You’ve probably heard of high/low dressing. Pairing an outfit of designer labels with affordable pieces. But what about high/low travel? When I started this blog my intention was to write about both. Although I love a luxury vacation (who doesn’t!) I also love the challenge of taking a beautiful trip at a low cost. You may remember my experience doing an an 8-day roadtrip for under $1,000.
Well now I want to talk about the extreme opposite. Bora Bora.
Full disclosure: I only got to experience this fabulous tropical paradise in the South Pacific because my husband made a mistake. A big one. I’ll spare you all of the details but it involved us flying to Paris, France and not getting into the country because of visa issues! Needless to say this was a traumatic experience for both of us and he wanted to make things right. It took about .01 seconds for me to choose the destination that would get him out of the doghouse for good!
I’ll never forget flying over the island of Bora Bora. I had read a great tip that said to sit on the left side of the small plane that flew us there from Tahiti. The blue colors of the ocean were so vibrant, Mount Otemanu so grand. It was absolutely love at first sight.
It felt like a dream getting off of the plane and boarding one of the Four Seasons Resort yachts.
They were inspired by the commuter boats of New York City of the 1920’s, used to transport Wall Street executives from their homes in Long Island to the Manhattan Financial District. We were greeted with chilled towels, drinks and leis. All of the other couples on our transfer were honeymooners, we had been married 6 years. This is definitely a trip for romance.
As the boat pulled up to the 5-star resort it was like a scene straight out of the movies. This was my first look at their 100 over-water bungalow suites.
We chose a lagoon view hut on the sunset side. Our room, 118, was the perfect walking distance from everything at the resort. We spent the majority of our days swimming and snorkeling around our bungalow. It felt very private. And the sunsets were UNREAL. It was a great decision asking for that view! The inside of the bungalow was spacious and truly felt like “home” for the week and not a hotel.
You could also spend your days lounging at their beautiful infinity pool or perfectly maintained beach. Relax amongst the soaring palm trees and luxe cabanas. We spent a day at the beach and drinks, cold towels and frozen treats were served in abundance. Famous celebrities have been known to hang around the pool bar. For the active type, kayaking and paddle boarding are available, as well as a yoga platform and fitness center.
The reason why we wanted to stay at the #1 resort in Bora Bora, and paid more than we ever had (or still have!) before, was because we knew we’d be spending the majority of our time there and in the room. My opinion is if you’re going to be out exploring a city all day, a luxury hotel is not always a necessity.
In this case, I feel it was absolutely the right choice. You’re going to pay a lot anywhere on the island, might as well stay at the best. And The Four Seasons is just that. In 2015 it was voted the #1 Resort in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific and among the top 100 hotels overall in Travel + Leisure’s 2015 World’s Best Awards readers’ poll.
This is where you go if you want to be pampered and feel like a VIP. Jeff & I joked that our room must have been bugged because everything we wanted or needed magically appeared. Employees went out of their way to make sure we had every comfort possible.
My favorite example was at dinner at the upscale restaurant Arii Moana. In conversation I complained to our waiter about my sunburn and the next thing you know he surprised me with a container of aloe! Little things go a long way. Customer service and authenticity is their true strength here.
We looked forward each morning to the breakfast buffet at Tere Nui. Every delicious option you could ever want was presented. I loved that you could make your own juice! Tere Nui also offers lunch and weekly themed dinners, including their Traditional Polynesian Show, and Tahitian family-style dinner.
The waitress there even inspired me to get my first tattoo! She had a beautiful story for each one of hers. It’s common that Polynesians have many tattoos to signify important events in their lives. If you ask who they get their tattoos from you will most definitely hear the name Marama! He’s one of the most respected tattoo artists recommended by locals. And he gave me what he said was the smallest tattoo of his life. A turtle on my wrist! After the passing of my father the year before, this holds tremendous significance to this day.
We did venture off of the property a few times. First to do a shark and ray tour. Jeff was a lot braver than me and fully embraced the experience of swimming with stingrays and black tip reef sharks, as well as snorkeling with all of the colorful tropical fish in the coral garden. He was also a little too brave with the big sharks and got way too close for my comfort! I enjoyed when the guide allowed each of us to get near and touch the rays. At the end of the tour we were taken to a private beach for a picnic lunch. The pineapple was amazing!!
We also had an opportunity to jet-ski the entire 6-mile long Bora Bora lagoon. We took a guided tour with 3 other couples, one of which we still keep in touch with to this day! We had an enjoyable lunch at Matira Beach. This excursion is an absolute MUST do if you visit Bora Bora. It was just unreal seeing how the water changed from turquoise to dark blue. One of the very best moments of my life was sitting on the back of that jet-ski.
The absolute highlight of our trip was a sunset cruise and romantic dinner on a private motu. Described as “the most intimate dining experience Bora Bora has to offer,” I couldn’t agree more. We were picked up by motorized canoe and serenaded as we watched the most gorgeous sunset. When we arrived at the private, white sand motu, it was set up beautifully. We enjoyed a delicious Polynesian-inspired meal by the light of tiki torches. Afterward, there was a fire dance performance just for us. We both said we felt like newlyweds again! The host was an interesting guy who was an MMA fighter and had lots of stories about celebrities he had hosted in his family’s home.
You cannot stay at this resort without visiting their spa. The views of the Pacific Ocean are to die for! I had two treatments during my stay. The first, a hot stone massage, and then I went back and had the sun salutation. My sunburn was so bad and this service helped immensely! They gave me a lotion that turned my burn to tan pretty quickly. Make sure you go an hour early to use their relaxation lounges. They have an outdoor vitality pool, steam room, sensory shower, drench shower, cold towels and water. You can also use the facility without an appointment, which I did once. It truly is a 5-star spa.
