Bora Bora has been the number-one destination on my bucket list since… well, forever. Although my husband and I had been talking about visiting its shores for a number of years, we finally made it happen in 2018. The verdict? It was absolutely incredible.
The island is exactly what we had imagined — and more. The beaches have the softest and whitest sand. The colors of the ocean waters, which are different shades of blue, green, and turquoise, are mind-blowingly beautiful. And there are countless activities to try out, though you can still be perfectly content just sitting on the beach.
That said, this small island is as expensive as it’s rumored to be. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t manage a trip here on a budget.
In hopes of inspiring you to visit Bora Bora for yourself, here are a few tips we used to save money in this island paradise.
Visit During The Off-Season
Generally speaking, May to October is the busiest period for those visiting the French Polynesian island. Therefore, I would suggest avoiding these months altogether. November and April tend to be less crowded and still fall within the “good weather” (i.e. “no rain”) window. December to March is considered slow season, which is when hotel prices will be the lowest, but if you choose to visit during this time, there is a huge risk that you will encounter endless heavy rains, as this is summer in Bora Bora. That said, we went in February and were incredibly lucky that, during our seven-day stay, we experienced only a day and a half of rain. The rest of the week was sunny, hot, and beautiful. Before we arrived, however, it had been pouring for two weeks straight. Taking all of that into consideration, I would suggest visiting around November or April for optimal rates and weather.
Book Your Flights Early
Flights to Bora Bora presented one of the biggest costs of our trip. Since the island is in the middle of the Pacific, it took us three flights — even from San Francisco — to get there. Our particular route took us from San Francisco to Los Angeles, from Los Angeles to Papeete, and from Papeete to Bora Bora.
I started my research by entering our travel details on booking website such as Expedia to find out which airlines fly to Bora Bora and what their rates are. Once I’d figured the benchmark rates, I went directly to the airlines’ websites to see if they offered better prices. I also shopped around on other flight booking websites, such as Kayak, and SkyScanner, to see if they offered any special deals. Also, when you choose your travel dates, make sure you’re aware of major holidays around the globe (e.g. Thanksgiving, U.S. Spring Break, Chinese New Years, etc.) to avoid peak prices.
Research Accommodation Extensively
It’s true — hotels in Bora Bora are notoriously expensive. For three-to- five-star hotels, prices range from $700 to $3,000 a night, and that’s even using off-season rates. I can’t tell you how many discount websites I checked before finally booking a hotel that fit our budget. With that in mind, if the hotels are out of your budget, I would recommend checking Airbnb. We met a lovely older couple during our snorkeling trip who said they were staying at one and they liked it a lot. As with the flights, however, be sure to book early for the best rates!
Find Cheaper (But Not Cheap) Places to Dine
Most of the hotels in Bora Bora are not all-inclusive. Some offer complimentary breakfast, but for the most part, meals are expensive. A typical lunch or dinner will fall within the same price range of mid-to-high restaurants in the U.S. and Europe: around $15–20 for appetizers, $25–50 for main courses, and $10–15 for desserts.
As with finding a good flight, we found that a little online research helped us to seek out the best spots to eat. We used TripAdvisor to check out the best restaurants on the main island. Be sure to read some of the latest reviews to hear what customers say about their dishes, services, prices, and location. Make a list of all the restaurants you would like to visit every day and then make reservations through your hotel concierge. They will help you to plan out the dinners because some restaurants are very busy and can be booked out. Our hotel also let us know the times of the ferry that would bring us to the main island and back. Our favorite restaurant on the main island was Bora Bora Yacht Club. It had a good menu with vegan options, beautiful views of the sunset, and friendly service.
Choose The Right Activities
We booked our activities during our stay either through the hotel concierge or, if we thought we could find a better rate on our own, online. Snorkeling with Shark Boy snorkel tours is one of the activities I would highly recommend. It’s reasonably priced and you’ll have a wonderful time. We booked a half-day tour (four hours), which included a boat ride around Bora Bora, snorkeling with sharks ( we saw 20-plus black-tip sharks and three lemon sharks), feeding the rays, swimming with the mantas (we were very lucky to find one circling beneath us for 10 minutes), and snorkeling in Coral Garden (where we saw hundreds of tropical fish). The company has good knowledge about the location of the creatures and even offers their family’s private beach for a snack break. If you have a boat license, it is also great to rent a boat with La Plage Boat Rental and explore the island at your own pace. Depending on the hotel you stay at, you may find many complimentary cultural and sport activities offered by the concierge, such as yoga, flower-wreath binding, hiking tours, cooking classes, local music and dance performances, and so on. Make sure you find out their schedules right after your check in to your hotel, so you don’t miss these fun events.
Bora Bora is definitely one of the most exclusive travel destinations we have ever visited. It might appear to be extremely expensive, but with good planning, I believe you can find yourself having a fabulous time without breaking your bank account.