Bora Bora, French Polynesia, 2018

When we got married, we made a promise that for our fifth anniversary, not only were we going to Bora Bora, but we would stay in an over water bungalow. Promise kept!!! From our home base in Texas, getting to the South Pacific made for a long travel day but we were very excited, we’re finally doing it. We checked in at Austin Bergstrom airport for our 6:30 pm American Airlines flight to LAX. Not the smoothest of check ins. We were asked to check our bags through to Tahiti which we didn’t want, full flight we were told. As it turned out, there was plenty of overhead bin space. Needless to say, we weren’t happy. The thought of not having your bags with you can be a bit unsettling especially when connections are involved.

View from our plane at LAX.

On arrival at LAX, we had to make our way to Terminal B. It was quite a long walk to get there but we had a three hour layover. The second leg of the flight was at 11:00 pm. The boarding process was a bit weird. We were called by sections, then boarded buses that took us to the aircraft. Upon exiting the buses, there was no order in boarding the plane so the whole system of calling sections for the bus made no sense. The eight and a half hour flight itself was great. Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner is by far the most comfortable plane I’ve traveled on. The food and service were great as well.

Aboard the Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Welcome to Papeete, Tahiti.

At around 5:30 am the following day, we arrived at the Tahiti Faa’a airport, collected our bags (thankfully they made it) and checked in for a quick fifty minute flight to Bora Bora aboard a smaller turbo prop plane. The main island is surrounded by a ring of smaller islands called motus and the airport is situated on one of these islands.

Watch some video of the fifty minute flight from Tahiti to Bora Bora.
Arrival at Bora Bora airport.

Since most of the resorts are located on the small islands, they all have their own free shuttle service. After meeting our hotel representative and being adorned with the traditional lei necklaces, we boarded a boat for the ten minute ride to the resort. We stayed at the Pearl Beach Resort which is the only hotel on the very private Motu Tevairoa. Video of the boat ride can be seen below.

Arrival at boat dock from airport.
Finally here at Pearl Beach Resort.

We arrived quite early, 8:30 am, and understandably our bungalow wasn’t ready. Since breakfast was still being served, we made our way over to Tevairoa restaurant, one of three restaurants at the resort. The staff was very friendly and welcoming. French, Tahitian and English is spoken here. After breakfast, we walked around a bit then relaxed in the lobby with some welcome drinks while our room was being prepared.

Lobby & reception area.
Welcome drink.
I think we’re going to like this place.
Bougainvillea flowers.

Our bungalow is finally ready. It’s been such a long day, we just wanted to get settled, get off our feet and and marvel at the beautiful surroundings, the mountains and of course the crystal blue green water. We got a welcome visit from a stingray who came by to see us everyday during our stay. As night fell, we were treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Look HERE, we’re checking out our bungalow, number 40.

Our young stingray came for a visit every morning
Beautiful sunset from our bungalow.
I’ve never seen a more beautiful sunset.

After falling asleep to the sound of the water gently lapping against the pylons of our bungalow, we arose just in time to catch the sun rise behind Mt Otemanu. The beginning of a great day in paradise. Tevairoa restaurant is where breakfast is served every day so that was our first stop. We will spend this day rather leisurely, just checking out the amenities. We toured the spa and the well equipped fitness center. There’s also a game room, tennis court, mini golf and a dive center for all your water sports activities. We tried our hand at paddle boarding but weren’t very good at it.

Morning has broken, sunrise over Mt Otemanu.
Pool area with Miki Miki restaurant & Bar
Concierge and event planning.
Garden bungalows.
Taurearea sushi restaurant.

We’re liking what we’re seeing so far. I can’t believe we’re really here. It’s always been a dream of mine to travel to the South Pacific and here I am with my lovely wife Trudy. After getting the lay of the land, we went back to the bungalow to prepare for our first swim in the lagoon. What a magical moment. The water is only about three feet deep, crystal clear, warm and soothing.

After several hours, we managed to drag ourselves out of the water and prepare ourselves for dinner at the Tevairoa restaurant. The tranquility of this setting coupled with the gentle, balmy breezes made for a very pleasant evening. The food, the wine and the service were superb. Trudy had a perfectly cooked rib eye steak and I opted for the freshly caught wahoo, pan seared and served with a chorizo tomato cream sauce. Breakfast is the only complimentary meal and a basic dinner cost about 10,000 Polynesian francs, roughly 90 US dollars. We’ll sleep well tonight for tomorrow, we head into town.

Dinner at Tevairoa restaurant.

For the trip to Vaitape on the mainland, we scheduled the 9:00 am shuttle. The resort offers this free boat service across the bay, then you take a fifteen minute bus ride from the dock to town, US 16.00 round trip. For return trips to the resort, you should be at the dock by 12:30 or 5:00 pm. Since we had arranged for a rental car through the concierge, we met the rental agent at the dock upon disembarking and she drove us into town. All the cars at this particular rental company (Avis) were manual transmission so this is one thing you need to be aware of when you choose a rental company. For me it wasn’t a problem. We opted for a full day rental but should have done a half day instead. Driving is on the right side and the roads were pretty good, somewhat narrow but there are lots of small cars here. Once out of town, traffic is minimal. It takes about an hour to drive around the island (eighteen miles) so unless you’re checking out restaurants, bar hopping or lounging the beaches, it doesn’t make much sense to do a full day rate. Bikes can be rented for about US $ 20.00 per day. The terrain is fairly flat, only one small hill I can recall. Motor scooters are also available for rent.

