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Guide to booking overwater bungalows in Bora Bora and Moorea

We have all seen the omnipresent pictures of the crystal-clear waters and the overwater bungalows in the middle of Pacific or Indian Ocean. Then as you open google maps trying to see where some of these beautiful places are located, they are like little specks in the middle of nowhere. They seem so distant, in far-away exotic lands, and hard to reach.  Mostly located in French Polynesia and Maldives (one each in Caribbean, Cambodia, Malaysia & Fiji), just getting to these islands can be an adventure in itself.

In this post of the Bora Bora and New Zealand series, we will cover the ins and out of booking these villas in French Polynesia and getting to them. See other posts in this series.

Flights to New Zealand and French Polynesia (Bora Bora) using miles

Upcoming: Our favorite places in North Island of New Zealand

Upcoming: Our favorite places in South Island of New Zealand

This post: Booking overwater bungalows in Bora Bora and Moorea


Getting There


Out of 118 islands in French Polynesia, about 67 are inhabited. Even though there are many under the radar and lesser known islands, we opted for the popular islands of Bora Bora and Moorea for our first visit. The hub for getting to all of these islands in French Polynesia is Tahiti. It is about 8.5 hr flight from LAX or about a 5 hr flight from Auckland. It is located pretty much between NZ and USA so we decided to visit these on our way back from NZ to break up the long 13 hour flight.

LAX to PPT

PPT to BOB

See our post on how we got to French Polynesia and NZ using miles here.

Once you get to Tahiti, unless you are going to Moorea (40 min ferry ride from Tahiti), you will need to book another small flight to Bora Bora or other islands. Air Tahiti (not Air Tahiti Nui) is the sole operator in this region so you can check out their website for flight destinations and more details.

Once you get to the Bora Bora airport (BOB), you will need to book a 10 min boat shuttle to your hotel since the airport is located on a separate island.   . As an alternative, the airline provides free transfer to the main island of Vaitape where you will find restaurants, small shops, post office, etc. You can stock up on supplies and then take a taxi followed by a shorter pre-scheduled boat transfer to your hotel from Vaitape.

The transfers from airport to hotel cost approximately, 10k – 18k xpf ($90 to $160) one way depending on the hotel. . Going the taxi and shorter boat transfer route would cost less than half but increases the travel time by an hour or 2 considering the additional legs. We opted to go directly to the hotel to spend more time in the bungalows and resort.

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If you arrive early (before check-in time) or need to depart late (after check-out time), most resorts / hotels offer use of a “transfer” bungalow for taking a shower and to freshen up. This option works out great after a long flight or after a day on the beach before catching the flight back.

In addition to the great beaches, pools and other amenities, most resorts / hotels also offer free snorkeling, paddle boarding and kayak rentals.

There are various rooms in these hotels – garden villas, beach front, etc. which are very nice but we will focus on various overwater bungalow options for this post.

Although named differently depending on the hotel, the three basic categories of overwater bungalows are –

  1. Standard overwater bungalow

These first tier of overwater bungalows are pretty great but the peripheral views from the bungalows might be blocked by neighboring structures. The amount of space in the bungalows might be a little less, the view from the balcony may face inland, and the amenities in the room may be more limited than the premium bungalows.

  1. Premium overwater bungalows or overwater bungalows with views

In addition to the standard bungalow amenities, these bungalows will likely have a preferred location on the boardwalk and views toward the open bay. The backdrop of plant covered ancient volcanic mountains looks stunning against the deep aqua water.

  1. End of pontoon or top tier overwater bungalow

These are top of the line and are located at the end of the boardwalk.  These rooms usually have the best views, are most private, have better amenities (the resort we enjoyed had an espresso machine in these bungalows) and hence are the most expensive.


Bora Bora Overwater Bungalows


With spectacular lagoons, endless perfect blue water and picture perfect views of Mt Otemanu, there are various world class options to choose from when deciding on your stay in Bora Bora. Four Seasons, Intercontinental, Pearl Beach, St. Regis, Conrad,and many more properties all have renowned offerings.

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Here is a breakdown of some of these hotels and their loyalty programs –

  1. Intercontinental Le Moana Bora Bora or Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso Spa

Bungalow range: Average $900 to $1500 per night

Pay using points:

You can get Chase IHG credit card, which offers one anniversary night free. In addition to this, you can sign-up for IHG ambassador program for $200 and get buy one get one free night certificates which is a great bargain.

A nightly rate approximately costs 50k points for a standard land-based room with option to upgrade to an overwater bungalow for $200 – $300 extra. Paying entirely with points would cost 70k to 110k points. As you can see, the points + cash provides much better redemption value.

