What are the five best things to see and do in Bora Bora?

Kevin Janowiak

Bora Bora was introduced to the Western world a la the famous explorer Captain Cook, who admired its idyllic greenery and flawless waters. From golden sunrise to rosy sunset, Bora Bora has a host of enthralling excursions that make for one perfect memory after another. So take a helicopter tour, ride bikes around the mainland, swim with docile sharks, dine on the beach and enjoy the sunset. Here, according to our Forbes Travel Guide editors, are the best ways to carve yourself a little slice of paradise in Bora Bora:

1. Take a helicopter ride. If you’ve never been in a chopper, now’s your chance to get an aerial view of heaven. It’s the fastest way to get your bearings. View the full palette of the Pacific waters and witness Bora Bora’s dramatic geography—all from a comfortable seat. It’s a great double date and some helicopters have room for four. Flights range from 15 to 30 minutes, but the dreamlike memory of looking down on Mount Otemanu never fades.

2. Enjoy an island bicycle tour. If heights aren’t your idea of a good time, there’s nothing like a little exercise to kick your jetlag. Bora Bora’s main island has a 20 mile circumference that can be leisurely peddled in a matter of hours. Soaking in roadside views from the paved loop will add to the trek, but in a place like Bora Bora, who’s keeping time? For a little boost, rent a motorized bicycle from the Avis in Vaitape, but make sure it’s not Sunday or you’ll end up on foot.

3. Feed the friendly sharks. Forget Jaws, because taking a dive with these beautiful creatures is all fun and no fear. After paddling offshore, your guide will load up on goodies then hop in the water to attract Bora Bora’s beautiful blacktip reef sharks. Watch as the sharks snatch bits of food from the guide’s bare hands. Don’t worry, these gentle nibblers are nothing to fear as you gaze from behind your snorkel mask. Still not convinced? Watching from the boat is thrilling too. Manta Ray feeding is also available for the shark-shy.

4. Dine on the beach. It’s the best way to wind down. Most resorts offer fine dining while rubbing sand between your toes as waves splash just out of reach. Tiki torches keep bugs at bay while you munch on fresh fish and tropical delicacies beneath the Polynesian stars. Be sure to inform your concierge that you’d like a sweet beach spot for two on at least one special evening.

5. Sip a sundowner. It’s an activity that never gets old—watching the orange sun sink into a blue horizon. Nearly every inch of Bora Bora is prime sun-spotting real estate. We recommend a seat on the pier at the St. Regis Lagoon Restaurant with a handful of wasabi-covered peanuts. If you are staying in an over-water bungalow, then try to land a west-facing hut so you can witness the magic from your own deck. Many resorts are BYOB friendly, so be sure to pack a bottle of your favorite drink for optimum enjoyment and some serious cost savings.

  • On July 10, 2012
    Kevin Janowiak answered the question: Kevin Janowiak

    What are the best ways to cool off in Bora Bora?

    The best ways to cool off in Bora Bora can happen above or below the water’s surface. Taking a seat on a jet ski is a family-friendly thrill that allows you to see the shore from a distance and catch some rays at the same time. Ready to take the plunge? Many resorts offer free snorkel rental, so you can search for colorful clown fish and other underwater marvels. For a closer inspection of the underwater marine life, go scuba diving. The lagoon is dense with manta rays; they are gentle enough to allow a touch of their smooth, fluttering skin. Windsurfing, kitesurfing, waterskiing and boat tours are other exciting ways to get up close with the impeccable blue waters of Bora Bora.
  • On July 10, 2012
    Kevin Janowiak answered the question: Kevin Janowiak

    What is the best thing to bring home from Bora Bora?

    The best thing to bring home from Bora Bora is undoubtedly a black Tahitian pearl. Mysterious and silky, the black pearl has been cultivated in Bora Bora’s waters for 50 years. Shopping for the pearls is an experience unto itself; be sure to go to a reputable jewelry, though, as fakes abound. Pick a strand or choose your pearl individually and have it custom fitted to a drop or ring in a matter of hours. Men can also buy black pearls attached to cuff links as an elegant keepsake of their stay in this magical island. Be sure to have your pearl classified. Even the peacock pearls with their pink, blue and black hues are a perfect souvenir from one of the world’s most memorable getaways.
  • On July 10, 2012
    Kevin Janowiak answered the question: Kevin Janowiak

    What are the five best Bora Bora food experiences?

