Accommodation on Bora Bora
As we were on a cruise ship we did not need accommodation on Bora Bora, and I was happy about it because the prices for accommodation are – with a few exceptions – just mad. But I have checked out the options, as I am dreaming of going back to Bora Bora, perhaps as part of a bigger trip with visits to Moorea, Huahine, and Maupiti.
On Bora Bora everything gets relative. If you read of affordable accommodation it normally means that it is more affordable than others on the island – not that it is cheap. Even guesthouses charge crazy prices.
Most hotels are in Matira where the biggies like the Intercontinental Beachcomber and the Hotel Matira have their spectacular overwater bungalows in this incredible translucent lagoon.
The most affordable accommodation is in Nunue which is between Vaitape and Matira.
There you also find the Village Pauline which offers budget to deluxe accommodation. I mention this because when we planned a trip to Bora Bora in 1995 (and later cancelled because of the French nuclear tests in the Mururoa Atoll), we had booked with Pauline. At the time she just had her guesthouse. Since then she has built her little empire, and this is really something special for a local who has started with next to nothing.
Her “Village” is at PK 8, at Pofai Bay (Baie de Pofai), about 3 km south of Vaitape and the ferry and cruise ship pier.
Phone 67 72 16
Fax 67 78 14
To give you an idea what “affordable” means, just have a look at rather a good website:
At the “Lagoonarium” you pay for example:
8000 CFP (for two) in a bungalow (66 Euro)
6000 CFP (for two) in a room with shared facilities (50 Euro)
2700 CFP (per person) in a 10 bed dorm room (23 Euro)
And please note: You have no hot water!
Around the island we have seen houses for rent, with signs saying: Maison à louer. But I do not know how much they charge.
The general price guide:
Deluxe: 180 Euro (250 US$) to 650 Euro (800 US$), open end, in reality, if you are a Hollywood star ;-)
Mid range: 65 to 180 Euro (80 to 250 US$)
Budget: 10 to 65 Euro (12 to 80 US$) – the first number for camping
If you check out the prices on the hotels’ websites you will quickly find out that the upper rate is higher in most cases…
Other websites with information about accommodation:
Most of the hotels with the spectacular overwater bungalows are located on the outlying motus along the reef, and sure, they are again more expensive than the hotels on the main island. However, you also find overwater bungalows in the Matira area, for example the Hotel Bora Bora, the Hotel Matira, Le Matai Polynesia, and the Sofitel Matira.
If you see abandoned hotels along the way, most were not abandoned due to the recession or a sudden drop in visitor numbers, but to repeated damage caused by tropical cyclones, so the resorts relocated to less affected areas. Exeption: the ruins of a failed Hyatt Regency project.
If you stay at a hotel on a motu you will surely encounter a very peaceful and quiet atmosphere. But also remember that you need a watertaxi for every trip to the mainland.
In one of my travel guides I read about “noise and traffic” you encounter at the Matira hotels, as there is not a lot of space between the lagoon and the mountains, and you should better go to a motu, or at least to the Hotel Bora Bora because it is a bit away from the road. This remark is as relative as the rates. There was surely traffic between Vaitape and Matira – but it was nothing compared to other places I have been to. And I cannot imagine that the SUV’s and the rubbish truck keep on driving back and forth during the night, so you would not be able to close an eye. Although there were plenty of cruise ship passengers on the best public beach at Matira Point it was very, very quiet. Just marvellous. Nothing spoiled the experience.
Hidden Access to Matira Beach
Between the Intercontinental Beachcomber and the Hotel Matira is a narrow track – which BTW is the official access road to the Interconti, with no sign-post or anything that would lead you to the beach and all the other hotels of Matira Point. You just follow this alleyway, turn right near the entrance of the Interconti – and stand more or less on the beach.
