We just returned from a trip to French Polynesia. And, what a week! We stayed in an over-water bungalow, we swam with — and photographed — black tip reef sharks, and I briefly commandeered a paddle board to try and escape the St. Regis Bora Bora.
We designed our trip around a five-night stay on Bora Bora. But, we also spent time on the islands of Tahiti and Mo’orea. And, I’m glad we did. Each of the islands has a noticeably different vibe: Tahiti is noisy and industrial — at least in Pape’ete — Mo’orea is laid back and quiet, and Bora Bora is simply gorgeous.
The contrasts between the islands worked in Bora Bora’s favor. It is, after all, a special place. But, the differences also underscored some of the drawbacks of the island. With that in mind, I thought I’d share the pros and cons of Bora Bora, as well as a few photos from the trip.
The Pros of Bora Bora
1. It’s a picture-perfect landscape. As a landscape photographer, I’ve been to lots of spectacular places around the world. Bora Bora is easily among the most beautiful. Everything, from the color of the water to the majestic Mount Otemanu, is perfect — almost too perfect.
2. Staying in an over-water bungalow is a once-in-a-lifetime experience (unless you decide to return). It’s a lot of fun to look for fish under your coffee table. But, it’s even more fun to wake up and go to sleep on the water, particularly without the threat of sea sickness.
3. The lagoons around Bora Bora boast a wide variety of marine life. I photographed black tip reef sharks, lemon sharks, sting rays, and giant manta rays, among other species. You’ll likely need to leave your hotel to see some of these animals, but it’s definitely worth the trip. I’d recommend a guided snorkeling tour around the island.
4. Did I mention the water? There’s no question that the water is the star of the show. The color is at times reminiscent of the Caribbean, but it’s infinitely more interesting. The shades of cyan, turquoise, and blue are unforgettable.
The Cons of Bora Bora
1. It’s outrageously expensive. Yes, we stayed in an over-water bungalow at the St. Regis Bora Bora — possibly the most expensive way to see the island. The truth is that we used points and miles to pay for most of the trip, but it still felt expensive. Meals were particularly pricey, largely due to a lack of options. So, be prepared!
2. Help! I’m trapped in paradise. Many of the hotels, including the St. Regis, are only accessible by boat. This provides an extra layer of privacy, which is nice. But, it also means that you can’t go for a hike, pop into a local cafe, or even check out a neighboring hotel — at least, not without a boat.
3. There’s not a lot to do or see. Bora Bora is perfect for people who want to sit and enjoy paradise. But, if like me you get bored easily, Bora Bora can create some challenges. Frankly, it’s one of the reasons that I commandeered the paddle board.
If I could do it again…
I would absolutely go back to French Polynesia. But, if I were to go back, I would probably go for ten days, instead of seven. And, I’d likely split this time between Bora Bora and another island — Mo’orea or even Raiatea.
French Polynesia has so much to offer. And, I feel like we just scratched the surface. If you’re looking for a relaxing trip to paradise, Bora Bora is the place for you. But, as someone who craves adventure, I’d like to do and see more on my next trip to this part of the world.