Bora Bora: Tahiti’s Crown Jewel
Escape to French Polynesia's storied tropical paradise.
All islands have a certain mythic mystique. Isolated, enigmatic, they beg to be explored, or to be mined for storytelling — see Fantasy Island, The Blue Lagoon, Cast Away and countless other shows and movies for proof. The fascination with tropical paradise knows no bounds, and there’s no better synonym for said paradise than Bora Bora.
Called Pora pora mai te pora (“created by the gods”) in ancient times, Bora Bora is northwest of Tahiti in French Polynesia. Actually, the letter B doesn’t exist in the Tahitian language: when Dutch explorer Jakob Roggeveen landed on the isle in 1722 he misheard the two words. The island was a Polynesian kingdom until the French took over in 1888. In World War II the United States used it as a supply and seaplane base, storing upwards of 20,000 tons of equipment and housing some 7,000 men; the base was closed in 1946. In the 1960s the overwater bungalow concept was born here, and a great way to experience that form of heaven is at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui hotel, where the bungalows were refurbished in 2017.
A nine-hour flight from SFO lands you in a turquoise aquatic playground featuring every imaginable toy. Guests at the Conrad, considered the crown jewel of the Hilton brand, have access to guided jet-skiing, sailing, paddleboarding, snorkeling and sight- seeing tours. Other adventures include glass-bottom-boat trips, fishing and South Pacific scuba diving. While the abundant ocean life includes over 150 species of coral, 1,000 species of fish, and even sharks, none of these are considered dangerous to humans. That peace of mind continues on shore: the insects and snakes here are not poisonous, and the Conrad’s private white sand beach is the island’s longest, stretching over half a mile. For those more interested in having muscles moved for them than in doing it themselves, there’s the Hina Spa: seven bungalows and an open-air treatment space atop a verdant slope with a lagoon view called, appropriately, the Hina View.
In spite of its small size, the Conrad Bora Bora Nui boasts six dining options spanning all corners of the globe. A casual choice, the Upa Upa Lounge opens with mid-afternoon tea service and French pastries, offers a selection of a wide selection of sushi, live music in the evenings, plus glass floors to view schools of fish swimming underneath. For a romantic evening, the open air Iriatai (meaning “horizon”) features innovative French cuisine. Of course, no utopia is complete without a swim-up bar. Tarava flanks the property’s vast infinity pool and doesn’t disappoint.
NOT TO MISS
A five-minute boat ride away is Motu Tapu, the most photographed islet in the South Pacific and home to what was once the private beach of Polynesian Queen Pomare IV. Today it’s exclusively for Conrad guests. You can book trips to explore the beaches, have private lunches, or launch from here to go snorkeling or stingray viewing.
Unlike the other resorts that are located on the main island in Bora Bora, the Conrad rests on a private cove off the coast on Motu To’opua. This position yields many benefits, like Mount Otemanu as stunning scenery and sweeping sunset views from all the rooms. Additionally, every villa has a wall-to-wall sliding door, large deck, customizable pillow menu and bluetooth capabilities that allow you to play music both inside the main living area, the bathroom and outside. The two Presidential villas onsite are among the only two-story overwater bungalows found in Tahiti.