When you think about tropical paradises, you think palms trees, crashing waves, and everlasting sunsets. Another that's the epitome of dream vacations and honeymoons is the overwater bungalow and even though you might not know it, that iconic image you're thinking of is in fact the Bora Bora overwater bungalows. On our recent trip to The Islands of Tahiti, I got a chance to stay at one of these resorts and I'm here to report back my full review of Le Meridien Bora Bora.
While most of the resort is quite self-explanatory, there were still many things that surprised us in both the preparation for this trip and when we made it Bora Bora. There aren't many thorough guides out there so the goal of this review is to not necessarily review every nook and cranny of the property but to give you advice and tangible tips that you won't find anywhere else.
Read more about the Islands of Tahiti
- How to Plan A 2 Week French Polynesia Itinerary
- Best way to travel Bora Bora on a budget
- The Islands of Tahiti travel guide
- The Islands of Tahiti Packing List
Looking for other unbiased reviews of Le Meridien Bora Bora?
- For the most recent reviews, take a look at TripAdvisor and the reviews on Booking.com
Table of Contents
I've broken down this review into several sections to help you get to the information you're looking for.
Here's what we're covering:
- Le Meridien Bora Bora Review
- About the Le Meridien Bora Bora resort
- Booking process
- Le Meridien Bora Bora Overwater Bungalow
- Activities on property
- Le Meridien Bora Bora facilities
- Check-out process
- Areas of improvement
- What you should pack
- Favourite photography spots
- Tips to save money while at Le Meridien Bora Bora
- How does tipping work?
- How much did it cost?
- Are drones allowed?
- Best time to go to Bora Bora
- Personal Review of Le Meridien Bora Bora
Le Meridien Bora Bora Review
There's quite a bit of information to go through in this Le Meridien Bora Bora overwater bungalow and resort review. I've created this guide to be the most comprehensive out there to answer all of your questions.
About the Le Meridien Bora Bora resort
To set the stage for this review, let's talk a bit about geography and go through the high level background of the resort.
Let's start with a short geography lesson. Where is Bora Bora?
Bora Bora is an island that's part of the country of French Polynesia which is also known as The Islands of Tahiti. Yes, I know that's confusing so it's worth dispelling the common misnomer which is, Tahiti is not the name of the country. Tahiti is in fact the largest island and where all international flights arrive. It is also home to the capital of the country which is Papeete.
Now Bora Bora is an island that's part of the same cluster that Tahiti is in. This is the archipelago/family of islands known as the Society Islands.
When it comes to the individual islands of French Polynesia, each one is unique and formed through the result of volcanic activity. Bora Bora itself is a relatively younger island but in saying that, we're still talking about some 7 million years. Essentially the twin peaks of Otemanu and Pahia erupted, lifting a mountain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. However through time, the volcano has been sinking, resulting in a ring of coral reefs, leaving an outer ring of small islands (known as motu's), an inner lagoon of water, and the centre large island.
While most of the locals live on the main island, resorts starting popping up on individual motu's starting with Hotel Bora Bora in 1961, and nine years later, the first ever overwater bungalow.
Zooming out further, French Polynesia is almost a straight shot south of Hawaii and from West Coast USA is more than half way towards Australia and New Zealand. Also, it's important to note that The Islands of Tahiti is south of the equator.
Booking your stay at the Le Meridien Bora Bora is no different from any other property. You can either book directly with Marriott (cash, points, or both) or with third party platforms like Booking.com.
Types of Rooms
There are 6 different classifications of rooms. The map below is the best one available that breaks down all the different types by color. You'll also see all the facilities of the resort as well.
The suite types are numbered below starting with the cheapest and most basic to the most expensive due to location and/or size. For photos, make sure you head to the property's page for rooms and suites.
- Beach Bungalow (3 adults) – Located along the inner lagoon and has views of Mount Otemanu. Has a King and sofa bed.
- Overwater Classic Bungalow (3 adults) – This is the entry-level overwater bungalow with no glass-bottom view. It has a resort view and is located closer to the beginning of the pontoon. There are only 2 of these units. Equipped with 1 King bed and a sofa bed. Has lagoon views. This is the standard reward room if booking using Marriott Bonvoy points.
- Overwater Lagoon Bungalow (3 adults) – Beyond the two units of the “Classic”, everything is the same from a design perspective except they have a glass-bottom floor and have direct access to the lagoon's water through the terrace. These have lagoon view. Equipped with 1 King bed and a sofa bed. Has lagoon views.
- Overwater Lagoon Premium Bungalow (3 adults) – The upgraded version of the overwater bungalow with a larger terrace.
- Overwater Otemanu Premium Bungalow (3 adults) – This is the same as the Premium Bungalow except they have the best views of Mount Otemanu.
- Overwater End of Pontoon Premium Bungalow (3 adults) – Again, same design of bungalow except these are located at the very ends of the pontoon and premium where in theory you wouldn't have any obstruction of other bungalows ahead of you.
- Pool Beach Villa (2 adults + 3 children) – Larger of the two beach bungalows with separate bedroom and living room looking over the beach. This is for large families and groups.
While I didn't get a chance visit any other bungalow other than ours, I did manage to take a few exterior photos of the Classic Bungalow. Take a look and you'll see why there are only two of them on-property and why they don't have a glass-bottom floor since the stilts are built on top of the coral rock instead of directly on top of the lagoon. As you can see, only one of them has stairs from the terrace but it doesn't drop right into the water.
Booking with Points
Where it's a little different is if you decide to book using Marriott Bonvoy points.
How much does it cost on points? – Currently, 6 nights in the Overwater Classic Bungalow costs 300,000 points and 1,200 XPF in taxes. If you wish to upgrade, it'll cost slightly more in points but also significantly more in cash as well. I would not recommend this as I have tips for upgrading a little later on.
The full cost of the Classic Bungalow is 642,900 XPF including taxes.
As soon as you have an idea of when your trip is, this should be the first thing you book since the Classic Bungalow books out very quickly on points.
TIP ON BOOKING WITH POINTS: You should be booking at least 9-12 months out.
Ahead of your arrival, you will receive an e-mail from their booking team. If you booked through points, they'll want a credit card on file which means filling out a credit card authorization form, scanning it, and e-mailing it back. To be honest this was not the most secure approach as I would have preferred another way of sending this information to them but there was no other method.
The credit card authorization is also used to deduct a deposit. I was a bit upset that the reservation agent did not explicitly mention how much that deposit was as I had to check my credit card for that amount and confirm with them afterwards. For our 6 nights, an amount of 57,500 XPF was deducted. In hearing from other guests, it looks like this is the standard deposit amount even if you're only staying one night.
You can e-mail the reservation agent to make specific requests or ask questions but the main thing they'll want to know is your flight information to organize the airport boat transfer. Beyond that, they don't need any other information from you.
TIP ON CHANGING DATES: As you start planning your itinerary, you might hit an “oh shit” moment with Air Tahiti flights as an example. Don't panic. I hit the same issue and so I reached out to the reservation agent to see if it was possible to move my reward stay. He checked the system and since this February is low season, he was able to accommodate.