    Excellent cuisine is easy to find in Bora Bora, where French-inspired dishes meld with the island’s natural source of delectable fish and juicy fruit. Bora Bora also draws influence from its South Pacific neighbors, so whether you’re craving sushi, foie gras, rotisserie pork, fresh red ahi tuna or Tahitian vanilla panna cotta, you’re in for a treat. Here, according to our Forbes Travel Guide editors, are the five best food experiences in Bora Bora:

    1. Sushi. On Bora Bora, your store-bought, pre-packaged sushi is an unheard of blasphemy. Here, chopped fish comes straight from the ocean and is either wrapped with sweet rice and local seaweed or served solo. A hint of island wasabi makes it the perfect, fresh meal.

    2. Foie Gras. This famous French delicacy is intensified with Bora Bora’s original techniques. A foie gras emulsion seeped in purple eggplant and dashed with island spices is a delightful spin on the traditional dish.

    3. Rotisserie Pork. If your resort happens to hold a weekly party, chances are they’ll serve up pork cooked over a spit. The tender slices served with pineapple are the best way to indulge your taste buds. Better yet, the pork is locally raised and promises an untainted taste of the island.

    4. Red Ahi Tuna. Even those who steer clear of fish will melt over this tuna caught in nearby waters. Its beautiful crimson color invites a bite into the satisfying texture that is the steak of the seas. Sprinkled with a bit of sea salt, this favorite local dish has gained international fame and will keep you coming back for more.

    5. Tahitian Vanilla Panna Cotta. Island-grown orchids produce vanilla unlike any other. Mixed with fresh cream and sugar then chilled, this silky dessert is a sure fire after-dinner delight.
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  • On July 10, 2012
    Kevin Janowiak answered the question: Kevin Janowiak

    Where is the best nightlife in Bora Bora?

    The best nightlife in Bora Bora begins and ends at Bloody Mary’s. Duck under the thatched roof and step onto the sandy floor of Bora Bora’s most well-known bar. This is a must-see stop due to its delicious drinks and jaw-dropping spread of fresh fish displayed nightly for patrons. Scores of famous people have experienced the late-night magic of Bloody Mary’s — Johnny Depp, Goldie Hawn and Billy Idol are just a few of the celebrities cataloged by a guest board near the restaurant’s entrance. A corkboard on the way to the bathroom is cluttered with currency from around the globe with scrawled notes on them. The message on all of them is clear — Bloody Mary’s is worth the transoceanic journey to get there. Of course, be sure to swig the namesake Bloody Mary, it’ll be the best you’ve ever downed.
  • On July 10, 2012
    Kevin Janowiak answered the question: Kevin Janowiak

    What is the best way to see Bora Bora in one day?

    The best way to see Bora Bora in one day is to explore waters and roads of the main island, then indulge in everything a Five-star resort has to offer. Wake and have your breakfast delivered to you in an outrigger. Fruits, breads and meats adorned with flowers will go well with your coffee and the sparkle of new sunlight on the waves. Take a morning swim, then arrange a 15-minute boat trip to Viatape where you can rent a motorized bicycle and venture on the 20-mile loop that hugs the lush hills beneath Mount Otemanu. Stop for lunch and a refreshment at Bloody Mary’s — a famous stop for travelers. Back at your home base, indulge in a couple’s massage that utilizes the fragrant coconut, gardenia and vanilla oils cultivated on the island. Relax in a hammock until the sun starts to melt and take a stroll to your resort’s best restaurant. Choose from French Polynesian, Asian or European-inspired dishes, and then raise a glass to paradise.
     
  • On July 10, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in Bora Bora?

    The freshest fish, mouth-watering fruit and heavenly French-inspired cuisine are what a hungry vacationer can expect at nearly every restaurant. Even if the sights weren’t spectacular (which they are), the food alone would be worth the trans-Pacific flight. Here, according to our Forbes Travel Guide editors, are the best places to dine in Bora Bora:

    1. La Villa Mahana. Ten minutes from the Viatape dock is the best place to dine in all of French Polynesia. Only a handful of tables are peppered throughout this quaint two-story restaurant, which means personal service and exquisitely crafted dishes are the standard. The food is brought out beneath silver platters, concealing what are, truly, edible works of art. Succulent creams adorn freshly-caught fish, and sides simmer with the perfect balance of flavor. We recommend their wine pairings for each course. Chef Damien Rinaldi Dovio is a master of gastronomy, having trained at restaurants all over France. Diners will find themselves savoring every single morsel he presents. Make sure to book your reservation far in advance, as this gem of a restaurant is as famous as it is delicious.

    2. Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Lagoon Restaurant at The St. Regis. Aside from the illuminated water on the outdoor deck, the thoughtfully designed main dining room and perfect view of Mount Otemanu, this restaurant packs a delectable punch with its first-rate cuisine.

    3. Fare Manuia. This roadside, thatched roof pit stop has more than meets the eye. A French Polynesian blend of east meets west, with its own unique island spin, results in rich flavors and a wide variety of choices. Go hungry, leave fulfilled.

