Bora Bora isn’t just overwater villas and barefoot luxury resorts, although there is plenty of that. This tiny cluster of islands in the South Pacific has hotel options whatever your budget – and all come with a Polynesian twist.
Fringed by reefs, the green-blue water around Bora Bora is clear and calm. Below the surface, reef gardens teem with tropical fish, rays and turtles, while above the waterline the striking green peak of Mount Otemanu can be seen from the serene atolls. Family-run pensions for those visiting paradise on a budget and the highest quality five-star hotels are all on offer in Bora Bora.
Tahitian huts over the crystal-clear water provide the accommodation at InterContinental Le Moana Resort. The rooms are scattered over the reef where rays and tropical fish glide below. You can explore the water by kayak, paddleboard or snorkel. Shell chandeliers in the dining room and rattan walls leave you in no doubt that you’re in the South Pacific. The local shops and restaurants of Vaitape are close by, so it’s perfect for those who want a Tahitian escape, but with amenities within easy reach.
On a secluded slice of soft-sanded beach, Hotel Royal offers rooms in paradise without breaking the bank. Dining is available by the beach and poolside, a continental breakfast is served buffet style and the award-winning restaurants of the southern tip of Nunu’e are on your doorstep. Rooms are spaced between the palm tree-filled garden and all come with a private balcony.
Overwater bungalows are now a staple of the hotel scene in Bora Bora, but this place was the first to do it. Now the most lavish accommodations in the resort have an infinity pool on the deck. The Conrad is stuffed with luxurious benefits; the longest stretch of private beach in Bora Bora, the biggest swimming pool. Without another resort in sight, it feels like a castaway escape (except here your desert island has an 18-hole golf course and hilltop spa).
Spread across three islands in a peaceful lagoon, it doesn’t get more idyllic than this. On arrival, you’re greeted with a Tahitian flower crown and shown to your beach bungalow or over-water villa. Butler service is the standard at the St Regis and there’s always a golf cart waiting to whisk you to the Iridium Spa or to snorkel at the Lagoonarium, the resort’s private underwater sanctuary. Breakfast is served in the open-air beachfront restaurant with everything from fresh sashimi to French pastries at the buffet table, and a self-service bloody mary bar.
Just 1km (0.6mi) from the shops and excellent restaurants of Vaitape, Oa Oa Lodge has some of the most affordable over-water rooms in Bora Bora. The decor is neon-bright retro against the rustic chic of thatched roofs and rattan walls. Some of the bungalows have a kitchenette so you can take full advantage of the nearby grocery shops, and a continental breakfast can be served in your room. The clear water around the resort has some of the best snorkelling on the island.
At the Four Seasons, over-water villas stretch over a turquoise lagoon. Two kids’ clubs and a Chill Island for teenagers make this a great option for families. Adults can enjoy the cathedral-like spa where fish drift past glass floorplates under massage tables. French-Polynesian fine dining is served at Arii Moana, while the more relaxed Fare Hoa offers a beachside bar and grill. If you’d rather stay in your bungalow, why not have a romantic dinner delivered by Polynesian canoe?
Wallet-friendly overwater bungalows on the serene shore of Matira Point beach are what Hotel Maitai is all about. Designed with Polynesian-style frond roofs and rattan walls, the bungalows are perched over the turquoise water of a calm reef, where tropical fish flit below. Free rental of snorkelling equipment allows you to make the most of the reef, and free e-bikes can get you around the southern tip of Bora Bora easily, perhaps to hit the award-winning restaurants in the luxurious five-star resorts.
Le Meridien boasts fabulous views of Otemanu from its private beach. There’s plenty to explore on the tiny islet on which the hotel sits, with colourful local villages and sweeping sandy beaches all around. Choose between a beachfront or overwater villa, the latter of which have glass viewing floors where you might spot the odd turtle swimming by. Roofs have that charming Tahitian thatch, but inside it’s sleek, modern decor with teak finishes. The best of rustic and new.
On a private island, this family-run pension is run on solar power, and the water system fed by rainwater. Each of the five bungalows is just steps from the beach. Rustic simplicity and comfort are at the heart of the design of each room, with Tahitian-style palm-frond roofs and woven wood walls. The sofas and beds are decked in tropical-kitsch flowery designs. Kayaking, snorkelling and exploring the islet are at your disposal, and catering is provided by the owners themselves.
Perched on the edge of a fantastic coral garden, Sofitel Marara enjoys some of the best snorkelling in Bora Bora. Access it directly from an over-water bungalow, or (if you’re staying in one of the garden rooms) by stepping across the caster sugar-sand beach. Alternatively, make the most of both worlds with a villa that’s part overwater, part beachfront. Dinner is served in a huge, round, open-air dining hall, with food cooked traditional-style in a Tahitian oven. Some nights see the beachfront blaze with light as a traditional Polynesian fire show takes place.
However you like your water – cooling swimming pool, hot and bubbling, or natural and saline – Pearl Beach Resort has a room for you. Garden villas come with private pools, beachside bungalows with hot tubs, and you can slip straight into the turquoise ocean from the over-water villas. A spa offers on-site indulgence, and the dedicated dive centre caters for all your snorkelling and scuba needs. Dining can be fine and French, or casual with a sundowner at the bar on the private beach.
It’s all about unwinding at this vast yet luxury resort. From dramatic green mountains to the lush gardens and serene private beach, you can relax here amid nature. Everything is centred around taking in the gorgeous views, from the beanbag chairs on the deck to the private terraces on each overwater villa. The Deep Ocean thalasso spa is world-class, offering massages and jacuzzi treatments with sea views. What’s more, this resort is an eco-pioneer, using cold, deep seawater to power the air-conditioning.