By Milly Gill
Product Manager at Travel Nation
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Picture the paradise island of Bora Bora, and you’re sure to imagine its famous overwater bungalows. Luxurious and unique, these beautiful rooms are available at many different hotels on the island, as well as some of the other islands of Tahiti, like Tikehau, Taha’a and Moorea.
I recently visited every five-star resort on Bora Bora, searching for the best overwater bungalow experiences that French Polynesia has to offer. Here’s my guide to choosing your Bora Bora overwater bungalow, with pros and cons for each resort.
Pros: Privacy, great snorkelling and beautiful sunsets
Cons: No views of iconic Mount Otemanu and no glass flooring in the overwater bungalows
Having visited all the five-star resorts on Bora Bora, the Conrad was probably my favourite. This huge resort used to be a Hilton, but it has recently been upgraded to a luxury Conrad hotel. The resort feels new and refreshed; it’s light, clean and airy, very stylish and extremely luxurious. The food here is fantastic too. I could have stayed at the breakfast buffet for hours drinking freshly squeezed juice, soft French pastries and eggs served just how I like them.
The best thing about the Conrad Bora Bora Nui is the privacy. This resort is tucked down at the south end of Bora Bora, away from the views of Mount Otemanu. While you might miss out on the iconic view, this means that there is far less boat traffic nearby, resulting in a serene atmosphere, with peaceful, uninterrupted ocean views.
As the Conrad is west-facing and built into a small hillside, you can enjoy kaleidoscopic Polynesian sunsets splashed across the sky each night – perfect for honeymoons or anniversaries.
The overwater bungalows at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui feel modern but homely. They are very upmarket, with light coloured wood and soft blue furnishings, giving them almost a Scandinavian feel to the décor.
Each bungalow has a large net hammock on its deck so that you can lie over the water, reading a book or just enjoying the view. Unlike most Bora Bora resorts, the overwater bungalows here don’t have an area of glass flooring. If spotting tropical marine life from your bed is essential for you, then you'll need to look elsewhere.
The bungalows are also near to a black lava rock which is home to lots of colourful fish. This means that you'll find brilliant snorkelling right from your deck – some of the best snorkelling in Bora Bora. The water is pretty deep in this area, though, so you need to be an experienced snorkeller to go exploring.
It’s handy to know that the Conrad Bora Bora Nui also has some more standard room types, which might make the resort more accessible if you can’t quite afford to stay in an overwater bungalow for your whole visit. Situated upon the hillside with fantastic views over the ocean and a huge balcony, the King Horizon View Villa is lovely.
My top tip would be to split your stay between this kind of room and an overwater bungalow – it’s the perfect way to save some money without comprising your Bora Bora experience.
Pros: Relaxed vibe, huge glass floors, great views of Mount Otemanu and turtles
Cons: Less polished than other resorts
Le Meridien is a five-star resort with a far more relaxed atmosphere than the other hotels in Bora Bora. The emphasis here is on laid-back luxury, where standards are high but there’s music at the bar, and the staff are more friendly and informal.
The bungalows are smaller than other resorts, but they have the biggest glass floors in Bora Bora, perfect for spotting fish from the comfort of your bed. I spent 20 minutes staring at the floor, looking at all the different species. It was magical. At the same time, the glass panel produces an amazing effect as the blue lagoon shimmers around the room.
Every overwater bungalow is the same inside, but they all have different views. Even if you book the cheapest bungalow, you'll get the same room. However, you'll probably find that your view looks back at the beach, rather than towards Mount Otemanu.
Le Meridien also has a unique spa. Most amenities in Bora Bora centre upon the crystalline lagoon, but the here spa is located at the back of the resort, where the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash against the outer reef of the atoll. Listening to the wild waves from the spa made me feel very safe and peaceful - combine it with a massage, and you’ve got a winner!
Le Meridien has a large lagoon running straight through the property. The resort’s main beach, which faces Mount Otemanu, is almost an island due to the blue lagoon. It's the perfect place to learn to snorkel. The water is shallow and warm, with quite a few clumps of coral. I spotted a few people learning to snorkel, and they were having a great time.
At the back of the lagoon, the hotel also has a turtle sanctuary, which is a lovely addition to your Bora Bora experience. You can spend an hour learning about these beautiful creatures, book a full day of helping with turtle chores or anything in between! Injured turtles from all around French Polynesia are brought here to recover before being rereleased into the lagoon.
I would also really recommend the Le Meridien if you are looking to get married in Bora Bora. The view is spectacular, the overwater bungalows are lovely but affordable, and the vibe of the hotel is both relaxed and peaceful.
Pros: Super luxurious, large overwater bungalows and lovely décor
Cons: Expensive and not suited to those with mobility issues
If you opt for the St. Regis Bora Bora, you’ll be staying in absolute luxury but paying high prices to match. All the five-star resorts in Bora Bora are beautiful, but the St. Regis excels in the opulence it affords its guests. You can expect VIP treatment from check-in to check-out. Every villa gets a personal butler, and there are five top-notch restaurants specialising in Asian, Pacific and Italian cuisine.
