I couldn’t believe that we are back in Bora Bora just over 2 years since our last visit! We were originally booked for Hawaii to use our Alaska Airlines companion vouchers but when we saw United’s 40 years anniversary special one-day award sale for just 40k United miles roundtrip to Tahiti, French Polynesia; it was too good to pass on the deal! Our last visit was back in 2019 with Peter and Jeffrey and they would love to go back since it’s one of the most beautiful and secluded places they have ever been! When I told them about this deal, they and my cousin Judy said let’s go! Judy would love to bring her boyfriend for his 30th birthday but since his birthday is early September, the return flight was 30k instead of 20k but still, it’s an awesome deal for just 50k roundtrip. The best is we were able to find award spaces for 6 of us and within that day, we booked in May for the trip at the end of August.
We had stayed at St. Regis and Le Meridien Bora Bora in 2019, the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso in 2015, we would like to try different resorts. The flight schedule worked out to be 9 nights in Bora Bora so we decided to split into 4 resorts. The Four Seasons Bora Bora was our top choice since it has been highly rated and we found an unbelievable low rate due to the pandemic – $1,549 per night for an overwater bungalow including the boat transfer (usually over $100 per person roundtrip) and breakfast. Normally, it’s around $2000+ per night. Peter would love to stay at St. Regis again for its lagoon. I don’t mind staying at the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso again since they have never stayed before and I think it has the best view of the mountain. One resort left…..we were debating between the Conrad or the Le Bora Bora. Conrad was very expensive at over $1300 per night for just a standard “villa”; not even an overwater bungalow and it doesn’t have the mountain view. Le Bora Bora was recently renovated at $1290 per night for a lagoon view overwater bungalow including breakfast. We leaned toward Le Bora Bora. Then, just almost a month before our trip, Conrad Bora Bora suddenly opened up the standard villa rooms to redeem with 85K points per night; 85k Hilton points for a room cost over $1300, it’s one of the best redemptions with Hilton points! Jason had enough points to book 2 rooms or 2 nights and since Peter and Jeffrey couldn’t get their points on time, I booked 2 rooms for 1 night at the end of the trip so that we can check out the Conrad. That means, 5 resorts to hop around in Bora Bora! It is not a good idea for first-timers but since it was our 3rd time, we just want to experience different resorts 🙂
Planning and booking trips during the pandemic have a lot of uncertainly and when we booked the trip in May, COVID cases in French Polynesia was very low and the US Travel Advisories listed it as a Category 2 which is just Exercise Increased Caution. After we got back from the Greece trip at the end of July, French Polynesia has the COVID outbreak due to the delta variant. Things got really bad really fast to a point that a lockdown was issued! We could cancel our flight and hotels that we booked on points (St. Regis, Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso, and the Conrad) without any penalty, however, Le Bora Bora and the Four Seasons Bora Bora have already passed the free cancellation date. I contacted both hotels and both are very accommodating to allow us to reschedule. The Four Seasons Bora Bora even allows us to postpone up to Aug. 31st, 2022 and guaranteed the same rate! We assessed the impact of the lockdown on our trip – basically no excursion outside of the hotel and no travel to Bora Bora town; we are free to circulate within the hotel grounds and move from one hotel to another. Therefore, the lockdown didn’t impact us much. The major concern was the COVID testing to return to the US. If in the unlucky event that we caught COVID, we need to quarantine for 10 days which will be very expensive. I read from the news that there were 15 tourists tested postive on one day; there is COVID testing in Tahiti airport for departing passengers. As the outbreak was new, they did not have quarantine hotel setup for departing passengers and the US Consular Agency stepped in to help locate vacation rentals, hotels, AirBnBs. I contacted the US Consular Agency (their email is firstname.lastname@example.org) and they responded quickly. They said on average 4 departing passengers tested positive per day, the 15 were unusual for that day.
