Hello friends. Sorry I know it’s been too long. August got away from me and before I knew it, it’s been not one, but several weeks since my last post. I feel like I fall off my routine about this time every summer. Maybe next year I should just take August off!
Lots has been happening here- my youngest, Griffin, went back to college to begin his sophomore year in Utah and Max and I took a trip to Bora Bora for a week to celebrate our 25th anniversary. I wasn’t sure about going so far during this pandemic, but Max has always wanted to go, so we took the plunge and I’m so glad we did. It was a lot of fun and very different than going to Hawaii, which is my usual vacation favorite.
A little back information for those considering going.. Bora Bora is one of the islands of French Polynesia, where French and Tahitian culture and language are predominant. It’s a little like traveling to tropical France with the lovely Tahitian culture too. There is an emphasis on excellence in food and service, no matter where you go, thanks to the French influence.
I would say this kind of holiday is very much a check out kind of trip. Unlike Hawaii, you don’t need a car and you’re basically on a small dreamy island (or actually a series of islands called motus, connected by bridges) for the whole vacation.
To get there, you fly into Papeete, where Tahiti’s main airport is. We flew from San Francisco International on United. The flight took eight hours and we did a daytime flight leaving at 1:00 and arriving just around 6:30 p.m. (The time is three hours earlier than Pacific.) You can also do a red eye. If you do the daytime flight there, you need to stay a night in Papeete, and then take the easy 50 minute flight to Bora Bora in the morning.
If you choose the red eye, you arrive in the morning and go straight on to Bora Bora, so that is something to consider. We opted for United for cost and it worked with the days we booked better. We had some points and were able to get an upgrade to business, which is great for this longer flight. (The way back we flew the overnight and it was easy landing in SFO at around 8:30 a.m.)
Once there, we chose to stay right by the airport at the Intercontinental, which was less than a five minute ride, convenient and also pretty- set on the water. We had time to have a light dinner at the Tiki Bar there, and crash. In the morning we enjoyed a little stroll along the water, had a quick poolside breakfast, and headed to the airport. The hotel has a driver to pick you up at the airport and drop you, so it’s really convenient.
I am a bit of a nervous flyer, but I actually enjoyed the trip on Tahiti Air to Bora Bora. You can see so much of the islands and the beautiful coral reefs from the air. If you are staying in an overwater bungalow type of experience, the hotels wait to whisk people away on boats to their hotels. There are several hotels that have overwater bungalows. The hotel we chose was The St Regis, based on friend’s recommendation. It was one of the first built here and it has the largest bungalows and the most beautiful views. You also have your own butler who will arrange and do everything for you and check in with you daily to see what you need.
There are many packages, but most come with a breakfast and dinner included. Each hotel is like an island essentially, and you stay there unless you decide to do excursions out, so eating there is part of the whole experience. The St Regis has a beautiful spot to have breakfast over the beach and every breakfast comes with the most wonderful croissants, breads, jams, fruit of the day, yogurt and smoothie besides what you order.
For dinner you can choose to go to a Jean George restaurant called Lagoon, an Italian,or Japanese restaurant or the regular grill. It’s all the same cost, and fun. Some nights there were theme dining in the main restaurant. Lunch is not included, but we often split a sandwich or salad if we felt hungry. All the food was fantastic. Also there is a bar, and a swim-up bar in one of the pools. Of course we tried it and it sounds cooler than it really is. You drink gets wet and your butt gets cold! LOL.
So what to do on an island for seven days? There is a lot. A typical day for us was to order a pot of coffee (part of the service), and sit on our deck in our robes and watch the sun rise. The time is three hours earlier than California, so we took a few days to get adjusted, but it wasn’t bad.
After coffee, we’d grab our cruiser bikes that came with the bungalow and bike to breakfast.
After we stuffed ourselves with homemade croissants and lavender apricot jam, and tons of tropical fruit, we’d find a spot we wanted on the beach, (never an issue) maybe paddle board, kayak around the islands or snorkel (there’s a huge lagoonarium), take a bike ride around the property or read our books. Some time in the afternoon, we’d go back to our place and spend some hours on our dock, jumping out to swim and watching the fish. We also played tennis on the grass court, and did a massages at the lovely spa one afternoon.
View from the spa.. biking about
The decks off the villas have a table to eat at, two lounge chairs and also a lower deck to dive or jump off into the water. We saw turtles and rays and so many cool fish. The way the villas are built you don’t really notice the other bungalows nearby.
The second day we were at the resort, French Polynesia went into a two week lockdown. That prevented us from doing a snorkel trip, so I can’t report on that or the excursion to the main town we were considering. Still, we felt the days flew by and were for us, perfect.
