Bora Bora has long captured travelers’ imaginations as an idyllic South Pacific honeymoon destination. The Pearl of the Pacific has all the pieces for a perfect romantic getaway, starting with its stunning landscapes and water. It’s loaded with five-star properties, complete with overwater bungalows, world class spas, and fantastic dining. Plus, French Polynesia has long embraced the queer community. French laws forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation — and the Indigenous culture has a history of a third gender, Māhū.
For my husband and me, it was important for our honeymoon to be somewhere accepting, where we could hold hands, kiss, and show affection in public without worry. And we wanted to experience Bora Bora’s incomparable lagoon, with its endless shades of blue and green water. The island didn’t disappoint, and we also ventured to two other nearby spots in the Society Islands chain.
The author’s husband, Lance, relaxing beachside
Getting there and back
Several U.S. carriers fly to Papeete, Tahiti, the international gateway to the islands. We chose Air Tahiti Nui, the flag carrier of French Polynesia. Premium economy features 2-3-2 seating (compared to 3-3-3 in standard economy), making it a nice choice for couples. Our seats reclined more than I expected, giving us a reasonable amount of sleep on the nine-hour flight.
We did Poerava Business class on the flight home. That gave us access to the Air Tahiti Nui lounge in Papeete’s international terminal. Once on board, we were offered champagne, Mai Tais, or orange juice. The pod-like seats were in a 2-2-2 configuration, and transform into a bed, allowing for quality sleep on the route home. After takeoff, there were more drinks, a hot dinner, 10MB of free inflight WiFi, and breakfast.
Staying in luxury
Our first resort on Bora Bora was the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, located on one of the motus, the palm-fringed islands that ring the outer edge of the lagoon. The central island and its imposing Mount Otemanu, take center stage as you look across the aquamarine lagoon from your overwater bungalow — certainly one of the most dramatic sights in the world.
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora overwater bungalows
Our luxury bungalow was very spacious, with a shower big enough for two double vanities, a soaking tub that faced the lagoon, bedroom with king bed, and a living area. In the floor, strategically placed glass allowed for glimpses of the fish swimming below, a magical addition. At night, lights below the bungalows were turned on, attracting even more fish. From the bungalow’s deck you could step or jump directly into the water to snorkel. The resort has complementary snorkeling equipment to keep for the duration of the stay, which turned out to be a delightful bonus.
The Four Seasons has an extensive beach area, including a small island just offshore that boasts a single dramatic palm tree. You can easily wade out to the island, and romantic sunset dinners can be arranged. The pool area is large and waitstaff attentive: when we weren’t sipping Piña Coladas or Mai Tais, they quickly replenished ice waters.
Bora Bora Cultural Lagoon Tours guide Narii
We particularly enjoyed an arm-like extension of the lagoon where the resort is working to grow and nurture endangered corals. Guests are allowed to snorkel here (sans flippers), and it provided a perfect opportunity to swim with myriad tropical fish.
The food was excellent, from delightful bakery items and plenty of fresh fruit to lunch poolside, to dinner at both the French-Mediterranean restaurant Arii Moana (try the delicate and flavorful parrotfish) and Viamiti, which offers eclectic Asian cuisine.
Located on another motu to the south, the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa provided us another overwater bungalow experience. Our arrival by boat was met with fresh flower leis and an islander welcoming us by blowing notes on a conch shell. The 88 guest rooms here are well appointed and included a sizable bedroom, a bathroom with double vanities, and a soaking tub, as well as a living room with a glass window in the floor under the coffee table. Stairs from the deck lead directly into the lagoon, allowing for impromptu snorkeling adventures.
Lance admires the crystal clear waters
The InterContinental has a dramatic infinity pool that perfectly frames the views of Bora Bora. In similar fashion to the Four Seasons, it contains a protected lagoon, where the resort has worked with Tahiti Bioroche to create a coral nursery. Guests can swim through the area, which is populated with tropical fish.
Nature’s delights don’t stop at sundown. We were able to stargaze from our deck and see astronomical wonders that aren’t visible back home, including the Southern Cross and Alpha Centauri.
