Bora Bora is a dream destination for most. The mesmerizing crystal clear depth of cerulean water, a milky way of islands encircling a lush green volcano, and those iconic bungalows hovering over the lagoon on stilts — it’s enough to make one sigh and slip into a daydream.
Having been, I can tell you it’s exotic and the journey there feels like such an adventure. To get to Bora Bora, you arrive by commercial plane in Tahiti, then hop on a small propeller plane to Bora Bora where you land on a narrow air strip lined with coconut palms. Climbing down out of the plane with the wind tousling your hair, you do get the feeling you’ve stepped into a movie as you’re whisked away by a boat and handed a glass of champagne to sip while floating off into the sunset en route to your hotel. It’s magic. It’s the stuff that dreams, inspirational calendars, and honeymoon brochures are made of. Yet, there were a few surprises you should know about.
5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Bora Bora
1 – They weigh you at the airport.
As if it wasn’t enough to have your luggage weighed on regular commercial flights, in Tahiti they weigh your body too. Right in front of everyone you’ll be asked to step on a scale, and sucking it in isn’t going to adjust that number. Yup. Imagine some smitten honeymoon couple getting ready to board the plane, and then displaying their true weight for the first time. The airline isn’t doing this to be cruel. They need to know precisely the amount of weight being loaded onto the smaller plane. In addition to weighing you, they will shuffle passengers around inside to make sure it’s balanced. Yeah. It’s awkward. So, if you go to Bora Bora, remember to pack light luggage, and a light diet, before piling onto that puddle jumper.
2 – It’s HOT.
The heat and humidity shouldn’t have surprised me since it’s a tropical island in French Polynesia. I guess I assumed it was far enough from the equator that it would me a bit more mild. I know you’re probably thinking, “Why is this Florida girl complaining? She should be used to it?” Yeah. Except I hibernate in air conditioned buildings during summers at home.
Let me paint of picture of what “hot” means in Bora Bora. Hot means when you get to your luxurious wood villa on stilts and open all the plantation shutter blinds to see the view, instead all you’ll see is a thin veil of wet condensation on the windows. So you’re forced to make a choice: air conditioning or awesome view. If you want to take a bath or fall asleep while gazing out at paradise, you’ll just have to accept the fact that you’ll be hot and sticky.
Read This: Bora Bora’s Black Pearls
The other place you’re really notice the heat is when you’re dining. Most public places, even in luxury resorts, are set up like open air pavilions. You’ll take a few bites of your meal and think, “hmm, this is rather salty.” And then you’ll realize it’s just the sweat pouring off your upper lip. While having breakfast one morning before heading out to a snorkeling trip, my GoPro overheated … in the shade. Have you ever heard of a GoPro overheating? I sure hadn’t. They’re made to be adventure-proof. I had to go back to my bungalow and stick it on top of the air conditioner for 20 minutes to get it to start working again. It’s that hot.
3 – The food is “meh.”
I’ll start by saying the seafood is amazing and fresh. You want amazing sushi? They’ve got it. If you like ceviche, you’ll love their poisson cru, a cool and refreshing raw tuna salad mixed with lime, cucumber, and coconut milk. But other than seafood and a handful of tropical fruits, everything else is shipped in. That makes it expensive. It also makes it kind of unimpressive, in my opinion.
Read This: How To Get To Bora Bora
The breakfast buffets were immense and offered pretty much anything you could think of including pancakes, omelets, oatmeal, European style charcuterie and cheeses. But because of the heat, all I really had an appetite for was a tall iced coffee and some fruit. Take a guess as to how much the breakfast buffet was? My iced coffee and fruit? It was $40USD per person.
I guess what I dislike the most about the food in Bora Bora is not having a lot of local choices. Each of the resorts are on their own motu (a little island), so you are captive to the resorts prices. And they know it.
4 – There’s not much to do.
This doesn’t matter much to honeymooners. Eh ehm. But for the rest of us that like to go out exploring, Bora Bora will force you to relax. Sure, there’s plenty of water activities offered by the resorts such as snorkeling, swimming, and stand up paddle boarding. The spas are amazing too with their uplifting tropical scents of plumeria and coconut oil. But the adventurous spirit is going to get a little restless. I found myself staring out at Mount Otemanu quite a bit. I’d take a picture. Then look up again. Yup, it’s still there. I’d rub my eyes and look again. Yup, it’s for real. The view is remarkable and overwhelming. But after a few days of lounging around it begins to feel like a mirage.