Rental with standard shift transmission. Check before you rent and opt for the half day rental.
These little two seaters are also available for rent.

After our drive around the island, we walked around Vaitape, checking out the souvenir shops, craft stores, fruit and vegetable stands, the waterfront area with cruise ships anchored in the bay and some jewelry stores. Here you can find the exquisite black Tahitian pearls. If you’re buying pearls, go with a reputable jeweler as there is some fake merchandise out there.

The main street in the heart of town.
Private yacht.
Windstar Spirit cruise ship.
A banana tree is cut down after the bunch is harvested but the tree has already been producing a number of shoots that will turn into mature trees and the cycle continues.

Lunch time is approaching so we check in at the Aloe Cafe, a quaint little bistro tucked away in the corner of small shopping plaza. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a light lunch and some very good ice cream and sorbet. There were some food trucks around as well where you could get hot dogs, crepes and sandwiches. We met a nice older couple who were in Bora Bora for the day. They were on a South Pacific islands cruise on the Windstar Spirit.

Bora Bora can be a very expensive place so before heading back to the resort, we bought some fruit from one of the roadside stands, then stopped in at Chin Lee’s grocery store (where everyone goes) to pick up some snacks and other light foodstuff. There were fresh baguettes and a great selection of cheeses and wines, obviously the French connection has something to do with that. It’s interesting to see all the resort guests on the boat trip back with their shopping bags filled with groceries and other food. Paradise does come at a cost. That evening, we relaxed in our bungalow while enjoying a light supper and discussing the plans for the next day.

Chin Lee grocery store where locals & tourists shop, it has everything you need.

Another day, another beautiful sunrise. There hasn’t been a drop of rain so far and we’re loving it. We begin our day with a one hour workout at the gym. This was by far one of the nicer gyms we’ve seen in our travels. We opted for an easy, laid back day today so after hitting the breakfast buffet, we went swimming and kayaking around the lagoon. You can do as much or as little as you want around here, there are plenty of tours to go on if you need some adventures or you can just stay around the resort and chill out. Evening falls quickly here since it’s close to the equator. Tonight we’ll have drinks at the Miki Miki bar and enjoy some traditional Polynesian music.

Well equipped gym.
On any beach or water vacation, we always worry about losing phones in the water. Fortunately, Trudy found this great waterproof iPhone cell case with a floating hand grip and underwater camera app, problem solved. We don’t worry about our phones when we’re out on the water since we got the Proshot (“affiliate link”)
Jamming at the Miki Miki pool bar.
Moonlight over Pearl Beach.

It’s Sunday morning I think, but who’s keeping track of days anyway. This day promises to be an exciting one. Trudy booked herself a spa day, the Otemanu treatment special complete with a coconut sugar scrub, bath and massage, facial, hair and scalp conditioner, jacuzzi, the works. Meanwhile, I went swimming with sharks and stingrays. It was a very enjoyable sail around the island, stopping off at some prime snorkeling spots and swimming in the crystal clear waters. There are a variety of tours that you can book directly through the hotel.

The Spa in a garden like setting.
Getting ready for the shark encounter excursion.

Sailing around the island. See some of it here.

View snorkel video here.

Check out shark and stingray videos here and here.

Shark videos shot with GoProHero4 (“affiliate link”)

Monday night is Polynesian buffet and show at the main restaurant, Tevairoa. The two other restaurants are closed this evening but the pool bar is open and offers a light menu if you’re not inclined to spend the CFP 8500 (approx US $75.00 per person) Of course we’re going. We travel for experiences so we’re all in. There were a lot of great selections offered on the buffet, several varieties of marinated fish, salads, meats and vegetables, fresh fruit juices. The use of local ingredients like coconut, pineapple and papaya were incorporated into the French inspired pastries. Midway through dinner, the show begins. It’s your typical Polynesian show with the dancing young women being the main attraction. We’ve probably all seen these scenes from the South Pacific in the movies before, but to see it live in this setting is something special. There was guest interaction and photo sessions afterwards.

Polynesian dance video

The day after a fabulous evening, we took one more trip into town for some last minute shopping, then spent the remainder of our time enjoying our bungalow and snorkeling the small artificial reefs around the the lagoon. We see the occasional cruise ships passing by, mostly smaller ones like the Aida and Paul Gauguin.

Unlike myself, Trudy doesn’t care much for open water, she likes to stay close to the shore. I got her this full face snorkel mask a few months before for her birthday and this was the first time she got a chance to use it. I researched many brands and settled on this one from Aria (“affiliate link”) You can see the video of her snorkel outing here.

It’s been a wonderful ten days in what really felt like paradise, a dream come true for both of us. This wasn’t one of our usual active, adventurous vacations but sometimes you need to slow it down and relax a bit. We can look back on this trip with great fondness. It was a once in a lifetime kind of trip but we definitely want to return.