Paying using cash:

If you don’t have enough points or are planning to pay using cash, you might want to check how much it costs to buy the points. During some promotions, buying IHG points and paying with points instead of cash might reduce the total price tag by quite a bit.

You can also use Citi Prestige and get the 4th night stay reimbursed. We used this method to subsidize our hotel cost since we were travelling during Christmas/New Year’s holiday and the point redemption didn’t make sense.

  1. Regis Bora Bora or Le Meridien Bora Bora

Bungalow range: Average $900 to $1700 per night

These are the two SPG properties in Bora Bora in case you have a stash of SPG points lying around. Le Meridien is category 6 and St Regis is category 7. Overwater bungalow award redemptions start from 65k to 120k per night and it isn’t easy to find availability in the first place. Considering SPG point evaluation of 2.7 cents per point, the redemption rate is pretty bad. Based on this, it would make sense to pay using cash or use Citi prestige and get 4th night free.

If you are an SPG platinum member, you can also book a slightly lower tier room in the hopes of getting upgraded. I wouldn’t hold my breath because the bungalows are sold out for the most part.

Note – we used the following approach to get SPG Platinum status: Get AMEX SPG credit card which gives you instant gold status and complete one of the SPG status challenges requiring about 21 paid nights to be upgraded to platinum.

  1. Conrad Bora Bora

Bungalow range: Average $700 to $1200 per night

This new hotel opening in April 2017 can be booked using Hilton Honors points. It costs between 60k to 80k points for a night. Keep in mind that you get 5th night free when booking using points so at ~65k points/ night, it is a great deal.

  1. Sofitel Bora Bora and Pearl Beach Bora Bora

These bungalows cannot be booked using points. Use the Citi Prestige to receive 4th night free for these room bookings.


Moorea Overwater Bungalows


If another flight from Tahiti and pricey Bora Bora bungalows turn you off, Moorea might be a great option. Once you arrive in Tahiti, take a 15 min taxi ride to Tahiti port and then a 40 min ferry ride to Moorea. The two operators that run on this route are Aremeti or Terevau ferry (lookup timings beforehand on the website to see which ferry timing would work depending on your flight timings).

Once you arrive at Moorea port, you can prearrange pickup through your hotel or through one of the transportation services.

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  1. Hilton Moorea

Hilton Moorea property is ideally located with the mountains in the background on one side and the beautiful lagoon on the other side, over which the bungalows are perched.

After 5 days of pure bliss in Bora Bora, we were not sure what to expect from Moorea. We were not let down! The beach, pools, gym, amenities were all great. There was also a large variety of breakfast options with fresh mango and live Polynesian music 😊 … The service at the front desk was a little slow and left something to be desired.  Also, if you plan to visit over new years, note that Hilton and most other resorts automatically opt you in and charge you for a new year’s banquet meal costing approximately $500 per person! No, this isn’t a typo. The front desk person didn’t assure us completely that we were opted out and wouldn’t be charged. Also, for any questions we would ask, they would ask us to remind them about it in a few hours or the next day! It also took about 45 min to check-out – Allot extra time for any inquiries or assistance at the desk.

Bungalow range – $500 to $1000

It costs 80k points to book a standard room and then pay about $280 to upgrade to an overwater bungalow assuming there is availability.

  1. Intercontinental Resort and Spa Moorea

Bungalow range: Average $600 to $1100 per night

For points redemption or payment with cash see #1 option in Bora Bora Bungalows section

  1. Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort and Manava beach resort and Spa

These bungalows cannot be booked using points. Use the Citi Prestige to receive 4th night free for these room bookings.


When to visit


French Polynesia has tropical warm weather all year around. The temperature is a bit more mild from May to October making it the ideal time to visit. November to April can be really hot and at times rainy and hence slightly less desirable. We went in December and even though it was a little hot, it rained only for a few hours on one day. PACK SUNBLOCK! It is absolutely NO fun to spend any portion of your vacation with 3rd degree sunburn preventing you from getting a restful night’s sleep in an overwater bungalow!


Bottom Line


Start collecting points with the specific credit cards / loyalty programs listed above or use Citi Prestige 4th night free to book this vacation of a lifetime. Even though these flights and hotels to Bora Bora might seem prohibitively expensive, with a little bit of luck and lots of planning, the dream of visiting these islands is very achievable.

We have tons of information on this topic but can’t fit everything into a post. Leave comments below or ask us questions and we will happily respond.

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