The very mention of French Polynesia is enough to conjure up images of turquoise blue waters, palm trees, and the finest white sand beaches in the world. In other words, look up “paradise” in a dictionary and you’ll be greeted with an image of the country. French Polynesia comprises over 100 islands in the South Pacific, the most well-known destinations being Bora Bora and Moorea. If you hear paradise calling your name, but aren’t sure which island is best suited to your needs, don’t worry. This ultimate Bora Bora and Moorea travel guide will explain the difference between these two islands. It’ll also help you decide where to stay, what to do, and how to get to both.
The Ultimate Bora Bora and Moorea Travel Guide
I’m not going to lie — planning a trip to French Polynesia can be overwhelming. For starters, it’s not the most budget-friendly destination. So if you’re planning on spending a few days in paradise, you’ll want to make sure it’s worth your while. Instead of island hopping for most of your trip, you’ll most likely want to soak as much of that slow, laid-back, tropical island vibes. But before we decide between Bora Bora and Moorea, or how much time you should spend at either, there are a few things you need to know before your arrival.
Before you board your flight from the United States to Faa’a International Airport in Tahiti, you need proof of a negative RT-PCR test carried out within 3-days prior to your departure. Here’s a list of approved tests provided by the Tahiti tourism board. You also need to fill out a health registration form prior to boarding your flight. Additionally, all travelers need to complete a self-test 4-days after their arrival in French Polynesia.
Bora Bora and Moorea: Which One Should You Visit?
Whether you’re choosing between Bora Bora and Moorea, or simply curious about how much time to spend on either, here’s what you need to know about both destinations before making any decisions.
Bora Bora is for you if you’re…
- Seeking a more luxurious (and therefore expensive) getaway
- Embarking on a honeymoon or romantic trip
- Searching for dramatic landscapes
- Looking for more downtime and less adventure
Moorea is for you if you’re…
- Short on time and want to get the most bang for your buck
- On a tighter budget
- Up for more physical activities like hiking
- Interested in French Polynesian and local culture
Now that you have a general idea of what to expect from either Bora Bora or Moorea, let’s get into the nitty-gritty details.
How to Get from Tahiti to Bora Bora
Since Bora Bora is slightly more remote than Moorea, you need to take a 50-minute long flight from Tahiti via Air Tahiti. But the journey doesn’t end there. Once you land at the airport in Bora Bora, you’ll embark on a boat ride either to your hotel or the central island of Vaitape. If you’re staying at a luxury 5-star resort, these high-end hotels will have dedicated boats for guests who request their transportation services. Otherwise, there is a free Air Tahiti boat shuttle to Vaitape, where you’ll find more budget-friendly accommodations. Flights from Tahiti to Bora Bora costs an average of $150 each way, making Bora Bora a not-so-budget-friendly destination.
How to Get from Tahiti to Moorea
If time is of the essence and budget is an important factor, Moorea will most definitely suit your style. Although Moorea isn’t as frequented as Bora Bora, it’s easily accessible to travelers. From Faa’a International Airport (PPT), you’ll need to take a taxi to the ferry dock. The 20-minute ride should cost you approximately $22 USD. Next, you’ll want to purchase a roundtrip ferry ticket from Tahiti to Moorea, which will cost you approximately $30 USD. Once you arrive at the dock in Moorea, you can take a taxi, shuttle or hotel provided transportation to your accommodation. Plan to spend approximately $100 USD to get to and from Tahiti and Moorea, which is significantly less than the cost of getting to Bora Bora.
How to Get from Bora Bora to Moorea and Moorea to Bora Bora
For those who plan on visiting both Bora Bora and Moorea, here’s how you can get from one destination to the other. From Bora Bora, you’ll want to board a flight with Air Tahiti to the Faa’a International Airport (PPT) before taking the ferry to Moorea. But, if you’d like to visit Moorea before heading to Bora Bora, you can board a plane directly from Moorea to Bora Bora via Air Tahiti for approximately $266 USD.
Where to Stay in Bora Bora
Now that you know how to get from either Tahiti or Moorea to Bora Bora, let’s talk about where you should stay during your trip. Since Bora Bora is for relaxing and simply basking in the dramatic landscape, I suggest booking one resort and sticking to it instead of hopping around.
The Four Seasons Bora Bora is a bucket list destination all on its own. I spent a week here and it did not disappoint! Every room at the Four Seasons has one goal in mind: to deeply immerse you in Bora Bora’s postcard-perfect views. Since each room at the Four Season is an overwater bungalow, your decision boils down to:
- Do you want a view of the mountain, lagoon, or beach?
- Or do you want a room with a private plunge pool? And if so, would you rather have a mountain or lagoon view?
The average cost per night at the Four Seasons Bora Bora is $1500 USD. And of course, that price might move up or down depending on the time of year, as well as your selection of views and amenities.
Another popular option, especially amongst honeymooners, is the InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso. Similar to the Four Seasons Bora Bora, every room takes the opportunity to show off the surrounding beauty. From glass floors to bathtubs with a view, travelers have 4 types of one-bedroom overwater bungalow rooms to choose from:
- Emerald – which gives you a view of the resort
- Or Sapphire, Diamond, and Diamond Otemanu – which gives you views of the main island and progressively better views of Mount Otemanu (with Diamond Otemanu giving you the most pristine views).
