For many, a trip to French Polynesia is a screensaver that never comes to life. However, if you're one of the lucky ones planning a trip to the mystical and jaw-droppingly beautiful islands of Mo'orea and Bora Bora, check out our travel guide on where to stay and play.
We recommend the Intercontinental Resort. About 30 minutes from the ferry dock and airport, this five-star luxury property has everything you crave in a French Polynesian getaway, with stunning mountain, lagoon, and ocean views. The overwater bungalows are nice, but we love the garden bungalows. Ask for bungalow 309, which offers the price of a garden bungalow with the views of a beachside one. With two restaurants, weekly Tahitian shows (with fire dancers) and a swim up pool bar, you'll never want to leave the lush resort. Garden bungalows start at $529.
Another popular resort in Mo'orea is the Sofitel, located on the gorgeous aqua lagoon. They have 114 rooms and bungalows each to choose from, offering options in many budget ranges. We recommend an overwater bungalow, if possible. You'll get sweeping views of the lagoon and mountain peaks. Rooms start at $429 a night.
To really get a feel for the 51-square-mile island and see the many differing landscapes it offers, rent a scooter or a 4x4 and explore it on your own. Or get a guided tour through Albert Transport, which offers bus, scooter, 4x4 and bike tours. Make sure you stop by Belvedere Outlook, which offers one of the best views of the island. After that, drop by the pineapple plantation and fruit juice factory for a tasting. A tour of Magic Mountain is also a must and so is a stop overlooking Cook's Bay. To truly get a peek into the stunning lagoon of Mo'orea, go to the Lagoonarium and do some snorkeling. There are hundreds of species of fish, turtles and stingrays that are native to this island. You can also kayak and go on dolphin-watching tours.
Unlike Mooréa or Tahiti, the main luxury resorts of Bora Bora don't sit on the main island. In fact, they decorate the smaller islands (or motu) around it. One of the most popular resorts (the filming location for Couple's Retreat) is the St. Regis. The St. Regis offers a breath taking view of Mt. Pahia (the main mountain) from most of its bungalows. If you have the budget, book a stay in one of the Royal Overwater Bungalows, which have private infinity pools. Rates for the one-bedroom villas start at $1315 a night.
On the other side of Pahia sits the Hilton Nui resort, which is only about 10 minutes from the main business center, Vaitape Village. The resort spans over 800 meters of sandy beach with access to the stunning lagoon. The hotel has 120 rooms available to rent, ranging from two-story presidential suites to more modest studio villas and rooms. With three restaurants, a bar and romantic dining, there are meal and drink options for anyone. Rooms start at about $550 a night.
If you only do one thing on Bora Bora, make sure it's a picnic and lagoon tour with shark and stingray feeding by Moana Tours. This six-hour tour takes you around the entire island, allowing you to swim with stingrays, feed sharks, snorkel the reefs and stop on a private island for a hand-cooked Tahitian meal. Rates start at about $500.
For a stunning panoramic view of the island, take a helicopter ride for about $204. You should also rent a bike or car and stop at Vaitape, which is the island's main commerce and shopping center. Take a boat or a car to Matira Beach, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Rent or bring your own snorkel gear to explore the lagoon. If you love the outdoors, take a hike in the Valley of Kings. You can choose from a few different tours, ranging from a three-hour walking tour to an intense six-hour trek of Mt. Pahia.
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