Best of Bora Bora

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Best of Bora Bora
Bora Bora takes all the exotic elements Polynesia has to offer and makes them astoundingly comfortable. The sultry air, scent of flowers, sound of lapping waves, and bright colors will surround you throughout your whole trip. You won't want to leave!
Photo courtesy of Tahiti Tourism
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    Traditional Song and Dance at the Heiva Festivals
    The Heiva song and dance festivals and competitions take place all around French Polynesia between June and August; Bora Bora’s is the second largest after Tahiti. These celebrations of traditional performing arts and sports are some of the greatest shows on Earth. Among flamboyant sets and dressed in costumes of flowers, greenery, shells, and colorful fabrics, lithe female dancers shake their hips in a fast blur while muscular men waggle their knees; drum orchestras tap out primal, complex rhythms and vocalists sing together to create astounding harmonies.
    Photo courtesy of Tahiti Tourism
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    Ancient Open-Air Temples
    Marae are ancient, open-air Polynesian temples built for religious purposes ranging from prayer to sacrifice. Bora Bora has less marae than many of its island sisters, and those that survive are quite humble, but you can still visit a handful of these eerily beautiful sites. Top choices are Faanui Bay’s Marae Fare-Opu, with its turtle petroglyphs; Marae Taianapa, also on the coast road of Faanui Bay; and a coastal marae just south of the ferry quay in Farepiti. Some are on private property, so be respectful and admire the fern-covered, coral slab structures from a distance.
    Photo by Aafes49
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    Fresh Local Seafood
    Mahi mahi in vanilla sauce, lagoon fish in garlic butter or slathered in a Roquefort cream, fresh lobster and prawns—such seafood specialties await you at Bora Bora’s fine restaurants. But the dish you really have to try can be found on every menu, including at the most humble roadside stalls: poisson cru, which is French for “raw fish." Poisson cru is much like ceviche—chunks of fresh, raw tuna are slightly cooked by the acid of a lime juice marinade, doused in coconut cream, and mixed with vegetables to create an indescribably cooling and delicious salad. Eat it with a traditional side of white rice.
    Photo by Andre Seale/age fotostock
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    Shop for a Colorful Pareu
    When it gets too hot on Bora Bora, all you want to do is live in your swimsuit. Luckily, the local dress code allows you to wrap yourself in a light sarong, locally called a pareu. Resort boutiques and stores around the island sell pareu, but make sure to find one made in Bora Bora. Some are painted, some are hand-dyed with leaf or plant patterns transferred onto them through a sun drying process, and others are embroidered or embellished with shells. Men and women can wear the pareu as a skirt or dress, fold it into a bag, or use it as a towel on the beach.
    Photo courtesy of Tahiti Tourism
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    The Hawaiki Nui Canoe Race
    Around 60 outrigger canoe teams compete in the Hawaiki Nui Canoe Race each November, and at the end of the grueling 116 kilometer paddle, they all congregate on Bora Bora’s Matira Beach. This is French Polynesia’s biggest sporting event, so the buzz and fanfare at the final is beyond compare. Expect plenty of colorful canoes, bronzed, muscled men, an abundance of flowery wreaths, and days of partying. The race begins in Huahine and over the course of three days passes all the Leeward Islands before reaching Bora Bora. Although most teams come from French Polynesia, some ambitious foreign teams compete as well.
    Photo by Bianca Henry
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    Snack on Fresh Tropical Fruit
    Bora Bora is a great place to sample a range of seasonal tropical fruits. In general, the widest variety is found between November and March, known traditionally as the “season of abundance.” Mango season happens twice a year around December and again in July. Fruits like bananas and papayas, however, are always available. Whereas the mangoes, pineapples, and pomelos are fantastic, the soursop—a big, prickly green fruit with a tart but sweet white fleshy interior—has one of the most unique flavors. If the tropical delights included in your breakfast buffet are not enough for you, buy more by the kilo at the local fruit stalls in Vaitape or along the side of the road.
    Photo by Lenore Greiner
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    Remnants of World War II
    Bora Bora must have been one of the best places to be based during World War II, partially because no combat took place on the island. Up to 6,000 American troops at a time were stationed here from 1942–1946 as part of “Operation Bobcat.” The garrison generated romantic stories like Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, and the airstrip built during this period was the country’s first. Few remnants of the Americans' presence remains today—mostly abandoned guns and bunkers—but if you do want to explore what is left you can take a four-wheeler tour, easily organized through your hotel.
    Photo by Raffaele Meucci/age fotostock
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    Local Life in Vaitape
    Escape the resort by visiting Vaitape, Bora Bora's main town, which remains refreshingly local. Don’t expect anything particularly grandiose, but walking around will give you a glimpse into real life on the island, without the manicured feel found in most hotels. The town is liveliest in the mornings as people run errands; afternoons are for siesta or a game of pétanque (bocce ball). Sunday mornings are the best time to visit, when local stalls selling treats like firifiri (Tahitian-style doughnuts) and poisson cru (raw fish salad) open up along the main road.
    Photo by Norbert Eisele-Hein/age fotostock
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    Bora Bora's Iconic Peaks
    While Bora Bora’s beaches and lagoon are nothing short of sublime, it’s worth taking a break from the seaside to check out the island’s interior; you can hire a guide, go solo, or join a four-wheeler tour. The small network of island trails are used by very few people, let alone tourists, and are even quieter than the beaches. Traipse through thick jungle with basalt cliffs to dry, windswept vista points. Some of the island’s peaks are impossible to climb due to the crumbly nature of the terrain, but if you’re in good shape the views from the tough, five-to-six-hour walk up to Mount Ohue and Mount Pahia are well worth the sweat.
    Photo courtesy of Tahiti Tourism