Yes, you read it correctly, half price Bora Bora… but, how exactly? 😊 I am almost certain that Bora Bora is a bucket list destination for most people and it was certainly on my “must see list” for a long time before I actually made this dream come true. With a price tag of approximately $10000, I simply could not justify it, regardless of how beautiful it is (okay, after seeing it, that amount is completely justifiable; it is absolutely out of this world splendid). We ended up spending 12 days in Tahiti for a grand total of $5000 for a family of three.
If you haven’t already read my points travel blog, we booked our flights to Bora Bora on Aeroplan points. As there is only one Star Alliance member who flies there, Air New Zealand, we took the “scenic” route to Tahiti with an added ten hours of flying out of our way to get there. But Auckland is always lovely to visit and besides, Tahiti is the most difficult reward to obtain on points. Not only had I been trying for years to secure this route, when I booked our 3 flights, the Aeroplan agent excitedly told me that it was the first time in 16 years that she was able to actually book this highly desirable route. If she was celebrating with champagne, so were we!
So how exactly was I able to secure this extremely difficult to book route? Well, I figured out the reason why it was impossible to book this trip on points. The reason that there was never availability is because the search engine simply did not have the capability of piecing together three flights on the same segment from Toronto. I tried breaking down the flights by segments: I first checked availability for Toronto-Los Angeles, then I searched for Los Angeles-Auckland, followed by Auckland-Tahiti. Once I broke down the segments and played around with the dates, I was finally able to find availability for the most difficult segment, Auckland-Tahiti.
Out of our minds excited, we quickly called Aeroplan to book the tickets. Luckily, around the same time, one of our friends mentioned a promotion they had used with the IHC hotel chain. This promotion gave you 2 free nights anywhere in the world after staying at any of their hotels for 4 nights. My partner and I both signed up for this promotion and we took a few weekend trips to meet the threshold and obtain 4 free nights anywhere in the world. And that is how we ended up at the Intercontinental Bora Bora for our 4 free nights. But before we got there, here are a few things to keep in mind when booking your French Polynesia vacation.
Most French Polynesian island packages include Papeete, where the airport is, Moorea and Bora Bora. While there are numerous other islands, these are the three most popular ones. Papeete is affordable, however, the beaches we saw were not breathtaking, so we only stayed there for two days. To get to Moorea, you can take a short ferry or a flight and it is certainly worth it. Reaching Bora Bora is certainly the most expensive leg of the journey, with flights priced around $500 per person.
Arriving in Moorea was like setting foot in a tropical paradise, lush with many hues of green from its rich vegetation. We splurged here with a few nights at the Hilton Moorea in an overwater bungalow, which was worth every dollar. Being in an overwater bungalow and looking through the glass floor at the millions of fish surrounding us was surreal. Just a few steps from the glass floor and onto our private patio over the water, we spent our entire stay being completely captivated by the contrast between the green cliffs and the turquoise ocean. Every sunrise and every sunset from our patio had us feel like the luckiest people in the world. We were in paradise and the best was yet to come.
Bora Bora, the pearl of the Pacific, the unmatched dazzling paradise, the jewel of the crown we call Earth. Landing in Bora Bora was absolutely breathtaking. If you’ve read my blog, you probably already know that the Maldives is my favourite place on Earth for its beaches and airport landing. Years after the Maldives, I was landing in a place that was already trying to win my heart before even arriving. Bora Bora was love at first sight even before setting foot on the island. From up above, this island was more majestic than I could have ever imagined it to be. A lush, two peak, green volcano, is surrounded by the most dazzling coral reef azure lagoon. And it’s not the blue that you often see when you visit the ocean, it’s like, the definition of blue in all its sense. There is turquoise and teal and aquamarine and azure and celeste and ocean blue… you get my point😊
Our days in Bora Bora revolved around appreciating just how many shades of blue the ocean can possibly surprise us with and swimming with the reef marine life. We were constantly astonished at the beauty we could easily see from our room on the beach at the Intercontinental Bora Bora. Between the vivid marine life, the many hues of blue, the majestic palm trees and Mount Otemanu, we understood immediately why Bora Bora was initially named “Pora pora mai te pora”, created by the Gods. We spent our days here between the hammock, the paddle boat, snorkeling and marveling at the ocean from our beach patio. Alessia felt happy and free here, and though she was only five years old at the time, years later, while in Aruba, she said to me “Mama, the beach here is not as beautiful as Bora Bora”. This island paradise left a lasting impression even on my then five years old daughter.
There are a few things to keep in mind with island paradises that we discovered in Fiji, the Maldives and Bora Bora. Where you stay in those places will make or break your impression of paradise. Because those destinations are known to be the utmost sought after beach vacations, we often envision Fiji, the Maldives and Bora Bora in a certain way. We learned the hard way in Fiji that the main island is not the Fijian paradise we had expected and you have to fly to some other islands to get the “picture perfect” beaches you would associate with Fiji. Over the past few years, the Maldives have opened up a number of new hotels and accommodations, but the true feeling of the Maldives and what sets it apart is the “one hotel per island” style of lodging that we associate with this perfect oasis. I have friends who did not have the same experience we had in the Maldives as they opted to stay in cheaper accommodations and missed out on the true feeling of the Maldives and precisely that which sets it apart.
Though I am all about saving money and getting a great deal, there are certain places in the world where you will not have the same experience unless you splurge. Bora Bora is another one of those places. Following our 4 free nights at the Intercontinental Bora Bora, we decided to extend our stay by a couple of nights and stay at one of the cheaper hotels. Without a view of the ocean or Mount Otemanu and without direct access to the beach from our hotel room, our last two nights in Bora Bora were certainly not the same as the first four. We knew then that if we had visited Bora Bora and stayed solely at the cheaper hotel, our experience would not have met our expectations of majestic Bora Bora. We were so fortunate to have the privilege to stay at such a gorgeous hotel and experience the true dream that Bora Bora is.
With memories to last a lifetime and a few jars of Tahitian vanilla, we bid adieu to the most beautiful place on Earth, a true Eden, a Shangri-La, a wonderland. And yes, I know I say that about the Maldives too, but hey, it is possible that there are two “most beautiful place on Earth” because I simply could not choose one or the other. One of the most unique feelings when being in either one of those places is the feeling that you have the entire island to yourself. Those off the beaten path, idyllic places, are peaceful and serene in a way that I have never experienced in the Caribbean and certainly not in Europe or Asia. The South Pacific and Indian Ocean islands maintain a charm of their own as they hide some of the most charming tropical masterpieces and I am fortunate to have seen all the ones on my bucket list: Tahiti, Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Fiji, Bali, Boracay and a number of Caribbean islands.
Since everywhere we go we leave a part of us and take a piece of the place, I left my heart in Bora Bora and Bora Bora took my breath away. If you have a chance to go, don’t even think twice, I guarantee that no place will ever be the same after you visit this world wonder. And yes, every place on earth has its charm and is magical in its own way, but Bora Bora is phenomenal in every way. “The best things in life are the people you love, the places you’ve been and the memories you’ve made along the way” so take the ones you love and make some great memories along the way😊