TIP ON UPGRADES: Unless you were fixed on a specific premium bungalow, my recommendation is to ask for an upgrade after booking. As an example, my agent offered 30,000 XPF + 15% tax per night for an upgrade to the Overwater Bungalow Lagoon View. Alternatively, you can also kindly request for an automatic upgrade ahead of time. If you have Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Status, you'll have pretty high chance of this if occupancy is low. You might also luck out without it as well so I highly recommend that you e-mail the agent to see if they can secure something for you. If you have a specific preference on room number, you should also make that known ahead of time through e-mail.
BEFORE YOU CONTINUE
You need to read the companion French Polynesia travel guide that has literally everything that I learned from this trip. There are a lot of surprises that'll hit you when you're out there so you want to make sure you're as prepared as possible.
The nice thing about Bora Bora is that there are only a few arrivals with Air Tahiti for the resort to account for. As a result, the boat shuttles to the resort are synced with arrivals.
Practically speaking, this is why you don't need to pick a flight to Bora Bora that is near a boat departure time compared to say our experience at the Hilton Seychelles Labriz (watch the vlog).
Getting to Bora Bora
The first part of your journey will be your flight to Bora Bora. The air route is exclusively operated by Air Tahiti so there's no real need to shop around unless you're taking the private jet route. Alternatively, there are long-distance ferries but I would not recommend them.
If you take a close look at Air Tahiti's route map above, the inbound flights to Bora Bora come from Huahine, Maupiti, Moorea, Raiatea, and Tahiti.
When planning your island hopping itinerary, make sure to read the French Polynesia travel guide for tips on what you need to know including the directions of travel available.
Airport Boat Shuttle
Upon landing, you'll walk into the tiny island airport and soon be in an area that is surrounded by little booths that are represented by all the big resorts in Bora Bora. Head to the Le Meridien Bora Bora one and there'll be staff there to greet you with leis. They'll hand you luggage tags and instruct you to pick up your suitcases and then hand them to the hovering staff that will be in the area.
Once your suitcases are taken, you'll be ushered to the jetty which is right out the doors. The staff will point out which boat is yours and everyone will get on. They are ultra efficient and before you know it, you'll be pushing off and zooming over to the resort. The boat ride only takes 20 minutes and is really smooth since you're on the lagoon water.
If it is raining, the staff will also hand you disposable ponchos. The boat also has covered interior seating but there's also space for 4 passengers to sit in the rear of the boat if you want fresh air or to take photos.
Another sweet feature is that wifi is free although you'll hardly have time to use it because there's so much to see on your way to the resort.
The cost of this airport shuttle is 12,390 XPF per person for the round trip and it is not included with the accommodation rates whether you're on points or not. It's not something that you can get around but at least it'll hit your room bill so you can collect points on it.
Once you get off the boat, you'll be greeted by another welcoming committee, complete with the fanfare of a Polynesian ukulele performance. Each family will get assigned a check-in specialist. Depending how large the arrival group is, you'll be either taken to reception or another part of the resort.
You'll be provided a welcome drink and cold towels.
To complete the check-in, you'll need to hand over your passports. If you want to update your credit card on file, this is your chance to let them know. If you have Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status or higher, they'll ask you what benefits you'd like – points, a gift, or breakfast. It's a no brainer to select the free breakfast for two.
The hotel staffer will leave and then return with the final paperwork for you to confirm and sign. In this package is also a page of the resort's house rules. A signature is required for this as well.
What if you arrive early?
While you wait for your room, you can get access to the day room if you need to change or get organized. You'll also get an internet access code while you wait (good for 4 devices). When the room is ready, they'll find you.
In our case, we were actually lucky enough to get our room after our check-in specialist gave us a quick tour of the main facilities of the resort. This certainly shouldn't be expected but it did feel like the resort was doing its every effort to make sure we got our rooms as soon as possible.
Le Meridien Bora Bora Overwater Bungalow
The overwater bungalow is something special. It's not every day that you get to sleep above the water with the kind of views that Le Meridien has in Bora Bora.
Thanks to the Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status I worked towards the previous year, we were pleasantly offered an upgrade to the Overwater Lagoon View Bungalow. The specific suite we got was 208 (red dot) which is on the right arm of the resort as identified by the evacuation map in the bungalow since they don't actually provide numbered maps for guests. This review is focused on this particular unit.
To get to the pertinent details, I'll divide this portion into the various areas of the bungalow and highlight important information.
Suite 208 is not that far from the main resort facilities which turned out to be quite the advantage. From the main pontoon there's a short pontoon branch that extends out to the bungalow.
To the left and right of the door are two glass windows with wood shutters behind but those can be opened to let more light into the room. To the left of the door is a small slot to act as a mailbox but we found that it was really to put our “Do Not Disturb” sign and “Make a Green Choice” card in there. Typically, any mail is slid under the door.
The door is opened through the tap of your keycard.
The bungalow is the quintessential Polynesian style with a touch of modern elegance and comfort. The interior is heavy on wooden accents which gives it a down-to-earth and cozy quality. To augment this, you have the bright red colors of the cushion and chaise while also having the bright white to give it a refreshing feel.
Another feeling you get from the decor is how you have the juxtaposition of the outdoors and indoors. There's a flooding of outdoor light from the glass-bottom floor, windows, and shade. Then there's the physical connection with outdoors with the terrace that gives you the iconic view of Bora Bora.
The Polynesia-style design is something that'll immediately make you feel at home.
When you first enter the overwater bungalow you'll be WOW'd by everything in front of you but your eyes will eventually gaze downwards to the glow of the glass-bottom floor. This is undoubtedly the most impressive feature of the suite. My first reaction to the glass-bottom was how much larger this was in comparison to the Conrad Maldives (read the King Water Villa review).
Right above the glass floor is the oval coffee table and on top you'll find the welcome gifts (coconut dough bites, manoi, fragrance spray, and a Tahitian pearl with sand in a mini jar).
This large open living space also boasts a nestled couch which turns into a bed for a third person if necessary. Next to the coffee table is also a small circular chaise.
Above the couch is a 32-inch TV. While we barely used the TV, the system has a couple of handy features that are worth noting:
The living space is one central open area that connects to the King-sized bed, the workspace and bathroom but the nook with the TV and couch serve as a partition to the bathroom and there are also curtains that you can slide over to close off the other side.
- Resort notices are displayed on the home page (i.e. gym closed for cleaning or pool shut down for renovation).
- You can navigate the system to get to the live status of your bill. This is a welcome addition to transparently see how much you've spent so far.
Immediately to your left when you enter the bungalow is a tall mirror and a keycard holder. While the idea of this was for energy-conservation purposes but they put a dummy card in this slot to make sure the air condition can continue to run even when you leave.
Above the room is a ceiling fan dropped from pointed wooden ceiling. The speed of the fan can be controlled from the panel above the bedside table.
Lastly, the air condition unit is hidden behind wooden slats above the door entrance. The remote control is located in a holder on the right side when you enter the suite. We found that the remote to be a bit finicky to use because it seemed like the wood was blocking the IR signal so you have to stand in a very specific spot to make changes.
The bathroom space effectively uses the space in the square layout of the bungalow and has a U-shaped path.
On the side closer to the entrance, you have the toilet which is in its own room and has a door. The toilet is open to the outside air which means that it is much warmer than the rest of the bungalow if you have air condition running.
Next to the toilet is the open shower. The shower is has a rainfall shower and hand-held shower head. Just outside of the shower is a hook for your clothes and you'll also find the second pair of slippers and robe here.
