Last year I had to overcome several large challenging surgeries and I was in desperate need to transition from patient to companion again with my husband. So earlier this year he surprised me with a birthday trip to somewhere I’ve always dreamed of visiting, Bora Bora. It's one of the few places in the world I had believed would be best taken as a couple and not with kids. After all, it's known as the “romantic island” with its gorgeous lagoons, overwater bungalows and romantic views. But I was SO surprised how kid friendly this beautiful island was and someday I hope to take the kids back there! Although I’d have to admit it was quite nice having it be just us this time around.
We arrived on this small French Polynesian island in early March, right at the beginning of the pandemic, before quarantines and masks became a daily way of living. Needless to say the entire island was a ghost town. It was almost eerie walking around a huge resort with only a couple of people. But on the plus side we were able to explore the entire island with ease. Most importantly we felt safe and welcomed. So if you're at home planning your next vacation, with or without kids, here are our top 8 recommendations for things to do on the exotic island of Bora Bora.
1. Take a boat tour around the lagoon
You traveled so far to see these turquoise waters you might as well take a dip! The half day or full day boat tours around the lagoon are the BEST way to see the entire island. You’ll make some incredible snorkel stops such as visiting the manta Rays, eagle rays, coral gardens, sharks or aquarium. Tours usually include pick up at your resort and refreshments or lunch. We recommend half day tours for families so that you can still see the highlights and have the rest of the day to let the kids get their wiggles out back on shore. If you have more stamina try the full day tour and make a day of it! We loved doing this tour at the beginning of our trip because it gave you the opportunity to go back and see highlights you loved!
2. Visit the Turtle Center
This is a fantastic stop for any age! The Turtle Center is a non profit rehabilitation center located at the Le Meridien Resort. After a brief educational presentation about turtles and their conservation efforts, the team will take you back to feed them! The turtles at the center are being medically treated for injuries or kept if they are not able to return to the wild. All donations go direction to the turtle center. We adored watching the little babies swim around and rest their flippers on their backs when they were tired. So cute! The center also has a touch pool, museum and other ways to participate to help the turtles. As a bonus, the Le Meridian has the best view on the entire island of Otemanu, a must see, so get your cameras ready!
3. Explore the Coral Gardens
Our absolute favorite snorkel spot on the entire island is the coral gardens! If you’ve ever wanted to live your Little Mermaid dreams, look no further. The crystal clear waters are fairytale level and the colors are beyond imagination. Only accessible by boat, we recommend taking a guided excursion to this site as currents can be tricky here since its located near an outlet to the open sea. We went in the morning and it was very calm! As soon as I jumped in I was surrounded by butterfly fish who happily followed me for a while, only adding to my mermaid dreams! The vibrant reef is amazing to behold but please please remember to only look and be aware of your fins. Corals are so fragile taking hundreds of years to grow and our passion is to have all future generations get a chance to witness this beauty.
4. Take a sunset dinner cruise
Ok, so this one is more for couples, after all this is "the romantic island" but many resorts offer daycare for families. Cuddle up on a catamaran through the lagoon or take a sunset boat cruise to dinner! On our cruise we enjoyed pick up from our hotel, live music onboard and a 3 course dinner at the famous Saint James Restaurant. Needless to say it ended up being an adventure with a flash rainstorm while sailing, but the crew was very helpful and kept the mood going. After all this is still the tropics and rain is a huge part of that. We just had to laugh, grab a ukulele and join in with the singing in the rain, literally.
5. Snorkel in The Aquarium
The aquarium is a natural snorkeling spot located near Motu Pitiuu Uta. Float along the white sands as huge round pillars of corals appear as if out of nowhere. Take a photo in some of the iconic underwater phrases found throughout this area. Great for families or couples, you’ll see butterfly fish, rays, tangs, clams, trumpet fish, pufferfish, parrotfish and other beautifully colorful fish.
6. Relax on Matira Beach
Bora Bora’s largest and most beautiful beach is Matira Beach. Located near the southern tip of the island, it's the perfect place to spend the day, grab a bite to eat at the local restaurants and relax on the white sands. After all, paradise is about slowing down and enjoying the surroundings. The sea bottom here is sandy, free of sharp corals, which makes these calm shallow waters perfect for kids! Later in the day, watch the romantic sunset over the horizon at Matira Point.
7. Take a bike ride around the island
There's no need to rent a car on this small single lane island road. Most visitors tend to get around via taxi or scooter but a fan favorite is to rent a bike and enjoy the sights, culture and taste that Bora Bora has to offer! Visit the shops in Vaitape, buy a world famous Tahitian Black Pearl or see one of the towns main attractions, such as Paroisse Saint Pierre-Celestin Church. Take a scenic picture at Vaiotaha Point. Then cool off with a refreshing island drink at the famous Bloody Mary's Restaurant. Instead of opting for bikes, families may find it easier to rent an electric buggy, grab an ice cream and cruise around at their own pace.
Bora Bora is one of the top dive sites in the world and many companies offer introduction to scuba tours if you are not PADI certified. If you've ever considered scuba this is the best time to try! They will walk you through everything and the guide will be by your side the whole time. The shallow clear water is a wonderland to view with your own eyes! Visit the large Napoleon wrasse at Miri Miri, the graceful manta rays at Anau, incredible corals at Haapiti, or adorable clown fish at Toopua. If you're not quite up for diving yet, there are Aquabikes or Aqua Safari where you can ride along the sea floor on an under water bike or wear a helmet without ever getting your face wet!
We are big planners and prefer to book things ahead of time but leave a few days open because you will find cheaper tour prices at the Visitor Center, located right off the docks when you first arrive in Vaitape.
Whether traveling as a family or a romantic getaway, you won't be disappointed by the lush mountains, white sands and turquoise waters of this island. Bora Bora has so much to offer and is waiting for you to experience it!
Aloha and happy travels,