Few Places in the world has a more Legendary name than the island of Bora Bora, locally known as the “Pearl of the Leeward Islands”. Located 240km/149 Miles northwest of Tahiti the biggest island French Polynesia.Often named one of the most beautiful islands in the world, it was first sighted by westerners in 1722 by Dutch Explorer Jakob Roggeveen and an independent kingdom until 1888.
Now a popular destination for the super-rich which is staying at some of the most incredibly luxurious high-class resorts in the world and for people on honeymoons.
But for the locals are Bora Bora, A sacred island according to the Polynesian legend that tells the story that Bora Bora was the first island to rise out of the sea.
Protected by a great coral reef and a paradise lagoon with its pristine crystal clear waters. The main Island is surrounded by many smaller Motu (islands, this is where all the famous overwater bungalows are located)
Bora Bora is probably the least backpacker budget-friendly destination I’ve ever been to, while Bora Bora is a crazy expensive destination, is it still possible to do it relatively cheap, but you will need to book at least your accommodation far in advance.
When the budget accommodation is booked out, and it often does months in advance, will you have no other options to pay up.
But is it worth paying the high price to visit Bora Bora, or is it simply just so you can say, “Been there done that and tick it off your bucket list”?
Flying the short 50min flight from Tahiti to Bora Bora will you flay above a few more breathtaking island before landing at what has to be the most beautiful located airport in the world.
The airport is located on a small Motu north of the main island, at once you get out of the flight will you see the crystal clear water that Bora Bora is famous for, just footsteps away from the airport.
After you have picked up your luggage will you have to take the free shuttle ferry over to Vaitape the main village in Bora Bora.
If you have booked accommodation at one of the high-end resorts located at the private Motus around Bora Bora will you get picked up by your resort.
You have probably seen the photos in magazines and online with world-class beaches in Bora Bora? If you are on a budget will you probably bed disappointed, all the stunning beaches are located on the small Motus with private resorts.
There are actually only two beaches at the main island of Bora Bora, and while they are good, so are they noting close to what you can enjoy if you stay at the resorts.
So if you want to relax at world-class beaches and you’re on a low budget, is Bora Bora definitely not your place and you should consider visiting one of other 117 islands and atolls that makes up French Polynesia.
I can especially recommend you to visit the Atoll of Fakarava which is part of the Tuamotu Archipelago.
Top Things To Do In Bora Bora.
Most activities in Bora Bora takes place in or around the water, even tho there´s a few hikes possible. There´s friendly and helpful Tourist information just across where the airport ferry drops you off in Vaitape, here you can pick up a free map with all sites and things to do in Bir
A highlight on any tour to Bora Bora for people with a reasonable budget would be to do a Lagoon tour around Bora Bora; it´s an absolutely amazing experience.
There´s nothing in the world close to the Lagoon Tours in French Polynesia.
There are various companies doing the Lagoon Tours, I went with “Rohivai Tours”, and I had an amazing day with them.
Starting the day with getting picked up from your hotel before going onboard a small boat that will take you around the waters of Bora Bora on a full day trip.
The boat driver and guide for the day is a local Tahitian man wearing a pin traditional looking g-string, while he´s playing the ukulele, singing and steering the foot with his foot.
First stop for the day is a place where you can snorkel with reef sharks and a lemon shark with hundreds of smaller fish around you.
After around 40minutes of swimming around sharks are you off to the next stop for the day, the Coral Garden for some more snorkelling, while there are no sharks here, are the tons of small fish and the famous “I Love Bora Bora” underwater sign.
After you been swimming and snorkelling around for a bit, is it time to head for the highlight on this amazing day trip, to the shallow lagoon.
Where you can swim and walk around with stingrays and have blacktip reef sharks swimming very close to you, probably the closest, you will ever experience sharks.
After the close encounters with sharks and stingrays is it time for the last stop for the day, a visit to a small Motu for a BBQ lunch and a few beers while taking in the breathing view over Mount Otemanu, the tallest mountain on the island.
After having a great lunch and few beers is it time to head back to shore to end the trip. I can´t recommend doing a Lagoon tour enough, it definitely a highlight on any trip to Bora Bora.
The second most popular activity to undertake in Bora Bora would be scuba diving. Scuba diving in Bora Bora is often named one of the best places in the world to Scuba dive, I definitely wouldn’t agree with that while I did see a lot of sharks and rays so where almost all corals bleached, at least on the two dives, I did.
Even tho I heard other dive sites were more healthy. Since most dives sites are in and around the Lagoon will the visibility almost always be excellent with the visibility being normally around 30+m/98feet.
The snorkelling I did during the Lagoon Tour where also healthy and had more fish than during the dives. Personally, did I find diving in Fakarava to be miles better. Also diving in the Maldives earlier this year did I find to be more impressive than Bora Bora.
