The Hype


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Oceania » French Polynesia
January 13th 2016
Published: September 30th 2017
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Geo: -16.4993, -151.74

It's the ultimate honeymoon destination, or so that's what travel agents would have you believe about Bora Bora, the final destination of our trip. In an attempt to save the perceived best for last, we placed Bora Bora smack dab at the end, because if the tales are true, the place is so unbelievably beautiful that everything else would surely disappoint in comparison. Apparently, Bora Bora has the magical ability to render even the most beautiful spot in the world, downright ugly during a side-by-side comparison.

Deep down, we hoped that the myth of Bora Bora was true, as our departure from Fare Vai Nui left us both saddened, having to leave such a wonderfully hospitable place. The only possible cure for the depths of this malaise would be the depths of the brilliant shades of blue found in Bora Bora's lagoon! However, there was no guarantee that we would even see the vistas that everybody talks about, since this is French Polynesia's wet season, meaning that the potential for cloudy skies and rain could dull the brilliant scenery.

Soon after arriving in French Polynesia, and despite some miserable rain in Moorea, we quickly realized that we had lucked out
Bora Bora's Cute Little Airport ...Bora Bora's Cute Little Airport ...Bora Bora's Cute Little Airport ...

... it's actually located on a motu separate from the main island, and is accessible only by boat. Or by private helicopter, if you've got the coveted Super-Baller Status.
with the weather - it had barely rained since then, and if it did, it generally didn't impact us in any meaningful way. But not only that - it's usually been sunny, and the cloudy periods never lasted for more than a few hours, at most. In fact, any locals with whom we discussed the weather commented that the weather was much better than what they were usually accustomed to, at this time of year.

Sometimes, things have a way of working out, and our fears of being stuck in French Polynesia's most-beautiful island while cooped up inside of an over-priced overwater bungalow never came to fruition - aside from a few slightly cloudy periods, the weather was fantastic for nearly the entire duration of our stay. From start to finish, the experience was everything that the myths surrounding Bora Bora purported it to be - complete and utter luxury and indulgence!

It all starts with the pimped-out boat shuttle to the hotel, that picks you up from Bora Bora's airport, if you can stomach the high cost of it - while our first inclination was to take the free Air Tahiti shuttle to the main town of Vaitape, from
Envy ...Envy ...Envy ...

... as much as we enjoyed the Hilton, there's always a bit of envy with all these high-end resorts in Bora Bora - we couldn't help but wonder what the Sofitel was like.
where we could catch an inexpensive boat to the Hilton, we were put off by the long connection time. Would there even be anywhere to sit or store our luggage at the port while we waited? Is there a bathroom we could use? Not knowing the answers to these questions, we opted to go all out and spring for the shuttle, since it was our last few days in paradise.

After our arrival at the Hilton Bora Bora Nui and the obligatory welcome drink, we were promptly brought to our room - another stroke of luck, since we were concerned that our 10 AM arrival meant that we would be stuck waiting for hours while the previous guests checked out. As our golf cart left the main building, I was a little concerned, as it had turned the wrong direction, away from the cheaper hotel room accommodations we had booked for the first two nights, and went straight for the overwater bungalows ...

I had a quick flashback to the Fare Maeva in Huahine, where we had booked a cheaper room, and lucked out into an upgraded bungalow, only to find out at check out that we were charged the higher rate
Two-Toned Waters of Bora Bora ...Two-Toned Waters of Bora Bora ...Two-Toned Waters of Bora Bora ...

... what makes the water so beautiful here isn't the brilliant blue colour, but the fact that multiple tones can be seen, side by side. Even prettier when Mount Otemanu is in the background.
for the bungalow - while that turned out to be a simple error that was easily corrected, such a mistake, if not fixed quickly, could turn out to be a very expensive one at the Hilton, as the price difference would be in the hundreds of dollars per night, and not just $20 or $30 like it was at Fare Maeva.

"This is correct, sir - we aren't very busy at this time of year, so we didn't want to trouble you with changing rooms after two nights. We've upgraded you for the duration of your stay." Cha-ching!!! Talk about getting lucky - our entire three-night stay at the Hilton was an unbelievable amount of good fortune! Not only did we get a free upgrade, but we scored essentially almost two extra days in the room, being allowed the early check in, and also a 5 PM checkout since the Hilton didn't want to rush us out before evening flight!

But it didn't end there - the entire resort was eerily-deserted when we arrived, devoid of any people other than workers, which was quite shocking, considering that the Hilton has rooms numbering well up into the 400s. We first rationalized this as being due to the relatively-early hour - perhaps guests were sleeping in, away on excursions, or simply wouldn't be checking in until the afternoon flights arrived. But we later found out that there simply are hardly any people here during the low season, with the Hilton staff joking that right now, there were likely more workers than guests!

