Dan and I stayed a few nights at the Conrad Bora Bora in August, shortly after French Polynesia re-opened to Americans on July 15th. We had an amazing time at the Conrad. The Conrad is top notch, super classy, and much fancier than the Hilton that we stayed at on Mo’orea or the Intercontinental Tahiti. But, it was also more expensive and difficult to reach. This is Dan and my review of the Conrad for those planning a visit – happy trip planning!
Quick background on Bora Bora – Bora Bora is a small island group in French Polynesia. Technically part of the Society Islands (fitting name), Bora Bora is located north west of Pape’ete, Tahiti (French Polynesia’s capital) in the Pacific Ocean and is most often reached via a 45 minute Air Tahiti flight. The main island is surrounded by the bluest lagoon, some smaller islands, and a barrier reef. Many of Bora Bora’s famous hotels are located these smaller islands. The center of Bora Bora, Bora Bora island, is comprised of two peaks, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu, resulting from an extinct volcano. Vaitape is the main city (er, town) on Bora Bora. We were told that Bora Bora translates loosely to “made by the gods,” and I absolutely believe it!
As mentioned, Bora Bora is most commonly reached via an Air Tahiti flight from Pape’ete or another French Polynesian island. Bora Bora’s airport is on its own island, and arriving tourists need to take a boat to their hotel. Most hotels arrange the transfer, and these transfers are generally expensive. Our transfer to the Conrad Bora Bora was $150 per person round trip; the ride was about 20 minutes. There is a long ferry that reaches Bora Bora, and cruise ships and private yachts access Bora Bora regularly.
There are a number of international resorts on Bora Bora and few “local establishments” remain due to Bora Bora’s international allure. We stayed at the Conrad Bora Bora, mainly due to our Hilton Diamond Member status (giving us a number of complimentary benefits) and our ability to use a free night certificate on our room. Like the Conrad, many hotels on Bora Bora have those Instagrammable overwater bungalows. A simple Google search will show those available. Fun fact, the move Couples Retreat was filmed at the St. Regis resort on Bora Bora (but its since been redone). Get ready for a lot of “Eden East” jokes, ha.
THE CONRAD BORA BORA
The Conrad Bora Bora is located on a private island – Motu To’opua – in Bora Bora. With Mount Otemanu towering in the background, the Conrad Bora Bora hugs the smal island’s coastline and past the intial rows of bungalows, Motu To’opua turns into a small “hill.” Guest housing, all free standing “bungalows” (with the possible exception of very small number of rooms), are strategically placed along the water, on the side of hill (great views), or overwater in the lagoon, a short walk from shore. We did a lot of walking around the resort, and there did not seem to be a bad location for a room.
The Conrad Bora Bora’s main amenities, pool, restaurants, shops, conceirge, etc., are located in the center of the resort, no more than a 10 minute walk from the furtherest bungalow, located in the same area where guests arrive and depart. Walking from one end of the island to the other took us about 20 minutes. Golf carts are available at all times to transport guests to and from their bungalow if requested. We walked everywhere, but I can see why some guests request the complimentary golf cart transfer. Bikes are also around the resort for guest use, although difficult to find after the early morning hours.
Guests can also walk, or ride, up the hillside, about a 10 minute walk. The Conrad Bora Bora’s spa is located at the top of the hill, as is the cutest chapel and a viewing deck perfect for watching the sunrise over Mount Otemanu.
The entire resort was very nice, super clean, and easy to get around. My one complaint however, I wish the resort was a bit larger, or that it was easier to get “off resort.” For example, we wrote bicycles each morning and we had to ride through the resort more than once to feel like I got a “workout.”
OUR BUNGALOW AT THE BORA BORA
Gasp – we did not stay in an overwater bungalow! Why not you may ask – we wanted to use a Hilton “free room” certificate that came with our Hilton Aspire credit card, which can only be used on the lowest category room. On arrival, we were upgraded to a bungalow with a private plunge pool and beach views. It was gorgeous and we did not miss staying in a overwater bungalow for a minute. That being said, we have stayed in an overwater bungalow before and we were staying in one on Mo’orea… In any case, our bungalow was beautiful and with our upgrade, ended up being a fantastic use of our free night certificate (an approximate $1,000 value).