The two dives sites I visited was
Toopua: Small wall, following a sandy bottom, saw around 20+ Eagle rays.
Tapu: one of the most famous sites of Bora Bora. Starts with a coral drop-off, saw lemon sharks, five black tip sharks and a turtle.
There are 3 Dive centres in Bora Bora, all offering the same dive sites and equipment.
Bora Diving Center – Eleuthera. The Dive center I used. I can highly recommend them.
Top Dive Bora Bora. The Biggest Dive center chain in French Polynesia. Smart to use if you will dive more islands and atolls in French Polynesia, there more you dive with them, the cheaper it gets.
Tour Around The Island.
The distance on the ring road around the whole of Bora Bora is no more than 31Km/19miles. So even with a few stops along the way won’t it take you more than 1hour, so its no surprise most tourist decide to rent a bicycle to circuit around the island.
The road is almost completely flat except for two hills, and the road is well maintained, so you don´t need to be fit to bike around the island.
There are a few interesting stops around the island:
Soul tree (BanyanBanian) just around 5minutes drive from Vaintape. The local will tell you that apparently did James Cameron get inspired to make the Avatar movie after seeing this tree on his visit to Bora Bora.
Marine Museum, on the northeastern side of the island, if the small marine museum is displaying around 40 different model boats of traditional Polynesian boats.
American Canons: halfway down the eastern side of the island.
There are actually 8 American canons spread around the island, that USA built here during WW2 when Bora Boran was an American military base.
Not much remains except the eight canons now. The two that are located on the eastern side of the island is by far the easiest two to visit. The six others do require 4×4 and guides.
There are a few hikes you can do around the island, and the best one is to the top of Mata Pupu and Mt Otemanu the two peaks that´s towering above the island.
I did have big plans to do the hikes before my trip to Bora Bora, but the wheater gods had other plans for the day I wanted to do the hike, and the other days I stayed here did I spend mostly underwater.
The best place to get information about hiking and other activities on Bora Bora is the Bora Bora Insider website that regularly updated.
Other popular activities to do around Bora Bora, is jet skiing, surfing, sailing etc.
How To Get To Bora Bora.
Reaching Bora Bora is only technically possible with flights if you don´t have your own yacht or sailboat. BUT the ferry to neighbouring Maupiti is running.
Air Tahiti is the only airline flying in and out of Bora Bora airport also known as Motu Mute Airport.
BE sure to sit on the LEFT side of the aeroplane when arriving into Bora Bora to get the amazing view. (Most of the time, the planes follow the same path when landing. But every now and then, the pilot will approach from a different side when landing at the airport; this is due to wind)
And on the right side when leaving Bora Bora to get a last view of the island and lagoon.
Papeete/Tahiti: 4 direct flights per day, flight time 50 min,
Moorea: daily, flight time 50 min,
Huahine: daily except Wed, flight time 25 min,
Maupiti: Sun, flight time 15 min
Raiatea: daily, flight time 20 min
Rangiroa: Mon, Wed, Sat, 1hour 15min. These flights have onward flights to Fakarava and Tikehau.
The free shuttle ferry meets every arriving flight and runs back from Vaitape in time for you to reach your flight, the shuttle ferry is completely free.
The Ferry to Maupiti goes between Bora Bora and Maupiti 3 times a week, on Tuesday – Thursday – Saturday leaving Bora Bora at 8.30 Am, and arriving at Maupiti and returning to Bora Boar at 16.00.
The ferry will not go when the wheater is to bad.
How To Get Around Bora Bora.
Getting around Bora Bora depends on where you are staying if you are staying at one of the super expensive resorts. Will you be staying at one of the small Motus (island) then boat shuttle is the only way to get around.
There are two main areas to stay at on the main island of Bora Bora, around the only “town” on the island, Vaitape or around the only reach beach on the island Matira Beach.
The distance between the two places is approximately 7Km/4,5miles. All ATM´S on the island are in Vaitape.
Public transportation on the island is extremely limited, with only one bus running once an hour.
All hotels and resorts will borrow or rent your bicycle for a very low price.
There are a few taxies on the island but like everything else are they crazy expensive, around 20/30 Euro for 10min drive.
But your best option to get around the island is with a rental car from one of the two car rental companies on Bora Bora.
The two big international car companies AVIS and Euro car are both located in Vaitape. Avis also has a second location in Matira Beach.
NB: There´s a discount on the car rental if you book online in advance instead of doing a walk-in booking.
Hitchhiking is an easy way to get around Bora Bora.
Where to stay in Bora Bora.
Booking your accommodation in advance is crucial on Bora Bora to be able to get a room in one of the reasonably priced hotels. But be aware that even the cheapest hotel charge 150USD a night for their cheapest rooms. And those book out months in advance.
