French Polynesia

Bora Bora 2021 – Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso Villa Teremoana Review

Our 4th resort – Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso – it has been almost 7 years since our last visit! When we arrived, the hotel staff were there waiting for us with this guy playing music. He was one of the happiest staff we came across, he even play his mini guitar when driving the golf cart!

We were given a lei necklace but odd that they only prepared 5 necklaces so Jeffrey ended up not having one. I suspected that it was due to Judy’s reservation was for 2 people that she booked via the Chase travel portal. She said she did call Chase to adjust for 3 people but it wasn’t updated. Upon check-in, they said they’ll need to charge an additional 10,000 xpf (around $100) per night for the 3rd person. Even that, I did inform the hotel that we are traveling as a group of 6 and arranged the private transfer so they should know 6 of us will be arriving together!

I booked the Emerald overwater bungalow with 100,000 IHG points per night for two nights. Since our last visit, the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso has become one of the hardest award redemption hotels in the IHG chain due to points and miles bloggers that many more people are into credit card sign-up bonuses and redeeming them at expensive hotels and flights. They limit the inventory to one room per night for award booking. Once we booked our flight to Tahiti and decided to stay at the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso, I started to look for award availability. Unlike other hotel award inventory where they usually release a year in advance, I read that the Thalasso releases 4 months in advance, and usually as soon as the room is released, people booked it as they can cancel it for free up to one week prior to the stay!

Given that, as we planned to be in Bora Bora from August 29-September 7, I checked the IHG website daily end of April. I looked at both the award calendars of Intercontinental Le Moana and Thalasso to compare and figured out the exact date the award room is released up to. It is not exactly 4 months because the number of days per month is different from month to month so it’s slightly a few days before or after. For example, our stay was on September 4th and the room was released on May 7th. By checking daily, I also figured out that sometimes the hotels released two or three days at once! Now the most important question is what time to snap the room??? I am not going to publicize it but I will share my strategy on how I figured it out. I read that some software engineers even wrote a script to check it throughout the day but I don’t know how to code. So my methodology was I checked a few times a day of the Intercontinental Le Moana award calendar as those rooms don’t get booked right away to narrow down the time window until I got down to the hour. The good news is that IHG releases them at the exact hour so I don’t need to further narrow down to the hour and minute ๐Ÿ˜‰

I was successfully booked 2 nights on September 4-6 with my IHG account and 1 night on September 6-7 with my brother’s account (I did not have enough points for 3 nights). Also, the overwater bungalow can accommodate up to 3 people and when booking with points, there’s no extra charge for the 3rd person. You can modify the number of people afterward too which I have done and was updated in their system immediately unlike Judy’s booking with Chase. For those who are thinking to take advantage of the 4th night free when booking 4 nights together using points, the trick is to book the nights available even under different reservations first. Then, find a time outside of the IHG release time to cancel the reservations. Usually, as soon as the reservation is canceled or up to a few minutes later, the room will be put back to inventory as available. And then you’ll have to be fast to book them immediately. It works most of the time unless you are unlucky that someone else is also looking for those dates and happened to be checking at the same time!

After the booking, I emailed the hotel to inquire about upgrading to the 1 or 2 bedrooms Villa Teremoana (also known as the Brando suites). I got no response from the hotel email address on the reservation confirmation email (gsc.boraboraspa@ihg.com) so I emailed other email addresses on the hotel’s website. I finally got a response from concierge.boraboraspa@ihg.com which the concierge forwarded to Jennifer, the Assistant Front Office Manager. She said that for 4 adults, I need to book the 2 bedrooms as the 1 bedroom can only accommodate up to 3 adults. The hotel website said the 1 bedroom can accommodate 4 people but it’s really 2 adults and 2 children or 3 adults. I was quoted the upgrade price of 150,000 xpf per night plus taxes so more than $1500 (not bad considering the cash value is over $4500 per night). However, they later clarified that the price quoted is for at check-in if the room is still available, if I want a guaranteed upgrade, it’ll be 279,507 xpf per night plus taxes! We’ll try our luck of course for the price difference.

Back to the trip report…the staff drove us to the lobby building to check-in. It was different than 7 years ago where we were given the hotel tour first on the golf cart, then seated at a table with the view of Mount Otemanu, and the staff brought the paperwork to us. I wondered why they changed that great service!!! We even had to wait in line to check-in as there was another guest in front of us. At check-in, I found out our room was upgraded to the Sapphire overwater bungalow (perhaps of the low occupancy due to the lockdown) and was offered 50% off breakfast for our stay. I gladly took the 50% off breakfast offer. I asked about the availability of the 2 bedroom Villa Teremoana for the upgrade. The guy looked shocked at my ask, he had to call his manager and got back a quote of like 250,000 xpf per night (I forgot the exact amount)! I told him that I contacted Jennifer before, she quoted at 150,000 xpf and showed him the email proof (thankfully I saved the email and pulled it up right away). He gave another call to his manager again and they honored the quote of 150,000 xpf per night plus taxes but they’ll need to charge the 10,000 xpf per night extra for Jeffrey as my reservation was for 3 people. We were told that our room will be ready by 2 PM and one of the staff took us to the back of the lobby for a group photo with Mount Otemanu as the backdrop. The staff took the photo with her cellphone and we’ll get the photo upon checkout. I remembered they took a photo of us at check-in as well but we never got the photo at checkout back then so we’ll see this time.