Our actual bungalow is a free standing unit comprised of three large rooms, plus the outdoor space. The room opened up with a small (very expensive) minibar and nespress coffee machine and into a spacious living room with a couch, chair, table, and large TV, complete with a “Welcome Dan Cozzi” message!
Behind the living area was our bedroom, consisting of a king size bed, another TV, a wardrobe, and a small desk area.
The large bathroom was the second half of the bungalow, which had two separate sink/getting ready areas, a lovely tub, a shower room, and a separate toilet room. Of course, top notch amenities were provided, as were robes and shower shoes. Life jackets were also provided in the closet (I guess for the pool??).
The bedroom and living area opened up to a private patio with a table and loungers AND, the best part, a private pluge pool!! The entire room, including the outdoor area, was equipped with bluetooth speakers, so we could listen to the Moana soundtrack allll the time. And spoiler alert, don’t go to Bora Bora, or French Polynesia, without watching Moana!
Shortly after we arrived, Conrad Bora Bora stuff brought us a welcome amentiy, another perk of our Hilton Diamond Member status. We received still and sparkling water, fresh pinepple juice, and two different types of bon bons! A very nice welcome amenity! Also, if you are visiting, our room was the lovely Bungalow 404, where The Points Guy is currently staying!
RESTAURANTS AT THE CONRAD BORA BORA
The Conrad Bora Bora is home to several restaurants and bars, most of which we tried on our visit earlier this year.
Iriatai French Restaurant and Wine Bar: Iriatai French Restaurant is the Conrad Bora Bora’s fancy French fusion restaurant (“an innovative take on French cuisine”), as well as the location of the breakfast buffet. We did not eat dinner here, but we did have breakfast at Iriatai every morning. The daily breakfast spread is impressive and delicious. The buffet consists of everything from pastries to salad to fresh juice to hot Western breakfast food and hot Asian lunch food. It is quite the buffet and, if you are concerned about visiting a buffet, everyone receives a pair of personal tongs to pick up food. The buffet costs around $50 US per person, but we received complimentary access to the buffet due to our Hilton Diamond Member status.
Note – the wine “bar” portion of Iriatai was closed due to COVID when we visited in August 2020. You could still order from its robust wine list at both Iriatai and the Banyan Chinese Restaurant, but the bar, including its pool table, was closed. During normal times, the Iriatai Wine Bar does wine tastings. The advert seemed like it was more for “beginners,” and it was unclear if these tastings were taking place when we visited (due to COVID).
Banyan Chinese Restaurant: Banyan Chinese Restaurant is located next door to Iriatai and is the Conrad Bora Bora’s Chinese restaurant (fun fact, French Polynesia has a robust Chinese community and about 10% of French Polynesians are of Chinese decent- cool!). Receiving generally good reviews online, we had dinner at Banyan. The menu was certainly Chinese, but most of the dishes were familiar (and I was looking for something a bit more “authentic”). The food was good and its certainly a place picky eaters can find something “basic” to eat, but it was definitely not my favorte meal in French Polynesia. The wine list, however (shared with Iriatai), was great and somewhat reasonable! We found a rare French 2011 Madiran on the menu.
Upa Upa Lounge Bar: Upa Upa Lounge Bar is the Conrad’s swanky cocktail lounge and sushi restaurant, and it was my favorite on Bora Bora! Located overwater, the lounge has indoor lounge seating complete with Roche Bobois couches (!) and glass cut outs in the floor and an outdoor overwater area. We had cocktails at Upa Upa each evening and dinner one night overwater. The food menu is small – just sushi really – but the tuna sushi we had was excellent! Side note – consider eating inside; multiple parties, us included, regretted not eating indoors over the glass cut outs!
