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Situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora are the two main holiday islands within French Polynesia. First settled by indigenous Polynesians about 4,00 years ago, they remained unknown to the wider world until their discovery in 1767. Volcanic in origin, the islands feature dramatic jagged peaks and calm, protected lagoon waters. Favored with a warm tropical climate, lush jungle filled with colorful flowers, and clear blue seas filled with coral atolls, sandy bays, and a multitude of fish and other marine life, they have been long regarded as an idyllic paradise in history, literature, and film. Renowned for the friendly nature of the local people, delicious seafood, and a proud traditional culture, visitors are instantly charmed by the relaxed island vibe and are quick to adopt the local philosophy of ‘aita pea pea’- not to worry. Here, we delve into the best overwater bungalows to stay at on your visit to the picture-perfect isles.
Best Overall: Le Meridien Tahiti
Set in spacious landscaped gardens with swaying palms, bright flowers, and a large freshwater pond filled with lilies, Le Meridien Tahiti offers guests classic tropical ambiance. Guestrooms are decorated in a modern style with either a soft grey or warm yellow color scheme. Thatched-roofed overwater bungalows come with furnished balconies for viewing the surrounding coral gardens. The large outdoor pool has a sandy floor that melds seamlessly with the beach, and there's snorkeling and kayaking equipment available for exploring the nearby reefs and bays.
Other facilities include a modern business center, an open-air spa, and a poolside tiki bar. There are two hotel restaurants, with La Plantation serving creative cuisine based on a fusion of French and Polynesian flavors and techniques, and Le Carre offering gourmet creations in a slick and stylish room filled with polished mahogany, or on the wooden terrace with sunset views over the lagoon.
Best Boutique: Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island
With only 31 overwater bungalows and luxury villas located on a sandy island surrounded by coral atolls, Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island offers a tranquil stay in a secluded island oasis. With minimal hotel infrastructure, the property takes full advantage of its natural surroundings, with elegant sun lounges, kayaks, and snorkeling equipment available for enjoying and exploring deserted beaches and rich coral gardens.
Calm and warm lagoon waters replace the need for a pool, and a set of steps leads through natural jungle to a scenic viewpoint that offers panoramic views of the island and surrounding seas. The overwater bungalows are constructed out of natural woods and thatch and all come with modern amenities and private sun decks. Both the Manu Tuki restaurant, which features fine-dining cuisine and a well-stocked wine cellar, and the relaxed Mako Bar offer magnificent views of the lagoon and Mt. Otemanu.
Best for Families: Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
With spacious accommodations, a variety of outdoor and indoor activities, and special children’s services, the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora realizes the chain's family-friendly reputation. Even large families can be accommodated in the single-bedroom overwater villas and two- and three-bedroom beachfront villas. Children can play on the splash pad, which sends jets of water shooting up into the air. They can also engage in a number of fun activities at the kid’s club.
The resort hosts numerous outdoor activities, from tennis, volleyball, and badminton courts to snorkeling and kayaking through nearby corals. More adventurous activities include jet skis, deep sea fishing, and parasailing. The Arii Moana is the most spectacular restaurant in the resort, serving Polynesian fusion cuisine in an elegant space filled with twisting wood sculptures. But with three other restaurants, such as the themed buffet dinners at Tere Nui and sushi and sashimi offerings at the Sunset Bar, there is variety to satisfy a range of tastes.
Best for Luxury: The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort
Set on a chain of islands offering spectacular views of Mt. Otemanu, the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort offers guests luxury and opulence while still retaining a strong local flavor. Both overwater and on-land bungalows offer spacious rooms with natural wood and traditional Polynesian designs incorporated into the décor. Two pools deliver different experiences, with the main pool featuring zero-entry ledges and a swim-up bar. The tranquil adults-only Oasis pool is a graceful and secluded free-form retreat that winds between palms and shrubs and features cushioned and covered cabanas. The large private beach provides excellent views over the lagoon, and water sports equipment such as kayaks and paddleboards are available for use. In the private Lagoonarim, guests can swim with colorful tropical fish and view delicate coral formations. The Miri Miri Spa features whirlpools, steam rooms, and a sauna, and offers exclusive Clarins experiences and traditional Polynesian treatments involving local medicinal plants, beauty regimes, and massage techniques.
Best for Singles: Intercontinental Tahiti Resort & Spa
Located conveniently close to Fa’a’a International Airport, the Intercontinental Tahiti Resort & Spa is a sweeping, popular resort sitting on the shores of a sheltered lagoon. Rooms feature a range of decor in modern and more traditional styles, with views into the gardens or over the lagoon. Twenty-two overwater bungalows are arranged in two sections, with the Motu bungalows featuring more modern décor. Two sizeable infinity pools arrayed along the ocean edge offer sandy bottoms, hot tubs, and views over the lagoon. The main pool features a swim-up bar, while the southern pool has waterfalls and an adjacent beach area. Jet ski rentals and diving equipment are available on a second beach to the north. The Le Lotus restaurant serves fine French cuisine in an intimate overwater setting overlooking the ocean, while Te Tiare offers a range of dishes in a casual open-air setting next to the pools and waterfalls. Next door, the lively Tiki Bar pours freshly-mixed cocktails throughout the day and into the night.
Best Spa: Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa
Located on a private island with long stretches of quiet beaches and green tropical vegetation, the Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa offers a perfect retreat for discerning visitors. Undoubtedly, the highlight of the stay is its world-famous Thalasso Spa, which delivers specialty seawater therapies in overwater rooms and has soothing hydrotherapy pools set in peaceful private gardens. Outside the spa, other hotel features include an oceanfront infinity pool, water sports equipment, and sun lounges set on the beach and shaded by thatch umbrellas
When it comes to dining, The Reef offers a la carte dining with a strong French influence in a spacious open-air restaurant overlooking the gardens; it also hosts a weekly performance showcasing Polynesian culture and dance. The upscale Le Corail restaurant boasts the largest wine cellar in Polynesia and serves seasonal delicacies in an elegant fine-dining environment. For a more casual, relaxed atmosphere, the poolside Sands Bar and Restaurant delivers Asian and international dishes, signature cocktails, and views over the waters towards Mt. Otemanu.
Best Location: Conrad Bora Bora Nui
Situated on one of the most beautiful beaches in Bora Bora, the Conrad Bora Bora Nui takes full advantage of its superb location, with guests able to choose from overwater, beachfront, or hillside villas. While the overwater villas offer the best views of the crystal-clear lagoon, beach villas ensure easy access to the wide expanse of white sands and other hotel amenities, and hillside villas are set among lush vegetation and picturesque ponds filled with waterlilies and koi carp.
All villas feature modern furnishings in neutral colors, large bathrooms with rainfall showers and deep soaking tubs, and furnished patios. A stunning two-tier infinity pool overlooks the adjacent beach and lagoon, and complimentary snorkels, kayaks, and bikes are provided. The hotel hosts a French restaurant, with an attendant wine bar, and a casual, sandy-floored beach grill restaurant that hosts weekly Polynesian fire shows. The overwater Upa Upa Lounge Bar serves libations and tapas-style snacks in a scenic room overlooking the bay.