When I told people I was spending over a month island hopping in French Polynesia, some of them had no idea where that was. But, as soon as I said Bora Bora they knew. Their eyes lit up and they gushed with jealousy that I would be visiting this tropical paradise that has made a name for itself as one of the most beautiful and luxurious destinations in the world. But, is Bora Bora Worth it? Does it live up to the hype? Is it worth the price? Here are my honest thoughts.
A Little Bit on the History of Bora Bora
Bora Bora owes its fame to the military of the USA. During WWII the Americans used Bora Bora as a military base in the South Pacific. Prior to their arrival, Bora Bora didn’t have running electricity and all the modern amenities that they do today; that was all brought in by the Americans who also built an airbase; the first international airport in these territories until 1960 when the airport of Tahiti opened up.
Now, of course, the modern amenities aren’t the main reason why Bora Bora is famous. It is a stunning island with a towering mountain and azure lagoon. However, it was the Americans who spread talk of this island paradise after using it as a base and so the island gained a reputation and has, over the years, become the luxury escape it is known to be today.
However, as our Bora Bora quad tour guide, Manu, pointed out: this could have easily happened to any of the Society Islands which all have stunning scenery. It just happens that Bora Bora was the one that the US military picked.
My Stay in Bora Bora
During my time in French Polynesia, I visited several islands including, of course, Bora Bora. I spent 6 nights on this famous island; exploring what it had to offer by land and sea. I also stayed both on the island and at the resort to see it as an independent traveller AND as a vacationer. I had high expectations of Bora Bora from the photos I’ve seen online and the overall reputation of this tropical haven. However, I had two very different experiences based on my stay. One I would recommend, the other- not as much.
Bora Bora as an Independent Traveller
Bora Bora as an independent traveller was, to be completely honest, somewhat disappointing. At least for me. I spent 4 nights staying on the island near the main town of Vaitape. Two nights in a hotel and two nights in a guesthouse. They were fine, but I found better quality (and prices) at similar accommodation options on the other Society Islands. The guesthouse we stayed at in Bora Bora had no air conditioning (fine) but also no fan. Not even a small one. Sure, $120 per night is pretty cheap in Bora Bora but for that price, I do expect a fan when nights are 25C+.
The thing is with a reputation like Bora Bora, you know it’s going to come with a price tag. French Polynesia is expensive enough as is but when you go to Bora Bora you can expect to pay even more. If the value is there- that’s fine. But, for me, I don’t think the value was there.
I paid $90USD for what was meant to be a 3.5-hour snorkel tour that would take us to three snorkel spots in the lagoon. To start with, only two spots were actually for snorkeling (coral gardens and the shark and ray site). The last stop was shallow white sand in the middle of the lagoon. I literally just sat there wondering what was happening and when we could leave.
Compare that to the $100 I paid for a full day lagoon tour in Huahine which included 2 similar snorkel stops, and a full lunch with alcohol on a motu. Or a full-day tour to the Blue Lagoon with a shark nursery, snorkel stop, and huge lunch (with beer) in Rangiroa. Those were worth my money. But $90 for 2 hours and 2 snorkel stops? It felt like a waste of money.
I also didn’t find the main island of Bora Bora as pretty to be on as others when actually exploring the island. We did an ATV tour and drove around and sure there are a couple of nice viewpoints but it lacked the same lushness of Huahine and Moorea. Was it pretty? Of course. But did it blow my mind? Not so much.
As an independent traveller staying on the main island, I much preferred the other society islands I visited. I found there to be more to see and do and I got better value for my money.
Bora Bora as a Guest of the Four Seasons Bora Bora
As I said above, my stay in Bora Bora was split between the main island and a resort on a motu. The resort we stayed at was the Four Seasons Bora Bora which has a reputation of being one of, if not THE, best resorts in Bora Bora and French Polynesia in general.
Now, I typically do not consider myself to be a resort girl. I find they can be restrictive when I like to get out and do things. I also find they attract a certain type of clientele who, quite frankly, I don’t fit in with. I don’t think I’m fancy enough for most resorts and often end up feeling awkward and out of place. But, my friend Chantae who I was travelling with is also a travel writer and since we both had content plans for French Polynesia we were offered a very tempting media rate by the Four Seasons Bora Bora. Add in some encouragement from a friend who had also been and I signed on for two nights at this luxurious resort.
Well, I fell in love.
THIS was the Bora Bora experience that everyone dreams of. The overwater bungalows against the backdrop of the island mountain. Soft white sand beaches rimmed by crystal clear turquoise water that seemed brighter and more vivid in this part of the lagoon than any other. This was the Bora Bora that we see on the postcards.
But it wasn’t just how it looked.
Our overwater bungalow was a dream. A huge bathtub overlooking the balcony and deck which I jumped off of dozens of times. The most comfortable bed in the world with six pillows each that I happily sunk into every night. Robes and toiletries and a fully stocked fridge and minibar with everything from local Hinano beer to cocktails in glass jars.
I could have spent the entire time in the overwater bungalow but the grounds of the Four Seasons Bora Bora were even more impressive. Chantae and I ran around, cameras in hand from the docks to the beach to the pool and into the resort’s lagoon which houses a coral conservation project and plenty of local marine life (we were thrilled to see an eagle ray). I felt like here had more to see and do and explore than the main island. There were SUPs to borrow, Jetskis to rent if you wished, free yoga classes to join, and plenty of other activities including scuba diving that you could sign up for. This wasn’t a resort where I had to sit by the pool (although it was a beautiful pool). I could relax. I could be active. I could swim and snorkel and do all the things that I loved with the most stunning backdrop imaginable.
The Four Seasons Bora Bora was my playground for two glorious days and I loved every minute of the experience.
So, How Much Does the Four Seasons Bora Bora Cost?
Let’s be honest, you don’t get a reputation as a world-class resort without having a price tag. Unsurprisingly, the Four Seasons Bora Bora is not cheap. It’s one of the more expensive options in Bora Bora with price tags starting at around $3000 Canadian per night plus taxes for the lower end bungalows.
Oh, and that’s not including meals. Breakfast for two will easily cost $100 and most cocktails at the bar are about $30 each. Dinners range quite a bit as well. I saw starters at $30 and mains at $100+ per plate depending on the restaurant. Now, the food was delicious (and a welcome change from the poisson cru or grilled fish that I was so used to eating in the islands) but there are no ‘budget’ options available and since the resort is located on a motu away from the main island, you can’t really go out for dinner either.
That being said, remember that I also paid $125 per night for a room without a fan. It’s Bora Bora. Resort or not, this island isn’t cheap.
So, is Bora Bora Worth it?
If you are looking for a true luxury experience and willing to spend the money for a vacation at the Four Seasons Bora Bora- then yes.
I’ve always been of the mindset that I don’t need a fancy place to stay. Just somewhere clean and safe. But the Four Seasons Bora Bora isn’t just somewhere to stay. It’s an experience on its own- even if you choose not to leave your overwater Bungalow. Yes, it comes with a hefty price tag and yes it will be an expensive vacation but it will also be a once in a lifetime experience and unlike so much of Bora Bora that I experienced as an independent traveller, I truly feel that I got the most value from my Four Seasons Bora Bora stay.
If a resort really isn’t your style then, honestly, skip Bora Bora. Head to Moorea or even Huahine instead. However, if you dream of a luxury Bora Bora escape then save the money and take the time to enjoy a stay at the Four Seasons Bora Bora. Even if it’s just a couple of nights like I had, it will be worth it.
A Note on Travel Insurance in French Polynesia
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.