On the long-side of the bathroom you have a double vanity sink and matching driftwood decorative mirror. There's plenty of counter space here to place your toiletries. In the centre are the classic Le Meridien's (Malin+Goetz) brand of moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Bar soap, shower cap, tissue paper, make up mirror are also included. Under the sink is a small foot-pedal garbage bin, open bin for towels, and make-up stool.
One thing that you might find a bit trippy about the sink is that the faucet is controlled by a separate handle to the right. It functions normally but might take some time to get used to.
You can find the bath tub on the other side of the bathroom. This is not a jacuzzi tub but is great for a relaxing soak. The wooden shutters open to the outside but there is no screen so keep that in mind. On this side there is also a clothes hook.
TIP: There is a clothes line that can be set up above the bath tub and this is useful to dry clothes that you wash including your swim suits if you're worried about them flying away on the terrace.
Opposite to the vanities is a handy ledge which you can use for additional storage of toiletries if necessary. All around the bathroom are towel holders so you'll never run out of space.
Lastly, I found that the even with the blackout blinds pulled down in the bathroom, you can feel a bit more of the heat emanating from this side of the bungalow. That said, for more light, the blind can be pulled up since the glass behind is frosted.
The King-sized bed is extremely plush and comfortable and up to par, if not better, than what you'd expect from a Le Meridien resort. For someone that's stayed in many hotel beds over the years, I can confidently say that this is one of the most relaxing and slumber inducing beds I've been on.
On top of the bed is a grey felt organizer that has most of the property's essential information on services, room-service, and programs.
To the left and right of the bed are oval nightstands with accompanying flexible LED light for more directed lighting compared to the mood lighting coming from the hanging lanterns.
Focusing on the left-side, you have the cordless phone, knob to control the ceiling fan speed, and the main control panel for almost all of the room's light switches so you don't need to get out of bed.
Lastly, there's what's behind the bed. There's a full wooden ledge here and you'll find an alarm clock that doubles as a night light. There are also blackout curtains here.
While there aren't mosquito nets, there is a mesh curtain that can be pulled out all the way around that effectively does the same thing.
Desk and work station
Next to the bed, opposite to the closet, and facing the terrace window is the table where you'll be setting up things like your computer and other electronics.
On the table surface is a liftable compartment that reveals a mirror and where they place Le Meridien envelopes.
To the left of the table are the outlets. There's only one electrical outlet but there are two additional USB outlets.
To the right is a tray with ice bucket and tongs.
TIP: If you're looking for ice, there are ice machines on the pontoon near the housekeeping hubs. They're not hard to find. Otherwise, call housekeeping and they can get that for you.
Below are a number of essential things for the bungalow. One is the mini-fridge. It's a pretty simple one with one shelf and no freezer compartment but it gets the job done in terms of keeping water cold. Inside you'll find two complimentary bottles of water.
Left of that is the pull out multi-level drawer and here you'll find tea bags, instant coffee, creamer, mugs, glasses, mixer sticks, and the all-important hot water kettle.
The walk-in closet is a space you'll definitely want to utilize to keep all of your things organized and reduce the clutter in the room itself.
The first thing you'll utilize is the bench which is large enough to put two suitcases.
Above the bench are the included hangars that you can use to hang clothes that you'll be using more frequently on this part of the trip.
Directly in front of you when you enter are various cubbies and drawers that you can utilize.
In front of you are also a number of included items in the room.
- Safe to store your valuables
- Hair dryer
- Iron and ironing board
- Life jackets
- Laundry bag
- Shoe helper
- Mosquito diffuser
- Book of Mormon
- Additional slippers and robe
Something that's good to know about this room is that it is open to the outside air which means the air condition doesn't reach this room.
The one notable thing that's not provided by the resort is a beach bag so I do recommend that you bring your own.
TIP: The differences in air flow between the closet and the bungalow can cause the door to knock around. There isn't a doorstop provided so through experimentation, we found snorkelling fins to work the best.
Next to the glass-bottom floor, the entirety of the terrace has to another top feature of the bungalow. Whether you have a view of the mountain or face a different direction, this is where you'll be able to have your own space to hang out on the sunbathing chairs on the deck or take the spiral staircase down to snorkel or swim the lagoon.
The deck of this standard overwater bungalow isn't that large compared to premium version but it's enough for the two chairs and a round table.
A smart touch to the deck is the fact that it employs a net-like barrier so if you happen to be drying any clothes on the deck, the chances of it flying away because of the wind is pretty minimal.
Take the spiral staircase down and you'll reach a small square platform and this is where you can gear up with your snorkelling equipment to head down or if you're coming back up, there's a fresh-water shower to rinse off that operates with a simple push of a button and is timed.
Typically the terrace opens through a single door opening but if you want to fully open up the airflow to the room, you can unlock the other side of the foldable glass and slide the whole thing to one side.
Every resort does this a little differently so I wanted to touch on this before moving onto the next section. There are two main times they came into the room for house keeping.
- When? Morning or early afternoon
- What's done? Making of the bed, sweeping, vacuuming, cleaning and organizing things on tables, opening of the blinds, fresh towels, and putting away blackout carpets for the glass-bottom floor. Linens are replaced I believe but we never saw this because of the Make a Green Choice program which you can read about below.
- Complimentary water replacement? Yes, usually although we notice that there were a few times this was missed. You can always request the two complimentary bottles of water per day if it was missed.
- What if you have the Do Not Disturb sign out? They won't come in.
- When? Evening, during dinner time
- What's done? Closing of the blinds, pulling out of the mesh curtain around the bed, turning on night mood lights, placing blackout carpets on top of glass-bottom floor.
- What if you have the Do Not Disturb sign out? They won't come in.
Make A Green Choice program
As with many hotel chains, many offer special bonuses for those that don't want housekeeping day to do. Le Meridien has their own version of this and it's on a card that you'll initially find in the felt organizer on the bed.
Unfortunately, the wording of the program is confusing because it doesn't work exactly as how it's described. In layman's terms, here's what you need to know.
- How? Put this card in the mail slot outside your door to let housekeeping know that you're opting into the program.
- Is housekeeping stopped completely? So this part really confused us but we learned that they still come in to do house keeping. I think the only real difference is that they don't replace linens. I'm not sure if this was just out of habit but we saw that they still gave us fresh towels.
- What about water? Since they actually do still come in to do housekeeping, they would leave us two new bottles of water each day. If that wasn't done, one time they left two bottles outside our door.
- When do you get the vouchers? You know that you're enrolled in the program when you come back from dinner and you see the actual voucher slipped under your door.
- How many days can you do this? You can receive the benefits of this program on all nights minus the first night. So for instance, if you're staying 6 nights, you will receive 5 vouchers if you participate the entire stay.
- Benefit? Each voucher is worth 500 XPF or 500 Marriott Bonvoy points. You can decide. My recommendation is to use them towards cash value. Experts say that Bonvoy points are worth roughly $0.007 USD per point so 500 is equivalent to $3.50 USD which is less than 500 XPF (roughly $5 USD).
- How do you redeem the vouchers? The night before checking out, head over to the reception and hand them all of the vouchers you've collected and instruct them on how to convert them. They will apply them to your portfolio.
