Bora Bora is a small South Pacific island northwest of Tahiti in French Polynesia, which is surrounded by sand-fringed Motus and a turquoise lagoon protected by a coral reef. It is said that if there is a paradise on the Earth, it has to be here in Bora Bora. The magnificent turquoise water of the beach depicts the aqua beauty and the overwater bungalows are just like a cherry on the cake. These overwater bungalows provide high privacy and luxury to the tourists and the whole scenario offers unparalleled views and surreal experiences. Go on a blissful Bora Bora vacation, which is the perfect destination to relax and celebrate a timeless memory with that special someone.
Undoubtedly, Bora Bora is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Its perfect white-sand beaches give way to blue waters, creating a heavenly and romantic atmosphere all around. The most celebrated island of the French Polynesian the South Pacific, Bora Bora is a major international tourist destination, famous for its aqua-centric luxury resorts.
In ancient times the island was called 'Pora pora mai te pora', meaning 'created by the gods' in the local Tahitian dialect. This was often abbreviated Pora Pora meaning simply 'firstborn'. Because of ambiguities in the phonemes of the Tahitian language, this could also be pronounced Bola Bola or Bora Bora. When explorer Jacob Roggeveen first landed on the island, he and his crew adopted the name Bora Bora which has stood ever since. The island was inhabited by Polynesian settlers around the 4th-century C.E.The first European sighting was made by Jakob Roggeveen in 1722.
James Cook sighted the island on 29 July 1769, using a Tahitian navigator, Tupaia. The London Missionary Society arrived in 1820 and founded a Protestant church in 1890. Bora Bora was an independent kingdom until 1888 when its last queen Teriimaevarua III was forced to abdicate by the French who annexed the island as a colony.
The island's economy is driven almost solely by tourism. Several resorts have been built on motu (small islands, from Tahitian) surrounding the lagoon. Hotel Bora Bora opened in 1961, and nine years later built the first over-the-water bungalows on stilts over the lagoon. Today, over-water bungalows are a standard feature of most Bora Bora resorts. The quality of those bungalows ranges from comparably cheap, basic accommodations to very luxurious and expensive.
Most of the tourist destinations are aqua-centric; however, it is possible to visit attractions on land such as WWII cannons. Air Tahiti has five or six flights daily to the Bora Bora Airport on Motu Mute from Tahiti (as well as from other islands). Public transport on the island is nonexistent so rental cars and bicycles are the recommended methods of transport. There are also small, two-seater buggies for hire in Vaitape. It is possible to rent a motorboat to explore the lagoon.
Snorkeling and scuba diving in and around the lagoon of Bora Bora are popular activities. Many species of sharks and rays inhabit the surrounding body of water. There are a few dive operators on the island offering manta ray dives and also shark-feeding dives. Sharks living in the island's lagoon are not considered to be dangerous to people.
In addition to the existing islands of Bora Bora, the new manmade motu of Motu Marfo has been added in the northeastern corner of the lagoon on the property of the St. Regis Resort.
- Snorkel with sharks and rays at the Lagoonarium and Coral Gardens: Spy on sharks, turtles, rays, and different kinds of brightly colored fish at the Bora Bora Lagoonarium, a natural aquarium on a tiny island near the main island. Tours go out for a morning, afternoon or all day to experience the beauty of Bora Bora under the water. While you are there, you can literally brush against the marine life and see beautiful coral reefs up close. In addition to snorkeling, tours can also include a canoe tour of the island or a picnic. The Coral Gardens is another spectacular place to see the beautiful coral reef and colorful fish up close and personal. Not too far from the Lagoonarium, this area is known for its many snorkelers. There’s no shortage of places to interact with the beauty that’s under the water in Bora Bora.
- Vaitape’s cultural scene: For a break from the beach, take a trip to Bora Bora’s main town of Vaitape to get a sense of the local culture. Here you can shop at boutiques for black pearls and seek out vendors scattered along the street. Vaitape is the area that will get you to the Lagoonarium, so, before or after your snorkel, there’s still a lot to do around the area. There are some great restaurants to try, like the Bora Bora Yacht Club, where you can dine on the water.
