Travel — Our Honeymoon in Bora Bora & Tips
There are only a few cities that offer direct flights to Tahiti, French Polynesia. From the west coast of the US your only bet is to fly from LAX.
The eight hour flight, for a red eye, is long enough for you to get settled-in on the plane and to get enough sleep for the night, but not so short that you wake up cranky. Expect to shell out about $1600-$2000 for a coach ticket and an extra $1000 for business class.
Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, is where the Faaa International Airport (PPT) is located. The airport itself is pretty small, so don’t be too worried if your connecting flight to Bora Bora is only one to two hours after landing. It’s plenty of time to get your luggage, check in for your connecting flight and then go through security. Your connecting flight to Bora Bora will be on a smaller two-engine plane.
The pro-tip for the connecting flight is to sit on the left side of the plane. You’ll notice all passengers doing this as it offers the best views of nearby islands and the best view of Bora Bora as you land.
For red eye flights from LAX with the shortest one to two hour layover you’ll find yourself in sunny Bora Bora in the wee hours of dawn. There you will be greeted by all the resorts on the island all waiting to ferry the newly arrived guests to their resort.
The Bora Bora Airport is located on the northwest corner of the island so expect fifteen minute ferries to the resorts located on the northeastern part of the island and thirty to forty minutes ferries to the southern resorts. For the astute observer you’ll notice almost all resorts are on the eastern or southern part of the island. This is because typhoons almost always go west to east — an expensive lesson that the Aman group found out only just a few years ago.
While on the ferry, you’ll notice you’re close to the resort when you start to see stilt bungalows.
The Four Seasons is one of the better known resorts on the island. The St. Regis and Le Meridien are newer adjacent resorts.
Almost all rooms are on stilt bungalows — one of the main attractions of staying at Bora Bora. Most rooms come with a section of see-through flooring, a bathtub and an outdoor patio with direct access to the lagoon.
Want to see fish? Look no further than the beach where there are swarms of smaller fish inhabit right next to the shoreline.
Resorts are resorts. Prepare to pay about twice the price of meals in the states during your stay on the island. Lunch will run you about $40/entree, $20/appetizer and $20/drinks. Add about $10 to this for dinner prices. Talk about price gouging! The only silver lining is that the food is pretty decent. If you stick to ordering local fish, you can’t go wrong because they catch it daily and it’s always fresh. If you have any questions about whether what you’re order is local or imported — just ask! I almost accidentally ordered Alaskan Halibut which is complete craziness when you’re in the middle of the Pacific.
If you’re staying on the outer islands (and not the main island), you can venture off hotel grounds and take a peak at the Pacific ocean. One distinguishing geographic feature of French Polynesia, as compared to Hawaii, is that there are hundreds of meters of coral within lagoons and on the outer parts of the island. This creates shallow waters for people to walk on and barricades the unforgiving waves of the Pacific.
Because Bora Bora is located in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Ocean, the water is constantly churning resulting in clean waters. This, combined with the corals and shallow waters results in an aqua color.
While there are restaurants off-resort on the main island, for the most part you’re stuck on the resort. To venture off the resort requires taking one of the boats. Lo and behold, this will cost you too — anywhere from $12 to $25 per trip per person. One pro-tip we discovered was to load up on the complimentary breakfast buffet and then share an entree for lunch. This brings you down to a reasonable $30/person for lunch.
The service at Four Seasons was impeccable. The staff were happy to bring us waters over and over on the beach. If you’re feeling like a dessert or drink, expect those to run you $20 as well.
Vaitape is the largest city on the main island of Bora Bora, located on the southwestern tip of the island. From The Four Seasons it’s about a 30 minute boat ride. For two weeks in July the locals are celebrating their Heiva festival which is a celebration of life.
On the main island of Bora Bora and in Vaitape you will find restaurants and night markets for the locals. Their favorite foods include a very eccentric combination of things around the world including cake, fried chicken, fries, pizza, raw tuna, chow mien and very sugary sodas.
Expect to pay about US prices for things here — a pizza was $16 and a burger and fries cost $10. This was a bit surprising as our initial expectations were that things would be cheap. We were a bit surprised with the purchasing power of the locals!
For more of a local sit-down restaurant there are also several restaurants. Although there are about five different restaurants to choose from, we discovered afterwards they all sell some variation of the same dishes including fried chicken and so forth.
