I (Jessica) had been hoping to witness in my lifetime the iconic landscape of Bora Bora ever since I saw its turquoise blue lagoon, white sand beaches, lush green rains forest and over water bungalows in magazines and TV adverts. Bora Bora is Tahiti’s most famous island and proved to completely live up to the image I had in mind. Although this island is an acclaimed honeymoon destination, famous for its luxurious hotels and resorts, more affordable options are available. This article will tell you how to do it.
ONCE YOU ARE in BORA BORA, WHAT SHould you DO ?
Bora Bora is definitely not just an honeymoon destination and the island has a lot to offer.
Matira Beach. The only public but beautiful long white stretch of sand on the main island. The turquoise blue water is warm and great for swimming and there are great little restaurants right on the beach, showers and even a little coral garden right at the end (near the fare).
Spend a day at a luxury hotel. If you decide not to stay in one of Bora Bora’s luxury hotels, you can always call them up and make a booking for the day with access to the beach, swimming pool and lunch. Prices can vary but count about 8 000 CFP (70 Euros) for the day.
Spend a day on a Motu. A motu is a tiny island off the main island where resorts and quiet private beaches are located. The view on the Mount Pahia is breathtaking and the water is crystal clear. We went to the Motu Piti A’au at the FanFan private beach. The owner ( he called himself Taxi Manu) will come and pick up from the main island for about 3000 – 4000 CFP (25 Euros) per person. If you have your camping gear, you can also stay there for the night for 50 Euros and have the typical Tahitian dish the Ma’a (at extra cost).
Snorkel Safari. It has to be the highlight of our stay and you should not miss this out. A boat excursion will take you to several snorkeling spots in the lagoon, followed by a lunch and a relaxing afternoon on a Motu. Dive in an open-air warm water aquarium and a lagoonarium, swim with Blacktip Reef and Lemon sharks, harmless stingrays like the Bull rays, the short-tail rays and the Manta rays (if you are lucky). Two company we can recommend : Pure Snorkeling and Nono Tour.
Visit the island by bike. You can circle the island by bike in about 2-3H. Pick the half day package for 1500 CFP (12 Euros) . You will cycle through local villages and get amazing views. Stop at Terei’a bay to see the American canons, at Fa’anui (500m behind the Church) for James Cameron ‘s Avatar Soul Tree, at Pofai Bay to walk up the hill to a view point at the island phone antenna. We rented our bikes from Matira Hotel.
Hike the Mount Pahia. A trip to Bora Bora isn’t complete without a visit to the top of this breathtaking mountain. If you are fit and like a bite of adventure you can hike it in 3-4H from the city centre. I personally did not but my boyfriend did. The itinerary is well indicated on mapsme. However, we would strongly recommend you to take a guide. The weather up there is changing rapidly and this is definitely not an easy track. Locals we met have said that people who did the Everest struggled with that one !
When to go ?
The best time to visit Bora Bora is from May to October. Recommended time by the locals are End of March / Early April and August / September. We went in January and we had the most amazing week, sunny and warm. However the week before was pouring down with rain !. If you like ocean wildlife, have the unique opportunity here in Polynesia to swim with Whales in August/September. In July, enjoy the Heiva festival, the longest-running festivals in the world but that month is said to be really windy.
WHERE TO SLEEP ?
Obviously I would like to tell you to stay at the Conrad, the St Regis, the Intercontinental or the Four seasons, but I have to face it, I don’t have the budget for it (this time around !). So pick the Meridien which is said to be the most affordable one (500+ EUR/night) if you have the budget. Alternatively find an affordable option on the main island (including campsite and family pensions) on the official tourism board and airbnb. We have been hosted at a private place (a B&B to be opened soon to general public) on Matira beach (the best spot of the whole island). Having said that, don’t be surprised if you are kindly invited to stay over. Tahitians are genuinely friendly people. If you speak French try the Facebook community “Allo, qui sait quoi ?” and reach out to people.
How to get TO BORA BORA ?
What about flying to Bora Bora ? Here again in this part of the world flights are expensive (300 Eur for a 2H flight), even the Tahitians themselves are waiting for new comers like French Bee to enter the market. Watch this space ! The rumour is saying that this should happen anytime soon.
What are the alternatives ? One of them is the multi-islands pass but the most economical and popular way to go to Bora Bora is by Cargo ship. There are three ships the “Taporo 7” on Mondays and Wednesdays, the “Taporo 6” and the “Hawaikinui” on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They are merchant ships and can transport up to 12 passengers. A ticket per person is 2,000 CFP (17 Euros). You can book a ticket by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or over the phone on 40 67 72 39. Places are booked months in advance but you might be lucky to board last minute. If the Capitain might let you on board make sure your book your return ticket (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays). This is a cargo ship, so no cabins. You will sleep on the top covered deck. There is a meal you can order on board, showers and toilets. Expect very early morning (3 am on our return from Bora Bora to Tahiti).
WHAT BUDGET ?
Bora Bora is definitely not the most expensive place in the world especially if you are prepare to travel like the locals do. Check our price breakdown below, it will give you an idea of your budget for a week.
Bora Bora Price tag for a week ?
28 Euros pp
Average spent per day for on person. It includes excursions, accommodation at a discounted price, food and transportation.
Accommodation : min 350 Euros
We stayed at an Airbnb that is about to open and we were kindly invited to stay over. In general count 50 Euros for a night at a campsite up to 500+ Euros in a luxury hotel !
Transport: 85 Euros
Cargo to Bora Bora from Papeete and the taxi boat to the Motu Piti A’au.
Excursion : 25 Euros
This was for hiring two bicycles for half a day. We were kindly invited to a boat trip and hiking is Free in Bora Bora
Food : 250 Euros
We eat at the “Roulottes” ( food trucks) and cook our own meals most days . A sandwich is about 4 Euros
Pearl : 30 Euros
Starting price for a A quality Tahitian pearl in Bora Bora
Bora on a budget, it is possible !
- There is only one long public beach on the main island.
- Everyone speak very good English. There is no language barrier.
- Not all banks are accepted MasterCard and you have a limited withdraw amount of 30,000 CFPF ( 250 Euros) at the time. Some banks even limit the number of time you can withdraw at the same ATM (to once a week).
- Don’t forget your snorkeling gears and your reef shoes (loads of coral and rocks)
No need to rent a car, you can do everything by bike, moped or a fun electric car. Deals are better booking on the internet with Avis here.