two other couples with us as well. My husband was aggravated at first because we were going so fast, and I think both of us were expecting a slower pace and a scenic view, which was totally the opposite! It was a wild ride, and I had to say a lot of Hail Mary's at the back, especially when we hit the waves and drifted away from the line. Going back into the line was a challenge. After a break of about 30 minutes, my husband got the hang of it and enjoyed it, but for me? I was still saying a lot of Hail Mary's! If I find myself praying in the middle of an activity, it means I am really stressed and scared! My husband and I discussed the experience, and I told him that maybe it's supposed to be fast, and that's where the fun is!
The ATV tour came next. At first, I wanted to drive, but after seeing that the roads were narrower than in Moorea, I had second thoughts and told my husband to drive. This time, I enjoyed being in the passenger seat, but the uphill and downhill parts were scary. I'm glad he drove! The scenic view was phenomenal as always, but the heat took away from the joy of enjoying the view because there weren't any shades that we could cover. But it was all good; life is beautiful!
🦈 If you had to pick only one activity, which one would it be and why?
The lagoon tour with Sharks & Ray Experience. It is an absolutely unforgettable experience!
⬇️ Mentionned tours (and eco-friendly alternatives) ⬇️
🛍 Shopping experience : Did you go shopping at all during your stay? If so, where did you go and what did you buy?
Here's the thing about shopping : My husband and I only have carry-on luggage, so this means we have to buy small items that we can squeeze into the luggage. And not only that, we held back from buying more items in Tahiti so we wouldn't have to carry them from one island to the other.
On the last day in Moorea, we rented a car, drove around the entire island, and took pictures here and there. We had been passing downtown Moorea until we finally realized it was the downtown area where we were. We were looking at pearls. They are quite expensive and I understand that the price depends on the quality, etc. I want something that I can wear daily and yet is not too expensive, reasonable for both of us. We went to SAB Perles De Tahiti, and they were nice enough to answer our questions and inform us about the different sections in their store.
So, my husband bought me a blue-green pearl with a turtle on it! I wanted it to symbolize Tahiti when I saw it. I love my ring! It was also the perfect size for me.
Now, I didn't know I had to take care of the pearl, such as avoiding contact with chemicals and keeping it moist with water to remain healthy. This means I cannot wear it daily since I work in healthcare and the disinfectant we use is very strong.
But it's all good; life is beautiful. I can wear it when I'm with friends or not at work.
In Moorea, I also bought 3-4 types of pareos for me to use during our upcoming shows in the summer. Additional items we bought were a mug with Tahiti on it, T-shirts with rays, a pareo with stingrays, a shell with a pearl on it as a souvenir, and magnets.
In Bora Bora and Tahiti, we bought Monoi Oil, he bought alcohol, and I bought 10 shells with MOP for my co-dancers for our upcoming shows.
💫 Overall what was the highlight of your trip?
The fact that we were able to spend time together in this wonderful paradise means a lot to both of us. Not only that, we were blessed to be able to book the different listed activities. Among them, the best were swimming with rays and sharks, as well as lagoon tours where we went snorkeling.
⚡️ Did anything memorable happen while you were there, like a special interaction with another person or animal?
Having the opportunity to speak with the locals was special for us. Understanding their culture and hearing their perspective on life while living in paradise was a unique experience. One of the tour guides said, "What more could I ask for? I live in this paradise, have a job, and a family." Hearing him so content and happy living a simple life made me reflect on the kind of life I have in the US and what I really want in life. I wondered if I could be content like this young gentleman.
🙁 What was your least favorite part of the trip? (If anything comes to your mind).
The heat, haha! Don't get me wrong, I love the sun, but the heat is on another level. People on the island do their activities either very early in the morning or in the late afternoon when the sun is not at its peak.
🌦 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?
March was a month of good weather, and we were fortunate to have it. There was one night when it rained, but we didn't even notice until the following day, which helped cool the ground for our next day's adventure.
Also read :
🤑 What was the overall cost of your entire trip?
Approximately between $13-15k which I think is not bad. We did not use points or member programs to book.
✈️ What was the overall cost for transportation ?
The transportation was included in the package, except for the private transfer from the ferry dock to the Hilton, which we paid $30 for. This included transportation from LAX to Papeete, Moorea, Bora Bora, and back to LAX. We spent approximately $2,000 for our plane tickets from ORD to LAX, including a cab ride from our home, which is about 1.5 hours away from the airport.