We tried ordering the tuna tar tar to compare it to the resort’s version since it was about half the price. We were a bit disappointed because it tasted as if it had been sitting in the refrigerator for a while.
The weather in Bora Bora changes on a dime. Clouds and flash rain showers come and go. On our third day we experienced a period of two hours of overcast weather and rains. It was still very warm and beach worthy.
A few minutes later it became a beautiful day.
On the third day we went to the main island to drive around.
There’s, surprisingly, an Avis where you can rent scooters, electric cars and gasoline cars. We rented a two-seater electric car for $70 for two hours.
Driving counterclockwise around the island from Vaitape our first stop was a pristine beach, Plaga Matira. A lot of fishermen were loitering here. Some of them pegged large fishtails onto a tree:
The second destination was Playa Matira, where you can park on the side of the road and walk out for hundreds of meters.
At the end of Day 3 we ate at The Four Season’s Arii Moana. Each dish was pretty spectacular, but also spectacularly pricey. Expect entrees to be around $60, $20 for drinks and $30 for appetizers. Definitely go for the local fish dishes in lieu of imported fish or imported red meat.
Abiu or Star Apple is grown locally in Polynesia. Originally from South America, the fruit tastes like a less-sweet version of lychee.
For the prior night’s dinner, we ate at Villa Mahana on the mainland. The restaurant came highly recommend from a friend. The owner of the restaurant is a French expatriate who’s been living in Bora Bora for more than a dozen years.
Don’t expect a fancy building or any resort-like decor — it’s located in a rugged residential area of Vaitape.
A four course meal will run you around $80.
On the last full day of our trip we went snorkeling. The two main attractions of this tour are stingrays and sharks. The main guide is a local whose family owns their own island next to the Four Seasons.
The varying depths of the water creates 50 shades of blue. A pretty visual as we were speeding to our destinations.
Stingrays were our first stop. The locals in the area basically have domesticated half a dozen stingrays in the area by coming to the same location everyday and maintaining their barbed tail by trimming it every once in a while (something which can kill humans — think Steve Irwin).
<Photos and Videos to come later>
The second destination of the tour was to a corral reef were there were close to a hundred different type of fish species.
The last destination for snorkeling was with black-tipped sharks and lemon sharks. En route we were super fortunate to have run into a humpback whale and her calf.
The sharks were obviously not domesticated, but seemed less menacing than the stingrays. While the stingrays would swim around your body and constantly be touching your skin, the sharks, however, would just be swimming and going about their business. The fish nearby helped make the sharks seem less menacing because they weren’t afraid of them.
After all of the snorkeling, the guide took us to his family island where his cousin had prepared barbecue for us. This was one of the best dishes I had on the island. In my opinion, it was orders of magnitude better than the hotel’s restaurants.
As we were leaving we saw a crab in a tree. The French cameraman told us they were Coconut Crabs. They can grow to the size of an actual coconut. They’re called Coconu Crabs because fully grown they can cut coconuts off the tree with its claws and then eat it.
For dinner we ate for a second time at Arii Moana and tried the remaining fishes we hadn’t tried yet.
Sad! Saturday, July 8th was our last day in Bora Bora. We started to grow accustomed to the blue waters, the finicky but perennially warm weather and the daily, fresh fish.
Pro-tip: As you depart, make sure to sit on the right side of the plane to get the best view of the takeoff and islands that you will pass by.
We were fortunate to have just a 1.5 hour layover upon arriving in Tahiti. Returning to LA, however we had a 5 hour layover in Tahiti. We took the opportunity to visit the downtown which is a $20 taxi ride away. Multiple people recommend 3 Brassuers. They served local craft beer and the eccentric Polynesian varietal mix of burgers, fries and tuna tar tar, chow mien, etc.
Polynesians like their night markets which are made up of food trucks that serve virtually the same eccentric foods that we found on Vaitape: fried chicken, fries, chow mien, tuna tar tar, etc.
The marina and docks had an interesting net arrangement where they trapped all kinds of exotic fishes. A bit disturbing as I don’t think the fish can escape. (I’m not sure how they get fed or stay alive.)
There was only one Japanese restaurant in the entire downtown area. They didn’t serve sushi or nigiri, but had a good variety of faithful Japanese dishes like Yakisoba. The owner travels between Japan and Tahiti and set up shop to let Tahitians know there’s more than just fried chicken to eat.