If you are planning a trip to Bora Bora, you have probably encountered the word "Motu" by now and might be a bit confused about it.
No need to stress though, I'm here to help! In this post, I'll explain what a Motu is in Bora Bora and give you the lowdown on staying on one versus staying on the main island.
I'll also highlight key differences between staying on the main island VS staying on the motus so you can make an informed decision. Happy planning!
Table of Contents
What is a motu in Bora Bora?
Basically, "motu" means islet in Tahitian.
Bora Bora is gradually sinking, just like all of the islands in this region of the Pacific. The famous Mt Otemanu is all that remains of the extinct volcano, which forms the "main island". A coral reef surrounds the main island and has gradually risen, generating tiny landmasses known as "motu" over time.
These islets are made of broken coral and sand and are too small to actually be called "islands", so Tahitians use the word "motu" instead.
Dozens of motus surround the main island of Bora Bora, both on the reef and in the middle of the lagoon.
All of these islets are privately owned, and some of them are home to top luxury hotels and resorts in Bora Bora. Even the airport is located on a motu!
To help you understand Bora Bora’s topography better, here is a map, and you can also check out my dedicated post about Bora Bora's geography.
Also read :
Motus in Bora Bora
Here are the motu resorts in Bora Bora, which are located on their own private islets:
- Four Seasons Bora Bora (Motu Tehotu)
- St Regis Bora Bora (Motu Ome’e)
- Conrad Bora Bora (Motu To’opua)
- Intercontinental Thalasso (Motu Piti Aau)
- Le Bora Bora (Motu Tavairoa)
All motus have a "Boat base" on the main island, which is used to travel between the resort and the main island.
Other Motus on Bora Bora
Other notable motus include Motu Mute, which is home to the Bora Bora airport.
Motu Tapu, located near the Conrad Bora Bora and one of the most beautiful and most photographed islet in south Pacific.
Additionally, most snorkeling tour providers have their own private motu. If you book a full day with them, you'll get to have lunch in one of these little paradises.
Insider tip : If you rent a boat to explore the lagoon on your own always keep in mind that motus are private properties, all of them. Even if the motu looks wild to you, it is not. Never dock on a private motu, without first asking permission; it is considered trespassing. Locals will be upset, and you may find yourself in an uncomfortable position.
Explore the motus in Bora Bora
Exploring Bora Bora's motus is a must-do activity but as mentioned, all motus in Bora Bora are private properties. To explore them (i.e. step on them, not just see them from a boat), you have six options to choose from:
- Stay at a motu resort.
- Stay in a rental on a private motu.
- Book a day pass at a motu resort. Some motu resorts (such as Thalasso) offer day passes to non-guests, providing a good way to experience the resort without paying full price.
- Book a full-day snorkeling excursion. Lunch is usually included and served on a motu.
- Reserve a day at Motu Only You. Here, you will have the entire place to yourself, and the scenery is breathtaking.
- Rent a boat to explore the lagoon on your own. In the ebook, there is a full section about self-exploring the lagoon, as well as a map of the lagoon with points of interest. If you haven't already, be sure to download it!
Buying a motu in Bora Bora
Dreaming of buying your own private island in Bora Bora? Well, you're in luck! Motu Tane is currently on sale for… $39,000,000 🙃
Staying on a motu VS Staying on the main Island in Bora Bora
When looking for accommodation in Bora Bora, there are a number of factors you might want to take into consideration. One of the most important is whether you want to stay on the main island or on one of the surrounding motus. While each option has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, there are several key differences between the two that you should be aware of.
Staying On a Motu in Bora Bora : Pros & Cons
This option is ideal for travelers seeking luxury, privacy, and relaxation. It is best suited for those who plan to unwind and relax while staying in their resort for most of the time, rather than venturing out to explore the main island.
- You get the classic, luxury, postcard-perfect Bora Bora experience with seclusion and solitude.
- You get stunning views of the mountain.
- You can stay in an overwater bungalow.
- Beach is accessible, cleaned daily and more beautiful than Matira Beach, which is the only beach on the main island.
- You'll have access to good snorkeling spots right on the resorts with a lot of tropical fish.
- You get a lot of amenities, a spa & several restaurant & bars to try on the property
- Staying at a motu resort is obviously much more expensive than staying on the main island.
- You may feel… trapped.
Let me explain: First, you'll need to take a mandatory, expensive boat trip to get to the resort from the airport. You'll also need to pay every time you want to go to the main island. Some resorts offer one free shuttle to the main island per day, but extra shuttles, especially in the evening, are very expensive. So, you'll end up having dinner at the resort most times.
- You rely on the resort for food and drinks, which are more expensive than those on the main island (expect to pay at least $250 per person / per day).
Staying On the Main Island in Bora Bora : Pros & Cons
This option is best for travelers looking for an affordable accommodation on Bora Bora, those who are not expecting an over-the-top vacation. It is ideal for travelers who plan to spend their days exploring the main island, rather than staying in their accommodation all day and just need a place to crash at night.
- Accommodation prices on the main island are significantly cheaper.
- Experience the real “Island life”
- The shuttle between the airport and the main island is free.
- Not trapped, you can easily move around (I recommend renting a car) and dine wherever you want.
- You can shop for groceries and alcohol and save money.
- If you're traveling as a group, you can rent a larger villa and stay together.
- The only beach on the main island “Matira Beach” is beautiful but don’t have mountain view, can get busy on weekends and is not great for snorkeling (not many fish around).
- The island itself is not that charming, you won’t get that perfect “Money shot” unless you book a lagoon tour.
- Unfortunately, theft happens. To prevent it, make sure to lock your doors and windows at night and when you're exploring the island. Additionally, never leave any valuable items unattended.
Stay on a motu on a budget
So you would like to stay on a motu, but your budget is too tight for a motu resort? Good news, there are also some more affordable accommodations to consider. These are the cheapest prices you can expect to pay to stay on a motu in Bora Bora.
And voila! 🙃 I hope you now have a clear understanding of what is a motu in Bora Bora. This information should help you make a decision between staying on a motu or staying on the main island.