    4. Le Matira Beach Restaurant. Enjoy a casual lunch or a romantic dinner atop this unbeatable terrace overlooking the beach. Mouthwatering pan-fried foie gras followed by chocolate-covered banana cake is enough to keep you coming back night after night.

    5. Kaina Hut. This sandy-floored hut is home to excellent pastas in fresh sauces, breadfruit gnocchi and New Zealand meats. You certainly won’t want to skip dessert here; the fruit panna cotta is not to be missed.
  • On July 10, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in Bora Bora?

    For the perfect nap, camp out beneath a towering palm canopy on a hammock. But picking a place for a full-night’s rest is a bit more difficult — there are plenty of ways to take Bora Bora’s innate luxury to the max as this island is home to some of the world’s finest resorts. Here are the top accommodations according to our Forbes Travel Guide editors:

    1. The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort. It doesn’t get any better than this. A personal butler greets you as you step off the boat from the airport, then escorts you to your over-water bungalow and offers to help unpack. Glass rectangles adorn the floor, providing views of the glittering turquoise water below and enveloping the bungalow in a warm glow. Sliding doors off the bedroom and living room create open access to a private deck. The resort sits on a thin slice of land, but makes the most of its limited real estate with blissful swimming pools and a variety of restaurants, including Sushi Take — arguably, Bora Bora’s best spot for sushi. Crushed seashell pathways lead to a must-see spa and private fish sanctuary, while aromatic flowers accompany you on your journey. And you definitely won’t want to miss the enormous breakfast spread each day.

    2. Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora. For larger groups, the Four Seasons is lavishly accommodating and has private pools to match its three-bedroom villas. Located on the east side of Bora Bora, this sprawling resort offers in-bungalow dining along with two restaurants and a couple of perfectly situated bars.

    3. Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort and Spa. For a truly palatial stay, book one of the presidential accommodations — French Polynesia’s only two-story overwater bungalows — and experience indulgence unlike any other. This 3,229-square-foot palace is decked out with two bedrooms, three bathrooms, a private swimming pool and Jacuzzi, dressing rooms and plenty of community space for gatherings. It’s all the comforts of home, and then some.

    4. InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa. It’s all about magnificent views of the turquoise water at this Bora Bora hotel. Inside the 80 overwater villas, beds and tubs strategically face floor-to-ceiling windows. And in the onsite Deep Ocean Spa, watch fish swim by while you get a massage in a glass-floored treatment room.

    5. Le Méridien Bora Bora. Just across the bay from The St. Regis is this refined getaway that is host to the Turtle Sanctuary — a conservancy program for the area’s slowest, but cutest swimmers. This multi-tiered resort offers views of Mount Otemanu from its signature Miki Miki bar, fashioned after the prow of a ship.
  • On July 10, 2012
    Kevin Janowiak answered the question: Kevin Janowiak

    Where is the best shopping in Bora Bora?

    The best shopping in Bora Bora is limited, but luxurious. Whether you’re in search of the perfect pearl or looking for unique handmade gifts, Bora Bora offers up a host of hot spots that are unlike anything in the world. Take a boat ride to Viatape on the mainland, then stroll into the Galerie Alain et Linda, the largest art gallery in Bora Bora. It was staked out more than 35 years ago by a pair of honeymooners who fell in love with the island. Since then, the Parisian expats built the gallery into a one-stop shop for paintings, pottery, and sculptures. The etchings created by local artists are particularly striking as they dilute the vibrant colors of the island and its people into bold black and white impressions. This thatched-roof space will give lovers of traditional and modern works a wealth of options for that perfect, one-of-a-kind souvenir.
     
    After you’ve had your fill, indulge nearby at Robert Wan’s legendary pearl palace. Tahiti’s unbelievable black pearls are touted around the globe—and it’s easy to see why. Robert Wan has personally cultivated Tahitian cultured pearls since 1973, earning a reputation for the island’s finest accumulation of these resplendent orbs. Wan’s adulation of pearls has led to a vast personal collection of jewelry and accessory designs from around the world. Public or privately scheduled tours are offered at his establishment.
  • On July 10, 2012
    Kevin Janowiak answered the question: Kevin Janowiak

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Bora Bora?

    If you’re hoping to let down your guard around the little ones, then look no further than this destination. Bora Bora is a small, safe haven where families can experience nature the luxurious way. Take the kids swimming with sea turtles, go on an outrigger adventure, visit underwater pearl farms, experience a French Polynesian show and don’t forget to look up at the stars. These are our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ favorite family picks:

    1. Swim with sea turtles. Bora Bora’s Le Méridien resort is home to the Turtle Sanctuary where the endangered species is making a comeback. Rent snorkeling gear with your kids and watch these passive creatures troll by in their natural habitat. Learn more about conservation methods and enjoy viewing a range of baby turtles in their floating nests just outside the lagoon. Even if you’re not staying at Le Méridien, your concierge can schedule this excursion. It’s well worth the 10-minute boat ride.