🏩 What was the overall cost for accommodation?
This was also included in the package for both Hilton Moorea and Overwater bungalow with Otemanu view at Le Bora Bora (which we paid extra to get).
🤿 What was the overall cost for activities?
Included in the package were the Lagoon tour and ray/shark swimming. We paid for an ATV tour in Moorea, which was $180/quad, and the Bora Bora Combo ATV & Jetski tour, which was $290/quad. The Polynesian night was $240, including taxes, etc. All booked activities were shared.
Also read :
🍽 Food. What was the overall cost for food?
Breakfast was included at both hotels. We did buy some groceries on our way to Hilton Moorea, and my husband paid approximately $200-300. We ate at Lucky House, where he paid about $60, and at another restaurant in Moorea where we had lunch, he paid between $100-150. We didn't buy any alcohol during our stay at either hotel, since we're not big drinkers and my husband usually doesn't feel well the next day, so we don't want to take any chances.
🧐 Were there any hidden costs that came up throughout your stay?
No. Thank goodness! At the hotels, they are very upfront and honest when it comes to prices.
Last word & tips
💡 Do you have tips / advice for other travelers visiting Bora Bora soon?
My advice is that if it is your first time on the island and you want to have a worry-free and hassle-free trip, use an agent. I am super grateful that we used an agent and everything was flawless and taken care of. I followed their suggestions, like in the beginning, what month they could suggest, and they said March towards the end so the weather will be better, and it is still in the low season so we can save, and so we did book the suggested dates.
Also, I wanted to visit so many islands during the short trip, and they advised that we would need at least 3 weeks if I wanted to do what I wanted to do. Otherwise, we wouldn't be enjoying the trip at all and would just end up hopping from one hotel to the next, plus the travel time, which now I can understand what she meant.
I also wanted to book so many activities in 1 day, and they suggested 1 activity per day is the best. Otherwise, we wouldn't be enjoying it at all, which I am glad we did as well.
Everyone on the island takes time, and so 1 activity per day is good. The tour company wants to make sure you get what you paid for and not shortchanged. For example, when we had to find the Manta Rays, I thought we wouldn't be able to see them at all because Mr. Natura kept swimming and trying to find it, but he never gave up until we found not only 1 but 2!
I think it is also good to point out that one doesn't have to have many activities when in paradise. Don't forget to enjoy the place wherever you will be.
😎 Anything else / any experience you would like to talk about to finish?
The trip back was quite the opposite of our flight to Tahiti. We had enough time to wait for our flight from ORD to LAX to Papeete, but I only allotted 55 minutes for the connecting flight from LAX to ORD, which I thought would be enough. After landing in LAX, my husband and I had to sprint to catch our connecting flight. We didn't realize that we had to exit the LAX airport after immigration, run to Terminal 5, and check in again at security to get to our gate. Just imagine the anxiety, pressure, and running we had to do! We just made it in time to board.
The wait at the Tahiti airport was something else. I didn't expect the airport to close and for us to have to wait outside. It was fine in the beginning; we were able to eat some snacks. We wanted to check out some stores, but everything was closed. My husband was sweating profusely, and I had to fan him using our travel folder to help him cool off. So, a small fan would have been a good idea, but I forgot to bring one. The airport opened at 8:30 pm, and people started lining up at 8:00 pm, so we did too. After checking in, we had to wait in line again at the detax office, which wasn't bad, and then wait in another line for immigration to fully check in at the airport. I think this was just a combination of being tired that made everyone so antsy to board.
Thank goodness for the Business Lounge; we were able to freshen up and rest in an air-conditioned room with some snacks. We went to duty-free at the airport to buy something, but we were just too tired to shop for more. He bought alcohol there, and I bought cookies and a T-shirt as a souvenir. We enjoyed the lounge and even took a nap. Then we had to wait in line again for boarding.
So, my advice is to give yourself 3-4 hours before your connecting flight. Maybe it would be better to avoid experiencing what we did.
And, voilà! 🙃
Thank you again, Maria, for sharing your first trip to French Polynesia! Hopefully, it won't be your last. 😜
I want to be featured! 👋
So you've been to Bora Bora / French Polynesia recently and are willing to share your experience? I would be glad to have you on the blog! Shoot me an email via the form below! Looking forward to hearing from you! 🙂
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