So you love Hawaii but you have been there, done that and are looking for something more exotic but still luxurious, then Bora Bora is the place for you. With its stunning over the water bungalows that are rare throughout the globe, which feature glass bottom tables that encourage you to feed the colorful tropical fish while lounging from your bed. When the sun hits the shallow Bora Bora lagoon the water takes on a bright aqua color that is so beautiful it doesn't seem real. Most people are surprised to find out Tahiti is only an eight-hour flight from L.A. Take the overnight flight and you wake up in Paradise, then it is a short 45-minute flight from the capital of Tahiti to Bora Bora. So after years of dreaming I took the plunge with my friend Stephanie.
Upon arrival at the Bora Bora airport the hotels are there with boats to whisk you off on a short ride. Our Hotel Bora Bora Nui is located on a small motu, with its volcanic cliff and white sand beach, talk about unique. Five minutes later we were pulling up to the front desk that sits on a dock over the water. There is a basket of bread to feed the hundreds of tropical fish below while you check in, an avid snorkel nut I knew then this was the magical trip I dreamed of. Minutes later we settled into our air-conditioned bungalow. With a living room and separate bedroom, private deck where you can sunbath naked if you like, remember this is French Polynesia.
A ladder on your deck leads to the underwater paradise. And yes there are 2 TVs, bedroom and living room, with English speaking stations, DVD player and free movie DVDs at the front desk. I loved how every bungalow has two sets of fins, masks and snorkels sitting in the closet, within minutes of unpacking Stephanie and I slipped off our deck and were swimming with dozens of yellow butterfly fish and multi colored parrot and trigger fish. Bring bread and they will eat out of your hand and follow you as you explore this underwater tropical paradise.
One afternoon I was sunning on our deck with Hinano (Tahitian beer) in hand when I spot a fin breaking the surface not 10 feet away, suddenly there are 5 spotted eagle rays (harmless, I promise) slicing thru the water. Which leads me to one of the most magical adventures in Tahiti, the reef shark and stingray feeding/snorkel trip. I recommend two excursions the Lagoonarium (your hotel will book them for you) you leave your hotel at 8 AM for a 10-minute boat ride to town, there the lagoonarium van will take you to their boat. A short ride later you and a dozen others are standing in 4 feet deep water out in the middle of the lagoon, side by side, holding on to an anchored rope, wearing your mask and snorkel you watch your guide also in the water just feet away throwing chunks of fish... soon a dozen rays and several 4 foot black tip reef sharks are feeding.
Now before you panic these guides feed the shark’s everyday at 9 am and the sharks never attack anyone, but it is scary and exciting at the same time. You wont find this experience in Hawaii. Then it is back on the boat and off to an amazing snorkel spot, when the bread hits the water hundreds of colorful reef fish appear, like a rainbow, one amazing angel fish was mostly blue with orange and white stripes, and a pink swirl on its tail. Then its back on the boat and off to the lagoonarium which is on a small motu with a wire fence cutting off part of the lagoon, 30 feet wide, 2 to 5 feet deep. In here you can observe turtles and a 8 foot yellow/brown moray eel that your guide will play with, in another fenced off area you can swim with very tame 6 foot lemon sharks and 4 foot black tip reef sharks. This whole morning adventure has been filmed with you as the star, and you can buy the DVD, which will be delivered, to your hotel within hours.
Back at the Bora Bora Nui by 1 PM Stephanie and I are animatedly discussing our exciting morning while lunching at the Tamure grill, just feet from the beach and infinity swimming pool, where we had the best mahi mahi burgers and French fries. The tuna sandwich and salads were very good, but we flipped over the mahi mahi and had those burgers for lunch almost everyday. The Tamure is also your casual dinner restaurant; the fresh fish is fantastic. Once a week there is a huge buffet and Tahitian dance show, a must. For something more upscale the Nui has the elegant Iriatai restaurant, any of the local fish dishes are amazing with a French hand in the sauces, and the desserts are to die for, chocolate cakes and fondue, vanilla crème with berries was amazing; the staff at the restaurant and hotel in general are warm and very helpful.
In no time you learn to say welcome, ia orana (ur-on-a) and thank you, mauruuru (mar-roo-roo) because everyone there says it to you all day long. Many nights we found ourselves shooting pool and sipping tropical drinks. Stephanie loved the 24-hour business center with free Internet. The Mandara Spa perched atop the volcanic cliff, which allows for a 360% view of Bora Bora and our hotel below, there we had a 50-minute two person massage. You never have to leave the hotel, between the pool and ocean, jet ski tour of the island, kayaking, wind sail, scuba diving excursions, the Nui even has its own boat that will take you on a free hour long snorkel to the reef just minutes away. Ask the pool boys and they will bring you plates of fresh fruit and cups of sorbet all on the house.
After 5 glorious days we headed to the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort and Spa for 2 more nights in paradise. The Pearl also has wonderful over the water bungalows, slightly smaller since there is no separate living room. But the Pearl is located on its own Motu, the only private island resort in Bora Bora. With 70 species of fish living under the bungalows I was happy, not the quantity that the Nui has but wonderful variety, under bungalow 18 two small yellow moray eels live in the coral rock, I visited them twice a day. The Pearl Manea Spa was magical, we did the 30-minute massage for two, and you pick out your own massage oil, vanilla, grapefruit, or coconut/banana to name a few. The Pearl has two wonderful restaurants; although the meat and chicken are very good the fish is exquisite. Once a week the Tahitian dance show comes here as well.
The Pearl manager Xavier Bessou was accessible and very friendly; he made us feel like family. We loved doing shots at the bar and pool table room was cozy, one late night we went back to our bungalow and did a midnight skinny dip/snorkel just to say we did and enjoyed our outdoor warm water deck shower. Whatever romantic adventure you can dream up you can do in Bora Bora. The other excursion you must do is a private shark and stingray feeding/barbecue run by Remy Pujol (ph 72 93 39) any hotel will book it for you. They pick you up in their boat, where Mrs. Pujol talked a rather cautious Stephanie into the water only to be surrounded and pet a dozen ocean stingrays.
Stephanie had enough of the sharks from our first excursion, but I loved it, then after a short boat ride we snorkeled with hundreds of tropical fish feeding bread while Remy sat on the boat playing his ukulele and singing Tahitian songs, it was surreal snorkeling and hearing the beautiful Tahitian music, then they took us to a deserted motu and barbecued the best chicken and salad I ever had, but that was just the beginning, then steak, followed by tuna steak, with rice with corn, and of course some Hinano beer or French wine, we love the beer, (man-uya) cheers in Tahitian.
We had a night flight home which allowed us to enjoy all day, we didn't leave the Pearl till 5:30 PM for the boat to the airport, so ended 8 days and 7 nights of pure magic in paradise. We loved both hotels, but keep in mind the dollar is not good right now overseas so this unique first class trip will run you about 30% across the board more than a trip to Hawaii. Like Hawaii the rainy season is Dec. thru Feb., but there are great values in the winter, discount rates, free breakfast, also the flowers and plants are in full splendor the island quite green. But there is nothing like staying in an over water bungalow in Bora Bora. I dream of that aqua lagoon almost every night and the warm welcome of ia orana, only hope I to get back soon. You can book and read about both hotels at the contact info below.