The entry-level overwater bungalows at the St Regis measure over 1,500 square feet, making them bigger than the bungalows at the other five-star resorts. The styling is really impressive, with local but modern decor, detailed touches and a large airy canopy over the bed. Staying here, I really felt a sense of place. In terms of the interior, this was my favourite overwater bungalow on Bora Bora.
The water surrounding the overwater bungalows at the St. Regis is at least 3 metres deep, so you need to be able to swim to stay in these rooms. This deep water is quite unusual in Bora Bora, and it’s lovely to dive right into the lagoon from your private deck.
Also, bear in mind that the St.Regis is a vast property. Unless you are happy to call a golf cart whenever you want to leave your room, you’ll need to be reasonably mobile to enjoy your stay to the full.
Pros: Amazing beds, all suites and well-spaced bungalows
Cons: Not many good snorkelling spots directly accessible from the resort
The Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora is seriously classy. Made up of suites and overwater bungalows, except for a couple of large beach houses, this resort is slick and beautiful. With a premium view of Mount Otemanu and a fish-filled lagoon weaving through the property, it’s no wonder that the Four Seasons is so popular.
For many travellers, this hotel is all about the brand. The Four Seasons is synonymous with luxury and excellent service, which is precisely what you’ll find here. If you have stayed at a Four Seasons elsewhere, you’ll know just how well they look after their guests.
Currently, the Four Seasons is the highest-rated five-star Bora Bora resort on Tripadvisor, and I can see why. Nothing was too much trouble for the friendly staff, and the bed in my villa was the most comfortable I have ever slept in!
The Four Seasons feels like a very romantic property, and the staff go out of their way to give you a luxurious but private experience. It’s perhaps surprising, then, that it’s also highly recommended for families, as there are plenty of activities and child-friendly areas.
Please don’t let this put you off if you’re a honeymooner or searching for a child-free experience. I would highly recommend this hotel for couples, because of the staff and the overwater bungalows.
At the Four Seasons, your overwater experience starts with a perfect view of Mount Otemanu. After check-in, you’ll be brought by golf buggy along the arm out towards the bungalows. All the rooms are suites, so they really feel spacious inside, with large sitting rooms, gorgeous bathrooms and windows overlooking the water.
These overwater bungalows also feel more private than the others on Bora Bora. They are spaced further apart than the other resorts, meaning that you’re not so close to your neighbours. Perfect for romantic seclusion.
Pros: Good combination deals, overwater spa and environmental emphasis
Cons: Located on a busy stretch of water
There are two Intercontinental hotels on Bora Bora; the four-star Le Moana Resort and the five-star Thalasso Resort & Spa. I would highly recommend the latter. Like the Meridien, the overwater bungalows are all identical inside; they only differ in terms of their view. The more you pay, the better your view.
Depending on where your bungalow sits on the arm of the resort, it might be in deep or shallow water. If you’re not a strong swimmer, we can book you one of the shallower bungalows – just ask.
One massive bonus about staying at the Intercontinental is that you don’t have to feel too guilty about using your air-conditioning! The resort has a unique system called Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC), a sustainable technology that uses cold deep-sea saltwater to cool the resort.
If you’re looking for the best of the best, try one of the overwater Brando Suites at the Intercontinental. These super-decadent suites are both situated at the end of one of the arms of overwater bungalows. They are huge and boast some of the best views in Bora Bora. Incredible modern furniture and art, upstairs sundecks and large private plunge pools make these suites the most desirable in the world! I’ll let the video do the talking here!
Staying on the theme of overwater luxury, don’t miss the spa at the Intercontinental Thalasso. Here, you’ll find several treatment rooms with glass floors, so you can enjoy a luxurious massage while you watch the colourful fish in the lagoon.
If you’re thinking about getting married in Bora Bora, the chapel at the Intercontinental is also spectacular. It’s an overwater chapel with glass flooring and coral underneath, packed with all kinds of tropical fish.
Aside from the area around the chapel, you won’t find fantastic snorkelling in the vicinity of the resort. If you’re hoping to explore the underwater world, it’s best to book a snorkelling tour. It’s easy for us to add this to your booking, so just ask!
As there are Intercontinental resorts on both Moorea and Tahiti, you can often find great combination deals. These offers can make the overwater bungalows here more affordable, so they're worth investigating! Ask us for more details when you request your quote, and we’ll look into all the possibilities for you.
We are specialists in round the world holidays, South Pacific trips and multi-stop flights. We can help you put together a bespoke island-hopping holiday in French Polynesia that includes a brilliant overwater bungalow experience. Simply get in touch with us on 1273 320 580 or send us a quote request by email.
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Fresh out of high school, Milly left her home comforts behind and set off to work in a school in Thailand for a year. Whilst working in Thailand she managed to explore Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and China before uni. In the breaks from her English & American Literature degree she interned for Travel Nation, eventually joining our team in 2014. Milly is fascinated by wildlife and food and weaves these elements into both her own trips and those she plans for others. Her natural instinct for building fascinating trips that take you off the beaten track inform the trips she plans and she currently works as our Product Manager sourcing great hotels and itineraries for our customers.