Bora Bora has only 29 square kilometers of land. Yet, incredibly, the French Polynesian island has 9 outstandingly cool-looking luxury resorts. That gives Bora Bora a OCLR/KM (outstandingly cool-looking luxury resorts per square kilometer) value of .31, which is surely the highest of any island in the world.
Each of Bora Bora’s nine outstandingly cool-looking luxury resorts has its merits. A stay at each is also somewhere between expensive and exorbitant, especially once you account for the cost of food, activities and local transportation, all of which is pricey even before tacking on the 14% national tax. That makes choosing the optimum resort key. And, of course, if you are staying for your honeymoon you want to get it right.
For this overview, we’re listing Bora Bora’s OCLRs in the order of overall resort quality as we judge it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the first resort on our list is the best fit with what you are seeking for your particular trip. Also, while reading our comparison, keep in mind that all these resorts have overwater bungalows. All have service that exceeds that of a typical luxury hotel. And all are set in stunning locations, Bora Bora offering nothing but. In those ways, you can’t go wrong with any of these choices:
Location: On Motu Piti Aau (motu being the local word for a “small island,” piti aau meaning “two hearts”) east of the main island, set on a bright blue lagoon with views of Mt. Otemanu. It’s a very similar location to that of the Four Seasons, Le Meridien and InterContinental Thalasso resorts.
What’s especially great: The most luxurious touches, the most romantic feel, the largest bungalows and the best restaurants of any resort on Bora Bora. Frequented by celebrities and served as the location for the movie Couples Retreat. Private lagoonarium and free access to Le Meridian’s turtle area. Incredible service; every villa guest gets a butler!
What’s not so good: Mind-blowingly expensive. Snorkeling not quite as good as some other resorts.
Recommended for . . . a honeymoon or other once-in-a-lifetime trip when money is no object. It’s worth upgrading to at least a deluxe overwater villa as they have an unobstructed view of the lagoon and main island.
Location: On Motu Piti Aau, close to the St. Regis (above).
What’s especially great: The best service (arguably) and the best spa (unarguably) of any Bora Bora resort—and that’s really saying something. Completely romantic and yet perhaps the most kid-friendly of the highest-end resorts—teens have their own island, younger children get their own activity center and everyone get complimentary, age-appropriate amenities.
What’s not so good: Nearly as expensive as the St. Regis. No general store for buying snacks or provisions.
Recommended for . . . luxury-seeking travelers who are bringing their kids and/or who want to chill out and be pampered.
Location: On Motu Piti Aau, south of Le Meridien.
What’s especially great: The best resort room views of any Bora Bora resort (even from the bed). The most eco-friendly resort in all of Polynesia. Excellent service. Generally has the fewest kids and most adult feel of any of the resorts. Free water taxi to the InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora (where guests can use all the facilities).
What’s not so good: The decor is a bit bland and lacks any sort of Polynesia feel. The sprawling layout requires extra effort to get around the resort (though staff driving golf carts offer complimentary rides).
Recommended for . . . eco-conscious travelers who don’t want to skimp on the luxury. We suggest upgrading to a diamond villa for unobstructed views of the lagoon and Bora Bora.
Location: A small island near the Sofitel Marara Resort, which is located close to the southern tip of the island. Guests of the Sofitel Private Island (also known as the Sofitel Motu) have access to all of the Marara resort facilities.
What’s especially great: The best snorkeling and most traditional Polynesia decor of any Bora Bora resort. Because it’s on such a small private island and has only 30 bungalows it also has the most secluded feel. Less expensive than most other resorts on this list—competes with the Maitai (below) for the best resort value.
What’s not so good: Narrow beach. Fewer in-room luxury touches than other resorts.
Recommended for . . . travelers seeking an intimate, remote resort feel. Also for those balking at the US$1,000+ nightly rates of the above three resorts.
Location: On Motu Piti Aau, between the InterContinental Thalasso and St. Regis.
What’s especially great: Huge glass viewing panels in the floor of the overwater bungalows (pic below), turtle sanctuary located on the resort grounds.
What’s not so good: The resort food is sub-par (relative to the other luxury resorts). Bungalows are smaller than the other resorts.
Recommended for . . . those who want the views, the activities and nearly the level of service offered by the St. Regis at about half the price.
Location: On Matira point at the southern end of the main island.
What’s especially great: Easy access to Bora Bora island. Free water taxi to the InterContinental Thalasso (where guests can use all the facilities). Coral garden is within kayaking distance; use of kayaks is complimentary.
What’s not so good: Slightly older and more dated than the other resorts. Bungalow bathrooms are on the small side. Sub-par breakfast buffet.
Recommended for . . . People who want a don’t want to feel stuck at their resort—being on the main island you can more easily go for walks and visit non-resort restaurants and sights.
What’s especially great: Large bungalows (second only to the St. Regis, above) with luxurious amenities. Excellent walk-up snorkeling. Frequent (though absurdly expensive) boats to Bora Bora.
What’s not so good: Faces out to the ocean and so lacks the outstanding views of Bora Bora that most of the other resorts enjoy. Below average food, both in terms of quality and selection. Numerous hidden fees and extra charges.
Recommended for . . . those looking to spend their HHonors Hilton Reward points or those able to splurge on a super-expensive Presidential Villa (pictured below and to the right). Otherwise, we’re unable to come up with a way in which the Nui Resort is superlative. The hidden fees and extra charges—a problem at all the other resorts mentioned in this review (except the Maitai, below)—are taken to near criminal extremes at the Hilton Nui.
Location: On Muto Te Vairoa, west of the main island.
What’s especially great: Excellent spa. Perhaps the best beach of any Bora Bora resort.
What’s not so good: Inconsistent service. Limited (and extra expensive) food options—we suggest signing up for a meal plan.
Recommended for . . . those looking to do a lot of beach lounging. It’s worth spending a bit extra for a premium overwater bungalow (pictured below).
Location: On the main island, near the southern tip between the InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora and the Sofitel Marara.
What’s especially great: Price! Unlike every other resort on this list, Maitai doesn’t sneak in hidden fees—even the airport transport is free. Being on the main island, there’s easy access to shopping, hiking and non-resort restaurants.
What’s not so good: The least amazing of the resorts listed in this review in terms the luxury touches and the beach. Some “over water” bungalows are over only a few inches of water. Slight traffic noise from a nearby road can distract from the bliss.
Recommended for . . . travelers seeking luxury on a bit of a budget. Save extra by opting out of the all inclusive package and paying for meals as you go (either at the resort or elsewhere on Bora Bora). Garden View rooms in the low season can be found for under $200 (a pittance by Bora Bora standards) though it is worth spending a bit extra for an ocean view.