The name Bora Bora conjures images of overwater bungalows, clear blue waters, and soft white sand beaches. It’s made a name for itself as one of the most romantic destinations of the world; a popular pick especially for those on their honeymoon. But aside from luxurious romantic resort experiences, what does Bora Bora offer to travellers? I spent 6 nights on this famous island so here is my take on a Bora Bora itinerary: the best things to do in Bora Bora.
How to Get to Bora Bora
Getting to Bora Bora is quite easy once you have arrived in French Polynesia. After all, it is the most popular island in this French Territory. There are regular flights from Pape’ete and it only takes about 1hour. Additionally, you can get flights from many of the other society islands. For those wondering the left side of the plane is the best side!
Tip: If you are planning on island hopping in French Polynesia it is cheaper to get one of the Tahiti Air Passes!
How Long to Spend in Bora Bora
This really depends on your plan. If you are doing a resort trip to Bora Bora and this is the only island you plan on visiting, then you probably want to spend a week. After all, it’s a long way to come! If you are island hopping and more conscious of time you can definitely get away with less. This will depend on everything you want to see and do but I would suggest a minimum of three nights to get a good feel for the island and experience the highlights.
How to Get Around Bora Bora
Bora Bora is quite small, but you will still want some mode of transportation to get around. If you like, you can rent a car or a scooter. Although if you are doing some tours like a 4×4 or ATV tour that circles the island, you won’t need to. Some people also like to cycle around the island. It’s small enough to do that if you enjoy cycling for a few hours.
There is no public transit and only a few taxis that can be quite costly, so take that into consideration as well with your planning. Note that many of the popular restaurants (ie: Bora Bora Yacht Club and Bloody Mary’s) will offer free shuttle service for dinner hours and pick you up/drop you off when you call to make your reservation in advance, you just need to ask!
Where to Stay in Bora Bora
This depends on what type of traveller you are. If you read my article Bora Bora: Is it Worth it? Then you will know that I highly recommend a resort experience as I felt that it was the authentic “Bora Bora” that we all dream about.
In this case, there are a number of choices but I can highly recommend the Four Seasons Bora Bora. I spent two nights in an overwater bungalow on this luxury property and fell in love. It’s absolutely stunning, there are plenty of things to do and amenities, food and drink are delicious, and the staff is warm and welcoming. Without a doubt, it’s the best resort I have ever stayed at anywhere in the world. You can book your stay at the Four Seasons Bora Bora here.
Other popular resorts in Bora Bora include the following:
For those who are not looking for a resort experience, then your best bet is to stay near Vaitape which is the town on the main island. The ferry from the airport goes from there and there are a few places to eat, shop, and find groceries. Tour companies will also be able to easily pick you up and drop you off here. We stayed at Oa Oa Lodge which was decent for the price and about a 15-minute walk from the heart of the town. You can also try the Intercontinental Moana which is still a resort but located on the main island so you have easier access to activities there.
Look at other accommodation options in Bora Bora here.
Things to do in Bora Bora
Wondering how to pass your time on this famous island? Here are my thoughts on the best things to see and do in Bora Bora.
Spend a Couple of Nights in an Overwater Bungalow
If you are going to splurge and spend a couple of nights in an overwater bungalow, Bora Bora is the place to do it. Since many of the luxury resorts are located on motus (small islands in the lagoon), you get the backdrop of Bora Bora island and lagoon which is postcard perfect. Again, I highly recommend the Four Seasons Bora Bora. Yes, it’s pricey, but this is a once in a lifetime experience and even just a couple of nights like I did is worth it.
Check Out Matira Beach
Matira Beach is known as the most beautiful beach on the island, so a visit here is definitely one of the best things to do in Bora Bora. White sandy and coconut palms overlooking the blue waters make it a beautiful spot to sunbathe, swim, or even snorkel. There are a few restaurants along the beach area but also some local homes so please be mindful of where you set up base for the day and don’t park yourself in front of someone’s house.
Tour the Island by ATV
Bora Bora isn’t a big island and there aren’t quite as many viewpoints and places to stop as, say, Huahine. So instead of renting a car to explore, I suggest joining an ATV tour! These tours are about 3 hours and your local guide will take you to some cool spots while you circle the island. Our tour, which was Bora Bora Quad Adventures, also included snacks and water.