We chatted among our group and decided to still go because: 1) we all are fully vaccinated, healthy with no underlying health condition (well except me who is pregnant), 2) we’ll be in resorts so all outdoor activities, guests are spread out, and we’ll wear a good quality mask (KN95) indoors, 3) 4 out of hundreds of tourists departing per day is a relatively low percentage, 4) and we can accept the worst case that we have to quarantine for 10 days since we saved a lot with booking with points and got good cash rate.
The entry requirement to French Polynesia, please check https://tahititourisme.com/en-us/covid-19/ for the latest. When we went, the requirement was the health request and the ETIS along with the 5,000 xpf (~$50) fee for the PCR self-test to take upon arrival that we submitted prior to the trip for approval and the QR code. We got the approval email within a few hours after submitting it. Then, up to 3 days prior to the departing flight, we need to take the PR-PCR or antigen (rapid) test; a negative test report and a signed sworn statement are required for boarding the flight. We took the PR-PCR test 2 days prior. We also scheduled an antigen test with CVS the day before but it got canceled last minute without a reason grrrrr, not reliable and luckily we got the PCR test report the very next day! The airline staff checked the negative test report before issuing us the boarding pass to Tahiti but no one check for the signed sworn statement. The flight from Boston to San Franciso was packed with cramped seats! The flight from San Francisco to Tahiti was so empty (a lot of people canceled their trips) that we had a row to ourselves; it was really comfortable!
On arrival, the airport staff gave me a VIP treatment since I am pregnant so we got right into the front of the line to check out ETIS QR code and were given a PCR self-test kit. Then, proceed to the passport control without much wait and we got to the baggage claim at no time; it was fast! I prebooked Marama Tours for the hotel transfer to Hotel Tahiti Nui for €143.10 total for 6 people roundtrip; we were greeted by the staff at the arrival hall with fresh flower leis and escorted us to the van; all the staff was wearing a mask! We had to stay a night in Tahiti due to the flight arrived at night. Originally we picked this hotel since it’s right in the heart of Tahiti center that we can walk to the food trucks and check out the Sunday market but all those are closed due to the lockdown. It also has a suite that can fit 6 of us for $486 a night. The hallway, once we got out of the elevator to the room, was super dark, we had to turn on our phone’s flashlight to even see the room number!
The suite entrance was the living room with a sofa bed and a twin bed to accommodate 6 people.
A small bathroom (no shower) right next to the entrance.
Then, there’s a kitchen with a dining table. The odd thing is it has a stove and oven but no microwave!
We brought food from San Francisco knowing that all restaurants will be closed by the time we arrived. It was inconvenient without a microwave so we ended up heating up the food with the stove one by one.
Up at the 2nd floor, there are two bedrooms and each has its own bathroom with shower. Our bedroom:
The 2nd bedroom:
The suite was clean and comfortable for a one-night stay. We did our PCR self-test by following the instruction provided and stored the test kits in the fridge; it was fast and easy. The next morning, upon check-out, we dropped off the test kits to the hotel receptionist and got picked up by the tour company to the airport for our domestic flight to Bora Bora. The Air Tahiti staff checked our vaccination card as the rule changed that only vaccinated people can travel from Tahiti to the other islands. Once again, I was given VIP treatment to be the first one to board the plane so we got the 2nd row on the left side of the plane for the unobstructed view, however, the windows were quite dirty! The flight to Bora Bora was around half full where all the tourists sat on the left side of the plane for the view of Bora Bora upon approaching.
We flew by Moorea:
Bora Bora, we are back! Never tired of this view even though it was our 3rd time!
Our next 9 nights in Bora Bora in this order:
2 nights at the Le Bora Bora by Pearl Resorts
2 nights at the Four Seasons Bora Bora
2 nights at the St. Regis Bora Bora
2 nights at the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso
1 night at the Conrad Bora Bora
I will be posting reviews and pictures of each resort so stay tuned 🙂