There is a lawn (covered in pricklies that stick to your towel, just for the case you wonder if you should lie down on the lawn or in the sand) with a big thatched pavillion, and a concrete toilet block with showers on the outside. They are the hotel’s facilities but you are allowed to use them. Perfect!
If you have no bicycles or other means of transport, there are those pick-up trucks that look out for customers every now and then. We met several cruise ship passengers who had got to the beach by this cheap means of transport and back to Vaitape as well.
Matira Point (Pointe Matira) and Matira Beach
As said in other tips already, the area between Raititi Point and Matira Point (Pointe Matira) – about 5 to 6 kilometres south of Vaitape - is Bora Bora’s main tourist area. It also is the southernmost point of the island.
Some of the high-price hotels with overwater bungalows (Hotel Matira, Le Maitai Polynesia, Sofitel Matira, Hotel Bora Bora) are located there, but also more affordable family-run accommodation, like Chez Nono, and others.
Our smoking bike rental lady had encircled the whole area with her pen and told us that this was Bora Bora’s best beach. As you can imagine, this still does not give you the exact location, so I thought I better ask at the start of the Matira area before we have to make a U-turn and waste our precious relaxing and swimming time. I could not have asked at a better spot than at the Roulotte Matira – because the access path was just across the road!
The name Matira has quite a funny origin.
It is the Tahitian pronunciation of Mathilda. (And I had thought only people from East Asia take the L as an R, and vice-versa… But you will find many examples of this change of consonants in Tahitian.)
Mathilda again was the name of a lady who married a local chief who named the property after her. The lady again had been named after a British ship that was wrecked on the Mururoa Atoll (you remember the French nuclear tests…) in 1792.
A path opposite Hotel Matira leads to some World War II defense guns on the hill but obviously this easy access track is now blocked by a private property. I did not check it out, so cannot confirm this. Just try or ask.
When a Dream becomes Reality: Tour of Bora Bora
Bora Bora is small enough to be explored in a day. This is correct and - more so - NOT correct. Of course, you need more time to enjoy the spectacular turquoise blue lagoon of this South Sea dream destination, or climb a mountain. More time and more money ;-) We cycled around the island on a one-gear bicycle and washed the sweat away in the crystal clear waters that surround this French Polynesian island with the name that is synonym for paradise.
With an age of about 7 million years, Bora Bora is the oldest of the Society Islands. It is nearly an atoll, a kind of semi-atoll, age-wise half way between the Tuamotu atolls (10 to 40 million years old) and the high islands of Tahiti and Raiatea (only 2 to 3 million years old). This means that Bora Bora has the features of both types of islands, all of which have volcanic origin, the huge flat lagoon, and relatively high mountains. The two mountains that give Bora Bora its unique look are the twin towers Mt. Otemanu (771 metres) and Mt. Pahia (661 metres), best admired from the sea and at sunset, but also impressive from many angles when you travel around the island.
Bora Bora is 275 kilometres north-west of Tahiti. The huge transluscent lagoon it is so famous for, is three times as large (80 sqm) as the island’s surface. The lagoon is surrounded by rather a wide barrier reef and a chain of islets, the so-called motu(s). In the south-east is a coral garden (Jardin de Corail) which is incredibly rich of about 700 species of colourful tropical fish. So a diver’s and snorkeller’s paradise – not just for honeymooners ;-) If you want, you can swim with manta rays, also grey and leopard rays. (Well, not me LOL) Ah, and I nearly forgot to mention that you can watch and feed grey sharks and barracudas…
The reef has only one passage to the open sea, the Te Ava Nui pass, between the motu Toopua and Tevairoa, just off the main town Vaitape. Our cruise ship, for example, sailed through this passage and then anchored inside the lagoon.
