Bora Bora is a major international tourist destination that satisfies every idyllic expectation of this Polynesian island. Lying 143 miles northwest of Tahiti in the South Pacific, Bora Bora is only six miles long, but it has two towering volcanic peaks and a dazzling turquoise lagoon ringed by a coral reef. It is perched along a gorgeous necklace of sand-fringed islets, called motus.
The world famous thatched-roof over water bungalows are the ultimate aqua attraction and give new meaning to the term ‘romantic getaway’. These South Seas hideaways are perfect for any occasion, but are especially noted for their attraction to honeymooners.
Although not thought of as often as a family vacation destination, they can certainly fit that bill.
Arriving in Bora Bora and getting to your hotel can be an adventure, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.
Bora Bora’s airport is on Motu Mute, a flat island on the northwestern edge of the barrier reef. U.S. marines built the airstrip during World War II when Bora Bora was a major refueling stop on the America-to-Australia supply line.
You will see the lagoon soon after landing, because all passengers are ferried across it getting from the airport to the terminal. Some resorts send boats to pick up their guests here. The major resorts have welcome desks in the terminal to greet you and steer you to the correct boat. It can be a bit confusing out on the dock, where baggage is unloaded. You do not want to end up on the wrong motu, so pay attention, and ask someone if you are not sure which boat is yours.
If your hotel does not send a boat, you will take Air Tahiti’s launch to Vaitape, the only village and the center of most commerce. Buses will take you from Vaitape to your hotel. Get in the bus displaying the name of your hotel, or ask the driver if you are not sure.
There is no regularly scheduled public transportation system on Bora Bora.
Some hotels on the main island shuttle their guests to Vaitape and back once or twice a day, but the frequency can vary depending on how many guests they have. Except for the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort, whose shuttles go to Chancelade on the northwestern corner, resorts out on the western islets run shuttle boats to Vaitape. Resorts on the eastern motus send their navettes (shuttle boats) to remote Anau village on the east coast. Take this into account if you plan to spend time on the main island.
Matira Beach, on the southern end of the main island, is one of the most beautiful beaches in all of French Polynesia. It is studded with tall coconut palms and stretches more than two miles around a small peninsula that juts out into the sandy-bottom lagoon. The crystal-clear waters are shallow all the way to the coral reef and offer a respite for the weary and an incredible opportunity for a photograph to share with the loved ones at home so they can share in your joy vicariously.
You will not run out of things to enjoy and experience.
You may wish to explore Bora Bora’s turquoise seas with a snorkeling excursion among coral gardens exploding with tropical fish of every size and color. The translucent seas encircling Bora Bora and its motus teem with rich marine life that no aquarium can match. There are schools of docile Blacktip, Reef and Lemon sharks, Moray Eels and green turtles abound. Gigantic manta rays gracefully circle the lagoon. Nemo-like clownfish and a thousand other species of tropical marine life make their home in the otherworldly turquoise playground below.
With some of the world’s most beautiful lagoons you will, undoubtedly, spend time snorkeling and swimming, but you will also want to visit the islands on its outer edge. This is an absolute must-do on any trip to Bora Bora. Although it’s a widespread activity now, this is where shark-feeding was first experimented with and refined. That is, your guide feeds reef sharks while you watch from a reasonably safe distance.
You may enjoy some fresh-cut fruit on the way back from your snorkeling adventure at one of the motus that brim with a variety of fruit trees. Rent a Polynesian-style outrigger canoes and glass-bottom boats glide across the pristine water, or choose a guide to do the rowing for you. Sunset catamaran sails are accompanied by Tahitian singers and dancers. You may also choose to visit some of the old U.S. military gun sites, remnants of World War II, and lush valleys and mountain lookout points for unforgettable views by four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Bora Bora’s luxury resorts offer a myriad of options for cocktails and dining. Although you can become spoiled in your hotel or over water bungalow, you will want to sample the local flavors. Bora Bora Yacht Club is a lively watering hole with a stunning waterfront setting for a casual meal of fresh oysters and Australian steaks. You will want to make a stop at the beautifully elegant Villa Mahana, in the main town of Vaitape, to sample their ahi tuna marinated in local vanilla oil and a salad of lobster, prawns and caviar.
The regular tours stick to the shoreline, but safari expeditions venture into the hills in open-air, four-wheel-drive vehicles for panoramic views and visits to the old U.S. Navy gun sites. Compared to safari expeditions on Moorea, Huahine, and Tahaa, which emphasize local culture as well as scenery, here they are more like scenic thrill rides. The journey can be rough, so I do not recommend it for small children, the elderly, or anyone prone to carsickness. The mountain roads are mere ruts in places, so you could become stuck if it has been raining.
Many places around the world boast that they are the ultimate vacation spot. Bora Bora needs make no such boast, because the island, its’ lagoon and motus will speak to your heart and call you back for a lifetime.