- Do you need a different restaurant bill for each voucher? If you convert them to 500 XPF, technically you can only apply them against food and beverages charges. This shouldn't be hard but at one point I was worried that I needed a distinct bill for each voucher, meaning 5 different restaurant bills. Turns out they don't look at it that way. The reception staff simply counted up how many vouchers I had, double checked that I spent money on food and beverages and applied the discount to my folio.
Again the wording of the program on the card makes it sound much more complicated than it actually is.
Which is the best overwater bungalow?
For the purpose of “best”, let's isolate this down to the “Overwater lagoon view bungalow”. These are the ones in yellow on the map, and the one you will most likely book or get upgraded to.
I'd say the cluster of 202, 204, 206, and 208 are the absolute best (photo to the right is the view from 208 terrace). The key is not only in how the balcony faces Mount Otemanu but it is also important that it is a short walk on the pontoon from the main facilities. You'll really appreciate being able to quickly dash to your room if you forgot something.
This may seem counter-intuitive because the bungalows near the end of the pontoon are the most sought after, however what you don't realize is that the water beyond 218 become too deep to walk on and the waters are more rough. For poor swimmers, this is not ideal. Units closer to the beach have the advantage of being very shallow (knee-height).
Also, you're probably wondering why I'm not including the bungalows on the left arm pontoon. The reason for that is because of the extra distance you constantly have to walk to get to the main facilities of the resort. It's something that I had in my mind while we were roaming around but it was confirmed by a few other guests we talked to. It's just a tad far because you have to constantly cross the beach.
With that in mind, you can make a request with your reservation specialist via e-mail to see if you can secure one of those suites.
We were pleasantly surprised with the quality of food from all the restaurants we ate at on property. Of course, the prices are high but that's to be expected for a resort like this and considering the the shipping costs to get supplies to Le Meridien Bora Bora.
Across the board, the quality of service from the Maître D to the wait staff were exceptionally high and catered to our needs. However there was a general theme at dinner restaurants that they always seemed to be slightly understaffed and I could only speculate that this was because we went during low-season when occupancy was only at 50%.
Another general observation I'd apply to the resort is that you have to go in with the expectation that this isn't as large of a property as say the big brother St. Regis Bora Bora, or places like the Hilton Seychelles Labriz, Conrad Maldives, or even the Conrad Bali where there are multiple restaurants scattered across the property with different themes. The Le Meridien is a modest resort with a smaller footprint and as a result, there are less choices. In some ways this is a good thing but in other ways, you do come out of it yearning for a little more especially if you're here for an extended stay.
Half Board and Full Board Meal Plans
Before I jump into the different meals, it's worth going through the different meal plans available.
If not purchased already, you can upgrade your stay to half or half board. The way it works is that you have to commit to this cost per person for every single night of your stay. For lunch and dinner, it's a full 3-course meal. This is for those that are planning on eating at resort restaurants every single night.
That said, if you already have breakfast included through status, it really makes it hard to pick either of these packages. This is definitely not for anyone that's looking to have more thrifty meals at say the Miki Miki Bar. What they do try to sell you on is the fact that the big themed buffet nights are included in these packages.
- Half-Board – 7,150 XPF per day for breakfast and dinner
- Full-Board – 10,650 XPF per day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
The buffet breakfast is always my favourite meal of the day because it's what gets your day started and there's also the satisfaction that you can eat to your heart's content especially if it's complimentary with your Platinum status.
There's only one restaurant that does breakfast (aside from room service) and that's at Le Tipanié.
One of the nice features of breakfast here is that when you are greeted by the Maître D, you're offered one of two welcome drinks – strawberry with lime or passion fruit with a drop of sriracha. You'll provide your room number and they'll cross-reference their sheet to see if your breakfast is included or not. I also very much appreciated their attempt to remember our names here, the one of two places where property staff actually called us by “Mr. and Mrs. Tang”.
The set-up for breakfast here is the same everyday and is as follows (starting from the main entrance and moving backwards):
- Fruits and juicer – The selection of fruits varies from day to day based on availability. There will also be a few bowls of fruits and vegetables prepared specifically for the juicer (removed of skin).
- Salads – This is on the same buffet table next to the fruits and juicer. More importantly, this part of buffet has poisson cru. This is a popular item so it does empty out pretty quickly so jump on it when you see it.
- Juice and water – Next to the salads are several bottles of juice that range from apple, grapefruit, pineapple, and mango. These are all the from-concentrate variety. There's also flavored still water and regular iced still water. Sadly there is no fresh fruit juice
- Pastries – Here you'll find muffins, buns, croissants, rolls, lemon cake, and danishes. Overall, I found the pastries to be average with my benchmark of a fluffy and fresh croissant, a missed mark. There was one particular bun that was drizzled with honey that was amazing but it wasn't a daily item.
- Mixed table – This table has a ton of things but you'll find items such as cold cuts, cheese, spread, sauces, nuts, yogurt, cereal, milk, a “healthy corner”, and fruit toppings.
- Bread and espresso machine – This table has a selection of sliced bread, toast, and a self-serve espresso machine. I didn't find too many people used the espresso machine because the staff typically took coffee orders and they would handle it in the back kitchen.
- Hot foods station 1 – This is the omelette station and your standard made-to-order eggs. In front are hot items such as bacon, beans, sausage, hashbrowns, potatoes, scrambled eggs, and hard-boiled eggs. They also have a smoked fish or ham benedict that you can order off of their healthy menu.
- Hot foods station 2 – This is the pancake, crepe and french toast station with additional hot foods including baked tomatoes, porridge, miso soup, and vegetable fried rice. A favourite item here is the croissant with ham. For the made-to-order desserts, there's syrup, hazelnut spread, chocolate sauce, peanut butter, and sliced bananas.
JUICER TIP: Don't make the same mistake as we did initially which was to throw in whatever fruit we could find at this bar, including skin. Don't laugh! Use the specially-prepared fruits or you can get a little creative by preparing fruits such as bananas yourself. To make the juicing process as easy as possible, I recommend putting all the fruit you want first and then turn on the device.
For the coffee drinkers here, you can order it from the waiter as you get seated.
For those that have breakfast included, you won't receive a check for you to sign.
The cost of breakfast is 5,300 XPF per person. If you're not interested in the buffet, they also do offer an a-la-carte menu.
A unique feature of Le Tipanié is that it has seating that opens into the man-made lagoon. Every table that is along this edge is given a bowl of fish food pellets which is meant for you to feed the fish.
WATER TIP: If your breakfast is included through a meal plan or status, you can request a 2L bottle of water at your table. This is free.
There are several options when it comes to lunch. For a meal at a restaurant, there's Le Tipanié and Te Ava which will be pricier options. For more casual fare, you can head over to the Miki Miki Bar or the Pool Bar. There's also room service.
The menu at the Miki Miki Bar is the same as their dinner menu. The Pool Bar shares the same kitchen as the Miki Miki Bar but there are some differences in the menu.
Below is the lunch menu at Te Ava.
If you're hanging out by the beach, you can always put an order in with the staff that come around and they'll bring the food from the Pool Bar for you.
There are two main restaurants with full dinner menus at the resort – Le Tipanié and Te Ava. Both menu's offer a unique breadth dishes with a fusion of different styles. They actually refer to Te Ava as the “Mediterranean restaurant” but I didn't find that to be the most accurate description.
