Bora Bora: Pearl of the Pacific

I first glimpsed Bora Bora on a magazine cover in college in 1993, and the island has been a dream destination ever since. This South Pacific gem is quite popular as a honeymoon destination, so after more than a year’s worth of wedding delays (thanks, COVID-19!), my husband and I recently honeymooned on the island to see if it stood up to its “Pearl of the Pacific” reputation. And the island, loaded with five-star properties, dramatic overwater bungalows and world class spas, didn’t disappoint.

Air Tahiti Nui, the flag carrier of French Polynesia, was our choice to get to Tahiti, the international gateway to the Society Islands. The airline operates a newer fleet of 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, and both the Moana Premium Economy and Poerava Business Class products were comfortable experiences. Premium economy features 2-3-2 seating (instead of the 3-3-3 in standard economy), and business seating is in a spacious 2-2-2 configuration with lie-flat seats, making it a popular choice for honeymooning couples.

Both premium and business classes allow travelers to use a shorter check-in line at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) — and coming back, business class gives access to the bright and airy Air Tahiti Nui lounge on the second floor of Papeete’s international terminal. Other business class perks include elevated meals, upgraded amenity kits and a voucher for 10 MB worth of free in-flight Wi-Fi. 

Trying Out Motu Living

Bora Bora is renowned for its stunning lagoon, which features incredible hues of blue and green water. The shallow lagoon surrounds the main island, with a ringlet of small islands, called motus, encircling it. Many of the top resorts are located on the motus, as their location provides the best views of the vivid water with the central island’s imposing Mount Otemanu towering in the distance.

Our first resort here was the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, a 15-minute boat ride from Bora Bora airport (BOB; also located on a motu) via the resort’s spacious Andreyale yacht; private transfers and helicopter transfers can also be arranged. The resort is a member of Virtuoso and AMEX FHR and is small dog-friendly. The Four Seasons is operated year-round, although spring break, summer, and the local festival seasons around Heiva (July) and Hawaiki Nui Va’a (November) are the most difficult to book rooms. Making reservations six months to a year ahead is recommended.

Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
The Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora has 108 overwater bungalow suites (27 with plunge pools) and seven beachfront villa estates. (Paul J. Heney)

Four Seasons features overwater bungalows, the iconic lodging that Bora Bora is famous for. From our bungalow’s two-level deck, the view across the water was certainly one of the most dramatic we’ve experienced. And from the lower level of the deck, you can step or jump directly into the water to snorkel. Snorkeling equipment is complimentary here, and we were encouraged to keep it in our room for the duration of our stay, which was a delightful bonus and allowed for spontaneous swims.

Within our bungalow, there were several areas of glass flooring, allowing for peeks into the lagoon waters below. At night, you can ask the turndown service to turn on special lights under the bungalow structure, which will attract a variety of fish for nighttime viewing. 

The resort’s rooms have all been recently enhanced; accommodations were refreshed with new furniture, fixtures, and technology (including solar panels on the roofs to heat the water). Three exclusive on-property partnerships provide guests access to incredible expert-guided experiences, including WiseOceans for marine biology, Diveasy at the dive center, and Peter Burwash International for tennis.

In addition to the overwater bungalows, the resort also features several one-, two- and three-bedroom Beachfront Villa Estates, fronting the lagoon. For wedding parties or larger groups, in-villa spa treatments are available exclusively for guests staying in these estates. Contact Etienne Baldeschi ([email protected]), the concierge manager, for bookings.

Speaking of the spa, Four Seasons’ facility here has seven indoor treatment rooms (including an overwater couple’s spa suite) and two outdoor treatment rooms. Book the signature Taurumi Mind & Body Ritual through the spa manager, Ewa Poujade ([email protected]). 

Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
All accommodations at the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora have been refreshed with new furniture, fixtures and technology. (Paul J. Heney)

The Fare Hoa Beach Bar & Grill is open daily and offers tropical cocktails, wine, and local beer. It’s a toes-in-the-sand sort of place that opens right onto the beach. Vaimiti is open in the evenings and is a fantastic place to watch the sunset and enjoy delicious craft cocktails in an overwater setting. The resort also has a “Prestige wines by the glass” program, which allows diners to try world class wines by the glass. Prices per glass range from $45 for a 2017 Puligny-Montrachet Albert Bichot — Chardonnay to $950 for a 1996 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

Most guests here dress casually (think nice shorts, sundresses), as it’s a beach resort at heart. During evenings, you tend to see a mixture of attire — some quite fancy, but still beach and weather appropriate. The pool and beach areas are extensive, and we received plenty of staff attention poolside, with frequent refills of ice water and tropical drinks.

For special requests, advisors are encouraged to contact the resort’s general manager, Romain Chanet ([email protected]), directly. 

InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa
the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa has 88 overwater bungalows. (Roméo Balancourt)

Motu, Part Deux

A few motus to the south, the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa provided us with another enchanting experience. A luxurious private boat transfer is available through the InterContinental concierge team. Arriving guests will be met with a fresh flower lei as a staff member blows notes on a conch shell — a dramatic welcome, for sure. Private jet service can be operated to and from Bora Bora airport and the resort offers catering service for jets as take away.

The head concierge here, a member of Les Clefs d’Or, is Sophie Jourdan ([email protected]; 011-68-940-607-630). When booking, advisors are encouraged to liaison with Katherine L. Blizzard ([email protected]; 011-310-710-8897), the director of sales and marketing, North America. The InterContinental is a member of Virtuoso, Signature network, Beyond Green, and IHG Luxury & Lifestyle.

InterContinental Bora Bora
The Teremoana Pool Villas have an outdoor pool next to the shaded terrace, and sundeck with sun loungers and
direct access to the lagoon.
(Tahiti Fly Shoot)

The 88 overwater bungalows here all feature double vanities, walk-in shower, and a soaking tub, as well as a living room with a glass floor under the coffee table for viewing fish. Again, we found that our bungalow had a large deck with stairs right down into the lagoon.

The resort’s four Teremoana Suites are the top suites and suitable for families or large groups as well as for guests wanting maximum privacy; they can be booked through Axelle Decroos ([email protected]), director of guest relations. The most requested accommodations are the King Overwater Villa / Otemanu view and the King Overwater Pool Villa / Lagoon View. 

InterContinental Bora Bora
The Teremoana Pool Villa at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa has contemporary décor with traditional Polynesian design touches. (TMK, Tahiti Fly Shoot)

Here again, guests dress in resort casual except that the Corail Restaurant (fine dining) does require gentlemen to wear pants. For Corail, it is highly recommended to make reservations prior to a guest’s stay with the InterContinental concierge team ([email protected]; 011-68-940-607-630), as there are only 28 seats per night.

Guests may order their morning breakfast delivered in an authentic outrigger canoe, a romantic option, or eat at the buffet. We enjoyed the Reef Restaurant and Sands, which is right on the beach. Make sure to inquire what nights the concierge will be singing at the Reef; she has an incredible voice and creative takes on popular songs and we enjoyed her talent immensely.

InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa
The overwater bungalows at the InterContinental Bora Bora feature a living room with a glass floor under the coffee table. (Paul J. Heney)

The resort’s fantastic Deep Ocean Spa, at 43,000 square feet, features 14 treatment rooms including hydrotherapy treatment rooms (Thalasso center) and an extensive outdoor area with a variety of hydrotherapy stations that guests may utilize the day of their treatments. The Deep Ocean Spa team ([email protected]; 011-68-940-607-700) can book treatments in advance of a stay. Our couples’ massage here featured the glass floors directly under the massage tables, so while face down, we watched sea life swim by — an otherworldly experience for sure!

Spa at InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa
The InterContinental Bora Bora Resort has a 43,000-square-foot spa with 14 treatment rooms. (Paul J. Heney)

The signature treatment here is the Bora Bora Bliss Massage, inspired by old Tahitian massage techniques. It incorporates traditional Polynesian massage from head to toe, along with a relaxing full body massage with Monoï and tropical scents. The spa also features a “My first spa experience” for children from six to 12 years old. For special requests, the spa director, Anne De Saint Pierre ([email protected]), is extremely responsive. 

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