And as a guest, make sure to take part in the complimentary lagoon sanctuary experience with Oliver. He is the resident Marine Biologist. We snorkeled through the lagoon with Oliver as our guide and saw octopus, puffers, flounders, lion-fish and anemones. It was quite the educational experience! We got to meet his daughter and wife as well, who live with him at the resort.
To Get There:
We flew SAT->LAX and stayed there a few days. From LA it is an 8.5-hour flight to Tahiti. You fly another 50 minutes from Tahiti to Bora Bora.
Four Season Resort Bora Bora Packages:
We chose the Stay Longer-Fourth Night Free Package, which includes accommodations in an overwater bungalow, and daily breakfast buffet for two. Our total trip was 8 nights. To make a reservation, call 800 819 5053, contact your travel professional (chain code FS) or book online.
The recently enhanced Resort now offers 100 overwater bungalows, including two-bedroom suites, and 15 with private plunge pools, as well as seven expansive beachfront villas.
I was very happy with Jackie from Custom Tahiti Travel. She booked the airfare, accommodations, transfers and restaurant reservations. I prefer to use a travel agency that specializes in the area I’m traveling to, as they have usually stayed in the location, and have contacts and connections. All requests we had went through her. After the visa mishap I always use a travel agency for international travel! And of course, don’t forget your passport.
- Bora Bora is an expensive vacation no matter what. But to save a little money, try booking in the off-season between December and March. No matter what month you visit the high temperatures are in the 80’s and the lows in the 70’s. December-February are the rainiest months. We visited in September and had zero rain. August has the least rainy days.
- Although I absolutely loved staying at a resort here, there is the more affordable option to cruise in Bora Bora.
- I have seen hotel deals starting at $265 per night in Bora Bora on the high-end travel discount website Jetsetter. I have booked other trips through them in the past and they are a reliable travel source.
Bora Bora History:
In 1970 Hotel Bora Bora was the first to build over-the-water bungalows on stilts over the lagoon. Today, over-water bungalows are standard at most Bora Bora resorts. The island’s economy is driven almost solely by tourism.
Currently the top-5 ranked Bora Bora hotels on Trip Advisor are:
- Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
- InterContinental Thalasso-Spa Bora Bora
- The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort
- InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort
- Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island
What to pack:
I WAY overpacked for this trip. Obviously, make sure to bring lots of bathing suits. I don’t think I wore a real outfit during the day once. I was in a bathing suit and cover-up for breakfast and throughout the day. You can go very casual to breakfast. Do bring a dressy outfit, like a cute sundress, for dinner each evening. The restaurants are nice and you will want to be dressed up. We left the resort once for a gourmet French dinner with wine pairing at La Villa Mahana. A reservation is required here, as there are only 6 tables, and it is formal. My husband did bring a suit jacket but I don’t remember him ever wearing a tie. Make sure to bring an adapter for your hair products! I blew my hair straightener out on the first day. I also advise buying your own snorkeling gear and reef shoes. I went to Target and bought two sets for a reasonable price. Definitely bring an underwater camera and a waterproof case for your cellphone! Throw in a few light sweaters as the nights get cold. Bring a cheap pair of sunglasses for the water activities. We each lost a nice pair when our jet-ski tipped over! I don’t remember mosquitoes being an issue, but I would bring bug spray. The hotel did offer sunscreen but I brought my own. And I would make sure to pack a hat! I’m not much of a heel girl, so I stayed in flats and flip flops the entire vacation. Same for the men, one nice pair of shoes and flip flops/sneakers will do.
- Make sure to check weight restrictions for your luggage! This is very important as the plane from Tahiti to Bora Bora is small and can only handle so much weight.
- I did not take out any currency here. I used my credit card for all purchases and called the credit card companies in advance. I do believe American cash was accepted as well, and you can take out their currency at ATM’s on Vaitape.
Marama is a native of Bora Bora. He is half-American, half-Polynesian. My experience was that he’s a man of few words. He asked what I wanted and drew the turtle freehand on my wrist. He would not allow my husband to come into the room with me. The whole thing took less than a half an hour! Afterward, he did hang around and talk to us. As I said above, he joked that this was the smallest tattoo he had ever done! I needed it to fit under a watch for work. The resort booked my appointment with him. We took the free 25 minute Four Seasons boat shuttle to the main town of Vaitape, and then a taxi to his shop. Marama Tattoo is located on the lagoon side of the road between Point Matira and Le Maitai. Tel: (689) 72 03 75.
Shopping for Tahitian Pearls:
I knew I couldn’t leave Bora Bora without a Tahitian pearl. I checked out the pearl shops in Vaitape, but absolutely fell in love with a ring right at the resort, at the Black Pearl Lounge shop. Tasha was very personable and helped me pick out the perfect pearl for the unique setting. Jeff surprised me with it on our last day there! It is one of my most treasured pieces of jewelry. I also bought a fashion necklace that I was told Heidi Klum bought on her trip to Bora Bora.
- Hello: Ia ora na!
- Welcome: Maeve
- Enjoy your meal: Tama’a mate’s
- Thank you: Mauruuru
- Cheers: Manuia
- Goodbye: Nana
And with that I say Mauruuru! Bora Bora really is a dream trip and all that it’s made out to be. I hope you get to experience it in your lifetime. A bucket list item for sure!
Living with soul,