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Dazzling blues, emerald greens, Bora Bora is the island of South Pacific dreams. But ask around and you might hear some travelers stick their nose up and call Bora Bora called “Boring Boring.”
But is it true?
After spending time both in most affordable accommodations on the mainland and sleeping under the stars in a five-star overwater bungalow, I can confidently say Bora Bora is anything but boring. There are plenty of exciting things to do in Bora Bora, no matter what type of travel style you’re into.
Discover all the best travel tips and things to do in Bora Bora in Moon Tahiti & French Polynesia.
1. Explore the lagoon on a snorkeling trip or sunset cruise
The beauty of Bora Bora is what makes it so alluring. After all, it’s not necessarily the island with the best beaches, scuba diving, or tour offerings. The best way to experience the mountainscape of Bora Bora, and see its blues up close, is on a lagoon tour.
Most tours will pick you up from a convenient point on mainland Bora Bora and take you to a snorkel site rife with black tip reef sharks, stingrays, reef fish, and coral heads. You might also stop for a picnic lunch on a white sand motu (islet). It’s wise to bring your own snorkeling gear, as equipment quality and size varies.
For a romantic experience, venture out on the water onboard a catamaran for a sunset cruise. You’ll be toasting to impeccable views with a glass of wine in hand–it doesn’t get much more romantic than that.
Bora Bora lagoon and sailing tours:
- Full-day group snorkeling tour
- Snorkeling tour from a motorized outrigger canoe
- Shared catamaran sailing tour with Vitamin Sea Bora Bora
2. Scuba dive with manta rays and reef sharks
Plunge underwater at Anau dive site and look up. Two-meter-wide manta rays glide overhead. Anau is a cleaning station for reef manta rays, where these underwater acrobats come to get freshened up by cleaner fish, who feed on the microorganisms growing on and the manta rays’ skin. Sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, stingrays, reef sharks, eels, and more underwater creatures call the reef of Anau home, making it one of the best things to do in Bora Bora if you love sea life.
The reef pass of Bora Bora (it’s one and only), connecting the lagoon to the open ocean, is also a hub for marine life. Venture here and you’re bound to spot reef sharks and reef fish swimming over the intricate coral floor.
Bora Bora scuba diving:
3. Visit the WWII cannons
During World War II, the U.S. military set up a base on Bora Bora, contributing to the infrastructure used today. There are a handful of cannons set up around the islands that, aside from a test launch, have never been fired. Some of these cannons are on private property, and therefore challenging to reach. Or, they’re on a road that requires a 4WD. If you wish to see them, it’s best to do so as part of a day tour.
There are two easily-accessible cannons found just off a path near the the vessel quay of Farepiti, turning onto a dirt road marked by an electricity pole. It’s around a 20-minute trek to the top at a leisurely pace, and venturing here reveals views of Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia. Two other relatively easy-to-find canons are found at Point Fitiiu on the hillside. The rest require 4WD access, a local guide, or both.
4. Laze the day away on Matira Beach
Most of Bora Bora’s best sugar sand beaches are relegated to its outer motu, tiny islands topped with palm trees fringing the lagoon reef. But there’s one lounge-worthy spot to be found at Matira Beach. This crescent of white sand and turquoise water is typically calm, making it perfect for wading, swimming, and exploring via kayak or SUP. It’s one of the best places in Bora Bora to bring kids.
Snorkeling just off the beach here isn’t the best–the seabed is mostly white sand and sea grass. But, you’ll find decent snorkeling around Matira Point. If you’re craving a snack and a cold Hinano, the Bora Bora Beach Club is open from 11am daily.
5. Hit the trails
Wake up before the sun moves fully overhead and explore Bora Bora’s stunning interior. I recommend downloading Alltrails for GPS-assisted maps and routes before setting off, though many are relatively straightforward to follow. If you want striking views from Mount Otemanu, head off on the one-hour out-and-back trail starting in Faanui. The trek to the top of Mount Pahia is challenging but worth the effort, taking around four hours to complete from Tiipoto (3.5km out-and-back).
6. Embrace the lagoon views from an overwater bungalow
Bora Bora is the overwater bungalow destination. If you can afford to spend a night, ideally at least two, in an overwater bungalow, it’s bound to be a highlight of your trip. Most of the resorts offering overwater bungalows are found on Bora Bora’s outer motu, and while these are isolated, they offer privacy, views of the mainland, and a sense of getting away from it all. The overwater bungalow resorts in Bora Bora tend to have more of a five-star, luxury feel compared to those found in the Tuamotus and Society Islands, which lean into more of a boutique, rustic vibe.
Epic overwater bungalow hotels:
7. Venture out on an ATV excursion
Rumble along Bora Bora’s bumpy roads on an ATV excursion to the WWII canons, scenic lookout points, and dirt roads penetrating the island’s interior. If you have a driver’s license, you’ll be able to rent an ATV and see the island from an adventurous perspective (riders on the back of the ATV do not need a license). Most tours are led by a local guide who is happy to talk about the history, highlights, and cultural insights to the island.
Bora Bora ATV tours:
- 3-hour ATV tour with Manu, includes snacks
- Full-day ATV and jetski tour combo with motu picnic
- 3-hour tour in a 4WD (great for little kids)
8. Stroll through Vaitape
The public ferry arrives at Vaitape, Bora Bora’s main town. It’s typically sleepy, hosting a handful of souvenir shops, an art market, a produce market, car rental stands, a pharmacy, grocery store, and food trucks doling out crepes, pizza, and noodle dishes come evening.
9. Grab a sunset drink at one of Bora Bora’s popular hubs
You haven’t experienced Bora Bora to the fullest until you’ve had a cold drink. Maybe it’s a chilled pineapple juice, coconut, Hinano, or cocktail… it doesn’t really matter. For an upscale ambiance, head to Restaurant Saint James, a somewhat swanky venue serving French fare and seafood. For a laid-back scene where sailors come to imbibe, head to the Bora Bora Yacht Club.
If you’ve already researched your trip to Bora Bora, you might’ve seen Bloody Mary’s mentioned as a frequent recommendation–it’s famous for hosting quite a long list of A- to D-list celebrities. The atmosphere here is lively and jovial, with a bar and tables set on a sandy floor. It’s somewhat of a tourist trap, but one worth getting caught up in.
10. Cycle around the island
A 30-kilometer road loops around the island of Bora Bora. Pack snacks, sun protection, water, and a backpack to enjoy many of the sights few other tourists ever get to see. The road around Vaitape tends to be busy around 7am-9am, but is otherwise relatively quiet. Many accommodations offer bicycles free for their guests to use.
11. Shop for souvenirs at the Bora Bora Art Market
The Bora Bora Art Market is just behind Vaitape Wharf. Inside, you’ll browse stands crowded with woven crafts, shell and pearl jewelry, hand-painted sarongs (pareau), sculptures, and other souvenirs. It’s a nice way to duck out of the midday heat, and purchase gifts for family and friends without paying the marked up prices at the resorts.
Ready to take it over to the tropics? Chat with other Tahiti travelers over on our Islands of Tahiti Travel Planning group.