I stayed at three different hotels during my visit, why?
They were fully booked on for my entire stay, so I had to change between them.
Oa Oa Lodge is by far the best option when it comes to quality and price on Bora Bora, great place right next to the sea with a swimming pool, huge rooms with a kitchen.
Sunset Hill Lodge is the second budget option on Bora Bora, another great place and popular with budget travellers.
Village Temanuata located directly on Matira Beach.
Where To Eat In Bora Bora.
There´s plenty of eating out options on Bora Bora, food trucks, Chinese, pizza, BBQ places to the famous Bloody Mary´s restaurant that have had tons Hollywood celebrities eating there like Marlon Brando, Leonardo Di Capro, Johnny Depp, Paris Hilton, Meg Ryan, Sean Pean, Steven Tyler + many more.
Have a look at the big billboard with the name of celebrities that have been there.
During my visit to Bora Bora was Bloody Marys reserved for two full days by some filthy rich Indians.
Two of the cheapest places you can eat is Panda d’Or a Chinese restaurant 5min walk north of Vaitape and the two food trucks that open around 6 pm at the big parking lot in Vaitape.
Snack Otoamana is located right on the beach in Matira Beach and is the cheapest place to eat on this part of the island. There are also two small snack stands along the beginning of Matira Beach.
If you prefer to cook yourself, so do about every budget accommodation have a guest kitchen.
There are three “bigish” supermarkets around Bora Bora, the two biggest in Vaitape and a smaller one in Matira Beach.
Super U To’a Amok Supermarket, big one close to Panda d´Or a restaurant a few minutes walk north from Vaitape
Supermarché Chin Lee biggest supermarket on the island, in Vaitape.
Tiare Market in Matira Beach.
Where To Drink In Bora Bora.
There´s not much nightlife happening on Bora Bora, the island only disco is located 1km north of Vaitape, the Le Récife Discothèque that´s open Fridays and Saturdays from 11 pm to 3 am.
It´s popular for foreigners to buy a few beers in the supermarket and bring them to the beach in the evening while enjoying the sunset.
Bora Bora had the best internet I experienced in all of French Polynesia, you local sim card will also have a 4G connection here. Every guesthouse and bar/restaurant offer free wifi with excellent speed compared to other islands and atolls in French Polynesia.
There´s 3 ATM´s on the island, all of them located in Vaitape.
Every store, hotel, restaurant, bar etc. on Bora Bora accepted foreign bank cards, so I didn´t have to use hard cash even once here.
Money Saving Tips for Bora Bora.
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned enough times that Bora Bora is not a cheap destination. But with a few money-saving tricks and you still do Bora Bora relatively cheap. Here are a few things I personally did to save money.
*Tap water is safe to drink.
*Book Accommodation in Advance.
*Book activities directly from the company and not through your hotel.
*Rent a bicycle to get around.
*Book your rental car online in advance, this will save you 10%.
*Buy your alcohol in a supermarket, and return the empty beer bottle when finished (French Polynesia have a returned bottle for money policy)
*If going out drinking, go out when it´s happy hour with 2 for 1, especially when a drink is typically 15USD.
*Bring everything you need with you, suncream, bug spray etc. Things like that are crazy expensive to buy on Bora Bora.
*Do Things on other islands instead, If you are gone travel to other islands in French Polynesia, can it be smart to do some things on other islands instead, like Scuba Diving did I find to be disappointing on Bora Bora but on Fakarava was it absolutely amazing. Scuba diving on other islands is also a lot cheaper than Bora Bora. There are also many other islands with overwater Bungalows around French Polynesia.
*A lot of Hotel Chains and Dive Centers like TopDive are located on other islands around French Polynesia, they all offer discounts of your stay and use them on more than one location.
Bora Bora is a very safe destination, with petty crime almost unheard of, but theft can still happen in places you don´t expect it to happen. Especially look after your belongings when on the beach and when your out drinking. No vaccines are required for Bora Bora or the rest of French Polynesia.
It´s smart to wear sandals walking amidst coral in the water and along the beaches. It’s highly recommended to have a guide when going hiking; the trails are supposedly badly market.
Overall Experience with Bora Bora.
Bora Bora is a beautiful place, dont´ get me wrong. Even tho I got disappointed with both the Scuba diving and the beaches here. So are I’m happy that I did decide to visit Bora Bora when I did my trip to French Polynesia. The lagoon tour itself did make the trip to Bora Bora worth it. Will I ever come back to Bora Bora?
Probably not, French Polynesia is perhaps the worlds most beautiful destination when it comes to both under and over the water. But French Polynesia have so much more to offer than Bora Bora. I’m happy I went here, now I can say “Been There, Done That” but I’m not going back. But French Polynesia is absolutely amazing, and I will definitely visit agian.
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