There are also options for rooms with private pools, or the more imposing Brando Suite, which includes 2 floors, 2 bedrooms, and a private infinity pool. Travelers can expect to pay an average of $1000 USD per night at the InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso
Located on the quieter side of Bora Bora, the St. Regis gives travelers the opportunity to stay directly across the lagoon from Mount Otemanu. Here, you’ll have the option of staying in either an overwater bungalow or a slightly more affordable garden villa.
- Garden Villa – Garden villas come with a large, lounge area, a separate bedroom, and a large bathroom with his and her sinks. Travelers can expect to spend $600 USD per night for a Garden villa.
- Overwater Villa – Although the overwater villas save on interior space, it also encourages guests to spend more time soaking in the sun or swimming in the ocean. These overwater villas feature standard amenities like a smaller lounge area, bedroom, and bathroom with his and her sinks. Guests can expect to spend an average of $1430 USD per night.
For travelers on a tighter budget, the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana can be booked for under $500 USD per night depending on the time of year. The sister property of the InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso, Le Moana is located on the main island just 5 miles south of Viatape. Le Moana definitely doesn’t feel as luxurious as any of the resorts I mentioned above, but it’ll still give travelers the opportunity to experience Bora Bora’s pristine beaches and azure waters.
What to do in Bora Bora
Bora Bora is best enjoyed from the comfort of your resort. Spend the day lounging at Matria Beach with a book or cocktail in hand. Or rent snorkel equipment from your hotel and spend the day exploring Bora Bora’s marine life. Many of the resorts also provide kayaks and canoes for guests to rent. But if you’re looking for something slightly more adventures, consider…
- A 4×4 Excursion – if you need a break from resort life, explore Bora Bora with a 4×4 tour.
- Tour the Coral Gardens – book a guided tour of the Coral Gardens, where you’ll observe sea life such as moray eels, stingrays, and blacktip reef sharks.
- Go on a boat tour – what’s better than a glass-bottom boat tour of these crystal clear waters? Explore Bora Bora’s waters with a private boat excursion and leave snorkeling for another day.
- Visit Mount Otemanu – one of two peaks of an extinct volcano, Mount Otemanu rises 2,400 feet above the lagoon, making for a dramatic, picturesque landscape. If you aren’t up for a hike, you can explore Mount Otemanu from a 4×4, boat, or helicopter tour.
- Explore Viatape – the main town Bora Bora features little eateries and souvenir shops. Spend a day exploring Bora Bora’s food scene or simply find a souvenir or two to bring home.
Where to Eat in Bora Bora
You can count on good views, great beaches, and the freshest seafood when you find yourself in a tropical paradise such as Bora Bora. For those who simply want to unwind on a vacation with minimal effort, the resorts I mentioned above have on-site restaurants that’ll get you through your trip. However, if you’re hoping to venture off-property for some delicious meals, here are some restaurants to check out around Bora Bora:
- La Villa Mahana – think freshly caught fish covered or topped with a dollop of flavorful cream, carefully displayed for your viewing pleasure. The saying is true at La Villa Mahana — you eat with your eyes first — and the meal definitely doesn’t disappoint.
- Lucky House Fare Manuia – located near Matira beach, this restaurant is a budget-friendly option compared to resort dining. The specialty here is their delicious brick-oven cooked pizzas, which would run you $17 USD per pie. The also restaurant specializes in Chinese and French cooking with an island twist.
- Le Matira Beach Restaurant – the contrast between the restaurant’s wood interiors against the turquoise blue ocean is truly a sight you will never forget. Le Matira Beach Restaurant is the perfect place for a casual lunch or romantic dinner, featuring Japanese, seafood, and Polynesian bites.
Where to Stay in Moorea
If you’re traveling to French Polynesia on a budget, you’ll find Moorea to be the better option. Although you’ll find luxury accommodations, you’ll also find many affordable hotels and Airbnbs. Since Moorea is a small, quiet island, you’ll have access to its stunning beaches no matter where you end up booking your stay.
These luxurious overwater bungalows are a great alternative to Bora Bora’s resorts and price tags. The Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa has everything you need for the ultimate paradise getaway. From endless snorkeling opportunities, meals at their on-site restaurant, and a variety of spa treatments, you’ll have no reason to leave the resort. Additionally, you’ll have the option of staying on land if you’re traveling on a tighter budget. But if you’re opting for an overwater bungalow, here are 3 types of rooms you can choose from:
- The King overwater bungalow – closest to the shore
- King panoramic overwater bungalow – further out over the lagoon
- And the King premium panoramic overwater bungalow – unobstructed views
Prices for an overwater bungalow start at $750 USD per night. But if you’re fine with a room on land, you can expect to spend an average of $400 USD per night.
