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Port Review: Bora Bora, Tahiti

Joanna Hall

With its emerald-green hills and chameleon-like lagoons, it’s easy to understand why petite Bora Bora is a serious contender for the most beautiful and romantic island in the world.


Perfect blue lagoons, colourful reefs, volcanic mountains, bright flowers and a real atmosphere of tranquility combine to create one big natural water-colour that typifies the tropical South Pacific idyll. James Michener, author of Tales of the South Pacific which inspired the movie Bali Hai, wrote of Bora Bora: “Anyone who has ever been there wants to go back.” It’s around 260 kilometres northwest of the main island of Tahiti, and it’s often the first stop for cruises in this region because of the “wow” factor that comes with circling Bora Bora before making the grand entrance into the lagoon.

The Facts 

Language: French and Tahitian, although English is widely spoken in tourist areas.

Currency: Pacific French franc.

Docking/anchoring: Ships anchor off the main town of Vaitape and tender into the port.

Transport: There are usually plenty of taxis when a ship is in port, but always agree on the fare before getting in as many don’t have metres. There are also buses but they are not air conditioned, and car rental is viable option if you’re in port long enough. If you don’t feel like venturing far there are shops and restaurants in Vaitape within walking distance of the tender location.

Don’t Miss 

The sail in and sail out is the best way to experience the surreal landscape that makes up Bora Bora. Get a good spot on the deck of your cruise ship, and watch as the island’s jagged peaks pierce the sky against a turquoise lagoon.

Snorkelling the lagoon is a must, even if you’re not a strong swimmer. There are plenty of beautiful spots to go swimming and spot local marine life which are also safe.

Maikai Bora Bora Marina and Yacht Club is a Bora Bora icon and the coolest joint on the island. It is within walking distance of Vaitape, perched right on Bora Bora’s lagoon with fantastic views and good food if you’re up for lunch.

Best Photo Op 

Apart from the sail out and sail in, you can get a great aerial landscape shot of Bora Bora from both Mt Ohue (619 metres) and Mt Pahia (661 metres) if you’re fit enough to climb up to the two iconic summits, and in port for more than a day.


If you are looking for arts and crafts, there’s a few market stall areas in and around Vaitape which sell flowers and fruits along with crafts, carvings, and jewellery. Prices are generally expensive but if you really want to bring back a souvenir, then pareos (or sarongs) are your best bet as these are usually colourful, practical and less pricey than other items. 

Food And Drink

Thanks to its combination of a Polynesian and French heritage, there are a few good options for eating out on Bora Bora. Although quite expensive, seafood is a specialty and look out for a local specialty called poisson cru which is a mixed salad of raw tuna, coconut milk and lime juice. An iconic lunch spot is Bloody Mary’s which is a 10 minute drive from Vaitape and it’s a fun joint with a sand floor with fantastic ocean views. In Vaitape there are a few bakeries where you can try French inspired pastries and delicacies, simple sandwiches made with real French bread and crepes.

Pick Of The Excursions 

The most popular excursion is the Circle Island Tour which is a great way to take it all in, including the villages, beaches and the coast. It’s a narrated tour on a traditional “Le Truck” and usually completes a 35 kilometre circumnavigation of Bora Bora. 

There are various lagoon excursions usually on offer, depending on what you want to do, which include dive trips, snorkel and swim trips along with glass bottom boat rides and catamaran cruises with optional swimming. There is even a tour that lets you experience the underwater world with an “Aqua Helmet” and you don’t even get your hair wet!


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