June 30, 2023

How to Visit Bora Bora on a Budget

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Bora Bora is the ultimate tropical destination. It’s a tiny volcanic island in French Polynesia surrounded by the most beautiful turquoise lagoon I’ve ever seen. So you’d be right to think that there’s a lot of very expensive resorts in Bora Bora. However, there’s other ways to experience the natural beauty of this Polynesian treasure too. Let me share with you how to visit Bora Bora on a budget.

If you want to know more about French Polynesia in general, check out our Ultimate French Polynesia blog. Or maybe you are considering Maldives for your tropical vacay on a budget – we’ve got you covered in this Affordable Maldives blog.

Bora Bora

The iconic island of Bora Bora features on postcards and magazine covers around the world. This place is magical. If you arrive by plane, you’ll probably cry (like me) as you witness for the first time the volcanic mountain surrounded by turquoise lagoon and fringing islands. Yes, Bora Bora is a well-known honeymoon destination (generally because of the resort price tag). But it’s also a place for those seeking adventure, natural beauty and amazing marine life.

The main island of Bora Bora, with vibrant blue lagoon surrounding and sailing boats.

Getting to Bora Bora

Bora Bora is typically reached by domestic flight from the capital of French Polynesia, Papeete, on the main island of Tahiti. There is a 50 minute direct flight from Tahiti that takes you right into Bora Bora, landing on one of the fringing islands around the lagoon. If you can, I’d highly recommend arriving this way to see incredible views of the island from above! You can also fly from surrounding islands like Huahine and Raiatea if you plan to visit these other islands.

Friends of ours also took a ferry to Bora Bora from a nearby island. However these can be infrequent, and the journey is slow and can be uncomfortable if there’s decent swells (you’ll be on open ocean between the islands). Although the budget may be tight, try to book in advance on cheaper days for flights to & from Bora Bora. It’s worth it!

View of Bora Bora from the plane, showing the main island and mountain, as well as the fringing islands.

Resort Life

All of the main resorts aren’t actually on the island of Bora Bora, but on the tiny fringing islands around the lagoon. This is where you’ll find the overwater villas you’ve seen in magazines, stretching out into the lagoon. As you can imagine, this is the most expensive place to stay in Bora Bora. But if you have the budget, even for a night or two, we’d recommend staying at the resorts of Conrad Bora Bora Nui and the Four Seasons Bora Bora.

Travel Tip – You can arrange a day visit to some of the resorts, which means you can visit their spa and use the facilities to splurge for a day, without the full costs. Have a massage and enjoy a cocktail by the pool to get a taste of the extravagant luxury life!

Aerial view of overwater villas extending into the lagoon at Conrad Bora Bora Hotel.
Map of Bora Bora showing the main island, and the resorts surrounding the main island (Google Maps)

Where to Stay in Bora Bora on a Budget

Almost everything you see online about Bora Bora is showcasing the resorts. However, you can also stay on the island of Bora Bora itself. Until recently we thought the island was for locals only, and otherwise provided an epic backdrop for the resorts. But you can in fact stay on the island for a fraction of a resort stay.

To reach the main island, there is a water shuttle that runs regularly between the airport and the main village of Vaitape. The shuttle cost is generally included in your airfare. You will arrive into the little harbour at the base of the incredible Mount Otemanu.

View from the Bora Bora airport towards the main island and mountain.
View from Bora Bora Airport towards the main island

On Bora Bora Island you will find everything you need, from pharmacies and grocery stores, to clothing boutiques and restaurants. There is a local population here, as well as lodges and guest houses. We decided to book an AirBnB (our little spot linked here) for our stay. We had an amazing spot right near Vaitape, with a decent walk up the hillside giving out to amazing views. Things are basic, but you might spent 10%-20% of the costs of staying in a resort. Plus you can cook your own food and make your own coconut cocktails.

Views over palm trees to the lagoon from an Air BnB accomodation.

Travel Tip: You can choose anywhere on the island to stay really. Just consider taxi prices and where your accomodation is located. Look into supermarkets, tour meeting spots, and the things you are planning to do during your stay (more on this below).

Things to do in Bora Bora

When visiting Bora Bora – if you are like me – you’ll want to spend as much time as possible on the lagoon. Whether you want to snorkel, dive, Jet-Ski, or just take a boat trip excursion, everything happens out on the waters of the lagoon. And because of this, I’d highly encourage people on a budget to book accomodation on the main island. You’ll likely be out adventuring all day. So unless you want to hang by the pool and experience resort life, then this is a great option. Tours are also much cheaper when booking direct with the companies, instead of organising through hotels. 

Some of our favourite tours were:

  • Diving – we saw Manta Rays in the lagoon and SO many reef sharks on the outside reefs.
  • Jet-Ski tour – explore the entire 360 degree lagoon, stopping along the way for lunch, a swim, and lessons on how to open a coconut. 
  • Lagoon boat tour – you’ll wade in the shallow lagoon with stingrays, snorkel a fish-filled coral garden, and swim off the outer reef with sharks!
  • Take a taxi to Matira Beach – the nicest white sand beach on the island, backed by palms and boasting clear emerald water.
  • You can also do ATV tours up the mountain of Bora Bora, however we decided to stick to ocean based adventures.
Two women swimming to the surface of the water, with plenty of white and black tropical fish surrounding them.

Our favourite tour takes you to the Bora Bora Natural Aquarium, which we visited twice because it was so good. The water clarity was insane and you can free dive on fish-filled reef as well as perfect white-sandy bottom lagoon.

Want more info on things to do in Bora Bora? Check out our full blog here.

Our favourite places to eat on Bora Bora are below:

  • Saint James just outside of Vaitape for sundowners on the lagoon.
  • Bora Bora Beach Club – have a swim and then enjoy lunch with a view, right on the beautiful Matira Beach.
  • Bloody Mary’s – fairly overpriced but has a good vibe. Worth a mention as it’s quite popular for tourists.

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