Skip to content

Home » Blog » All You Need to Know About Bora Bora, Tahiti Vacations

All You Need to Know About Bora Bora, Tahiti Vacations

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our Disclosure Policy for details.

Bora Bora

French Polynesia is one of the most attractive tropical getaway destinations in the world and with good reason. From iconic and indulgent hotels and resorts to pristine land and water to a paradise landscape all around, the entire island chain is like something out of a dream.

Both Tahiti and Bora Bora are crown jewels in the French Polynesian crown, with tons to offer visitors from lands afar.

Booking a vacation to such an exotic and incredible destination is, for many, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Obviously, you want to get things right. So, let’s talk about everything you need to know to make sure your trip to Bora Bora, Tahiti, or both goes perfectly.

How to Get to Bora Bora and Tahiti

First, let’s talk about the hardest part: getting there. As an isolated island chain in the South Pacific, it’s not exactly a quick drive out. You’re going to have to take a flight, and it’s your choice of what hubs to go through.

Tahiti is the main island in French Polynesia and is home to the capital, Papeete. Any flight you take in is almost definitely going to bring you to Papeete International Airport. From there, you can choose to stay in Tahiti, or take another short hop via Air Tahiti to the airport on Bora Bora.

Flying to an Island

Where you leave from depends on where you are. The main flights to Tahiti tend to come from locations like LAX in Los Angeles, Auckland International in New Zealand, Honolulu International in Hawaii, or Narita International in Tokyo. And, of course, no matter where else you are in the world, you can fly into one of these hubs.

Depending on your schedule, you may be “stuck” in Tahiti overnight for at least one night. Interisland flights stop at 7 pm, so unless you arrive in Tahiti earlier in the day, you won’t be able to reach Bora Bora in one uninterrupted journey. Fortunately, Tahiti is one of the best places in the world to be quote-unquote “stranded,” so it’s easy to make the best of it.

The Language in Tahiti and Bora Bora

Tahiti and Bora Bora were, for much of history, pretty much isolated. The indigenous population speaks Tahitian, though it’s largely kept at home, as they don’t expect anyone else to know a word of it. Tahitian itself is a Polynesian language and is related to many other languages from islands in the area, like Java and Samoan, and more closely to Maori. As such, you probably aren’t all that familiar with any of it. It’s easy enough to pick up a few simple words and phrases, though! They won’t exactly allow you to navigate the islands, but they can show a bit more than the average amount of consideration for the culture that thrives on the islands.

Tamure Dancers in Tahiti

Being French Polynesia, you can also expect French to have the biggest presence. French is the official spoken language of the islands, so a working knowledge of French will help a lot.

That said, you don’t need to know either of these languages as long as you stick to the touristy areas. English is such a common language that you’re perfectly able to navigate and function throughout the majority of the destinations and activities you could want to do.

Be aware, though, that if you want to go outside of the common destinations, exploring off the beaten path, you’ll have less language support. People are generally helpful, but you may still need to get by on a few scattered phrases of French and a lot of hand waving.

Where to Stay in Bora Bora and Tahiti

Both Papeete and Bora Bora are heavily populated tourist destinations, so there are plenty of options to stay in both. You have vacation rental homes, B&B lodges, and numerous resorts and hotels to pick from. They’re all great in different ways, so a lot of it comes down to your budget and what you want to get out of your trip.

A Resort in Bora Bora

Our tip: if you want to spend most of your time lounging in the tropical sun and being catered to, a full-service resort and spa is a great option. If, instead, you prefer a home base where you can park your luggage while you go out and go on adventures in the islands and ocean, then lodges and vacation rentals are a better choice.

If you want a direct comparison of the best hotels in Bora Bora, we wrote one based on our experiences here. Check it out!

Pack Everything You Need for a Bora Bora and Tahiti Vacation

A great trip to an exotic destination means making sure you have everything you need. While you can get common supplies and the occasional replacement for lost or broken items, French Polynesia is still relatively isolated and distant, and you’re not going to find a Walmart with everything you could possibly need.

Luggage for a Bora Bora Vacation

Here’s what we think you should make sure you have.

  • Reef safe sunscreen. A huge part of this destination is the diving, and you need to keep that underwater environment safe for future visitors.
  • Waterproof containers. In particular, a dry bag for things like your wallet and phone is essential. Similarly, a waterproof phone case can let you bring it with you and use it as a camera underwater if you don’t want to grab a GoPro for your underwater photography needs.
  • Diving gear. If you plan to go diving and you’ve gone diving or snorkeling before, it’s a great idea to bring your own gear. You can rent gear while you’re there, but it may be used, uncomfortable, or ill-fitting.
  • Hiking gear. Exploring the islands on foot is an incredible adventure, so with some decent hiking gear, you can explore the jungles, see the waterfalls, and go on special hiking tours you can only get to via boat. Trust us, it’s incredible.
  • Sun and beach gear. A good beach towel, swimming suits, a sunhat, sunglasses; you’re going to a tropical island, you need everything necessary to make sure you’re getting the most out of the trip.
  • Photography gear. While you don’t need this, we always think it’s better to capture the moment on a nice piece of gear so you have less of a chance of being let down by your records of the trip. We have a whole guide to photography here, so check it out.
  • Beware of the living hazards. The no-no fly and the ever-present mosquito are constant pests, and there are some underwater hazards like rockfish and corals you should recognize and avoid. Bug repellant is a good idea as well.

