As Bora Bora is very well-known and sometimes criticised for its inordinate number of hotels (even though there are only fifteen or so on the main island and motus), it could be taken for the Venice of tropical islands: its hotels are beautiful and the natural setting is superb. The enchanting, green island rises high out of the superb blue lagoon encircling it, while the hotels blend in with the surroundings (like in Venice) and make for a superb holiday destination. As this kind of holiday comes at a price, the Moana, which is next to Matira beach on the main island, is to be recommended for its pleasant accommodation and traditional, friendly atmosphere. Indeed, it is the ideal starting point to explore the whole of the island of Bora Bora.
This hotel review is a translation from the French published on our French site Easyvoyage.com.
The Moana is located by the sea, on Matira Point beach, about 4 mi from Vaitape and 7 mi from Motu Mute, where the airport is located. A boat makes direct transfers to the airport from the hotel (a 20 minute journey),
but because these direct transfers are expensive at ?42 per person for a return trip, we preferred the option of taking the shuttle (free if you have just got off the plane) from the airport to Vaitape harbour (15 minutes away). From there, you can take a taxi to Matira point for ?13. You can also make the return journey by boat and taxi, with the free shuttle leaving Vaitape harbour an hour and a quarter before flights take off (timetables are displayed at the harbour).
The beach at Matira Point is the only white sand beach on the main island of Bora Bora. An unequipped section is open to everyone, but the rest of the beach is taken up by hotel deckchairs.
A boat provides a free shuttle between Moana and Thalasso, which both belong to Intercontinental. Guests at the Moana can hop on board (for free) to go there for a drink, head for the thalasso centre, enjoy lunch or dinner, or test the water of the pool or the sea at this fine hotel on Motu Tape.
Of the two accommodation categories, bungalows on stilts and beach bungalows, we preferred the beach bungalows. Although they do not have the direct access to the lagoon enjoyed by the bungalows on stilts, their wooden terrace offers the unique charm of being surrounded by tropical trees and it looks straight out onto the beach, with no neighbouring buildings in sight, thanks to the scaled positioning of the bungalows. Something for families to bear in mind is that all the bungalows can sleep 3 people, and children under 15 years of age stay for free.
Prices and reservations on www.intercontinental.com.
The hotels on Bora Bora are traditionally built structures, which, a few years down the line retain their simplicity of design. Local wood plays a big part in their construction, with bamboo marrow covering the outer walls, varnished wood parquet flooring, and pandanus wood roofing. The Moana, which was built in this way in 1988 and extended in 2006, has its communal areas housed under a series of traditional buildings known locally as 'fares' which are mostly open to the outside. The reception area leads through to the lounge area, followed by the restaurant and bar (happy hour is from 5:00pm to 6:00pm, when two of the same drinks are sold for the price of one). Outside, in a recess close to the 'fare' that contains the bar, is a swimming pool, which is almost an unnecessary luxury given that the transparent waters of Bora Bora lagoon beat all the swimming pools in the world combined! However, it is nice to take a risk-free dip in this small pool after dark. The 40 ft swimming pool is actually the same size as the pool you would expect to find in a private villa, so it is just as well that the hotel only has about 60 rooms. There is also a sun terrace with deckchairs and parasols around half of the pool, but the beach is more pleasant because it is just as well equipped and even more spacious.
All of the 64 rooms are in bungalows, 14 of which are in the 'beach' category and located between the two pontoons leading out to the bungalows on stilts. They therefore overlook some of these stilt bungalows, but particularly the extraordinary turquoise colour of the lagoon. A number of islets can also be seen out towards the coral reef. The largest and furthest away is Motu Piti Aau, of which only the tip, Tupitipiti point, is visible from the hotel. The bungalows on stilts are unevenly spread out between the two pontoons, with three quarters of the 50 'stilt' bungalows on the main pontoon (opposite the restaurant 'fare') and the remaining ten or so on the other pontoon, which is at the end of the beach bungalow area. If you are in a bungalow on stilts, you might be lucky enough to stay in a 'lagoon' bungalow looking out towards the beach, where the hotel buildings are hidden amid the green and almost untouched vegetation of Bora Bora island. In our opinion, it offers you a superb panoramic view. The other category of bungalow on stilts is dubbed the 'horizon'. Bungalows in this category are located at the end of the pontoon and look out towards the coral reef and the ocean, making you feel like you are on a desert island. The 4 'white villas' are the more luxurious 'horizon bungalows' with four-poster beds and a higher level of service. They are sold for 3 nights minimum in a preferential package for couples celebrating their honeymoon or wedding anniversary. An interesting anecdote: the bungalows on stilts have a little underwater coral garden under the glass table in the lounge, which can be slid partly open to be able to feed the lagoon fish. As for the rooms, they are very well equipped and include air conditioning and a ceiling fan, a flat screen television, a telephone, a minibar and tea and coffee-making facilities (with complementary sachets). The bathrooms are stylish and traditional (varnished wood, a tilted mirror and a dressing table), and have a bathtub, a separate shower, a hair-dryer, dressing gowns and 20ml of Intercontinental hospitality products.
The restaurant, Noa Noa (which translates as 'strongly scented' in Tahitian in recognition of the tiare flower common throughout Polynesia) is in a 'fare' which overlooks the garden leading to the reception on one side and the beach and lagoon on the other. The atmosphere is convivial at breakfast time and more intimate at dinner. Better still, the breakfast buffet is piled high with baked beans, sausages, omelettes on request, cold meats, yoghurts, pieces of fresh fruit, pastries and bread rolls. There is also a Japanese section with white rice and miso soup. Espresso coffee packets and teabags are also set out on the buffet. There is no fresh fruit juice, but in Polynesia the fresh juice is based on pineapple juice and, when it comes down to it, is no better than what you get in a carton. A buffet is served 3 evenings a week with Polynesian dancers and musicians providing the entertainment. The other evenings, dinner is chosen 'a la carte'. Of the Polynesian specialities, try the Tahitian raw fish or the grilled mahi-mahi (sea bream). There are also meat dishes like pork filet mignon with prawns and dried fruit. Be aware that the dishes cost at least ?25, and it would be a pity to limit yourself to pasta (?14) in such surroundings. Lunch is based on the dishes from the dinner menu and is served outside at tables under parasols next to the lagoon. If you can afford it, go to the Thalasso for lunch or dinner (free shuttle), and if you want to try one of the little local restaurants, you will need to leave the hotel. The Bounty, a pizzeria very popular among the locals (prices around ?12), is a 10-minute walk towards Mount Otemanu.
The Moana looks onto a superb beach of fine white sand that is naturally present on the beach and in the water. There is coral in the lagoon (which means there are also stonefish). Since you can see where you are treading in the daytime, you can get around this problem by wearing plastic sandals (or rubber slippers) that come in handy in Polynesia. Bathing in this lagoon at sunrise is an extraordinary experience, with the water temperature the same as the air temperature, between 25 and 28°C, depending on the season. Make the most of this heavenly experience between 5:00am (for early birds) and 7:00am, when the sun begins to beat down mercilessly. As the hotel flanks a considerable portion of the coast, its private beach is 2,000 ft long and 160 ft wide. On it, you will find a host of laminated canvas deckchairs set out under well-spaced straw huts, which is nice to see. However, the beach at the Moana lacks the cachet of exclusivity and privilege enjoyed by the Thalasso (less luxurious facilities and a view over the 'stilt' bungalows), and you will not be able to resist taking the free shuttle across to compare the two: you will be won over straight away.
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