My sister Jennifer and brother-in-law Josh recently returned from a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to Bora Bora, and I could. not. wait. to drill them with questions! When I approached them about doing an interview for Whimsical September, they jumped at the opportunity. I so appreciate them sitting down to knock out these questions within just hours of getting home! You two rock big time.
Tips for Planning a Trip to Bora Bora
1. So first things first. In a nutshell, was it everything you dreamed that it would be?
Without a doubt. Combined, we have visited over a dozen countries and all across the United States, but nothing touched the serene beauty and pristine beaches of Bora Bora.
2. What resort did you stay at, and how did you choose it?
We chose to stay at the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort and Spa and were very pleased. Owned by Leading Hotels of the World, this resort is simply the best value of any resort on Bora Bora. Similar to most of the resorts, The Pearl Beach is located on the northwestern Motu of Bora Bora. While on the southeastern side of the island, the St. Regis, Four Season, Intercontinental, and Le Meridien have the brand names and we’re sure are excellent resorts; however, they do not have the view of Pearl Beach. Known as “Resort Row”, these four resorts are right on top of one another. The Hilton owns a resort on Bora Bora as well. However, the property is huge, lacking character, and exterior of their bungalows look worn. Pearl Beach has a more authentic Polynesian feel that most of the other resorts are lacking from our understanding. Those on “Resort Row” have a more modern flare. One of the best features of Pearl Beach was the relatively shallow water around the bungalows, you might be 400 meters from the shore in only 4 feet of water. The water was so clear you could see your toes like you weren’t even underwater.
3. What did your hotel price include?
Our hotel provided a free Polynesian style breakfast buffet with some American favorites and several free activities. On the premises was a 14 hole mini golf course, tennis court, kayaks, paddleboards, gym, complimentary bottle of wine, lounge chairs with umbrella if needed, transportation to the main island, towels, and snorkel gear.
4. You stayed in the overwater bungalow three nights and the garden villa three nights. Were you happy with that decision?
Yes and no. We initially stayed in the overwater bungalow and for lack of a better term, we got spoiled. The overwater bungalow is like having your own personal salt water pool. One of our best ideas was to take two inflatable rafts and tie them to an anchor in the water. It allowed us to relax in the ocean for hours. Don’t get us wrong; the garden villas are great. They reminded us of Ladera Resort in St. Lucia from our honeymoon with private plunge pools, outdoor shower and outdoor eating area. However, it is not as wonderful as the overwater bungalow.
Well, it was a little complicated. We couldn’t type MHK to BOR on standardtravelengine.com and receive the best flight itinerary. Manhattan’s airport is a small Class D with only American Eagle making two flights to Dallas and two flights to Chicago daily. Therefore, we made two different arrangements. First, we created one itinerary from MHK to LAX. Upon arrival to LAX, we had about an 8 hour layover until our late night flight. We dropped off our bags at the local USO and made our way to Marina Del Ray in Los Angeles. From LAX, it was a 7 hour flight to Tahiti. Followed by a short 45 minute from to Bora Bora.
6. What percentage did you spend on travel? Hotels? Food? Drinks? Excursions? What other big expenditures were there?
Biggest costs by far were the hotel and airline expenses. Those costs alone exceeded 2/3 of the total budget. Food is also relatively pricey. We brought Advocare meal replacement shakes if we ever got hungry between meals, but never needed it. By the way, Erica sells Advocare. It’s a great product. Excursion prices vary. Some feel like relative deals, while others seem outrageous. Our scuba excursion was about $110 per person, which felt like a deal to us. However, renting a jet ski for 2 hours was around $350 and seemed overpriced. It all depends on what you want to do and what your priorities are.
7. How did you set your budget, and how well did you do sticking to it?
You can do limited things with money. Save it. Spend it on stuff. Spend it on experiences or others. We decide to spend ours on experiences. If you go to Bora Bora, don’t let a budget deter you from making the most out of your trip, but keep in mind that everything is expensive. Spend money on whatever your priorities are.
8. What was the average cost of a meal? Drinks?
Expect between $150 and $200 for dinners (without any drinks). Drinks are about $7 for a beer and about $20 for a cocktail. If you wante a burger and fries for lunch, it is approximately $30 per person.