- Awe in the beauty of Mount Otemanu: This beautiful rocky sloped peak is just gorgeous from every angle and must be explored from as many as possible! From a distance on a lagoon tour, you will get the chance to see it from many different vantage points as you glide along the water. The 2,400 feet high Mount Otemanu can also be hiked. Try to go out on a day with lots of sun versus clouds for the best views. If hiking is not your thing, there’s also the option of taking a 4×4 tour through the island’s rough interior. A helicopter tour will also give you some amazing views and shots! You can’t go wrong whichever way you gawk over the beauty.
- Explore a private island and have a Polynesian picnic on a motu: A most unique activity when visiting Bora Bora is a romantic, tropical, white sand island getaway on a motu. Bora Bora is surrounded by a bunch of tiny islands. These motus or islets are sweet, dreamy white sand paradises. Many resorts have access to their own private island for allowing couples to book excursions to the island that include a Polynesian picnic. There is time to snorkel, explore the desolate island, check out the flora and fauna, and relax. You may see a coral garden and even a ray in the turquoise lagoon. Some resorts even set up a romantic meal just for the two of you. Motus and islets come in various sizes but are basically deserted. So, there’s plenty of time for relaxation and a nice, serene tropical setting you will dream about after leaving it
- Laze the day away at Matira Beach: Bora Bora has only one public beach and it is the picturesque Matira Beach. At Matira Beach you will enjoy the white sandy beach sloping into a warm and turquoise lagoon. A perfect spot for swimming and snorkeling. Stay long enough and the western facing beach has gorgeous sunsets. Here you will find hiking trails and even military landmarks (check out the coastal defense gun installment from Matira Point) before finding the perfect spot to sit down and take in the beauty of the most beautiful beach in the world.
- Swim with the sharks: While to some it may seem scary, swimming with the blacktip reef sharks could be one of the greatest thrills. When conditions are right (read: if terrible weather strikes it’s not the right time to visit these guys) a tour guide with a small boat will take guests out into the abyss of crystal clear blue Pacific water. These small boats and guides are very well trained to look for the right conditions and also the right spots outside the reef to find the black tip reef sharks. At times, people have even seen lemon sharks. The visibility will astound you! It’s very deep but, oh so clear.
Depending on where you live, getting to Bora Bora can be quite a long journey. Although Auckland residents are an eight-hour plane ride away, flights from New York and London will take at least 20 and 37 hours, respectively, as all will have layovers at Los Angeles International Airport and Tahiti International Airport. From Tahiti, it's a 45-minute plane ride to Bora Bora Airport, where travelers will either get picked up by the hotel's private boat shuttle or take a free ferry to the mainland.
- Depending on which direction you are coming from, there are several hubs servicing direct flights to Papeete International Airport. Starting with the main hub LAX in Los Angeles California (Air Tahiti Nui/American Airlines/Air France), Auckland International in New Zealand (Air Tahiti Nui/Air New Zealand/ Qantas/Jetstar), Honolulu International in Hawaii (Hawaiian Airlines), and Narita International Tokyo Japan (Air Tahiti Nui/Japan Airlines).
- Bora Bora is part of French Polynesia, which is a territory of France. The official spoken language is French and the local language is Tahitian (not at all related to French). If you are around most tourist environment such as hotels and tour companies you will get along just fine speaking English! But as you venture away, you will hear more and more French if not Tahitian. If you happen to veer off the wrong side of the island “off property” people are still very helpful, perhaps a lot of sign language but all part of the adventure.
- A few things to keep in mind: The roads on the main island are narrow, so keep your head up and pay attention, you definitely don’t want to ruin your vacation by getting hurt. If you happen rent bikes or scooters to go around the island by yourself be extra careful as the cars tend to zip by pretty fast.
- When taking the interisland flight to Bora Bora, sit on the left-hand side of the plane so that you can see Bora Bora as you land. As a bonus, you will see several islands on the way by order of appearance: Moorea, Maia’o, Huahine, Raiatea, and Taha’a.
- Tipping: you will read in most of the literature that tipping is not compulsory like in the U.S. But if you feel like you got great service give them a bit of sugar, it's always appreciated.