Le Tipanié is the same setting as breakfast so you'll be very familiar with the restaurant. One thing about this restaurant is that the outdoor seating is more limited although they do have the tables by the inner lagoon.
Contrast that to Te Ava which has tables on the sand. Half of the tables there are out in the open by the pool and the other half are under a roof. They have rocking chairs here which is unique.
While I did enjoy the setting here more, we noticed that there were more mosquitoes around so you definitely have to spray repellent on your legs.
This was all worth it though as I thought the food at Te Ava was better with dishes like the Beef Prime Rib (for two), and Sea Bream in Salt Crust. I also found the prices here a little cheaper than at Le Tipanié.
There is a third restaurant here as well named, Hapaina. This used to be a tapas bar but they recently changed this over to a healthy restaurant, focused on wellness dining. We didn't get to eat here as it wasn't well promoted but did capture the menu.
All of these restaurants feature the signature Bora Bora sea salt (either pure or with Tahitian vanilla) which you can use as you please. This is a perfect compliment with the warm bread that's provided with all of your meals.
On Thursday and Sunday, the restaurants function differently since this is the big themed buffet nights. Thursday is the Polynesian buffet and Sunday is the International buffet. On these days, all the restaurants close down except for Le Tipanié. The cost is 9,100 XPF.
There are also a few other special themed nights:
- Wednesday – Mexican (Te Ava)
- Saturday – Sushi (Miki Miki Bar)
There is no official dress code at dinner however what you'll notice is that most people will change to nicer clothes in the evening.
WATER TIP: If you want tap water, make sure to ask explicitly for “tap water”. Otherwise, they'll assume this is an order for bottled spring water (i.e. glass bottle of Evian for 720 XPF)
If you're looking for something more casual, there's the Miki Miki Bar where they offer “unique bites with a chic twist”. The setting here is really laid back with its bar, couch seating and dim lights which is why the menus are all back-lit.
The Pizza Margarita is 2,000 XPF and Pizza Hawaiian is 2,600 XPF and are great value for the amount of food you get.
One last tip I'd like to make is that reservations are mandatory for dinner if you're eating at the restaurants even if that means letting reception or concierge know a few hours before. If you're eating at the Miki Miki Bar, no reservations are required.
These are the full menus:
The Pool Bar is where most people hang out during the day. They have certain specials posted and can make any drink you want. It's also at the Pool Bar where you can order fresh coconut, and is the only place to do so. Not only is there the bar itself but they also have a few small tables surrounding the pool if you want your own space to grab a bite.
If you're lounging on the beach, there are bar staff that come around to take your order.
In the evening, the Pool Bar closes in favour of the Miki Miki Bar upstairs. They have more of an extensive drink menu and they also offer shisha.
The below is the room service menu and is quite extensive. It's easy to order and they deliver very quickly. The best value of food items is actually in the Kid's Menu so pay attention that section.
Here's a look at the menu:
The secret is that the Kid's Menu Pizza Margarita at 1,100 XPF is the exact same as the one offered by the Miki Miki Bar and the Pool Bar.
Free food? Well not quite but there are a couple of hidden features of the resort that aren't obviously marked.
- There is free self-serve espresso at the salon/business centre as it is equipped with an Illy espresso pod machine.
- There are complimentary water dispensers at the beach activity centre, Turtle Centre shop, gym, and waiting area of the spa.
- In your room is a card for a complimentary coffee. You can redeem this pretty easily at the Pool Bar or the Miki Miki Bar for your coffee of choice.
Activities on property
While you're at Le Meridien Bora Bora, take advantage of the incredible setting you're in and plan your stay around what you can do around the property. There's a variety of things you can do (free or paid) that will occupy you for days.
This is a look at what you can expect.
There is a long stretch of beach that connects both arms of the overwater bungalows and it looks directly out at the majestic Mount Otemanu.
You can enjoy this beach in a a number of different ways with these chairs:
- Standard beach chair – The most plentiful and arguably most comfortable way to enjoy the beach. They're usually found in pairs and have a small table in between them.
- Bean bag chairs – These are scattered around the beach. You can't exactly lie down in these but they are surprisingly comfortable to sit on them.
- “Cocoon” couches – If you prefer to snuggle and get out of the shade, these cocoons have tons of cushioning.
- Square cabanas – These are square cabanas that when fully set up have mattress covers and a satin mesh surrounding it. However during rainy season, they usually don't bother setting it up.
- Blue rings – Out in the water are several anchored blue rings. Swim out to them and enjoy the beach in the comfort of cool water. The rings have cup holders built in.
Every morning they put beach towels on all of the beach chairs so you don't need to go far to get them. Alternatively, you can always get free beach towels from the Activity Centre by the beach.
While the main pathway of the beach can be a little rocky, once you walk towards the palms and chairs, the white sand is quite comfortable, although not exactly the soft sand beach of the Caribbean. There's plenty of cover from the various trees here so you can easily hide in the shade or bring your beach chair out to lie out in the sun.
Another nice feature about this beach is how shallow the water is. You can almost walk directly out halfway into the water that the overwater bungalows stretch into before your feet stop touching the ground. There also aren't many rocks or any sharp coral here at all, making it extremely safe. The flip side is that there is nothing to snorkel for.
For rinsing, there are full shower stations near the Pool Bar. You can also find feet rinsing stations right before the pontoons to the overwater bungalows.
On the beach you'll also find a few activities pieces such as soccer nets, and volleyball net.
There are two fresh-water pools at the resort. The larger of the two sits right in front of the Pool Bar with one shallow and deep end. Beach chairs surround the pool. At this pool, there's also a jacuzzi hidden near the bridge that connects to Le Tipanié but it has the same water temperature as the pool and the jets aren't placed for much comfort.
The second pool is right in front of the Te Ava restaurant. It has a beautiful view is unobstructed compared to the first pool since it doesn't have the square cabanas in front of it. The difference with this pool is that it is shallow all the way through.
We also found that this pool was often empty and is generally a less trafficked area since it doesn't have the bar.
The inner lagoon that I'm referring to here is the man-made lagoon of the resort. In the middle is a platform where you can swim to and camp out in its beach chairs or bean bag under the cover of the umbrella set up there.
The inner lagoon is also great for snorkelling because this is where the fish are fed everyday at breakfast. There are also more fish here because of the coral nursery and entrance into Turtle Center pool.
Beyond the fish, this is also a great area to snorkel because they've placed several large tiki's underwater as sort of a treasure hunt for kids and adults.
Lastly, this is the same inner lagoon that the beach bungalows face up against so for those folks, you can walk right into the inner lagoon.
There are 4 of these “secret” cabanas that are placed in the water. They're across a shallow channel that separates the main island of the resort with a neighbouring motu. It's not promoted by the resort which is why I'm still not clear whether it's an official feature.
I highly recommend anyone staying here because it's incredibly secluded and is a near-private part of the resort because nobody goes. These are 4 cabanas placed right above the water, allowing you to lie down on a suspended bed with only the rustling of palms and crashing of the ocean on the other side of the lagoon.
The differentiating feature of Le Meridien Bora Bora is their on-site Turtle Center. This is an ecological centre dedicated to the conservation and protection of marine turtles. Think of this as a turtle hospital, taking in injured turtles from the region, nurturing them to health, and releasing them back into the ocean when they are ready.