9. What was the weather like?
Mostly sunny and 80 degrees F with a wonderful steady breeze all the time. This was one of our favorite and most unexpected parts of Bora Bora. In all the reviews we read, no one really talked about how amazing the weather is. You could lie on the beach for hours without needing to go inside and cool off. It was one the many great aspects that added to the “magical” feel of the island.
10. What excursions did you go on?
We went on two excursions. The first was scuba diving. What an amazing experience. The hotel provides an activities desk that works with local companies for excursions. Several scuba diving companies on the island exist. We used Top Dive. Nice equipment, excellent staff, and great package options. The packages include options for one-time beginner’s dive, two tank dives for experienced divers and the possibility to earn scuba certifications. We did the beginners dive. The two of us went down about 20 feet with an instructor for about half an hour. It was a wonderful experience that we would do again in an instant. Bora Bora is one of the premier dive locations in the world. We had one tourist in our group with more than 400 dives of experience and another with more than 200. We met several people who earned their certifications. The second excursion was parasailing. While more expensive than anywhere you will parasail in the US, the views were breathtaking. We went up about 300 meters and saw most of the island from a most unique perspective. Jenn parasailed once before in Florida. Josh had never parasailed. It was a thrilling experience, and getting an aerial view of the island was unexplainably beautiful.
11. Did you go on any excursions that you wouldn’t recommend or do again?
We probably would not do the parasailing excursion if we return. It was great the first time and highly recommended, but not necessary more than once.
12. What activities would you recommend or do again?
We enjoyed our activities. Parasailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking were all great. Josh enjoyed paddleboarding as well, but wasn’t as much of a pro at standing on the board like Jenn; however Jenn might need more lessons on how to turn the board around. Everything is great. We met other couples that did Jeep safaris, jet skiing and hiking that all loved their excursions.
13. I remember you telling me that you bought fish food ahead of time to bring with you. Why, and was it a good idea?
Bringing the fish food was an excellent idea especially while we were in the overwater bungalow. Pearl Beach has one large coral nursery in the middle of the overwater bungalows and a small coral reef under each of its 50 overwater bungalows. Since its inception in 1998, the main nursery is well maintained and can be snorkeled anytime. The coffee table in the bungalow is glass in order to see your personal coral reef. Anytime we could take off the tabletop and feed the fish. When we would see a lot of fish on the reef, we could simply walk off our back deck and snorkel under our bungalow. We would feed the fish, which would cause even more to come to our reef. Bora Bora has over 75 species of topical fish. It was great to look through the floor to a beautiful array of colors and fish.
14. Describe the resort itself.
It is a wonderful mix of soft white sand beaches and beautiful flowered gardens. The professional landscaping is perfectly maintained. Two of the main restaurants surround a large pool in the center of the resort. Pretty much wherever you are on the property, you can see the bungalows and Mount Otemanu. The resort has a great mix of modern and French Polynesian flare. The staff wore authentic Polynesian dresses that add to the topical culture vibe. Our pictures can best describe the area, but like any picture, it cannot express the true beauty of Bora Bora.
15. Tell me about the other guests. Where they primarily young couples, middle-aged couples, or families with children or teens?
Primarily young European couples at our resort. Several middle-aged American couples. In the duration of our stay, we saw only one child on our final day. It is a place to enjoy lots of R&R as a couple. While we meet some wonderful people, it isn’t somewhere to party and meet lots of other couples like at a Sandals. Nightlife is minimal. Perfect for us on this vacation! We wanted it to be just us in pure paradise. By golly, that’s what we got and loved it!
16. Did the language barrier affect your trip in any way?
We expected a little language barrier, but it became an issue a few times with the staff. They are extremely helpful and nice, but we needed to repeat ourselves and clarify our statements before the intent was properly conveyed.
17. What was the single best aspect of your trip?
It is the epitome of raw beauty and tranquility. Jenn’s vote is the perfect weather. Josh’s vote is the picturesque water.
18. Obviously this vacation had a fairly hefty price tag? What it worth it, and would you recommend this trip to others?
Yup, you can say hefty price tag for sure! Given being apart for the last 9 months, we felt like spoiling ourselves. Absolutely the vacation was worth it. Jenn has always dreamed of visiting Bora Bora and staying on an overwater bungalow. Just be prepared for the prices. The best way we can describe the price is take the price you would spend on goods in the US and double it.