The Best Things to Do on Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Epic peaks and the balmy South Pacific make Bora Bora an adventurers paradise
Epic peaks and the balmy South Pacific make Bora Bora an adventurer's paradise | © ITPhoto / Alamy Stock Photo
Claire Dodd

Whether you’re craving an all-action adventure or slump-on-the-sands sojourn, Bora Bora delivers. You could clamber the volcanic Otemanu mountain or swim the South Pacific. But if that sounds like too much work, enjoy sundowners on an overwater restaurant and dine on a private island. The choice is yours. To help you decide, here are the top activities in Bora Bora.

Keen for a Bora Bora vacation but not quite sure where to begin? Book onto Culture Trip’s eight-day sailing adventure, led by our Local Insider.

1. Snorkel with sharks and stingrays on Bora Bora

Natural Feature

A stingray swims through a school of tropical fish in Bora Bora
© BlueOrangeStudio / Alamy Stock Photo

Ease into Bora Bora lagoon and watch the aquarium-blue waters bristle with life. Protected by a halo-like coral reef, the shallow waters are home to an abundance of fish including stingrays, blacktip sharks and lemon sharks. Swim among them on a guided snorkelling tour or watch from the comfort of a boat.

2. Hike Mount Pahia on Bora Bora

Natural Feature

A stunning view of Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia on Bora Bora
© Galaxiid / Alamy Stock Photo

Limber up, stretch those muscles and brace yourself for a scramble. See that rocky outcrop crowning the mountain at the centre of the island? That’s where you’re headed. It’s a tough six-hour hike up Mount Pahia – the highest peak rises 658m (2,158ft). And with some treacherous sections, basalt cliffs and thick jungle to traverse, it’s good to take a guide with you or a four-wheeler tour some of the way. Reach the top and you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views.

3. Go yachting around Bora Bora

Natural Feature

Tourists commandeer a sailboat across Bora Bora Lagoon
© Holger Leue / Alamy Stock Photo
Book a yacht trip with Culture Trip to sail the turquoise lagoon waters and explore the island’s coves and cliffs and the coral gardens on the ocean floor. Humpback whales visit these shores from August to October. Watch fins rise slowly above the waterline, as clouds ring the top of the mountain behind.

4. Visit the Kincaid Galleries on Bora Bora

Art Gallery

Brimming with images of the South Pacific, this gallery at the St Regis is the place to come for a lasting souvenir of your Bora Bora holiday. Photographer John Kincaid’s work captures everything from star constellations above the ocean to the sunrise over the mountains and aerial views of the lagoon, fringe reef and halo islands of Bora Bora. Browse the collection and walk away with a print or two.

5. Stop by a turtle sanctuary

Resort, Luxury

Two green sea turtles and tropical fish swim side by side in a lagoon on Bora Bora
© Picade LLC / Alamy Stock Photo

Started in 2000, when a guest brought an injured turtle to the hotel for care, the Bora Bora Turtle Center at Le Méridien now works in collaboration with the Environmental Department of the French Polynesian Government to protect and rehabilitate endangered turtles – and help preserve the rich corals. Visits are free to hotel guests and include turtle feeding and a meet with the resident biologists. A full-day tour means you’ll have time to follow the staff as they care for the animals, followed by a two-course lunch.

6. Visit Bora Bora Lagoonarium on Motu Tupe

Aquarium, Natural Feature

A natural aquarium on a small islet in the lagoon, the Lagoonarium allows you to swim alongside a diverse array of sea creatures in their tropical habitat. There’s also the option to paddle through the waters on a canoe to see sharks, rays and turtles. Guided tours last for half or full days – or book an overnight trip, with a stay at the aquarium’s private islet in a bungalow or dormitory accommodation.

7. Explore Mount Otemanu

Natural Feature

The green peak of Mount Otemanu, with the tropical Motu reef in the distance
© Norbert Eisele-Hein / Alamy Stock Photo

Bora Bora’s other mountain peak, Otemanu, is the second and taller of the two peaks on the extinct volcano that dominates the centre of the island. While it’s not possible to summit Otemanu, you can hike to the top of nearby Pahia for views of the craggy rock face. Alternatively, join a sightseeing boat tour of the island or even take a helicopter trip around the peak.

8. Enjoy sunset drinks at the Lagoon Restaurant by Jean-Georges

Hotel Restaurant, Seafood

The Lagoon Restaurant by Jean-Georges has dining tables above glass floors, allowing customers to see the sea waters
Courtesy of the St Regis Bora Bora Resort / Expedia

Watch a rainbow of fish swim beneath your feet as you walk upon the glass floors at this stilted restaurant, which sits over a lagoon. The outside deck – with views to the island’s peak – is the perfect spot for sundowners. Making use of freshly caught fish, Jean-Georges’ menu fuses French and Asian influences and is known as one of the best restaurants on Bora Bora. Order the crusted ahi tuna with citrus and sriracha emulsion.

9. Swim off Matira Beach

Natural Feature

Palm trees bend towards the South Pacific at Matira Beach
© David Parker / Alamy Stock Photo

The best and most significant public beach on Bora Bora – many of the other fine strips of sand are claimed by hotels and other private properties – Matira is something of a rarity. A mile of luminous white sand at the southern tip of the island, it has shallow, warm waters that make a glorious natural swimming pool. When you’re done, seek out freshly grilled fish from one of the good-value beach bars.

10. Dine on the private island of Motu Tapu

Natural Feature

Local chefs use a traditional fire pit on the beach to cook for guests at Conrad Bora Bora Nui
Courtesy of Conrad Bora Bora Nui /

Indulge in the ultimate luxury with a dinner date on a private island. Guests of the Conrad Bora Bora Nui have exclusive use of the tiny but picturesque triangle of wooded sand known as Motu Tapu island. After a five-minute boat ride across the lagoon, you’ll have the island to yourself for a picnic or champagne date on the beach. Take it up a notch with a private chef and butler.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

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