They are exclusively on the property for Le Meridien guests and the best part is that they have a free feeding experience daily at 10:30AM that has combines an educational component with a chance to feed turtles that are being rehabilitated in their sanctuary. No reservation is required and you can come for as many days as you wish.
Located in front of the entrance of the Turtle Center is a “touching pool” that gives guests the chance to observing and touch shells, corals, sea cucumbers, sea urchins “pencils”, and starfish under the supervision of the biologists. This is what's known as the Healing Hour (2PM or 3PM) for 5,000 XPF per person. There's also a full day experience called Live My Life Healer for a Day which also includes lunch and a t-shirt for 13,000 XPF per person.
- Can I touch the turtles? No this is strictly forbidden for your protection and also to prevent any contamination. Note that you'll be given gloves to wear to protect the turtles.
- Are cameras allowed? Yes. There are no camera restrictions in the sanctuary.
- How long is the feeding experience? The presentation is roughly 20 minutes and the feeding itself 20 to 30 minutes.
- Is the Healing Hour worth it? If you're not a scuba diver, this is a great way to swim with turtles.
- Can you openly snorkel in the Turtle Center pool? No, you aren't allowed to as this is reserved for the Healing Hour activity.
- Can I feed turtles in the Turtle Center pool? There are signs that explicitly say that this isn't allowed.
- The food for the turtles does run out since there's only a small tupperware box for each turtle so don't wait.
- The educational component is typically run in English but if there are enough French speakers they do split the group up.
- The souvenir shop has specific hours (Sunday – Thursday 9AM – 2PM) however in reality it's normally closed since the staff are tending to the turtles and not in the store. The best time to go to the store is right after the feeding experience.
- Throughout the day, they let 1-2 turtles out into the pool as part of their rehabilitation so if you feel like watching turtles, come at any time to see if they're out and about.
- All money spent at the Turtle Center store goes to their foundation.
The activity centre at the beach is responsible for the following free activities. For almost all of these, you can rent/borrow/take out the equipment for these activities all from the beach activity center which is open from 8AM – 5PM
When it comes to the water activities, no reservations are required. The exception is the Polynesia sailing canoe. They only do this complimentary experience from 12PM-4PM. Since the wooden canoe is quite fragile, the conditions have to be near perfect for them to take it out.
- Snorkel rentals – You can borrow them the first day you arrive and return them on your last day
- Glass bottom single and double kayaks
- Polynesian sailing canoe – 30 minute beach discovery
- Coconut show
- Weaving (while I never caught them making them, they freely give away the leaf hats and purses so all you have to do is ask)
- Beach volleyball
- Football (soccer)
- Giant chess
- Lawn bowling
- Ping pong
When it comes to paid activities, the Concierge office is your best bet to figure out what your options are. They have an iPad which lists them all out but keep in mind that you're not restricted to booking activities with the resort. Since the property is easily accessible by boat, any operator can pick you up. Here's a sample of them.
- Kite surfing
- Waterski, wake board, tube tow, surf foil
- Va'a ho'e outrigger canoe experience
- Hobie cat
- Pareo painting
Excursions offered by the resort
There were pages and pages of excursions on the Concierge tablet and I stopped after awhile but here are the ones that I captured to give you an idea of what's available.
- Half-day lagoon tour
- Star tour
- Reef discovery tour
- Eco-friendly snorkelling tour
- Sailing tour
- Deep-sea fishing
Here are a few recommended tours offered outside of the resort.
- Half Day 4WD Island Tour – You'll see several lookouts including East Matira, Faanui Cannons, and Amanahune Bay. See a demonstration by local artists, check out vestiges of World War II, and taste delicious tropical fruits at a plantation.
- Jet Ski and Shark Stingray Snorkel Cruise – Combo tour that includes jet skiing, lunch and snorkelling tour that includes a shark and stingray boat safari.
- Self-Drive Jet Ski Tour – Tour the lagoon in a jet ski on your own with a local guide. Learn how to open a coconut as well in between!
- Morning or Afternoon Snorkelling Tour – Cruise to the best swimming spots throughout the lagoon with your guide and dive beneath the waves
- Stargazing and Sunset Cruise Tour – Following a beautiful sunset, learn about how the ancient Polynesian people used the stars to navigate their way across the South Pacific.
How do you get off property?
- There is a shuttle to the main island of Bora Bora, Vaitape, at 8:30AM, 1PM, and 6:30PM. Return pick ups from Vaitape are 12PM, 4:45PM, and 9:45PM. This costs 3,045 XPF per person (free for children under 5 and 50% off for children under 12). Note that most of the village shops are open Monday – Saturday from 9AM-5PM.
- Shuttle to the St. Regis Bora Bora is free but only if you make a restaurant reservation.
On select days, Le Meridien Bora Bora has special activities and events for guests. The unfortunate thing is that these are promoted very well.
- Wednesday – Movie Night on the beach (8:45PM)
- Thursday – Handicraft Market (10AM – 6PM)
- Thursday – Polynesia Dance (9PM)
- Saturday – Beach Party (11AM-mid afternoon)
Le Meridien Bora Bora facilities
Besides what's been mentioned so far, there are a number of other facilities that are worth noting around the resort.
Main resort building
Most of the resort's services and facilities are centred around the raised building with its beautiful garden courtyard in the middle. Once to take the stairs up from the beach, you'll have access to the following places. I'll start with the gift shop and go in clockwise direction.
At one corner of the courtyard is the small store that sells gifts, clothing, souvenirs, and snacks. They're modestly marked up as you'd expect. Their selection of souvenirs is pretty slim but is serviceable in a pinch but expect to pay more for them. As an example, postcards are 200 XPF (roughly $2).
Their snack selection really only includes some chips and nuts. They also sell juice as well.
Lastly, there's also a separate room in the shop that has wedding dress rentals.
The concierge office is where you're recommended to go to make any reservations or bookings. The helpful staff there will answer any questions you have and whether through the tablet standing outside or the physical books they have inside, you can browse through all of the menus, activities, and their associated prices.
This large room will also often have promotions posted here such as this below which was Valentine's Day deal at the spa.
Library and Pool Table
In this open space you'll find a pool table and a rack for the cues. On an adjacent wall is also a bookshelf with an assortment of books left by other guests. There aren't any formal signage here around this being a “take what you need and leave what you don't” system but that's pretty much what it is.
Tahiti Pearl Market
This is a miniature version of the exact same store we visited in Papeete as part of our 16 day French Polynesia itinerary and we were told that their prices are identical. If you haven't had a chance to visit a Tahitian pearl store yet, this a good chance to learn about it and buy if you're interested.
The reception desk is beautifully decorated by a wall of cone-shaped shells. There are usually 4-5 staff working here during the main hours and this is where you come to in order to sort out your final bill, make reservations if the Concierge is closed, ask any questions you might have, request a golf buggy to take you back to your bungalow, buy stamps, or mail your postcard (there's wooden box with glass panel on the far left side).
They sell stamps here at market rate (140 XPF) which is a nice offering since most resorts will mark this up.
Salon and Business Center
This is meant to be a meeting place for guests if you're looking to do something indoors. You'll find a number of couches, chairs, and tables here. This is the perfect place to play cards with a group of family and/or friends.