- Carry-on Baggage on Inter-island flight. The weight limit on the interisland flight to Bora Bora is much less than what they allow for on international flights. You are allowed 11lbs (5kg) size is 17x13x7 in (45x 35x 20 cm) so you might have to check it in when you get your ticket at the counter. If you are like me and you carry all your electronics with you (Ipad, Computer, Camera, etc..) checking it in is not really an option. So what you can do is let the ticketing agent know that you have valuables in your carry on and would rather bring your carry on at foot of the plane. They will give you a special Tag for a Gate Check-in/foot of the plane, and as you get off the plane you can retrieve it at the foot of the plane as well.
The climate in Tahiti and Her Islands is warm and pleasant for most of the year. Although this is the tropics, the heat is not extreme. A respite is provided by gentle South Pacific Ocean breezes and the north-easterly trade winds. There is only a small variation between daytime and nighttime temperatures, so you can look forward to balmy evenings during most of the year.
Most rainfall occurs during the summer months (November to April) and is accompanied by high humidity, although clear days are not unknown in mid-January.
Unlike the Caribbean, the peak travel season in Bora Bora takes place during North America's summer. The most popular months to visit are May through October because the weather is dry and temperatures range from the upper 60s to mid-80s (expect more costly flights during this time). While it's cheaper to visit the island between December and March, these months have the most unpredictable weather, with rain and slightly higher temperatures. April and November are the shoulder months.
Bora Bora has become synonymous with overwater bungalows. Many of these lavish floating villas have glass floors that supply a window to the lagoon life below. This locale is unique in the fact that most Bora Bora resort hotels are built on their own tiny island, or motu, and visits elsewhere must be arranged by boat transfer. Not to worry, though, you will hardly need to leave your bungalow let alone the resort. From lounging on your own private deck and receiving room service via outrigger canoe, to indulging in a rejuvenating spa treatment, you will pass the time in quiet seclusion and opulent luxury. The island has many choices for accommodations: 5-star hotels such as St Regis and Four Seasons to name a couple, and for more affordable places there are several 3 & 2-star hotels along with Bed and Breakfast places and Vacation rentals! Vacation rentals can be a great choice especially if you are traveling with a family or other friends, you can split the cost of the rental and save by preparing your meals at home.
List of Bora Bora Hotels and Lodges:
–Four Seasons Bora Bora Resort and Spa
–St Regis Bora Bora Resort and Spa
–Le Meridien Bora Bora Resort and Spa
–Intercontinental Thalasso Bora Bora Resort and Spa
–Intercontinental Le Moana Bora Bora Resort
–Sofitel Bora Bora Resort and Spa
–Sofitel Motu Bora Bora Resort
–Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort and Spa
–Pearl Beach Bora Bora Resort and Spa
–Maitai Polynesia Bora Bora Hotel
–Village Temanuata Hotel
–Rohotu Fare Lodge
–Sunset Hill Lodge
–Matira Beach House
–Fare No4 sur pilotis
Tahitians emphasize the French word joie de vivre - which means “joy of life”. To ensure you experience the joy of life whilst visiting this French Polynesian country it would be beneficial to learn some cultural etiquette before you visit. It wouldn't hurt to learn some French as well!
- Lunch is the most important meal of the day: The main meal of the day in Tahiti is generally served at lunchtime.
- The legal drinking age is 21: So if you're going to Tahiti to celebrate your 18th - don't expect to be served alcohol in this country. Drinking alcohol in public and public drunkenness is not only frowned upon - but illegal.
- Tipping in Tahiti is not required: The local Custom is that hospitality and Customer Service is paramount. So it goes against the Tahitian's customs for travelers to tip.
- Flowers in Tahiti have a meaning: Tahitians love flowers and are often worn by both men and women. If you wear a flower behind the left ear, it means that love is taken. So if you're single and available wear a flower behind your right ear, as this means the heart is vacant for love.
- Going topless: Going topless on some beaches may be acceptable in Tahiti, but be more reserved and cover up around pools at the Hotel and bar areas.
- Take your shoes off: One item of clothing you should always take off is your shoes when entering someone's home in Tahiti. People will greet each other with a handshake or kiss on the cheek, and it is considered rude not to greet everyone in the room (unless it's a large group of people).
- Take it easy: Another common and popular expression in French Polynesian countries is “haere maru” which means “take it easy”. So with these few tips on etiquette and some common sense, you will be able to “haere maru” and have a great trip to Tahiti.