The Best of Bora Bora

Just uttering the words “Bora Bora” summons mental images of Fantasy Island beaches fringing bright blue lagoons, green jungles and towering volcanic peaks, bamboo beach shacks, and dreamy overwater bungalow resorts. The reality? Not so far removed from the fantasy. Romance, adventure, and happiness coexist here in tropical bliss.

Sometimes all you want to do is relax with your toes in the sand, take an occasional dip in the clear blue water and then enjoy a casual lunch. If that’s your idea of heaven, pack a towel and some sunscreen, tender into Vaitape and rent a scooter or bike or hire a taxi to bring you to Bora-Bora’s loveliest public beach. The sand is soft, the water is calm and the gorgeous InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora Resort and a few small cafés are right nearby.
Povai Bay, French Polynesia
You’ll need to book months ahead to snag one of the seven tables in this intimate island restaurant. The Corsican-born chef, Damien Rinaldi-Dovio, combines classic French gastronomy with Polynesian flavors, and has been winning raves from guests since 2004. His wonderful—and, yes, pricey—tasting menus offer multiple courses with optional wine pairings; the menu also lists à la carte options.

Povai Bay, Bora-Bora 98730, French Polynesia
Bloody Mary’s, entertaining tourists since it opened in 1979, is one of those Bora Bora experiences that simply must be done. The ambience is beach-bar hip, with sand floors, colored lights, and coconut stools in a dining room under a thatched roof and surrounded by tropical foliage. Even if you don’t eat here, at least come for a cocktail to experience the vibe and mingle with the crowd of local pension, or guesthouse, owners, visiting celebrities, and other travelers. The food’s quite good, too: Fresh fish, seafood, and meats are grilled, American-barbecue style, with tasty results.
Bora Bora is home to one of the world’s most beautiful lagoons. Numerous companies offer day-trip excursions, but Lagoon Service is recommended for its well-maintained boats, friendly ukulele-playing guides, and excellent Polynesian fare. Guests get to cruise around the islands and make stops to snorkel in coral gardens, swim among playful rays, and experience the thrill of swimming with docile sharks. The trip concludes with a lunch, enjoyed at a table set up in the shallow aquamarine water. The picnic includes everything from poisson cru to coconut bread and all sorts of fresh fruits. Note: The sun is brutal here, so wear rash guards or T-shirts as well as sunscreen.
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.
Unnamed Road
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.
When in Bora Bora, Tahitian pearls are a girl’s best friend. Often known as “black pearls,” they actually come in all sorts of colors, including black, blue, green, and pink. Even though the pearls aren’t produced in this island’s lagoon—most come from the Tuamotu or Gambier archipelago—many of the highest quality ones are sent to Bora Bora to be sold on the tourist market. The best deals are found on the main island at small boutiques, which often mount them into their own unique designs. Spend a day touring the island in search of your dream pendant or earrings; and if you really want to splurge, go for a full strand.
Motu Piti Aau Bora Bora French Polynesia, 98730, French Polynesia
For an elegant island dining experience, opt for an evening at Le Corail at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa. The formal and contemporary dining room, right beside the lagoon, seats only 28 at a time, so the mood is intimate and romantic. Tables by the windows, with a view of the resort’s overwater wedding chapel, are the most coveted. The French-accented seven-course tasting menu rotates with the seasons and is plated artfully, in keeping with the modern surroundings. With advance notice, the kitchen can accommodate those with allergies and dietary restrictions. Open six nights a week for dinner, from April to November.
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Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
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