As a travel writer, I have seen how marvelously the A-listers, in spite of working really hard, have this wonderful knack of losing themselves and relaxing in discreet luxury. Many of the jet-set brigade today own holiday properties in some of the world’s most stunning backyards. From the icy slopes of Aspen to the beaches of Fiji, the ultra-rich have left no stone unturned to ensure that their vacations are absolutely first class.
How about vacationing in the private island paradise of French Polynesia? Yes, I am talking about the Tahitian island of Bora Bora—overwater bungalows, a star-lit Tahitian night sky, sparkling blue lagoons, romantic sunsets…
If my memory serves me right, the fashion of owning island resorts was pioneered many decades ago by the irresistible Marlon Brando. Legend has it that in 1965, Marlon fell in love with Tahiti while shooting for his film, Mutiny on the Bounty, and went on to buy the stunning Tetiaroa atoll. Following in the footsteps of the great Marlon Brando, celebs like Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Nicolas Cage, and Mel Gibson have all become owners of private islands.
Bora Bora is a perennial favorite of the A-listers, primarily for the element of privacy that it affords and the fact that paparazzi find it difficult to penetrate their private lives there. A vast majority of the hotels have their own private islands, and no wonder all these comes for a prize. Would you believe that the stunning St. Regis reportedly charged the celebrity couple Nicole and Keith $17,000 per night?
Leaving aside the element of exclusivity, Tahiti is by far the largest island in French Polynesia—118 islands that are well spread out. Each of the islands is a little speck of paradise, many of which are still uninhabited.
In the minds of travelers, Tahiti conjures up images of a faraway island that is not just isolated but secluded as well. Secluded it might be, but it’s certainly very reachable—an eight-hour flight from Los Angeles is all you need to embark upon a vacation in perhaps one of the world’s most beautiful locales.
The Tahitian islands are scattered in two principal segments: The one to the northeast is popularly referred to as Tahiti Nui, while the southeastern one (Tahiti Iti) is smaller in size and consists of Mount Orohena, Mount Aorai, and the Queen of Tahiti—Le Diademe.
Papeete, the bustling capital city of Tahiti, is the commercial hub of French Polynesia, and with the city’s Faa’a International Airport being the only aviation hub, your journey to Tahiti begins in Papeete. While the vast majority of travelers quickly escape to their chosen island paradises, thereby spending less time in the capital city, Papeete is in its own rights a touristy delight with its vivacious city vibes, wide boulevards, and the harbor, which is a beehive of activity.
If you are looking for authentic Tahitian souvenirs, walking along the streets of Le Marché neighborhood could be a very rewarding experience; Tahitian vanilla beans, the indigenous monoi oil, and multi-colored pareos are simply too good to be missed. As you amble past Le Centre Vaima, the magnificent Robert Wan Pearl Museum draws your attention. Further ahead is Vai’ete Square, and the best time to be here is after sunset, when the entire neighborhood, with its waterfront promenade, comes alive with all guns blazing and epicurean food ranging from French crepes to steak frites. Try out Les Roulottes to savor some of their specialties.
Tahiti is all about celebrating life, and many a traveler has fallen in love with Polynesian culture and their rhythmic dance forms. One great venue where you can catch up with Tahitian dance traditions is the InterContinental Resort, where, every Friday and Saturday, local artists demonstrate their unique dance performances. First-time visitors would do well to book a tailor-made Circle Island Tour that takes visitors along the historical trail: the house of James Norman Hall, the Museum of Tahiti, Point Venus, and the Paul Gauguin Museum as well as the breathtaking Harrison Smith Botanical Gardens.
Bora Bora is ideally located about 160 miles northwest of Tahiti and is around 2,600 miles south of Hawaii. It was discovered way back in 1722, and Bora Bora has evolved into one of the most beautiful islands on planet Earth.
Bora Bora has romance written all over it. The village of Vaitape is much preferred by visitors as they get to immerse themselves in the local Tahitian lifestyle and shop at the well-stocked boutiques. For those with a penchant for adventure, exploring Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu on a Jeep safari could be ideal.
