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Why Go to Bora Bora

The small island of Bora Bora (just about 6 miles long and a little more than 2 miles wide) overflows with beauty. A dormant volcano rises up at its center and fans out into lush jungle before spilling into an aquamarine lagoon. In fact, author James Michener, who wrote "Tales of the South Pacific," called Bora Bora "the most beautiful island in the world." The 18th-century British explorer James Cook even coined it as the "Pearl of the Pacific." The very definition of a tropical getaway, blissful Bora Bora abounds with luxurious resorts, sunny skies, warm waters and friendly locals. 

And as you might've already guessed, the main industry on this petite island in French Polynesia and its swarm of tiny motu (islands) is tourism. To that end, you can snorkel, explore Vaitape (Bora Bora's main port), hike Mount Otemanu and more. But there's a catch: Bora Bora is expensive – very expensive. In short, visit Bora Bora for natural beauty, visit for utter relaxation and visit if you have the money.

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Bora Bora Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best times to go to Bora Bora are November and April. These short shoulder seasons offer fine weather with temperatures in the mid-70s to mid-80s. High season runs from May to October when rain showers are isolated and the number of tourists swells. Low season stretches from December to March when the weather is wet and visitors become mosquito bait. But really anytime is a good time to visit Bora Bora, since the weather is warm year-round.

Weather in Bora Bora switch to Celsius/mm

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Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

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What You Need to Know

  • It's all about the lagoon Here's a secret: Many of Bora Bora's beaches are manmade and not much to write home about. The turquoise waters of the lagoon are another story.
  • Taste test great local food Trying poisson cru (raw fish) – usually tuna or mahi-mahi marinated in lime juice and coconut milk – is a must.
  • Try the miracle oil Pick up a bottle of all-purpose monoi, an oil made from coconut and tiare blossoms. It serves as a leave-in hair conditioner, a moisturizer and even a salve for insect bites.

How to Save Money in Bora Bora

  • Visit in the offseason The room rate for an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora can hover close to $1,000 a night, but you can find lower rates if you visit between December and March with the exception of the Christmas and New Year holidays.
  • Take a Pacific Ocean cruise Many cruise lines stop at Bora Bora, so you can get a taste of the luxe life without cashing in your retirement.
  • Bring your own alcohol And pack lots of sunscreen. Many shops on the island sell alcohol and basic necessities – such as sunscreen and bug spray – at high prices, so make sure to pack in surplus. 

Culture & Customs

The main languages in Bora Bora are French and Tahitian, but you'll find that many people also speak English, especially resort employees. French Polynesians move at a relaxed pace. They have a life philosophy called "`Aita pea pea," which means "not to worry." Try to go with the flow and enjoy life at a slower clip. 

Protestant missionaries, who came to the island in the 19th century, have heavily influenced the religion in Bora Bora: Christianity continues to play a major role in the island's culture. If you're interested, you might stop into the Église Protestante Maohi (Maohi Protestant Church) in Vaitape, which has roots dating back to the late 1700s. 

Since 1946, French Polynesia (a group of islands of which Bora Bora belongs to) has been an overseas territory of the French Republic. But French Polynesia has a lot of autonomy, which you'll see in everything from their currency to taxation. The official currency of Bora Bora is the French Pacific franc (CFP). One U.S. dollar is equivalent to approximately 103 CFP.

What to Eat

Seafood features heavily on the menus of Bora Bora restaurants, and travelers would be remiss if they didn't try some of the local specialities, namely poisson cru, or raw tuna that has been marinated in lime juice and coconut milk. Mahi-mahi, grouper and bonito are other staples that are often found on Bora Bora menus. Visitors should also sample the locally grown pineapple, coconut and bananas. 

Keep in mind that many visitors to Bora Bora choose to purchase a meal plan through their resort, especially if their resort is located on a smaller motu (island), which necessitates boat travel to and from the main island where most of the popular restaurants are located. As you might imagine, Bora Bora's restaurants are often expensive – after all, importing ingredients is expensive. The destination's most popular, traveler-approved fine dining establishments include Lagoon Restaurant by Jean-Georges at the St. Regis Bora Bora, where the ambiance and views rival the French-and-Asian menu, and St. James Bora Bora, where travelers say the service is unparalleled. For a cheaper dining experience, visitors might want to stop by a beachside roulotte (think: food truck) for some inexpensive local fare. Travelers suggest jumping in the queue for the roulottes with the longest lines, as there is likely a delicious reason for their popularity. Other travelers suggest shopping in local supermarkets in Vaitape for snacks and drinks (they'll cost significantly less than what's offered at your hotel).

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Getting Around Bora Bora

The best way to get around Bora Bora is by bike, especially when you consider that the entire island only takes a few hours to traverse. Rental cars are another option, but they cost significantly more than a rental bicycle. The local bus system, Le Truck, is notoriously unpredictable and taxis are quite expensive. 

To get to Bora Bora, most travelers fly into Bora Bora Airport also known as Motu Mute Airport. If you're coming from the U.S., you'll first stop at the Faa'a International Airport in Tahiti. Once you've cleared customs, you'll hop on a 45-minute flight to Bora Bora Airport. You'll find this airport on a small islet called Motu Mute, just northwest of the main island, and you'll have to take a quick catamaran ride to reach your final destination at Bora Bora's Vaitape quay. Many resorts offer airport transportation; check to see if yours does before making arrangements.

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Entry & Exit Requirements

To visit French Polynesia, you'll need a U.S. passport valid for six months beyond the duration of your trip. If you're planning to stay in the country for more than 90 days, you'll also need to acquire a visa. For more information, visit the U.S. State Department's website .

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