The resort’s Deep Ocean Spa claims to be the first thalassotherapy (seawater therapy) center in the South Pacific, and many treatments feature nutrients that are extracted from the deep-sea waters. We chose the couples’ massage, conducted overwater, allowing us to watch the fish swimming below, truly a transcendental experience. Scheduling a spa treatment grants guests access to the expansive spa grounds all day. There are steam rooms, cold plunge pools, outdoor showers, hot tubs, and two wonderful therapy pools with strong water jets designed specifically for the back, shoulders, and legs.
Bora Bora Cultural Lagoon Tours guide Narii serenading the couple with Tahitian songs while strumming his ukulele
Get out and explore
We spent one glorious day with Narii of Bora Bora Cultural Lagoon Tours on a private lagoon tour. We headed out onto the turquoise waters in a Polynesian-styled speedboat. At our first stop, curious — but not aggressive — blacktip reef sharks congregated in about five feet of water. We were originally skeptical of being in the water with sharks, but Narii showed us it was safe, joining us in the water, and giving us an amazing bucket list experience.
Next, it was off to the coral gardens, for some of the best snorkeling in the world, and then to a sandbar where we swam with stingrays. The whole way, Narii serenaded us with Tahitian songs while strumming his ukulele, which made the romantic excursion even more magical. To close out the day, we went to a private motu, where we enjoyed a variety of fresh local cuisine, made authentic shell bracelets, and learned to paddle in a traditional canoe. We also checked out some of the local trees and flora in the extensive garden, where signs described how the various flowers, leaves, berries, and bark are used by the Tahitian people.
On another day, we explored the main island with Bora Bora ATV Tours, covering much of the island’s perimeter before taking to trails and climbing up to an impressive overlook atop Mount Popoti. Here, we could see the island’s main peak to the south, as well as jaw-dropping views of the lagoon and motus to the east and west.
We encountered a handful of other same-sex couples (and even a queer family) while on Bora Bora, so we didn’t feel like outliers. And we were greeted warmly at each resort by staff who knew we were on our honeymoon. There were no uncomfortable front desk moments (“Oops, we seem to have you down for a single bed?”) or odd stares from servers or housekeepers. Other guests also treated us as any other newlywed couple — and really, isn’t that all we want?
Vahine Island Resort and Spa
Other island adventures — Taha’a and Moorea
We also spent time at Vahine Island Resort and Spa, located on a private motu facing the island of Taha’a, which is known for its vanilla farms and black pearl production. This intimate resort is limited to nine couples and provides exceptional, personalized service. Three bungalows are overwater, and the other six sit right at the water’s edge. The islands of Taha’a in the foreground, Bora Bora in the distance, and the surrounding motus made for an ever-changing horizon as we wandered the small island. Everywhere around is the blue-green crystal-clear water of Taha’a lagoon, where the snorkeling was fantastic. In between meals, we lounged on our deck, admiring its priceless view, tooled around the lagoon in an outrider canoe, and snorkeled off the beach in front of our bungalow. A special treat each night after dinner was walking to the waters’ edge to watch baby sharks swimming a few feet away.
A sampling from Tahiti Food Tours
The island of Moorea has its share of resorts with overwater bungalows, including the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa and Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort, but the island also boasts a variety of guesthouses, for those looking for a more intimate, local flair. Moorea, which gave us strong Kauai-like vibes, is a quick 30-minute ferry ride from Papeete, and has easy air connections to the other islands.
Paul and Lance on Moorea
Two incredible tours on Moorea helped us fall in love with the island and its people. On the fantastic Tahiti Food Tours, owner Heimata Hall explains the fascinating fusion of Tahitian, Chinese, and French cuisines that make up the local food scene, and you get to try a little of everything. Ask for Maui as your guide with Corallina Tours. Whether you take the inner island tour to see pineapple and vanilla farms, or the lagoon tour where you’ll be able to swim with sharks, rays, or even humpback whales in season, you’ll gain new respect for Moorea. Maui’s passion for his island runs deep, and it’s contagious. We can’t wait to come back — perhaps to celebrate our anniversary?