Tamure Beach Grill: Tamure Grill is a casual lunch restaurant next to the pool area with really cool seating. I mean, the main restaurant has an all sand floor, so you can “feel your toes in the sand” while you eat. Tamure also offers sunken booths near the pool, which are incredibly chill looking. I had a Tahitian beer and a pizza here our last afternoon. The pizza was good (much better than the Intercontinental Tahiti’s pizza) and the beer was the standard $10 US. This is also the location for the Polynesian dinner show every Tuesday, which we did not attend.
Tarava Pool Bar: Tarava is the small pool bar serving cocktails and lunch to pool/cabana patrons. Tarava is also the home to Golden Hour every day between 3 and 4. The drinks at Tarava are pretty, yet expensive and weak. I would only order during Golden Hour.
Room Service: Room service was available 24 hours a day when we visited, but we did not use it. Had we stayed longer, we probably would have had dinner on our private deck one evening.
ACTIVITIES AT CONRAD BORA BORA
While I wished the actual Conrad Bora Bora was a bit larger, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy for a few days!
Pool. The Conrad Bora Bora is home to only 1 pool, but its apparently one of the “top 15 pools in the world”! Located in the center of the Conrad Bora Bora property, the pool consits of a shallow area surrounded by cabannas and a deeper area with an infinity edge, complete with in pool sun loungers and a swim up bar (Tarava) open during the day. The pool area was not too crowded when we visited, but the bar was packed at Golden Hour.
Kayaks, stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling: On entry into the pool area, there is a staffed stand where you can ask to use any of the hotel’s water amenities, inlculding kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and snorkel gear. All of these activities are complimentary – just tell the staff what you want to do and they will set you up and provide instructions! Said manned booth also has free water, sunscreen, and hand sanitizer! If you follow me on Instagram, you know that we used and loved the kayaks! We kayaked all around the overwater bungalows!
Shopping: Two shops were open at the Conrad Bora Bora when we visited: Robert Wan pearls and the Conrad Bora Bora gift shop. Both were open a few hours every day, about two hours in each the morning and afternoon. Opening hours were clearly marked on the door. I visited the gift shop, which offered a host of Conrad branded things, beach clothing, Bora Bora souvenirs, toiletries that you may have left at home, and some snacks (cookies and chips).
Bicycles: A variety of bicycles are located around the resort for guest use. We liked to pick them up early in the day and ride around for a bit before breakfast. Bicycles are more difficult to find as the day goes on.
Viewing platform and chapel: There is a small viewing platform on top of the resort’s hill, which is a fabulous place to watch the sunrise! Access to the viewing platform is via the paved walkway to the spa, with the plat form located behind the spa next to the cutest little chapel. It took about 10 minutes for me to walk up the hill.
Spa: The Conrad Bora Bora’s spa is at the top of the resort with beautiful views overlooking the lagoon. We skipped a visit due to COVID, but the spa was fully opeartional when we visited.
Demonstrations: The Conrad Bora Bora puts on weekly demonstrations for guests, as announced at the water activity booth. Most are free, but some require a surcharge and advance booking.
Conceirge: Visit the conceirge for booking activities off resort if you haven’t already done so on arrival. We did a jet ski tour around the island that was pretty cool. Snorkeling excursions are particularly popular on Bora Bora.
Polynesian Dinner: A polynesian dinner and show is put on every Tuesday at the Tamure Beach Grill. Be sure to book a seat in advance.
A Visit to Bora Bora. The Conrad Bora Bora does offer a shuttle into the main town a few times a day. The cost is about $20 US per person and you must book in advance via the hotel. We skipped this visit, as most businesses were still closed when we visited due to COVID (or so we were told).
STEAL OUR TRIP
Conrad Bora Bora: Great website with open hours, PDFs of menus, and prices. Check the website before your trip for the most up to date information, especially during COVID times.
ON A BUDGET
Read my French Polynesia budget tips here! Also, consider going to Mo’orea over Bora Bora. Mo’orea is less expensive than Bora Bora and its far easier and cheaper to reach.