Probably the most guests we ever saw at one time in our four days and three nights was 20 people, during dinner at the Hilton's only restaurant that was open at this time of year, with most of that number being a family of ten. Whatever we did - snorkeling around the bungalows, lazing around the beaches, napping in a hammock, or cooling off in the infinity pool, we were usually the only two people around. The Hilton ended up being our own little private island, in the grandest stroke of luck imaginable!

Even the resort's included daily activities were somewhat laughable - a lot of times they didn't seem to be happening, simply because of a lack of people. The best might have been the exotic flower arranging, where guests could make leis and flower crowns - at the appointed time, there
Black Rocks Beach ...Black Rocks Beach ...Black Rocks Beach ...

... one of a few deserted beaches at the Hilton. Paradise!
didn't seem to be any instructor around, until an older lady showed up with a bag of flowers, and seemingly out of breath. We figured that, due to a lack of interest, the flower arranging wasn't going to take place, and the poor lady had to scramble to come up with a bag of flowers when we showed up!

Bora Bora was where we broke away from our Tahitian routine of touring around the main island one day, and doing a lagoon excursion on the other day - we really didn't leave the Hilton other than to do a short snorkel tour, and for lunch and some souvenir shopping in Vaitape, Bora Bora's main town. Despite French Polynesia being renowned as a fairly lazy vacation destination, it has been quite hectic so far, with many early mornings for activities and to catch flights, so trapping ourselves in our beautiful overwater bungalow for a few days and night was far from the worst thing possible.

I've always been skeptical about the whole Bora Bora experience, one that is seemingly all hype with little substance - it seems that the insinuation is that your life is incomplete if you never have the opportunity to
Infinity and Beyond ...Infinity and Beyond ...Infinity and Beyond ...

... the infinity pool was also deserted, most of the time. See a pattern about traveling in Bora Bora during the low season?
spend a night in one of their overwater bungalows. While there may be some evidence to suggest that Bora Bora might be one of the most over-marketed destinations in the world, it truly is a special experience to sit on your own private patio, admiring the contrast between the white sands and azure waters, as you dive into the cooling waters at your feet.

Bora Bora ended up being the perfect finale for our honeymoon, a rare instance of the best laid plans not only coming to fruition, but actually ending up even better than what you could have possibly imagined. But was it really worth the cost, and did it live up to the hype? Hard to say ... all we know is that it was a pretty unforgettable place ...


Additional photos below
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Nice Daily Stroll ...Nice Daily Stroll ...
Nice Daily Stroll ...

... every morning, we'd have to stroll along this boardwalk and beach to get to the restaurant for breakfast. Not too shabby of a walk, is it?
Dead Quiet ...Dead Quiet ...
Dead Quiet ...

... where are all the people? The joy of visiting in the off season!
Crystal Clear Waters ...Crystal Clear Waters ...
Crystal Clear Waters ...

... while the snorkeling immediately around our bungalow wasn't great, other than some small pockets of fish hovering around the piles underneath the bungalows, the Hilton has created some artificial reefs under the main building that had a lot more to see.
Leave It To the Pros ...Leave It To the Pros ...
Leave It To the Pros ...

... sure, while we made our own flower crowns and leis, they quickly fell apart - better to take a picture with the ones made by the instructors!
Snacking in Paradise ...Snacking in Paradise ...
Snacking in Paradise ...

... nothing beats a cup of instant noodles, served Vietnamese style!
Pulling Up to the Hilton ...Pulling Up to the Hilton ...
Pulling Up to the Hilton ...

... kind of a rock star feeling as you arrive to this paradise, in what feels like your own private yacht.
Presidential Suites ...Presidential Suites ...
Presidential Suites ...

... I shudder to think about the cost of these two-story overwater bungalows at the Hilton, which are complete with private swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and sauna. But what I really struggle with, is why anyone would ever want to use a sauna when it's 35 C with 90% humidity? Would the sauna actually be cooler and drier than the ambient environment?
Asian Tour Group Invading Our Bungalow ...Asian Tour Group Invading Our Bungalow ...
Asian Tour Group Invading Our Bungalow ...

... so much for exclusivity! This snorkeling tour group from China had the audacity to crash our overwater bungalow!
Honeymoon Freebies ...Honeymoon Freebies ...
Honeymoon Freebies ...

... mental note - start telling every hotel we stay at that it's our honeymoon, and we might get things like a free bottle of champagne!


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