With 2 on-site restaurants, 2 bars, an outdoor infinity pool, and a luxurious on-site spa, the Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort is another luxurious hotel worth staying at. Like the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa, the Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea offers guests the option between on-land accommodations (garden or beach bungalows) or staying in the classic French Polynesian overwater bungalow. Here’s a breakdown of their on-land room pricing:
- Garden view bungalow – start at $560 USD per night
- Beach bungalow – start at $790 USD per night
If you’re looking for the overwater bungalow experience at the Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort, you have 4 different options available:
- Luxury overwater bungalow – start at $767 USD per night
- Super horizon overwater bungalow – start at $800 USD per night
- Super overwater bungalow – start at $890 USD per night
- Luxury horizon overwater bungalow – start at $990 USD per night
Best Airbnbs in Moorea
If you’d like to save more on accommodations, consider staying at an Airbnb. Unlike Bora Bora, Moorea gives guests the option of more unique and affordable accommodations that aren’t associated with resort chains.
This gorgeous lagoon front villa will run you $685 USD per night but it comes with 4 air conditioned bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. This is a terrific, budget-friendly option if you’re traveling with a large group. This Airbnb is designed with touches that honor and pays tribute to Polynesian culture. And the hosts also provides a complimentary kayak for guests to use if they choose to explore the nearby lagoon, its coral, and the colorful fishes that call it home.
One of the best budget-friendly tips when visiting French Polynesia is to cook your own food! Since resort restaurant prices are exorbitant, cooking is a quick and easy way to save a few dollars. Which makes opting for an Airbnb a more reasonable option. This Airbnb from Enjoy Villas comes equipped with a living room, 2 bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a full kitchen. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, the property’s terrace includes an infinity pool, wooden deck, an outdoor dining area, private garden, and access to a small private beach and lagoon. This Airbnb will run you $568 USD per night, which is around the same price range as the Sofitel and Hilton on-land rooms.
For utmost convenience, this Airbnb is located within walking distance of a supermarket in the heart of Maharepa, the main village of Moorea. This Airbnb comes with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a full kitchen, billiards room, and an outdoor pool area that faces the lagoon. The hosts also provide guests with 2 complementary single-seat kayaks, a ping pong table, a foosball table, and charcoal barbecues, making it the perfect accommodation for a group getaway. At $356 USD per night, this Airbnb is the most affordable option on this entire list.
What to do in Moorea
An important factor between your decision of Bora Bora and Moorea is the type of activities you’re interested in. Whereas Bora Bora is better suited for relaxation, Moorea is for adventurers and explorers who demand a little more than a beach day. So pack your hiking boots and your swimsuit, here are some activities you can expect from Moorea:
- Snorkel with majestic humpback whales – there are only a handful of places on earth where this dream is a tangible reality. The months between July and October are prime whale-watching season so suit up, and dive in! Just be sure to choose a reputable and ethical tour company.
- Go snorkeling – ask anyone who has been to both Moorea and Bora Bora and they’ll tell you that the former offers a better snorkeling experience. In fact, the lagoon at the Hilton Moorea is one of the best places to immerse yourself in French Polynesia’s marine life.
- Go hiking – Moorea has a number of beautiful hiking trails. Whether you’re chasing waterfalls or searching for panoramic views, there’s a trail suitable for every hiker.
- Shop for rare Tahitian pearls – these naturally dark and opulent pearls can only be found in French Polynesia. They’re highly sought after for their dark, bold, and kaleidoscopic colors that form naturally, unlike freshwater pearls that are dyed by humans.
- See a culture show – one of the perks of staying and dining at a resort is watching a culture show that’s scheduled during one of your meals. Grab a drink, watch the dancing, and embrace the music. This is a must, at least once, during any trip to French Polynesia.
Where to Eat in Moorea
From light fares to indulgent dinners, here are some of the best places to eat in Moorea that isn’t your resort’s breakfast buffet:
- Le Coco D’isle – While their burgers are average, Le Coco D’isle serves up some seriously fresh seafood. Order the grilled shrimp with garlic and parsley, and pair it with a strong pina colada.
- La Paillote – this humble little eatery is located right across from Le Coco D’isle. It is also home to one of Moorea’s best chicken dishes. Order their juicy roasted chicken with thin-cut fries. And if you’re ready for dessert, indulge in a Nutella crepe. Don’t let the prices fool you! Although it is significantly cheaper than the other restaurants you’ll find in Moorea, the food is high-quality and oh-so-delicious.
- Le Lezard Jaune – on a mission to find the best Poisson cru? Look no further. Le Lezard Jaune serves up a large, delicious portion of Poisson cru so arrive with an empty stomach, and don’t forget to take your leftovers with you!
Team Bora Bora or Team Moorea?
When it comes to French Polynesia, it’s normal for travelers to want to have it all. Why choose between Bora Bora and Moorea if you can have both? But if you have limited time or you’re on a tighter budget, you might be doing yourself a disservice by hopping between destinations. Instead, slow it down and pick the destination that speaks to your version of paradise. Whether that’s sipping on cocktails and lazing on white sandy beaches, or having a variety of activities to choose from and the perk of affordability — this Bora Bora and Moorea travel guide will help you make the best decision for your getaway.