The business center part of this area is closer towards the window and has two computers for complimentary use. I did not see a printer here though so if you need that done, you might have go to the reception desk.
Lastly is the secret of the Illy espresso machine here. There are a number of different types of pods available for you to use at any hour.
Miki Miki Bar
This is the primary bar at the resort with gorgeous views especially at sunset. Come here for cocktails and a snack or for a full meal.
The gym is a standalone building with a comprehensive collection of workout equipment including several treadmills, ellipticals, bicycle-machine, rowers, and even a full multi jungle station kit.
At the back-side of the building is where you'll find a water dispenser, towels, and also small wet towels in a mini-fridge.
Outside in a separate building is the sink and toilets for the fitness center (warning that there are many mosquitos here).
Diveasy Diving Center
The dedicated dive shop at the resort is Diveasy. They offer the full gamut of services that you'd expect from a diving center. The advantage of going with them is that they're located right on-site which means pick up and drop off is a breeze and if they need to contact you, they can do it through concierge or just call your bungalow directly.
Ultimately, we didn't end up going with them and instead, TOPDIVE, because they were cheaper and they offered seamless pick up and drop off from the resort's jetty.
Surrounding the diving center are most of the on-land activities including human-sized chess board, table tennis, and pétanque (French lawn bowling).
You'll also find a picnic bench here and a hammock.
Manahau Wellness Center
The on-property spa is across from the dive center. They offer treatments such as massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, yoga, and back stretching.
The chapel is exclusively used for special events such as weddings and romantic dinner bookings. With large stained glass and a large walkway up to the bungalow, inside is also a large glass-bottom floor and a rear walkway out to the deck.
The chapel is usually locked but we managed to take a peek inside when it was left open.
As with the rest of French Polynesia, the electrical outlets here are European style (two round prongs in a circular receptacle.
In the bungalow, there are just enough of them around but at the same time not in abundance. For instance, if you take a look at the desk, there's a single electrical outlet and two USB outlets. Luckily I had a Belkin travel power bar which allowed me to extend this into 3 outlets.
For the rest of the room, there's an outlet on the baseboard near the entrance. There's also an outlet in the bathroom (bathtub side) which is the special one for shavers and hair dryers.
There are no outlets by the night stands.
The wifi at the resort is superb. You're not going to have any issues with connectivity while you're on the property whether you're in your overwater bungalow, at one of the restaurants, or on the beach.
In standard Le Meridien fashion, you'll be automatically prompted to enter in your room number and last name when you connect to the network. Up to 4 devices are allowed. For the duration of our 6 nights, we weren't re-prompted to log in – a huge plus.
I did a few speed tests while I was there and here's what I measured for those that are interested. It isn't lighting fast by any means so don't expect to be doing Zoom calls all day. I anecdotally noticed differences in performance throughout the day and even in repeated tests like you see below so take this for a grain of salt.
Checking out is incredibly simple and you'll appreciate the seamless process.
The night before you'll have an envelop slipped underneath your door and inside is a letter with information about your next day's departure. Most importantly, pay attention to when you're supposed to have your luggage outside your door and when you need to be at the jetty since they know what time your departure flight is.
In the letter you'll also see them mentioning the “transit area” which is their day-use room but this'll really only apply to those that have late afternoon flights.
The last thing you should do before you head out is to go to the reception desk to apply your Make a Green Choice vouchers (if you haven't done it yet) and to double check your bill before they apply the payment on the credit card on file. This way, they can print you a final bill for you including the credit card receipt.
Areas of improvement
No property is perfect, even one as incredible as Le Meridien Bora Bora. Below are two things that stuck out to me during our 6 night stay.
Programming and activity information
I have to say my biggest gripe about the resort is that it just doesn't do a good job at telling guests what's happening at the resort on any given day. For example, at all Conrad properties, they have newsletter of the day's or week's activities. Something like this is helpful to plan your week.
Instead, Le Meridien takes a hands-off approach, leaving guests to figure it out themselves.
The best example I can give are those special weekly events such as Movie Night or Polynesia Night. Unless you saw the sign at breakfast or if you overheard someone talk about it, you never would've known about it.
While most of the food at breakfast was good, one thing we did come away was that we wished they changed some of the offerings from day to do to make breakfast a bit more exciting and refreshing.
What you should pack
Make sure to read the full Islands of Tahiti packing list but if I were to narrow things down to what you need in Bora Bora, here's what I'd highlight:
- Mosquito repellant – There aren't any issues with mosquitoes in the bungalow but it's handy to have if you're eating dinner outdoors.
- Beach bag – These aren't supplied in the overwater bungalows so it's a good idea to bring your own so you can throw in things like towels and snorkel gear when you head out to the beach or inner lagoon. This beach bag is the best rated out there!
- Dry bag – If you're a bit more paranoid about getting things wet especially if you're crossing over to the “secret” cabanas, you might want to pack one of these bags. It'll come in handy for scuba diving as well.
- 3 outlet power bar – The bungalow desk only has one electrical outlet next to it. If you have many devices that require charging, this would be very handy to have.
- A good book – You'll have plenty of time to unwind and read while you're at the resort.
Favourite photography spots
Here are a few locations on the resort that I thought were great for photos. Your best bet is to bring your own tripod but if you're hoping to get professional photographs, there are paid photography packages. We also heard from a couple that they simply asked one of the staff to help with photos and they happily obliged.
The left arm of resort by suite 304 has a perfect view of the umbrella of overwater bungalows and Mount Otemanu perfectly aligned in the middle.
Te Ava infinity pool
The pool in front of Te Ava restaurant has an unobstructed view of the lagoon and mountain. If you get right down to the water, you can get awesome reflection shots at sunset.
Miki Miki Bar
The Miki Miki Bar has an awesome elevated view of the resort and is definitely a guest favourite to grab a drink and take photos of the sunset.
There are plenty of angles to choose from in the main building of the resort. The courtyard here is lush with life whether it's the large trees or the lotus flowers blooming in the water. This particular shot is right behind the couch that sits behind the Miki Miki Bar.
These secluded cabanas make for great photos with the resort as a backdrop.
Tips to save money while at Le Meridien Bora Bora
Intuitively, you know that a stay at Le Meridien Bora Bora isn't going to be cheap, and you'd be right to think so. That said, there are plenty of smart ways to limit your spending here that go along the same vain of how to travel to French Polynesia on a budget.
Here are the best money saving hacks while staying at the resort.
Stay here for free with Marriott Bonvoy Points
This is the most obvious one. Instead of spending over $6,000 USD on 6 nights, spend only a mere $12 USD to stay here. All you have to do is build up 300,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. While this sounds like a lot of points, it's actually a lot easier to do than you think.
- Sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express
- where you earn a 50,000 welcome bonus after you spend a minimum of $1,500 in your first 3 months. This Card has a $120 CAD annual fee.
- Spend on the above credit card to earn 2 points for every $1 on all card purchases or 5 points for every $1 spent at Marriott properties.
- Stay at Marriott properties to build up your Marriott Bonvoy balance and take advantage of quarterly promotions that you have to explicitly sign up for.
