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Discover Bora Bora, the definition of paradise

By Amy Adejokun Amy Adejokun Section editor
They may be famous for turquoise waters and honeymooning couples, but Tahiti, Bora Bora and their neighbouring islands make up an archipelago waiting to be discovered. Lace up your hiking boots for a trek into forested mountains bursting with waterfalls, wander along black-sand beaches or suit up for a dive in dream-like lagoons.

Travel guide

The luxurious Bora Bora seems as though it was made for the honeymoon photos of the many couples that come to visit its white sand beaches and crystal blue lagoon. There are various islets perched on the water that host Oceania's most opulent hotels, as well as the world famous overwater bungalows that have become a symbol of the island.

Lands at the end of the world and a paradise of the South Seas, the Society Islands aren't just for sunbathing. Most people come here for a honeymoon or a wedding anniversary, to lounge around and enjoy the turquoise waters of the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora. However, there's nothing stopping happy holidaymakers spending their time here from discovering the many islands that make up the Society Islands archipelago.

One of the five archipelagos that form French Polynesia, the Society Islands are divided into two groups: the Windward Islands, made up of Tahiti and Moorea among others, and the Leeward Islands, mainly consisting of Bora Bora and Tupai. Everything is worth seeing. Get ready for hikes in the unspoiled nature, swims beneath the waterfalls, and picnics watching the sunset when you travel to Tahiti.

Our Editorial team's advice

Polynesia is an amazing setting for a honeymoon. Consequently, tour operators offer discounts and promotions to newlyweds. The hotels offer typical accommodation in bungalows of different categories, from the comfortable 3-star to the luxurious 5-star.

Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, the three main islands of the archipelago, are all very different from one another and can be explored on a beach or cruise holiday, or a combination of both. We recommend a minimum of ten days, including travel time, to visit this destination.

If you want a 100% authentic Polynesian holiday, opt for guest house accommodation, which is often in a 'fare' with a green roof by a lagoon. It's the best way to get right to the heart of Tahitian life.

As for the weather, it might be useful to keep in mind that the hot season (November to March) is the period of most rainfall. It's advisable to plan your trip for May or October. Among the different water sports activities offered by all the major hotels, don't miss out on a mini-cruise in a sailing boat (often a catamaran) during the day or at sunset. It is the best way to see the superb panoramas of the island, from the lagoon. You can also rent a sailing boat with or without a skipper.

pros

  • +Tahitian hotels are up to your dreamiest expectations
  • +Lagoons on one side, mountains on the other; you can diversify your activities between sport and relaxation

cons

  • -A very far and remote destination
  • -The jet lag can be difficult to get over and can take up to a week!

Traditions

We would like to mention Tiki Théâtre Village, in Moorea, a different kind of hotel, a real concentrate of Polynesian traditions. It is a truly faithful reconstruction of an ancient village with, on the programme, pirogue outings, fishing expeditions on the coral barrier, Tahitian banquets, furious tamure dancing, and especially the famous Polynesian style weddings.

Food

Raw fish soaked in lime juice and coconut milk is the great Polynesian speciality. Other succulent dishes include mahi mahi or swordfish skewers, lobster flavoured with vanilla from the island, varo or mantis shrimp (a long and tasty shellfish) and giant river prawns seasoned with curry or American sauce. One of the great gastronomic events not to be missed is the tamaaraa, a traditional Tahitian banquet regularly organised by hotels. The ingredients are covered with banana leaves, hessian, and sand, then steamed for 3 to 4 hours in an oven dug into the ground. It is a a delicious melt-in-the-mouth meal, which consists of suckling pig, chicken, fish, fafa (taro leaves), uru (breadfruit), fei (red bananas) and poe (baked papaya and coco milk dessert). The taste of the grapefruits, small limes, bananas, pineapples, grafted mangoes, avocados and melons is truly beyond compare. You can also try out the high quality French restaurants that serve excellent meat, with a wine and cheese selection that is just as varied as in France itself. As for the many Chinese restaurants in Polynesia, they are among some of the best in the world.
One such place renowned for its traditional family cuisine is 'Chez Pauline', the oldest inn on Moorea, located in the village of Afareaitu. It is a tremendously quaint hotel located in a superb colonial-style building..

Souvenirs

The art galleries and curios (shops selling local artisanal crafts) of Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora sell high quality products. Don't miss out on Papeete's central market, where you will find the most varied range of local handicraft stands.
Carved wooden statuettes, copies of tiki gods and warriors, are directly inspired by Polynesian art. Your souvenir list should include: mother-of-pearl ornaments and jewels, sea shell necklaces that represent the tradition of Tahitian hospitality, collector's sea shells, from the most common to the most exceptional that can be found in Papeete, monoi-based oils and cosmetics, the famous plaited hats made from coconut or pandanu leaves, and pareus, rectangular pieces of cloth with traditional patterns that women wrap around themselves in many different ways (the most beautiful are found in the speciality shops in Papeete's city centre). You can also bring home some vanilla (about £1 for a pod), which you can especially find at the Hotutea vanilla cooperative, near the village of Afareaitu on Moorea. Finally, if you decide to treat yourself to a black pearl, mounted as a jewel or not, there's one for every budget and the value in Tahiti is unbeatable. Ask a specialist to help you choose. For a 'good deal', check out the category B or C round pearls (from £110). A lower category pearl costs about £17.
Shops are open from 7:30am to 5:00pm from Monday to Saturday.

What to see

Tahiti , the volcanic reef , Tahiti , The volcanic landscape , French Polynesia
Tahiti - the volcanic reef
Tahiti - The valleys and caves of Tahiti Nui, Landscapes, Tahiti, Bora Bora
Tahiti - The valleys and caves of Tahiti Nui
Tahiti , Tahiti Nui East coast , Tahiti , The east coast of Tahiti Nui , French Polynesia
Tahiti - Tahiti Nui East coast
Tahiti , Taiarapu Peninsula , French Polynesia
Tahiti - Taiarapu Peninsula
Moorea , Mount Rotui's rocky spur , French Polynesia
Moorea - Mount Rotui's rocky spur
Moorea , The plantations , French Polynesia
Moorea - The plantations
Moorea , Opunohu Bay , French Polynesia
Moorea - Opunohu Bay
Bora Bora , The motus , French Polynesia
Bora Bora - The motus
Bora Bora , Mounts Otemanu and Pahia , French Polynesia
Bora Bora - Mounts Otemanu and Pahia
Bora Bora , Mount Pahia , French Polynesia
Bora Bora - Mount Pahia
Bora Bora , Pointe Matira , French Polynesia
Bora Bora - Pointe Matira
Flora , French Polynesia
Flora
Botanical gardens , The Botanical Gardens , French Polynesia
Botanical gardens
Excursions , French Polynesia
Excursions
Lagoon wildlife , French Polynesia
Lagoon wildlife
Tahiti, Bora Bora : Explore