The 8 Must-Dos for the Ultimate Bora Bora Trip
Bora Bora never fails to dazzle anyone lucky enough to lay eyes on it. With crystalline beaches, emerald peaks, bath-warm waters and charming bungalows in stark contrast with the lagoon’s infinite shades of blue, Bora Bora is absolutely heaven on earth. You’ll get your first glimpse of Bora Bora as you near the airport at the small sandy island of Motu Mute and before you know it, you’ve already fallen in love with French Polynesia’s superstar.
Bora Bora’s renowned charm doesn’t stop there though. The island is a total eye-candy but also an exciting playground where epic adventures and memorable experiences await both in the waters and farther inland. Here’s a rundown of the eight highly-recommended things you must not miss for the best Bora Bora experience ever.
Stay in an overwater bungalow.
Of course this goes on top of the list! There are plenty of accommodation options in Bora Bora but nothing beats an overwater bungalow. Those luxurious thatched huts stretching over the lagoon have become so iconic not just of Bora Bora but all of French Polynesia. Mention ‘Tahiti’ to anyone and the picture that comes up would have one or two of the well-loved huts for sure, and there’s no doubt that honeymooners all over the globe got ‘overwater bungalow experience’ hot on their radars. The opulent bungalows offer a tempting mix of romance and natural beauty that guests can enjoy in absolute privacy. Plush beds, bathtubs, top-of-the-line furniture and bathrooms with a complimentary range of luxury amenities are commonplace for these villas. Freshwater showers, loungers and a pool are often found outside on the terrace from which guests can easily plunge into the lagoon’s inviting waters. To complete the experience, have your breakfast delivered to you by canoe!
Drop in for dinner at the Bloody Mary’s Restaurant.
It’s pretty hard to stand out in a place where excellent restaurants seem to be everywhere, but Bloody Mary’s sure is managing the ‘stand out’ part just fine. Known worldwide as the favourite choice of celebrities, the sandy-bottomed Bloody Mary’s restaurant is famous for its signature cocktails, great ambiance and the super fresh food. The restaurant serves delicious burgers for lunch, including the much-suggested fish burger, but the buffet dinners are the real draw. The daily catch of Bora Bora’s local fisherfolk is displayed on ice so you’ll know exactly what’s available on that evening. The host names each fish on display, identifies its habitat and recommends the best preparation. After you’ve made your choice, your order is taken directly to the chef. As for what drink you should try, go for their Bloody Mary! The restaurant owes it its name after all.
Take a 4WD tour of the main island.
Forget the dazzling beaches for a while and venture inland—you won’t be disappointed! Hop on a 4x4 and explore the remnants of the island’s past. Did you know that a supply base was established on Bora Bora during World War II, triggered by the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor? Up to 6,000 soldiers were dispatched to the island and there were eight massive coastal guns installed. Only one of the guns remains today and is included in most 4x4 tours of the island. Several lookouts are also along the way, where breathtaking views of Bora Bora’s ever-changing palette of blue waters await visitors.
Bike around Vaitape.
Pedal your way around Vaitape, Bora Bora’s main village, and discover roadside snack bars and trinket shops. Stroll the local shops, grab some grub at one of the eateries in the vicinity and get a taste of authentic island life by mingling with the locals. The Lagoonarium, the island’s natural aquarium, is also located in Vaitape, and for those looking for some black pearl jewelry, Sibani Perle is there too!
Conquer Mt. Pahia.
Helicopter rides are great and all that but the jaw-dropping 360-degree panorama of Bora Bora from Mt. Pahia might put the chopper experience to shame. Rising at 661 metres, Mt. Pahia is one of Bora Bora’s three iconic summits (Otemanu and Ohue are the other two) and from up there, one is greeted by sights of deep blue water ribboning around white-fringed islets, lagoons dotted by coral formations, and slices of sugary white sand. Fair warning though, it is a six-hour return hike from Vaitape and the trail can be difficult particularly when it rains. Expect hard uphill scrambles, some treacherous sections, and a really challenging climb up steep rock towards the end to get to the summit. Let your hotel know you’re planning to scale Pahia so they can help you find reliable guide.
Walk in the Valley of Kings.
If Mt. Pahia is too much for you or time won’t permit it, there are much easier and shorter walks in Bora Bora’s mountainous interior. The Valley of Kings (yes, Egypt isn’t the only one with such valley) contains important archaeological sites, including burial sites of the island’s long-dead nobles and royals. In fact, the area is known to be where the island’s early history and culture are concentrated. A well-known hiking guide and University of France archaeology professor, Azdine Oualid, claims to have discovered a 1,800-year-old burial site of a noble (one of its stone carvings is now displayed in the national museum), 10 tombs, 7 temples and 25 village sites. Go hiking in the Valley of Kings and you’ll inevitably come upon the remains of a papau or ‘ghost house’ where the bodies of royals, nobles and other important people were mummified for a year prior to burial. Pay attention to the enclosure topped by an altar stone just outside the papau—battle-scarred bones of the island’s warriors were lodged there.
Laze around Matira Beach.
Sun worship is on! Bora Bora is filled with private beaches but there is one that is free to the public and oh so worth at least day of just bumming around. Matira is a classic example of a South Pacific Beach, often mentioned in lists of most beautiful beaches in the world. Its soft, downy sand stretches for a mile, lined by swaying palm trees and back-dropped by verdant hills. The sand slopes to a sandy, shallow lagoon and with the warm and calm water, it is just the perfect place to swim or snorkel to your heart’s content. Here’s a tip: the water can get very shallow during low tide that you can wade your way to the barrier reef!
Snorkel at the Coral Gardens.
Imagine vibrant coral beds stretching as far the eyes can see, with myriad colourful fish and some manta rays and sharks taking their sweet time in the water. Multiply that by three and you’ll have an idea what Bora Bora’s Coral Gardens are like. Get your snorkelling gear on and plunge into the island’s underwater landscape that is as mind-numbingly beautiful as the panoramas on land. The amazing coral gardens are in the middle of the turquoise lagoon, usually just a 5 to 10-minute boat ride away from most resorts and you can ask your hotel to arrange it for you. Boatloads of snorkelers visit the gardens all year though, so you might want to time your snorkelling safari off peak hours.