from Bora Bora
One Bora with a Twist
was the last time you had a tropical fix? If you have
to stop and think about your answer, you need one quickly—and
we have just the recipe to quench your thirst for absolute
paradise: Start with a airline, add several hotels,
then mix in two dive centers and a dose of environment-friendly
tourism. Blend well with a liberal dash of tradition
and voilà! You've got Bora Bora with a twist!
Upon arrival in Papeete, we boarded
a twin turboprop ATR72 belonging to Air Tahiti, French
Polynesia's inter-island airline. The flight to Bora
Bora takes a mere 50 minutes and allows a pleasant view
of the leeward pearls of French Polynesia: Huahine,
Raiatea and Tahaa. Soon we were swooping in low over
the crystal-clear aquamarine water of the lagoon that
surrounds this mountainous volcanic island and is enclosed
by a wide reef open to the ocean at only one spot. Though
only 38 square kilometers in size, Bora Bora is considered
one of the most beautiful tropical islands in the world.
And since at most only 200,000 visitors travel to all
of French Polynesia every year, it is easy to find a
lone corner of paradise here.
tranquil setting of Le Méridien Bora Bora
Le Méridien Bora Bora, and its
sister resort Le Méridien Tahiti on the island
of Tahiti, was the real reason we came here, for properties
this breathtaking are rare: Set on its own isolated
ten-kilometer-long "motu" islet off the east
coast of Bora Bora, Le Méridien Bora Bora offers
99 thatched-roof faré-style bungalows either
perched set over the lagoon or nestled at the edge of
ivory sands. Outdoor terraces allow guests convenient
water access. Overwater bungalows have a glass panel
in the floor of the living area through which they can
view the sea life.
We walked a short distance to the east
side of the motu, where giant waves crashed onto the
outer reef, and swam in the calm waters of the lagoon.
In fact, every water sport imaginable is offered at
Le Méridien, from parasailing to scuba diving,
and a launch awaits to take guests to the main island
throughout their stay. The service is Polynesian-friendly,
and the daily-changing fare is French with a Tahitian
twist, as in dishes ranging from pan-fried tazard, a
delicate white lagoon fish, to roast suckling pig. Since
Le Méridien faces the island of Bora Bora to
the west, each evening we enjoyed watching the sun set
behind craggy Mt. Otemanu.
We were delighted by another property
designed along the lines of Le Méridien, the
Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa. Set on the largest
of the motus surrounding the Bora Bora lagoon, the Pearl
Beach was built with sensitivity to the natural environment.
Much of the wood used for the 50 overwater bungalows,
20 garden suites, 10 beach suites, bars and restaurants,
for example, was gathered from the resort site itself.
Furthermore, the farés are decorated with bamboo,
coconut-hemp rope and tapa cloth painted with images
from ancient Tahitian legends. Guests staying in the
overwater bungalows can observe sea life through glass
tables in the living area, and enjoy breakfast delivered
by outrigger canoe. A launch ferries guests to the main
island for sightseeing, but with a tennis court, mini
golf course and movie theater, they may find little
reason to leave the motu. A boutique hotel in Bora Bora
that's attached to a restaurant—as opposed to
the other way around—Top Dive consists of nine
luxurious rooms outfitted in marble and exotic woods,
overlooking the lagoon in Vaitape, the only town on
the island. As you can guess from the name, Top Dive
is also a diver's center-and perhaps the top one at
favorite hideaway for movie stars and celebs
You'd never know from looking that
the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort & Spa was all but destroyed
in a hurricane a few years back. This luxury resort
on Motu Toopua, directly across the lagoon from Vaitape,
is an impeccable blend of understated elegance and Polynesian
charm. The farés—50 of which are over-water—are
done in oiled yucca wood and coconut-shell inlay, with
removable-glass-topped coffee tables in the sitting
area so that guests can not only observe but also feed
the fish below. As for service, at the BBLR, ask for
the impossible and they will deliver—even
if your request is to take your board of directors members
to Tupai Atoll to celebrate your company's IPO.
A swift water shuttles take guests
to Vaitape to enjoy the local folklore and shops. But
there's no Neiman's here. Try Magasin Chin Lee if you
have a craving for foie gras, French Camembert or a
bottle of Dom Perignon. For a quick snack and a fix
on French pastries you must stop in L'Appetisserie.
"La grande dame des iles,"
the 40-plus-year-old Hotel Bora Bora has undergone a
major renovation. Set on a promontory on the southwest
of the island, it features garden, beach and overwater
bungalows. The resort has long been a favorite hideaway
for stars of the American and French cinema that prefer
to stay in one of the resort's suites outfitted with
canopied beds and private swimming pools. With just
14 beachfront bungalows and 50 overwater suites, Intercontinental
Le Moana Resort Bora Bora is an intimate resort set
on Matira Pointe, the southernmost tip of the island.
The beach here offers some of the best swimming on Bora
Bora and an enclosed "lagoonarium" net through
which you can observe sea life.
You can fly direct to Papeete from
Los Angeles via: Air Tahiti Nui, 877-824-4846; Air France,
800-237-2747; Air New Zealand, 800-262-1234. To fly
via Hawaii, call Hawaiian Air, 800-367-5320.
Tahiti Tourisme North America: Los
Angeles 310-312-3368, x202 or 800-225-3614; Papeete
689-50-57-00, Fax 689-43-66-19; 877-GO-TAHITI, www.Tahiti-Tourisme.com.
Bora Bora Pearl Beach
Resort & Spa
Hotel Bora Bora
Pointe Raititi, Nunue
InterContinental Le Moana
Resort Bora Bora
Méridien Bora Bora
Bora Bora Dive Resort