The island is 9 km long and at its widest point 4 km wide. A 32 km long circle island road leads around Bora Bora. A short stretch of this road is unsealed, and if you look closely at some bare patches on the red soil you will see that this road is made up of coral. You will travel along some spectacularly picturesque bays, some more turquoise blue, others turquoise green, the waters transluscent and glimmering and glittering in the sun, just below the horizon you spot those motus along the reef, some – like the Motu Piti Aau – like long green barriers, some just little green islets dotted in those dream-like waters, crowned by coconut palms. On those motos you find the overwater bungalows of Bora Bora’s most magical hotels. The best beaches of the mainland are in the south, Taahana and Matira Beach which also is the main tourist area.
The island is totally dedicated to the tourist industry, and depends on it one hundred per cent. As it is the most expensive place you can imagine, you will not be surprised that most visitors come from Europe, the United States, and Japan. But also the newly rich from China and Russia have discovered it by now.
You can find traces of the ancient Polynesians on Bora Bora, but they are less spectacular than those on Raiatea, for example. Most temples (the marae) have been destroyed by the protestant missionaries in the 1800’s. A place named Vaiotaha was the most sacred place on Bora Bora, the equivalent of Taputapuatea on Raiatea. But if you have time, you can still find petroglyphs at the foot of the mountains. It is at Povai Bay (also spelled: Pofai Bay in many guides). On the north-east coast, near Anau, are the remains of an ancient fortification (a so-called pa) and some temples (Nonohaura). On the opposite side of the island, Faanui Bay, are the remains of the marae Taaianapa which was restored in 1963, and of Farerua which once was the biggest one of the island.
It is difficult to spot those sites. We saw signs only to one of the sites, so you have to ask the locals where you have to go to. If you do not have a lot of time, best you take a guide or go on a guided tour.
The same applies to the sites where you find the remains of the gun emplacements and some of the guns the Americans placed on the island during World War II. The easiest place to find would be on a little hill at Matira Point, opposite Hotel Matira and Intercontinental Beachcomber. It is a reminder that even such a paradise was kind of desecrated by war although – lucky islanders – Bora Bora was only a refuelling station between Panama and Australia, and no actual battle or act of war took place there.
You will find general information about things that are similar on all French Polynesian islands on my French Polynesia page.
Paris / Bora-Bora
I've read all those copious postings on Bora-Bora, and now I am really considering going there. However, the comments on the prices are a bit less copious...
I wonder if there's anyone who could advise me on how to plan a budget priced trip to Bora-Bora from Paris. Would be thankful for tips both on how to get there cheap and where to stay.
Re: Paris / Bora-Bora
I have not been there yet but going there on a cruise in some weeks, so I have done a lot of research.
I think this is a good website which also lists private pensions and camping as the budget alternative to those hugely expensive stays in resorts and hotels:
To get around you best rent a bicycle. Even this costs three times as much as on non-French Polynesian Islands like the cooks. I have just reserved bikes for about 17 Euro a day. However, if you are lucky the pension you are staying at gives you a bike for free or a fraction of this. Cars cost about 100 Euro per day.
To make your calculations easier, here is the current exchange rate:
1000 CPF = 8.42 Euro
I am not that well informed about flights but think Air France should be an option. Or a round-the-world ticket.
From New Zealand we have cheap flights to Tahiti with Air NZ, Pacific Blue and Air Pacific.
From Tahiti you can fly to Bora Bora or take the ferry. You always have to get to Tahiti first.
Re: Paris / Bora-Bora
Air Tahiti Nui flies from Paris to Papeetee via Los Angeles, a nice connection indeed! andthey tend to offer good prices as well..
Re: Paris / Bora-Bora
Thanks a lot! I'll look around on the website, and try to find somehting that suits me. :-)
Re: Paris / Bora-Bora
And a thank you for you as well! :-)
I check the flights now! :-)
Re: Paris / Bora-Bora
There is a grocery about 3 blocks to the left of the dock. Adjacent to a yummy lunch stand. These are 2 relatively decent options for food within a budget.
Re: Paris / Bora-Bora
Ia Orana ,
Where to stay ? Hotel Matira, Bora Bora