It can be confusing, if not daunting, to decide which resort in far-flung French Polynesia is the right fit. Bora Bora is no doubt the most famous island in the archipelago, and it certainly has its share of ultra-luxurious properties. But there is another atoll with a spectacular resort that offers an equally pampering experience with a different twist. Here’s what to know—and what to book.
Couples Paradise: St. Regis Bora Bora
While the St. Regis isn’t a couples-only resort, you may think twice about bringing the family along when 80% of hotel guests are lovebirds. The St. Regis has done a remarkable job of marketing itself to honeymooners in search of an exotic destination for romance (they even offer underwater wedding ceremonies). Still, the resort has all the same facilities as the Four Seasons, which is located next door, but is perhaps a step down in room quality (its cuisine offerings, however, are better than those at the Four Seasons).
- Best for: Couples who value a variety of dining and entertainment options on property and are happy mingling with other couples.
- Room to Book: This sprawling resort has overwater bungalows located in different parts of various motus (islets). The best bungalows have unobstructed views of Mt. Otemanu. Contact the Bookings team for assistance choosing the right accommodations.
- Keep in Mind: Coupledom pervades the atmosphere at the resort, and rooms are built for romance, with open showers and heart-shaped Jacuzzis.
- Favored Activities: Snorkeling in the resort’s private lagoonarium and a gastronomic dinner at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s French Polynesian outpost, Lagoon.
- Where to Eat: In addition to Lagoon, the St. Regis has a sushi, Italian and casual Polynesian restaurant. Its bar is a popular hangout, especially when it heats up with musical entertainment come evening.
The Luxury Standard: Four Seasons Bora Bora
From its pristine landscaping to its over-water bungalows that you’ll never want to leave, the Four Seasons Bora Bora sets the bar high. There’s not a blade of grass out of place here, and the service is equally impeccable.
- Best for: Couples, families, groups of friends, and anyone who appreciates a flawless execution with all the resort facilities.
- Room to Book: Every overwater bungalow has the same layout; the difference is in the view (splurge for the Mt. Otemanu view) and the option of a plunge pool. There is a limited number of connecting overwater bungalows for families, and all villas are on the beach. Contact the Bookings team for assistance in choosing the right bungalow or villa.
- Keep in Mind: As of April 2016, all beachfront villas have all-inclusive rates, while the remaining bungalows have standard rate models.
- Favored Activities: Snorkeling in the resort’s private lagoonarium (a closed-off section of the lagoon filled with marine life) and lounging in your own overwater bungalow, occasionally jumping from your private deck into the turquoise lagoon
- Where to Eat: Unfortunately, dining options are limited to one upscale restaurant, a casual bistro and an all-day eatery, and the menus are not particularly diverse. Luckily, the property recently brought a new chef to revitalize the food and beverage selection, which was much-needed to keep guests from leaving the property.
Ultra-Luxury meets Eco: The Brando
Marlon Brando’s private island paradise delivers a harmonious mix of ultra-luxury and environmental sustainability.
- Best for: Low-key couples and families who don’t require a lot of facilities, but appreciate raw natural beauty, a boutique feel, and the hotel’s impressive green initiatives
- Room to Book: There are only 35 villas at this hotel, and all boast the same stylish midcentury design. The main difference among the villas is their location on one side of the island; half the villas have sunset views and a coral garden just steps from the beach, and the other half are on Mermaid Bay, a crescent stretch of taupe sand. You may contact the Bookings Team for assistance in choosing the right accommodations.
- Keep in Mind: Getting to The Brando requires a 20-minute chartered flight on a tiny airplane, which can only fly in daylight and clear weather. At the very least, expect a long layover in Tahiti; at worst, you may have to overnight in a hotel there if your flight is cancelled, although that’s a rare occurrence.
- Favored Activities: The Ultimate Lagoon Tour takes you around Tetiaroa Island with the guidance of a naturalist. Cruise the shallow turquoise waters to visit a bird island, a forest and a shark nursery, and you’ll come away with an understanding of why Marlon Brando insisted on the preservation of this incredible atoll.
- Where to Eat: Anywhere, anytime – that’s the brilliance of a small resort with an all-inclusive model. Don’t feel like getting dressed? Order from the resort’s fine-dining restaurant, where the menu was created by two-Michelin starred chef Guy Martin (of Paris’ Le Grand Véfour), and enjoy a candlelit dinner on your private veranda – all at no extra charge.