5 – You’ll meet lots of Rae Raes.
This part is actually kind of cool. The island is full of transvestites, transsexuals, and drag queens locally called Rae Raes. Be polite and courteous and call everyone you meet by their name because you’re not going to know if they are a he or a she. This part of Polynesian culture has a few origin stories. One is that the Polynesians believed that a person with both masculine and feminine qualities were considered gifted and closer to the divine. Another story I heard on the island was that historically, when boys came of age, the strongest one in the village would be sacrificed to the volcano god. So, mothers would make their boys feminine as to not have them sacrificed. Whatever their history or how they came about, it’s an integral part of French Polynesian culture. Respect it.
Overall, I loved Bora Bora. I think it’s the perfect escape for a romantic getaway or honeymoon as long as you have realistic expectations and don’t put it up on the same pedestal as the wooden bungalows. If you’re saving up your money to go, I would recommend a few days in Hawaii, and then a few days in Bora Bora. Not only will this help break up a long flight, but 3-4 days in Bora Bora is plenty.
Now Fiji is on my list so I can compare the two.
Have you ever traveled someplace and had it not meet your expectations? Any surprises? Share in the comments below.
I find that with almost any all-inclusive resort I’ve been to their printed bar menu always lists domestic beer and liquor as an option, but that is NEVER the case when you get there.
I wonder they have sushi on Bora Bora 🙂
Beste Cizre says
They had the best sushi we had in the resort we stayed (St. Regis). By the way, we had sushi in many places around the world and it was the best in St. Regis, by far.
By the way, it was July and it was not that hot. You even needed a shawl for the evenings.
It is a tropical island but it is NOT HOT!
Our bungalow was on the water and it was perfect to open all windows. No mosquitos or any bugs.
Air conditioning did not make the windows moist either.
We have stayed for a whole week and there was plenty to do. We did diving with sharks, snorkelling at the reef with tropical fish, feeding Sea-Rays, barbecue on a private island, helicopter tour around the island and to the heart-shaped small island where you can hire it to get married there..
We also had a private dinner on a private island, it was ours only for the whole night and it was amazing to see the whole ground was moving because it consist of alive shelled crabs!
Besides, you are also there for the sea and sun and sand AND also to enjoy relaxed time with a cocktail, so it is pointless to try action all the time! If you want action, go somewhere else! Bora Bora is not famous for action, did you not know??
By the way, food was AMAZING! I was surprised to see that the chicken was more expensive than lobster, still I did not order because it was just chicken. However, our private guide brought chicken in addition to everything else to our private island lunch and it was the first thing I have finished. Never in my life I have tasted better chicken.
Also, the main island deserves at least a full day walk around. The red bananas they sell on the street is amazing. I still dream of it. There were many shops to explore around too.
As you have mentioned, everything is imported, therefore it is expected to be expensive. Even the most common products. But I think it is great that they can offer what you are used to, even at a higher price.
I think only Americans would complain about food prices. Any body else would respect that you are at a special place and it comes with special prices.
LOVE THIS. GOing there this winter and this post has helped me further make up my mind about how long to stay in Bora Bora. Thanks.
Rachelle Lucas says
So glad! It is BEAUTIFUL there. Really, it is. But a couple of days is definitely enough. 🙂
Lol I stayed there 3weeks
For your information, Air Tahiti weight the passengers only 1 week per year… They usually weight only the checked luggage
Thank you for sharing! Though I have never been, from the info I gather I would assume I’d get restless as well. I felt this way when I traveled to the Philippines. I spent 4 days (more than enough time) in Palawan. Although I’m grateful to have visited and it was GORGEOUS, I did get a bit restless.
I dream of Pora Pora every day. I mean BoraBora. First trip in 1976, 4 days. Then 2 (two) stints a year for two weeks for the next 28 years. Never stayed once on a Motu. Once went to a high priced place on a Motu for lunch. $200 for club sandwiches. We adjusted to almost always going in Nov, Dec, Jan. Much cooler. Women need a shawl at night sometimes.