- Sign up for alternative American Express Cards such as the American Express Gold Rewards Card, American Express Business Gold Rewards Card, or American Express Cobalt Card and build up American Express Membership Rewards points. Each of these Cards have their own welcome bonuses which you can then convert to Marriott Bonvoy (5 Membership Rewards points to 6 Marriott Bonvoy points)
Of course, the stay isn't completely free because you'll be spending money on food and activities but this is a massive head start.
Hotel status matters
One key feature of the Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status is that you're eligible for free breakfast. For resorts such as Le Meridien Bora Bora, this is critical because breakfast alone can cost $50 USD or more per person.
Turn breakfast into brunch
Breakfast is from 6:45AM to 10AM so if you're smart about it, have as late a breakfast as possible so it turns into a brunch. It's a buffet so just eat as much as you can have and most likely you won't get hungry again until dinner time.
They start cleaning away food just past 10AM but they won't really kick you out of the restaurant until 10:40AM. We usually tried to get there a little past 9AM and we lingered around until 10:15AM.
Pack food and snacks from home
- Protein and granola bars
- Trail mix
- Candy (chocolate not recommended especially in hot climates where it might melt)
- Cup noodles
This may sound silly but this is a great cost-cutting measure that we always do. These are food items that you can keep in your day pack or in your accommodations to help curb your hunger as an alternative to ordering food. Snacks make great meal replacements in a pinch. Bringing food for dinner is also a great option.
These don't need to take up a lot of space but here are a few ideas for things to bring.
I eluded to this earlier. The room service kid's menu has some of the best-value food items on the resort.
Initially we thought the size of these items would be small but the Margarita Pizza turned out to be the exact same size as the one you could order from the Miki Miki Bar. I'm not sure if it's a pricing error but, hey, take advantage of it!
You might not want to do it every every day but they do make great meals for lunch or a dinner replacement for one of the nights (or two).
Participate in the Make a Green Choice program
I've explained how the Make a Green Choice program above. It's a no brainer because you're reducing your footprint on the environment while you're staying there and you can also save money as well.
Each voucher you collect gives you 500 XPF off your bill which isn't a lot but it'll cover a few of those Hinano beers that you order.
Take advantage of the free things
There are many items that are complimentary with your stay so why not take advantage.
The obvious things are the activities that are part of the resort such as the pool table, beach sports, and special activities such as hat making, weaving, Polynesian performance etc.
I wanted to detail out other complimentary items that are easy to forget:
- Your room gets 2 free bottles of water a day but if you need more, you can fill up bottles at either the beach activity center, the Turtle Center gift shop, the spa entrance area, and in the gym.
- Your room is stocked with instant coffee and tea bags.
- There's a free self-serve Illy espresso machine at the salon/business center.
- In your room's felt information folder is a card that is good for complimentary coffee at the bar.
- If breakfast is included, you can request a 2L bottle of water for free.
Earn points from your stay
You know you're going to be spending money at the resort so why not make the most of it by again leveraging the American Express Marriott Bonvoy to earn 5 points for every $1 spent at Le Meridien Bora Bora. Those quarterly bonuses apply to this so depending on how much you spend, you can make a bunch of points in return.
Book excursions outside of the resort
For the best value on excursions, your best bet is to book on platforms outside of the resort. The top tours I'd recommend are:
- Bora Bora Snorkel Cruise Including Snorkeling with Sharks and Stingrays
- Bora Bora Jet Ski Tour, Lunch at Bloody Mary's and Shark Stingray Snorkel Cruise
- Half Day 4WD Island Tour
- Self-Drive Jet Ski Tour
- Morning or Afternoon Snorkelling Tour
- Stargazing and Sunset Cruise Tour
How does tipping work?
If you've read the French Polynesia travel guide, you'll know that they are really laid back on tipping. Essentially it's not part of the culture or expected so ultimately it's up to you. From the research I did, the general average seemed to be at 10%.
When eating at restaurants, you'll have to sign a bill even if you bill it to your room. On this bill is a line for a tip is that is where you can add your 10%.
For the included breakfast buffet, they don't provide a check but we also didn't see anyone leaving tips.
For the room, we meant to leave tips for housekeeping but we opted for minimal cleaning with the Do Not Disturb sign so we tipped at the end of our stay.
We also tipped the boat shuttle as well on our way to the airport.
How much did it cost?
This is the final breakdown of the bill for you to browse through. Even though our stay was more-or-less free, the biggest costs were the meals at Le Tipanié, and Te Ava. The other big cost was the boat transfer as well.
Again, note that the Turtle Centre Donation of 1,000 XPF is automatically added and so is the initial deposit amount that you made prior to your arrival.
The total bill for 6 nights was: 73,910 XPF ($689 USD).
Are drones allowed?
There are a few no-drone signs at the property but they are primarily directed at the pontoon area and where the overwater bungalows are located. I spoke to the staff about the flying of drones and their advice is that it's strictly not allowed by the bungalows for privacy reasons but if you want to fly it behind the property towards the ocean and at a higher altitude, they don't mind.
If you're following French Polynesia's official rules on drones, there is a process to apply for the, but unfortunately it is not friendly for leisure flyers. The forms for applications are definitely geared towards professional use.
Without providing any formal advice, I'd recommend that you do your due diligence here. The information isn't particularly complete online but I was able to obtain a package of 3 files that you'll need to get you started. I've added these resources to the Insider goodies page.
I will say that upon arrival in Tahiti, contrary to what some people have reported on forums, customs were not seeking out drones to confiscate. I had no issues bringing my Mavic Pro drone via my carry-on backpack.
Best time to go to Bora Bora
The average temperatures in Bora Bora stay relatively flat throughout the year, ranging from 30°C (86°F) at its warmest and 28°C (82°F) at its coolest.
What changes is the precipitation levels with a maximum from November to March during its rainy season and a minimum from June to September during the dry season.
The hidden factor you have to consider is when high season and low season is for travellers. Much of this hinges on when vacation is for those living in France which happens to be in July and August. There's a bit of an uptick during the Christmas holidays but it's not like other destinations where it gets flooded with people since it coincides with the heaviest rainfalls.
Taking all of those things into consideration, June and September to October are probably the best times to go overall.
However, having gone during rainy season in February, I can't say it was a bad experience at all. Yes, the rains are a little unpredictable but you also get the advantage of the resort being at 50% capacity which means high probabilities of being upgraded and being much more quiet and private in contrast to the busy months.
- Are there other good places to snorkel? The answer is “no, not really.” Your best bet is to snorkel either in the inner lagoon or try your luck around the overwater bungalows where rays are known to hang out. Unfortunately there is no real “house reef” here just because of how the island is formed.
- Are there good places to spot animals? We found there were also good chances to spot eagle rays and sting rays by the first 2 suites from the pontoon (201, 203). At night, it's also worth it to turn on your under-the-bungalow light as it does attract fish including sting rays which came by quite a number of times.
- What can you do on rainy days? This is a valid question especially if you're going to Bora Bora during rainy season like we did (February). The beaches and the pools won't be useable when it's raining which means you'll be spending your time in your bungalow. There is some cover on the terrace thanks to the thatched roofing if you pull your beach chairs towards the entrance. The good thing is that rains in Bora Bora typically come and go quickly.
- How bad are the mosquitos? Not bad at all. We went during rainy season in February but had no issues with mosquitos in the room. They were a problem in the evening at dinner especially at Te Ava but that was the only time I felt like we really needed to put on repellant.