    2. Plan an outrigger outing. French Polynesian’s traditional form of transportation is a fun way to explore offshore. Outrigger boats can seat two to four people and are a snap to maneuver. They look like canoes with a water ski attached to the side to help stabilize the vessel, often banded together with palm leaves. The waters surrounding Bora Bora are calm and kids will appreciate this ancient experience in a world of such high-speed travel.

    3. Visit the Pearl Farm. Kids will be captivated as they learn how a pearl goes from being a bit of sand to becoming a valuable jewel. The Bora Pearl Company was founded in 1966 and offers tours where your family can dive into shallow waters to retrieve your own oyster. Then, wait in anticipation as it is cracked open—if there’s a pearl inside, then it’s your to keep forever.

    4. Treat your family to a French Polynesian show. Kids will enjoy a feast for the eyes as local men and women adorned in colorful costumes chant and maneuver in ways only an islander could conceive. Perhaps your kids will giggle at shaking hips, but will certainly have fun when they are pulled out of the crowd to try the traditional dances for themselves. Many resorts host only one show per week, so be sure to find out when the big night is happening.

    5. Stargaze. There’s not a hint of light pollution in Bora Bora, so kids can practice spotting their constellations and even learn new ones that are only viewable south of the equator. Ask your concierge if they have a telescope available on property. The night sky offers the best way to unwind after an active day, and will send little ones snoozing into a dreamland. While out at night, listen for small fish splashing in the nearby water, and pack a flashlight to spot manta ray out for a late-night swim.
  • On July 10, 2012
    Kevin Janowiak answered the question: Kevin Janowiak

    What are the five best things to see and do in Bora Bora?

    Bora Bora was introduced to the Western world a la the famous explorer Captain Cook, who admired its idyllic greenery and flawless waters. From golden sunrise to rosy sunset, Bora Bora has a host of enthralling excursions that make for one perfect memory after another. So take a helicopter tour, ride bikes around the mainland, swim with docile sharks, dine on the beach and enjoy the sunset. Here, according to our Forbes Travel Guide editors, are the best ways to carve yourself a little slice of paradise in Bora Bora:

    1. Take a helicopter ride. If you’ve never been in a chopper, now’s your chance to get an aerial view of heaven. It’s the fastest way to get your bearings. View the full palette of the Pacific waters and witness Bora Bora’s dramatic geography—all from a comfortable seat. It’s a great double date and some helicopters have room for four. Flights range from 15 to 30 minutes, but the dreamlike memory of looking down on Mount Otemanu never fades.

    2. Enjoy an island bicycle tour. If heights aren’t your idea of a good time, there’s nothing like a little exercise to kick your jetlag. Bora Bora’s main island has a 20 mile circumference that can be leisurely peddled in a matter of hours. Soaking in roadside views from the paved loop will add to the trek, but in a place like Bora Bora, who’s keeping time? For a little boost, rent a motorized bicycle from the Avis in Vaitape, but make sure it’s not Sunday or you’ll end up on foot.

    3. Feed the friendly sharks. Forget Jaws, because taking a dive with these beautiful creatures is all fun and no fear. After paddling offshore, your guide will load up on goodies then hop in the water to attract Bora Bora’s beautiful blacktip reef sharks. Watch as the sharks snatch bits of food from the guide’s bare hands. Don’t worry, these gentle nibblers are nothing to fear as you gaze from behind your snorkel mask. Still not convinced? Watching from the boat is thrilling too. Manta Ray feeding is also available for the shark-shy.

    4. Dine on the beach. It’s the best way to wind down. Most resorts offer fine dining while rubbing sand between your toes as waves splash just out of reach. Tiki torches keep bugs at bay while you munch on fresh fish and tropical delicacies beneath the Polynesian stars. Be sure to inform your concierge that you’d like a sweet beach spot for two on at least one special evening.

    5. Sip a sundowner. It’s an activity that never gets old—watching the orange sun sink into a blue horizon. Nearly every inch of Bora Bora is prime sun-spotting real estate. We recommend a seat on the pier at the St. Regis Lagoon Restaurant with a handful of wasabi-covered peanuts. If you are staying in an over-water bungalow, then try to land a west-facing hut so you can witness the magic from your own deck. Many resorts are BYOB friendly, so be sure to pack a bottle of your favorite drink for optimum enjoyment and some serious cost savings.