Embarking on a 4×4 Island Tour—which, in all of 3.5 hours, offers spectacular natural vistas of Bora Bora—marvel at the World War II American cannons, discover the fauna and flora, mingle with the locals, and, if you are open to cultural immersions, you’ll very likely be offered homecooked food and fresh fruits straight from the family kitchen garden or plantation.
For diehard snorkelers, Bora Bora offers some of the most stunning snorkeling sites. Even novices can participate in this exciting watersport using state-of-the-art masks with great visibility. The guides are adept in training beginners, first in shallow waters, then average depth, and finally into the deep waters, where you can have a date with a bewildering variety of underwater sea life. Snorkeling tours are three hours, with 9 a.m. departures.
Many travelers come to visit Bora Bora with the dream of vacationing in private overwater bungalows, and the hotels here have designed their properties in such amazing “hideaway” patterns that the discerning romantic traveler finds it difficult to ignore. To lure sensitive visitors, five-star hotels and resorts have come up with all-inclusive honeymoon packages. Sofitel Bora Bora, for instance, offers overwater bungalows, round-trip international air fares from Los Angeles, all transfers (inclusive of inter-island air), free daily breakfast for two, dinner on the beach, a 4×4 Jeep safari, a snorkeling excursion, a minibar replenished daily, and a gamut of other romantic add-ons.
In your efforts to seize the element of romance while vacationing in Tahiti, do not miss out on a dinner at perhaps one of the world’s most outstanding sea food restaurants, Bloody Mary’s—www.bloodymarys.com/bora-bora-restaurant-dinner-menu.html.
Many legends from Hollywood and beyond have dined inside the restaurant’s hallowed interiors: Jimmy Buffet, Julio Iglesias, Steven Bishop, Commander Cody, and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones, to name just a few.
It all began in 1979 when a Polish nobleman, Jerzy Hubert Edward von Dangel, was visiting Bora Bora and fell in love with the island. Being a showman, he decided to set up Bloody Mary’s to served specialty Tahitian seafood, while the interior was every bit aboriginal Tahitian to the core—thatched roofs, wooden tables, white sand flooring, and coconut tree stump stools.
This iconic seafood restaurant is best summed up by Rick, who oversees the day-to-day operations: “This is the old Tahiti right here. This is a big Fare Tiurai (the baraques or carnival-type huts built for the Heiva Festival each July). All we’ve done is add the varnish.”
Try out the culinary spread—crab, steak, chicken, shrimp, etc.—along with signature cocktails.
Traveler’s Fact File:
In terms of accommodations, Bora Bora is renowned for water bungalows. These magnificent floating villas with their signature glass floors offer a peek into the mysterious sea life below. What’s more, most high-end properties possess their own private islands, popularly referred to as “motu” in the local parlance.
Outstanding hotel chains like St. Regis, Conrad, Four Seasons, and InterContinental have carved a niche for themselves in Bora Bora. Hotel room rates range from $400–$2,000 per night at the low end. The average cost of vacationing for a week in Bora Bora hovers around $11,000 for two.
Reaching Bora Bora:
Bora Bora, located to the northwest of Tahiti, is about an hour’s journey by air from Papeete, the capital city of Tahiti. The airport is located on the small island of Motu Mete. Flights to Bora Bora are limited (four per day), which is perfectly in sync with the island’s “Restricted Tourism” policy. Visitors first touch down at Papeete from Los Angeles, which takes around 7.5 hours before heading to Bora Bora.
According to the directives of the French government, it is mandatory that visitors have passports that have been valid for six months. Passport-related services are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of State.
For further information and reservations, please feel free to get in touch with:
Harbor Station of Papeete, 2nd floor, Boulevard Pomare
PO Box 65 – 98713 Papeete – Tahiti
Tel: +689 40 50 40 30 / Fax: +689 40 43 66 19
firstname.lastname@example.org / www.tahititourisme.pf
Mob – 9051701534