Hyperbole seems to surround Bora Bora (often referred to with a singular "Bora" by locals). James Michener called it "the most beautiful island in the world," which may be going too far, though its steep mountain peak and brilliant lagoon certainly are beautiful. More recently, Bora has been targeted by some travel writers as the French Polynesian island where tourism has gotten out of controltoo many hotels, too many people, too much traffic. The island does get a lot of visitors (many of them from Japan and the U.S.), but it's still a far cry from a Cancun- or Florida-style buildup. (Some of the bustle results from the fact that Bora is rather small compared with larger tourist islands like Moorea.) The amazingly clear blue-green water alone will be enough to satisfy most visitors.
The island's airport sits on a motu, part of the narrow coral ring that surrounds the main island, so soon after you arrive you'll be treated to a boat ride across the lagoon. (Air Tahiti operates a large shuttle, and many of the larger hotels have their own boats.) On the way, you'll get plenty of nice views of Bora's flat-topped peak (provided it's not shrouded in clouds). The island's main village is Vaitape. Most visitors first see it as they transfer from their airport boat to a shuttle van. The many gift shops and car rental companies make it seem less colorful than some Polynesian communities, but it's a pleasant place to while away an hour or so. The village's charming yellow church is poised against the green backdrop of the mountainside. Inexpensive roadside cafes with names like Bora Bora Burger are a welcome relief from the pricey fare at the hotels.
You'll find the usual lineup of Polynesian excursions on Bora: snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, shark feeding and island tours. And perhaps more than on any other island, you're likely to see thrill-ride-style activities such as parasailing and Jet-Skiing. You can also rent a bicycle, motor scooter or small car to circle the island on its two-lane, 20-mi/30-km highway. Jeep safaris take you up steep tracks to interior viewpoints. Several large cannons installed during World War II can still be visited. (Bora was the site of a large U.S. base during the war.) Several ancient ceremonial sites, or marae, are also open to visitors.
If you get the opportunity, have dinner at the island's most famous eatery, Bloody Mary's. In a sense, it's one of those places famous for being famous: Every celebrity to visit Bora ends up there (you'll see their names proudly posted). Celebs aside, we like the south seas/castaway motif that includes a sand floor and bar stools fashioned from wooden stumps.
But more than anywhere else in French Polynesia, Bora's around-the-island sights take a back seat to relaxing at a resort (assuming you can afford to stay at onethis is French Polynesia's most expensive island). Plan on a three-night stay. If you're going to splurge on an over-water bungalow, Bora is a good island to do it on, because the lagoon is truly spectacular. Once you slide open your glass coffee table and start feeding the fish that are swimming below your living room, you may never leave your bungalow. 160 mi/260 km northwest of Papeete, Tahiti.
Message Edited by LL_Editor on 11-13-2006 02:26 PM
We spent two wonderful weeks at the Pearl Beach resort on Bora Bora, this was the most relaxing and tranquil trip we have ever been on. The beauty and purity of the island in beyond word, to explain a little one of the locals told us that as many people that visit Hawaii in a week that is how many tourists they see per year. I know over the past few years the tourist industry has grown and a few new resorts such as the Nui have opened but I still think this is a paradise you must see before you die.