Other items may depend on your personal needs. You know better than we do what you need when you travel! Of course, if you have any specific questions, feel free to reach out, and we’ll see how we can help!

General Tips for Making the Most of a Bora Bora and Tahiti Vacation

There’s a lot of ground to cover that doesn’t need a whole section, so we’ve accumulated those tips here.

Make reservations in advance. Everything from your hotel to your meal reservations to the activities you want to do, like snorkeling or diving excursions, fill up very fast. If you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your vacation, book the main hits you want to do well in advance so you have those slots locked in.

That said, we believe it’s always a good idea to be flexible. Sometimes, you get seasick, or you have travel sickness, or a tour is canceled, or the weather is bad. Rather than expect every minute of your trip to be scheduled and collapse if the schedule falls apart, having some flexibility and opportunity can be a great idea. There’s always something fun to do on the islands; you just might need to be a little more adventurous to find it.

A Couple Snorkeling

What kinds of activities can you do?

  • Safari hikes and ATV excursions are an incredible adventure through the land side of the islands. Visiting Afareaitu Waterfall is an excellent trip, and the hike to the summit of Mt. Aorai is unforgettable.
  • Whale-watching and swimming with the whales are majestic. You can only book these trips during specific months and with strict rules to keep the whales happy and undisturbed. If you can get a slot, though, there’s nothing in the world quite like it.
  • Snorkeling and diving to see the coral reefs is incredible as well. For many people, the idea of coral as this bright and vibrant undersea life form is something exaggerated by museums and cartoons, but in Tahiti, it’s real.
  • Swimming with the sharks. Tahiti is home to countless small sharks, which are large enough to be a great sight but small enough to be harmless to humans. Fakarava, in particular, is a unique undersea adventure.
  • Moorea, another of the local islands, is also an incredible destination and possibly one of the most underrated locations in all of French Polynesia, with tons to do.

There’s always more, too, and you certainly won’t want to leave when your stay is over.

Visit during the right season. The best time in general to visit French Polynesia is in the dry season, between May and October. The sun is shining and high, the weather is more favorable, the rain stays away most of the time, and the humidity is low.

That said, if you don’t mind the occasional rain shower and higher humidity and would prefer lower prices and fewer crowds, April and November are good times to visit. These are the “shoulder” seasons, the transition between wet and dry, so they’re not quite as nice – but also not quite as densely packed – as the dry season.

Understand the monetary customs and habits. If you’re spending time at a resort, chances are you can pay for everything with a card or put it on your overall bill. Going out of the resort, you’re likely going to be able to pay for major things with a credit card, but having some cash on hand isn’t a bad idea.

Tipping culture varies around the world and can be a big concern when you travel. In Tahiti and Bora Bora, tipping is a nice extra, but it’s not required. Keep it as a special gift of appreciation for a job well done.

Getting Around the Islands

Flying into Tahiti is your typical commercial airline flight. Once you’re in French Polynesia, though, how do you get around?

If you’re traveling between islands, you can take a ferry if the journey is short or take an inter-island flight on Air Tahiti. We usually recommend the flight, as it’s faster and gives you more time to enjoy what you came here for. That and ferries can make you seasick quite easily and are a miserable experience if you’re at all susceptible to it.

A Beach Resort in Bora Bora

On the islands themselves, you can take boats from coastline to coastline, or you can rent a scooter or bike. There are plenty of cars around, and sometimes you can rent one, but be aware that they’re generally manual, so if you’re not keen on driving stick, stick to the scooters. Taxis are also an option.

Some trips around the islands can be done on ATVs, but you’re less likely to be taking a quad around the islands for your general commuting.

Above all of this, though, is public transit. Bora Bora is small enough you barely need anything, and Tahiti has a simple and easy bus network you can use to get pretty much anywhere you want to go.

Our adventures in Tahiti and Bora Bora were incredible and unforgettable. Hopefully, with our tips and advice, yours can be as well. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments or drop us a line directly! If you’ve been, feel free to share your stories as well. We love to talk with fellow adventurers, and we can’t wait to hear about your Bora Bora or Tahiti experiences!

Posted in

You may also enjoy:

Stephen & Giselle backpacking the Sierra High Route