We like a balance of activities and chill time. I would say most of the people there were couples on honeymoons, anniversary trips (one on their 50th!) and a few with a new baby. We only saw one family there and I believe they were staying in a larger house on the property. We talked about it and we wouldn’t bring young kids only because they would want a lot more activity, and less fancy food. Young adults to share one of the bigger houses might be an option here. It’s not the cheapest vacation, so for us and many others it’s a splurge and why I think there are less families. Know that certain times of the year are much more affordable and at the holidays the cost is a lot more. We were lucky to book this when we did.
The resort said it was at capacity, but we think it was Covid capacity because it never, ever seemed crowded to us. We chatted with so many nice people from all over. There were a lot from the states, Canada and some from France. Many had been before and were returning. More than a few said they had been to the other resorts in Bora Bora and came back to the St Regis, so that was good to know.
A few others had added small trips to Moorea before or after this trip. Moorea has some amazing snorkeling along coral reefs, so it’s another option to consider, as are a few days in Tahiti. This article by CNN Traveler has many of the other islands of French Polynesia and some pretty hotel choices too.
I have been asked about the language. Everyone speaks English and also Tahitian and French! Our resort was great using the Tahitian thank you, ‘maruru’ and ‘la orana’ for hello, which you will learn if you visit. (We also has some fun cultural things during the time there and learned how to bust open our own coconut, make coconut milk and weave from a local gentleman we adored named Mike.)
As far as traveling during Covid, you just do a PCR test at your airport 72 hours before flying. When you land in Tahiti, they ask to see your test and we showed our vaccination cards. They then give you another self test to take when you check into your hotel and turn in to the desk the next morning. When you leave to go back to the United States, you must test at the airport and wait 30 minutes for the result before you can board your plane. All went pretty seamlessly for us, fortunately. Our hotel required masks in communal places and when out and about. At the beach and when eating at your table you can remove them. The St Regis obviously had a lot of cleaning protocols in place too.
What I packed- as usual too much! You really will only need to swimsuits, coverups, swim shirts with UPF, sunscreen, clothes for dinner, and breakfast, and a light jacket for the plane. What I brought and didn’t wear were jeans, pants, and way too many sandals.
The ideal suitcase for a week would have:
- 3 swimsuits
- 3-4 coverups most people wear that and a swimsuit to breakfast and lunch)
- 1 shirt with sunscreen or UPF ( I love this longer one ,also below)
- UPF blanket/wrap to lay on your legs or shoulders when you have had enough sun. I take mine all over. Love it.
- 3-4 shorts, two nice, and one sporty.
- 4 shirts. My favorite was from Johnny Was (below)
- 4 Sundresses or caftans or tunics for dinner. ( Dressy shorts can be an option with a pretty top.)
- 1 long sleeve shirt for the plane, and a black and also a white tank.
- Tevas or water shoes (my tevas worked great for biking all over)
- 1-2 pairs of nicer sandals for dinners
- Pjs or nighty
- If you want to play tennis, sneakers are good
- 1 larger light scarf that can do double-duty as a wrap at night as well as warmth on the flight
- 1 hat (I brought a hat with a cord which was great for staying on me during bike rides.)
- Lots of books. The airports and gift shops have no magazines or books here so bring what you need.
- A medication bag with Advil, benedryl, tums, etc as they aren’t as easily gotten on these islands
- A Travel Adapter – we have one like this .
- Sunscreens! We brought 3 bottles and used up two. There are sunscreens at the beach desk to use too.
- Readers and it’s nice to have sunglass readers. I have these.
- Masks! Though our hotel gave us a lovely one made in the islands, and some portable sanitzer.
Below a few essentials for this kind of getaway..
La Blanca Goddess One-Shoulder Suit, Robin Piccone White Cover-up, Elan Striped Cover-Up Romper, Carve Design Beach Tunic (I love this so much and it’s marked down here I might buy a second), Teva Verra Sandal, Jacinto Straw Hat with Cord, Tula Lattice Ranch Hat, Seaside Short, Petra Embroidered Dress/Coverup, Breezy Midi-Dress, Two Palms Linen Raw Edge Jacket (best jacket ever), Johnny Was Slip Nightgown (so soft and can double as a dress), Belize Print Blouse ( This blouse was my favorite thing I brought – recommended to me by a sales lady at Johnny Was. Doesn’t wrinkle, feels light and pretty and can be dressed up or go with shorts too.), Lastly my little ClaireV bag I took on the bike and for evenings out too.
I have missed international travel during the past year and a half and I felt so lucky to do this. Without the Covid vaccine, I would not have felt safe enough to go. Many friends have also ventured to far-flung places this year- with no issues thankfully. I do hope more people are getting vaxxed. This past week has been a huge increase in vaccinations in the U.S. If we can keep that up, we can maybe get back to normal. If not, more variants are likely to happen and more living life in masks.
Thanks for following along and I would love to answer any questions about travel to Bora Bora and also love to hear any tips for French Polynesia travel from others that have been!
Thanks for coming along!
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