Bora Bora: Postcards from Paradise
We just came back from over a week in paradise spending time in Bora Bora and Moorea, two of the French Polynesia’s most popular isles. My husband and I have talked about spending a milestone anniversary in Bora Bora for years. We’re a few months short of our 15th wedding anniversary but we decided to celebrate early…with the kids. It may be commonly known as a honeymooner’s destination but we also found the islands family-friendly. I’m starting off this French Polynesia series with some of our favorite photos from enchanting Bora Bora. I hope you enjoy the virtual tour!
This was our first glimpse of the islands from above of the “Pearl of the Pacific” and it didn’t disappoint. After our 8 hour flight from Los Angeles and landing in Papeete, Tahiti, it was another 50 minute flight to Bora Bora. Air Tahiti has a monopoly on this route. Seats aren’t assigned but families do get to board first. Major Tip: Sit on the left side of the plane when going there for these dramatic views.
The aerial view of the different shades of blue water, the coral reefs and the verdant mountains was enough to had us glued to the windows. Can you see some the over the water bungalows the island is also famous for?
Bora Bora Airport (code: BOB) was quite possibly the smallest yet most scenic airport we’ve ever visited. It is located on a very small islet called Motu Mute north of the main island. This was the stunning scenery that greeted us of the lagoon and Bora Bora Island.
We actually stood on the pier for awhile, speechless, and just admired this unbelievable view. It really did look like those postcard scenes I’ve yearned to see for years. I’m pretty sure this was the moment when I first fell in love with Bora Bora. It’s no wonder many have dubbed this “the most beautiful island in the world”.
Various hotels were set up at the airport and eagerly greeted guests with fragrant leis. Many guests were led to their hotels’ private boats docked along the airport pier. Some of the transportation options were actually fancy yachts. Air Tahiti also operates a catamaran for a 25 minute ride to the the main island to catch other transportation options.
We were graciously picked up by the Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort and Spa which was our home for four nights. The ride on the lagoon to the resort was beyond beautiful with spectacular scenery everywhere we looked. I had never seen water so clear with so many different shades of blue.
This was our first sighting close up of these thatched roof overwater bungalows or floating villas that has made these islands stand out.
The resort was on its own island, Motu To’opua, surrounded by a lush hillside on one side and the crystal clear waters on the other. I instantly felt at home seeing familiar vegetation and fruit trees that used to grow in my backyards in the the Philippines and Guam.
It really was hard to stop taking pictures. My kids have declared this the best hotel ever for many reasons. They also happened to be the only kids at the resort during our stay there and had the large infinity pool to themselves on some occasions. My detailed review of the resort will appear at my other gig over at momvoyage.hilton.com soon.
We made the short hike up to their chapel and spa and what they called the “one million dollar view”. It’s a pretty accurate description with this incredible panoramic view of the property. We took this photo from a hut with two massage tables.
This was our first sunset and was also the only one not covered in clouds.
One of the major appeals of these over the water bungalows is the opportunity to snorkel right off the deck or just watch the schools of fish that swim by in the crystal clear water. During our first day, there was a lady who was sunbathing nude on her deck a couple of villas down from us. My kids never even noticed her since they were too busy watching all the fish which was a huge relief for us. It was not the welcome wagon we had intended for the kids. Of course, all the adults noticed. It’s little incidents like these that make traveling with kids an adventure and keeps us on our toes.
We spent a lot of time in these hammocks scattered around the resort. As you can see from many of our other trips, we’re usually not the laying around the beach type of people. But, who can resist relaxing with views like these and having powder white sand beaches?
We only did two excursions during our stay here in order to take advantage of everything the resort had to offer. The first one was an all day snorkeling and lagoon tour with some surprises. This was one of our favorite day trips and worth every penny. It involved snorkeling with a ton of tropical and colorful fish, stingrays and swimming with black tip sharks. We’ll be sharing videos! Here’s our tour guide petting the stingrays. Read all about the snorkeling with sharks and stingrays excursion trip here.
This excursion also had lunch on a small private island. We sat on picnic tables for lunch placed on the water with hundreds of fish swimming around our feet. Check out our amazing mountain backdrop. It was also one of the best local lunches and BBQs we’ve ever had.
The excursion also gave us the opportunity to cruise the lagoon and saw the other resorts and their overwater bungalows. Many of the other resorts were located on a ring of small islands or motus that face the lagoon and majestic Mt. Otemanu.
Bora Bora may be known for its waters but exploring the island shouldn’t be missed. Our island excursion gave us some insights on the villages and the island’s history and culture. There are about 9,000 people living on the island and many of the locals we encountered were all very friendly.
The island’s main road winds about 32 km (20 miles) around the island. Mount Otemanu is the imposing mountain jutting out in the middle of the island acting like a watchman.
The island’s volcanic origins were evident with the black rocks and rugged peaks. This was one of the few lookouts we visited during our tour.
It was “discovered” by the western world when Europeans, including Capt. James Cook, landed on the island in the 1700s. Bora Bora along with the other French Polynesia islands became a French territory in the late 1800s. The US Military used the island as a supply base during World War II due to its strategic Pacific location. The soldiers built the coastal road and airstrip in the same island as the current airport.
The island was actually named Vavau by early Polynesian voyagers around the 9th century. The name Vavau developed into the Tahitian word Pora Pora over the years meaning “first born” since it was believed to be the first one to appear from the waters. The letter “B” doesn’t exist in the Tahitian language. It was believed that Captain Cook misheard the way Tahitians pronounced “P” for “B”.
Bora Bora was everything we expected and more. It captivated us and really was one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever visited. These pictures were a preview of the start of this magical vacation and the unforgettable islands of French Polynesia. This was tropical paradise at its best and the ideal island getaway. We can’t wait to return! Stay tuned for more Bora Bora and Moorea posts in the coming weeks.
Tips for Visiting Bora Bora
- Remember that the only way to get out of the airport is through boats. Check with your hotels for transfer packages. The free Air Tahiti catamaran is available after each flight arrival to take visitors to the main village of Vaitape and takes about 25 minutes. Check the catamaran schedule for the return flight.
- French Polynesia’s high season is usually from May – October during their winter when it’s dry and temperatures are cooler. Their low season is from November-April when humidity is high and it’s their rainy season.
- Get your supplies, water and snacks at Vaitape. Chin Lee was a grocery store near the dock. Despite what we were told, water is cheaper than beer. It was about $1 for a Liter.
- Stores are closed on Sundays and usually close by 5-6 PM on other days.
- Vaitape can get very crowded when cruise ships are in port.
- Food is expensive so be prepared for some sticker shock at popular restaurants. We found food trucks with reasonable prices in Vaitape on Saturday night.
- Book your excursions early with the tour operators. Prices are usually higher when booked at the hotels and you risk not getting the tours you want on specific days.
*Have you visited Bora Bora? Is it on your travel list?
PIN IT FOR LATER!
Disclosure: I received free night hotel certificates to use at the Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa as a Hilton Mom Voyage family travel writer. We paid for the supplemental upgrade to an overwater bungalow. All opinions and photos of our experience are solely our own.