Mother Nature is such a show-off. “You think this is the most beautiful place on earth? Watch this,” she seemed to be saying. It was barely after sunrise and I was sitting on the sun deck of my overwater bungalow at the Four Seasons Bora Bora. I was watching the mist rise over the gently lapping clear turquoise water, with the jagged peaks of Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia in the background, when a perfect double rainbow appeared.
It’s one of those unbelievable beautiful scenes that you try to freeze into your brain forever, especially as I knew I may never make it back again to this incredible island in the South Pacific more than 5,600 miles from home.
I just laughed. There really was no need to impress me further — I was firmly under Bora Bora’s spell already. The beauty of the island, the friendliness of the people and the magnificent Four Seasons resort. I never watched the TV show “Fantasy Island,” but I knew Bora Bora was forever going to be my fantasy island.
Prior to my visit I had stared at photos of those overwater thatched-roof bungalows, majestically poised on stilts over clear blue-green water, shadowed by the towering Mount Otemanu. They seemed too good to be true. As Emma Stone said to Ryan Gosling in “Crazy Stupid Love” after he took off his shirt. “Seriously? It’s like you’re Photoshopped.”
This was a case when the reality of the beauty of Bora Bora was even more magnificent than the photos I’d been staring at for weeks. It’s the only place I’ve ever been that was more beautiful than its photos.
Its faraway location, natural beauty and fabulous hotels make this French Polynesian island a truly romantic spot, a favorite for brides and grooms everywhere who plan their Bora Bora honeymoon to start their marriage here. And the most romantic place to stay? This was my choice out of more than around 50 Bora Bora hotels.
Overwater Bungalows at Four Seasons Bora Bora
I walked down the long wooden walkway to what would be my home for the next few days. Whether it’s a Hyatt Place Hotel or a Ritz-Carlton, the first thing I always do when I open the door to my accommodations is to run look at the view. But where to start inside my bungalow? The covered back deck that sits right over the water, the side windows that also had views of the crystal blue water and the mountains? Or should I check out the view through the glass panels in my bathroom floor where I could clearly see the bottom of the sea and fish floating by. I had my own 24-hour aquarium in my room, but these fish were free range and in no need of regular feeding.
The thatched-roof bungalow had a huge king bed, large bathtub and seating area, with a spacious 1,100 square feet. The outdoor deck had two cushioned lounge chairs. Some of them come with their own plunge pool.
Although I’ve lived my entire life in the landlocked city of Atlanta, I’ve always been drawn to the water. It decreases my stress and calms me. And there’s no better way to feel connected to the water than having your own tree house on stilts with water everywhere you look.
In addition to the bungalows there are one-, two- and three-bedroom villa estates, ranging from 2,722 square feet to 5,380 square feet. These are all beachfront with private pools and pedestrian access to the main building and are great options for families.
Activities at Four Seasons Bora Bora
I too full advantage of our warm sunny days and spent plenty of time in the water. I paddle-boarded around the lagoon one day – no waves threatening to send me off balance into the water. Another day I wanted to take a kayak out and paddle around the overwater bungalows. Unlike similar excursions in other places, there were no forms to fill out, no questions – not even my room number. Such freedom!
I also enjoyed swimming right off the back of my sundeck. And the infinity pool and beach are gorgeous, perfect for lounging. There are also tennis courts, water bikes, badminton and volleyball courts, and a fitness center. A personal trainer, tennis instructor and yoga classes are available.
As you would expect, the setting for the spa is magnificent, tucked into the edge of the lagoon. Facials, massages and sun therapy treatments are available. Try one of the rituals, like the Kahaia Heaven, a skin-smoothing treatment that incorporates Tahitian black pearl powder and native vanilla.
Couples have to try out the overwater couples suite with a deck and outdoor tub with views of Mount Otemanu. Keep your eyes open when you’re facedown as the floor has glass panels so you can view the fish as you enjoy the ultimate relaxation.
One day we set off on a day-long snorkeling tour. Although our guide, Rainui, whose name means big sky, has been leading tours of his island home for years, his enthusiasm for sharing the beauty of his island was undiminished. He entertained and educated us at three magnificent snorkeling spots.
At one, after much coaxing from Rainui, we went swimming with sharks. After I got in the water, I saw 3-4 sharks immediately, including one that was 10 feet long. That was our quickest stop.
At another he held up a gigantic stingray, laughing as he used the tail like a microphone. He even dove down deep to poke at an eel’s shelter to lure it out for us to view, barely flinching when it took its revenge at being disturbed by giving him a nip. He came up for air, smirking as he showed us where he got bit. “Rainui, you even shed blood for us!” I said.
After the snorkeling tour was over he took us to his family’s private island where he cooked lunch for us, served on plates of woven coconut fronds. We dined in the island sunshine on grilled chicken, beef, rice with coconut milk and coconut bread.
Dining at Four Seasons Bora Bora
We enjoyed plenty of meals courtesy of the sea. For lunch on the beach one I day, I relished the poisson cru — red tuna with lime and coconut served in half of a coconut with a mound of rice. We shared a giant platter of fresh sushi with ginger sauce at Sunset Bar while enjoying mojito royales and Champagne.
I savored the mahi mahi in coconut curry sauce at Arii Moana one night, the resort’s fine dining restaurant. Breakfast is served at Tere Nui and includes an area where you can make your own juice or enjoy the juice of the day – my favorite was banana coconut.
On our last night we had dinner scheduled on the beach but a brief shower took us to a poolside thatched-roof cabana instead. It was hardly disappointing as it was beautifully decorated and after our server served us course after course, he did a fire dance for us.
Guests can also opt to dine in their bungalows; room service is always available. Or arrange a dinner on their own island – does it get any better than that?
My Souvenir From Four Seasons Bora Bora
I have a passion for pearls and have to fight hard to resist adding another necklace or pair of earrings to my already extensive collection.
Tahitian black pearls are the rarest in the world, only available in the South Pacific. Other locations have tried to duplicate their distinctive color, but have been unable to. Most of the black pearls come from the nearby Tuamotu Archipelago.
What better item to take home with me as a souvenir than a unique gift from the sea? Although I passed over the impressive and flawless pearl valued at $40,000, I did manage to bring home a beautiful necklace with one single lovely pearl, a wearable reminder of the gorgeousness of nature in Bora Bora. I wear this necklace almost every day – my go-to as it goes with everything.
What’s New at Four Seasons Bora Bora
The property is being enhanced, with all phases due to be completed by early 2020. Here are a few things that are being added:
- Eight new overwater bungalows with plunge pools.
- Six plunge pools are being added to existing bungalows.
- All overwater bungalow suites are being refreshed, with new furniture, fixtures and more.
- All beachfront villa estates are being enhanced with outdoor kitchens, larger pools and new furniture and fixtures.
How to Get to Bora Bora
For Bora Bora flights, you first have to get to the city of Papeete in Tahiti. Airlines that fly there include Air Tahiti Nui, Air France, American, Air New Zealand, Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, LATAM, Delta, Japan Airlines and Qantas.
Bora Bora is northwest of Tahiti, and Air Tahiti flies there frequently, a 50-minute flight. It also flies from Moorea, Huahine and Raiatea. The airport is on a separate island. After being greeted with a flower lei, you’ll take a boat to your hotel.
It can take some time to reach Bora Bora. We flew over from the East Coast, which first required a flight to Los Angeles, then a flight to Tahiti where we spent the night and made the trip the next morning. Due to layovers, the return took about 24 hours. You didn’t think it was going to be easy to get to paradise, did you?
– Jan Schroder, Editor-in-chief