Snorkel with Rays and Sharks
Like many of the islands, Bora Bora has some snorkeling tours that include a visit to a site full of blacktip reef sharks and stingrays. They were originally drawn to these places as it was where local fishermen cleaned their catches of the day and, years later, they still hang around. You are no longer allowed to feed wildlife in French Polynesia, though unfortunately, some tours still do. While I advise you not to feed them it’s definitely fun to swim with them. Some of the rays know the tour guides who have been coming daily for years and it’s funny to see them get excited and climb all over them. If you are lucky, they might come right up to you too!
Scuba Dive with Mantas and More
Most people save scuba diving in French Polynesia for the Tuamotu Islands which are famous for their marine life. However, Bora Bora has some pretty decent diving as well! My favourite spot is Anau which is a manta cleaning station. If you are lucky (like I was) you will see plenty of mantas during your dive here! Other things to see around Bora Bora include blacktip reef sharks, lemon sharks, and plenty of reef fish.
I highly recommend TOPDIVE Bora Bora for any diving on the island. The equipment is in great shape, the team is very friendly and professional, and everything about the experience was fun and safe.
Have a Meal at Bloody Mary’s
Bloody Mary’s is the most well-known restaurant in Bora Bora. It dates back to 1979 when it started with only 5 tables. Today, it’s hosted a ton of celebrities and many travellers. You can come here for lunch, drinks, or dinner.
Take a Hike
If you aren’t too averse to hiking in the heat then you might want to tackle one of Bora Bora’s hikes. There are hikes of different lengths and levels. Some you can do on your own while others it is recommended to have a guide. The big hikes here are the ones to either Mata Pupu or Mt Otemanu; the two large peaks for the island. You should be very fit to tackle either and bring plenty of water, the heat is no joke!
Note that the vast majority of climbs and hikes in Bora Bora can only be done in dry weather. It’s too dangerous and slippery when it’s wet.
Shop for Local Souvenirs
Bora Bora’s main town of Vaiatape has plenty of shops for those looking for souvenirs. Most will flock to the black pearl shops (there are many) but if you are looking for something different you can also try La Galerie Bora Bora which has hand-painted pareos.
For a more affordable but fun option, visit the Bora Bora Artisan building by the ferry. Here you will find many local women selling handmade jewellery made with shells, small pearls, or mother of pearl. You can also find some clothing and pareos here as well.
See Bora Bora From Above
If you have ever wanted to take a helicopter ride, Bora Bora just might be the place to do it. I didn’t do this personally but I can only imagine how incredible the lagoon must look from above after having seen it below.
Where to Eat in Bora Bora
If you are staying on a resort, then you will probably be dining there as most are all located on motus with no easy access to the island. I can only speak to the Four Seasons Bora Bora but they had a few restaurant options including a French cuisine restaurant, a seafood restaurant, and an Asian restaurant. I tried the seafood and Asian options. The dishes were expensive but delicious.
If you are on the main island there are a mix of options ranging from typical restaurants like the famous Bloody Mary’s and the classic Bora Bora Yacht Club (both are delicious). You can also try the Saint James which is a great spot for sunset cocktails as well as dinner.
For cheaper options, head into Vaitape town and hit up one of the food trucks. Then usually start around 5pm and shut down at 10pm. This is where you will find most of the locals eating as the food is cheaper but also delicious. You can find pizza, fish and meat plates, paninis, and even crepes and waffles at these trucks.
How Much Does Bora Bora Cost?
Bora Bora is expensive, more so than the other islands in French Polynesia. I definitely noticed a difference in cost here for everything from food and drinks to accommodation and even tours. So you do need to go in knowing that you can’t really explore here on a budget. You will need to spend.
For some cost examples:
- A lagoon snorkel tour (half day is advertised but ours was only 2 hours) $90 USD
- ATV Island tour (3 hour tour): $255 per ATV
- Night at the Four Seasons overwater Bungalow: Starting around $3000 USD (with taxes) +
- Cocktail at a bar: $20-$25 USD
- Meal at a restaurant: $35 USD
Final Thoughts on Things to do in Bora Bora
I’ll be honest, while the island is beautiful, I didn’t find that Bora Bora had as much to offer as other islands in French Polynesia. If you are an independent traveller hopping around, I suggest just 3-5 nights here before moving on. As an independent traveller myself, I preferred the islands of Mo’orea and Huahine.
That being said, Bora Bora is incredible if you come for the resort experience. I was personally blown away by how much the Four Seasons Bora Bora had to see and do to keep me busy during my stay. Not to mention the overall atmosphere was a dream. So again, I would say the number one thing on my list of things to do in Bora Bora would be to have a luxury resort experience.
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.