Bora Bora to me and to many others is an ultimate dream destination but since I had my heart on going there, I've realised like many others, it's a very pricey goal to have. I spent a lot of time and experienced a lot of frustrations figuring out how to get to Bora Bora within my budget which I eventually managed to achieve.
It was during my amazing honeymoon in Bora Bora that I met and became good friends with Bora Bora photographerStephan Debelle Duplan. We decided to put our heads together on writing this blog which shares our secrets, tips and experiences on how to make your own Bora Bora dream a reality in more affordable ways.
Photo by Bora Bora Photograhper Stephan Debelle Duplan, taken at Hotel Maitai Polynesia during our honeymoon
When to go To save money, we recommend going in Bora Bora's low season which runs from November through to May. It is a a bit of a risky move going in the low season as it is also the rainy season, but I booked the first week at the start of the low season and had only 1 slightly overcast day out of our 7 days there. It was absolutely worth it considering the price differences when you book in high season.
My advice is, plan your trip in advance and calculate backwards how much money you need to save every month to get there. Our budget was AU $6000 (flights from Brisbane, Australia and accommodation included). I saved $500 a month for a year by eating out and going out less, going to the hairdresser less and watching my spending carefully. What also helped me a lot to save for my honeymoon was that my husband and I made a conscious decision that gifts for every Christmas, Valentines or Birthday that came up would be either a voucher for a Bora Bora activity or money added to our travel money box. It quickly adds up :)
Where to book I signed up to receive the newsletters of every Bora Bora website I could find, waiting for them to send out special offers. In the end I booked through www.easytahiti.com which I can highly recommend. They also offer payment options which is super helpful - you don’t have to pay the entire amount right away to book your dream vacation.
Where to stay
Photo by Bora Bora Photograhper Stephan Debelle Duplan at Hotel Maitai Polynesia
I really wanted an over water bungalow experience. My research led met to Hotel Maitai Polynesia in Vaitāpē. Staying at this hotel has many budget-friendly advantages:
Situated on the mainland close to main attractions. We met couples that had been staying at hotels that weren't on the mainland and they spent a lot of money travelling from their hotel to the mainland for main attractions. Some of the best Bora Bora attractions are situated very close to Hotel Maitai. These include famous restaurant Bloody Mary's (said to be visited by many celebrities) and Matira Beach. We didn't need a car to enjoy these.
Grocery store close by. You can save money by buying food at the grocery store close to the hotel instead of buying food at the restaurants, it's only a short walk away.
One of the most affordable over water bungalow options. It became clear to me that hotels with a good view of the famous Mount Otemanu tends to be more expensive. When looking out from your overwater bungalow at Hotel Maitai, you can't see the mountain but this was no biggie to us as we saw the mountain a lot while enjoying the activities on the island. A perfect view of the mountain is never far away.
By only spending 1 or 2 nights in an over water bungalow and the rest of your holiday in a standard garden bungalow, you can save a lot of money too and still experience the wonders of jumping off of your private bungalow into the water!
Stephan highly recommends Oa Oa Lodge which is a brand new lodge that opened in 2016. It is convenient to get to the center of the town but you would need a car or a scooter to go to the beach. It's not a resort and yet it offers over water bungalows.
For affordable places to eat, Stephan recommends Snack Matira, located right in front of the beach - it offers simple food that is popular among residents and locals.
Otomana is another snack spot at Matira Beach that is really nice.
Matira Beach is a main attraction in Bora Bora and our recommended snack bars have a view of the beach.
Faire Manuia, also known as the "Lucky House" is a nice restaurant with good food and a good reputation on the island. Pizza is pretty cheap there.
For more affordable dinners, consider "Roulotte Matira" which is a mobile food truck located in Vaitape - you can eat there or take away.
The Pada Dor is also popular for Chinese takeout.
Where to drink I learnt from Stephan that many hotels have Happy Hours where you can get two drinks for the price of one. We went to InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana for our Happy Hour and it was just lovely :) I recommend the Bora Bora cocktail!
Stephan says most people don't know that pretty much all the hotels and restaurants have Happy Hours but each have their own rules (so check in with them before you go by asking your hotel to make a phone call as the rules can also change sometime). He also recommends Bloody Mary's for more affordable drinks.
Which activities Bora Bora local Stephan says the key to saving money is to book accommodation directly with the providers as all resorts take a 22% or more commission. Activity operators will speak English so booking with them should be easy in that regard.
Weigh up the duration of the activity versus the cost. I was quoted $400 for 15 minutes of parasailing which is a very expensive 15 minutes! I rather opted for the following activities that you can enjoy for longer at lower prices:
Jet Ski and Quad combo tour from Matira jet Tours (2 hours) - this tour is ah-mazing as you get to jet ski through the many shades of blue water and stop at a private island where you can gaze at gorgeous views of Mt. Otemanu while sipping a fresh on a coconut. You will also get to see stunning views from up high as you drive a Quad up a mountain with your partner.
Blue Honeymoon dive by TopDive Bora Bora - includes shell leis for the couple, pineapple juice and DVD of your experience!
A romantic photo shoot with Bora Bora Photo Video - Stephan's photo packages are affordable and wonderful value. His motto is "It’s more important to click with people than to click the shutter” - it’s no wonder we became good friends!
Photo from our honeymoon, by Bora Bora Photograhper Stephan Debelle Duplan at Hotel Maitai Polynesia
Stephan has also recently introduced a very romantic, exclusive, full day tour that might be out of your price range (around US $1000) but well worth it if you decide to splurge a little as it includes ALL of the following:
a private boat
a bottle of wine,
lunch and leisure time on a private island (known as a "motu" in Bora Bora)
Professional photos IN the water and on the surface at 2 to 3 stops (including the coral garden, rays and sharks)
As I'm writing this, I discovered that Stephan hadn't decided on a name for the tour yet and so the tours name was born: Romantic Explorers Aqua Photo Tour! Members of the Romantic Explorers Facebook group that book this tour here, get a free pearl too! Becoming a member of the Romantic Explorers community is fun and free so connect with other romantic travelers when you join here.