I would get tired very fast on a Motu of the long walks on the very hot teak. And bored.
On the island there is so much to discover. Like church on Sunday and listen to the locals sing. They all can sing. My oldest son actually claimed Mount Otemanu. I tried once but is a very difficult trail used infrequently. Once a week dinner at Bloody Mary’s was always a treat.
I would always budget for a whole day of Giant Marlin fishing during a visit. One of my sons got his first Blue Marlin in Bora Bora on my last visit in 2008.
I could go on forever but the thing I liked most was it seemed like I could hear music in my head the whole time there. Pure magic.
BoraBoraBob dot com.
PS: What finally drove me away from Bora Bora was internet, cell phones and wave runners.
Before that 1976 to 2008 it was the most romantic beautiful place on the planet.
That water looks amazing! Even some honeymooners loves exploring too!
Thank you for sharing your opinion, it was really helpful! I was thinking of staying for a week, but now based on our personality and activity levels, I think I will take your recommendation and stop in at Hawaii, then spend 3-4 days in Bora Bora!
do they have normal food here?
Rachelle Lucas says
They do! Breakfast was an American-style gourmet buffet with waffles, yogurt parfaits, etc. Most of the restaurants will have a variety on the menu as well.
You sound like a terrible unadventourous person. You want local food?? We are in the middle of the ocean. What do you think seafood is? You want things to do? Take a boat to the main island. Live a little.
Scuba diving is one of my biggest passions. The main reason I love diving is the adventure, because you never know what you will found below the water surface. In the past years I’ve collected a series of underwater photos which I proudly store in the Dive Site logbook, along with all my diving logs. It’s cool that I can also search new dive spots or even add my own.
Do they have a water fall there an can you swim in it
Rachelle Lucas says
I’m not sure! We spent most of our time on the water. But there is a dormant volcano in the center of the islands, so I bet they do have a few waterfalls.
How long is the flight from Hawaii to Bora Bora?
Rachelle Lucas says
From Hawaii to Papeete, Tahiti (the closest international airport to Bora Bora) is about a 6 hour flight. From Papeete, you’ll get on a smaller plane to get to Bora Bora, and that only takes about an hour. So, about 7 hours total flight time.
Wow, negative Nelly! Bora Bora was wonderful, and we didn’t have any of the problems you mentioned. Three day on Moorea and three on Bora Bora, (overwater bungalows!) and two on Tahiti were perfect. Plan and be informed ahead. Hawaii is crowded, commercial and way more expensive.
Rachelle Lucas says
LOL! I think it’s funny that you think this was negative! If you read to the end, you’ll see I did really enjoy Bora Bora. This is just a list of observations made that were unexpected, that’s all.
I am currently staying in bora-Bora and most of the points of this article are inaccurate. We did not get weighed at the airport, the temperature is warm but not “hot” specifically due to the trade wind influence and occasional rains. You are after all in the tropics… moreover, there is a TON of activities to do. We are staying an entire week and do not have enough time to do everything we want to do. The breakfast at our hotel is one of the best I have ever had. If you want to have a New York City or south beach Miami type vacation with a wide variety of entertainment, this island is not for you. However if you want to relax, enjoy and pay for exclusivity then check out Bora Bora for sure. Hawaii does not even come close.
Taci Granlund says
nice where are you guys staying and did you fly from CA or NY?
Rachelle Lucas says
Hey! We stayed at the Four Seasons and flew out from Hawaii 🙂
Curiously did the sun come out much . . . I’m about to go and it looks like it’s forecasted to be thunderstorms every day (which I love) but do hope to get some sun.
Rachelle Lucas says
It was sunny every day when we were there! Never know about the weather, though. It seems it has been really unpredictable lately.
Helmut Raff says
Transvestite and transexuals? Gross, I want to visit a pacific paradise to get away from those freaks
Then Bora Bora is not for you. Since Rae Rae are venerated in the culture and Bora Bora is indigenous without puritanical influences.. They are considered divine. Have fun in a British colony like Jamaica.
Rachelle Lucas says
Did you not read the paragraph under the headline? I guess not.