The awkward moment started after the staff was done taking the photo, she left us there…I was expecting a tour of the resort but no! Minutes passed, another staff came and gave us the password for the resort public wifi since our room is not ready yet and then he asked what is our plan; wouldn’t it be better if he gives some recommendations? We said we’ll have lunch and then hang out at Judy’s room till our room is ready. Then, he left!!! We walked over to the restaurant at the beach for lunch, thankfully, I still remember where restaurants are located as we didn’t have a map (the hotel emailed us the map but that didn’t arrive until later on).

We arrived at Le Sand but guess what the restaurant is not open yet! Geez why wouldn’t that guy say something, shouldn’t he know that the restaurant is not open yet when we told him that we’ll head over to lunch? While waiting for the restaurant to open in 15 minutes, we walked down to the beach to take some photos.

Then, one of the restaurant staff appeared to prepare the restaurant for lunch and she didn’t even offer us to sit down while waiting! The whole check-in process and the service so far were such a big disappointment especially after the great services we had at the Four Seasons and St. Regis!!!

Finally, the restaurant “opens” and I ordered the burger for 3050 xpf, it was okay.

Jason ordered the thin slice beef with Thai sauce for 4010 xpf and it was dry and tasteless. I already warned the group about the food at the Thalasso so we didn’t have a high expectation as in St. Regis.

After lunch, we went to Judy’s room; she got our Sapphire Overwater Bungalow room 225. It is located on the left pontoon which is quite a walk from the restaurant so we asked for a ride to drop us off. All the overwater bungalows are the same except for the view. Once enter the room is the spacious living room with a glass coffee table and floor:

Next to the living room is the bedroom with the view of the lagoon:

The floor to ceiling window gave a better view of the lagoon than the bedroom at the Four Seasons.

The bathtub with view as well:

The shower room is much brighter and looked modern:

There is even a walk-in closet:

The deck and outdoor furniture:

The Sapphire Overwater Bungalows have views of Mount Otemanu from the deck:

The water depth here is more shallow than at the Four Seasons but the current was strong as well, I guess due to the windy season? When we stayed at the Emerald Overwater Bungalow back then, the lagoon was like a pool with no current.

We hang out at Judy’s room until we got a call that our room is ready and they sent golf carts to pick us up. Our room was 1001, one of the two 2 bedrooms Villa Teremoana at the resort and located on the right pontoon. It was a long ride from Judy’s room. Our presidential villa for two nights!!! The relationship manager, Axelle, gave us a tour of the villa and we were treated like super VIPs starting from there!

Once entering the villa, the huge living room, dining room, and bar area:

One of the perks of staying at the Villa Teremoana, free mini bar and refills! We got so many snacks, we joked that the snacks were worth over $200 based on how much they charged at the resort LOL!

Too bad they only have the Rotui pineapple juice and not mango juice, otherwise, unlimited refill would be awesome!

The high ceiling and glass windows gave plenty of natural light. The wooden tone decors gave a warm home feeling.

Welcome treats that looked good but did not taste good ๐Ÿ˜›

A sofa right next to the entrance…..that looked out of tone from the rest of the villa:

We took the bedroom on the right side of the villa:

With a huge walk-in closet and the doors were designed to look hidden so you need to push to pop open each:

The bathroom looked modern with floor to ceiling glass window to give plenty of natural light. The curtains are all electronically controlled!

The Japanese smart toilet ๐Ÿ™‚

Shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel dispenser with pump and locked; better than Four Seasons’ nasty glass bottles.

I love the floor to ceiling glass windows, from our bed has the direct view of Mount Otemanu!

The bed was comfortable and on it were freebies: a beach tote and a polo shirt.

The other bedroom is located on the left side of the villa, next to the dining room. The entrance, there is the staircase to the 2nd floor. The walls are hidden closets that pop open.

Hallway to the bedroom:

The bathroom layout is exactly the same as our bedroom with opposite orientation:

From the bed also gives unobstructed view of Mount Otemanu:

We went up the 2nd floor where there’s a sofa bed:

The door to the 2nd floor deck, I wish the ceiling is retractable for stargazing. The deck is small and can only fit two beach chairs.

Back down to the main deck on the 1st floor with the swimming pool where it can easily host a pool party! We spent most of our time there admiring the view day and night!

More freebies delivered to our room: a bottle of champagne, an alcohol free drink for me, and macaroons!

We hang out at our pool till sunset, too bad it was as colorful!

For dinner, we called for a ride to Le Reef. Our table was outside the deck and luckily I bought my insect repellent spray; it worked like a charm! For starter, we ordered the foie gras; it was decent and of course not as good as the one we had at St. Regis.

The amuse-bouche that I forgot what it is hehe

My starter was the shrimp risotto; it tasted pretty good surprisingly with plenty of shrimp taste.

For the main course, I ordered a duck breast and it was edible.

Jason ordered a lamb.

Our dinner total was 14,350 xpf plus 800 xpf for water; it was better than I expected. I remembered the last time we had dinner at Le Reef, the portion was so small that we were so hungry afterward. We got a ride back to our villa and a message from housekeeping written on the mirror “dream big”.

Our night ended with stargazing at our pool deck. We couldn’t figure out how to turn off the lights in the pool (turned out that they can’t unless turn off by facility) so Jeffrey, Peter, Judy, and Nghia each cover the light in the pool so I can take some long exposure photos. As soon as they covered the lights, the sky full of stars twinkling in front of us; it was magical!

Breakfast was at Le Reef again the next morning, since we took the 50% off breakfast, the price per person was 2430 xpf. The drinks section with my favorite mango juice in glass bottle, I wish they have a cap so it’s more sanitized!

The fruits section, no mango; I guess it’s not in season. Even the watermelon didn’t look that red.

Yogurt section:

More fresh juice and water:

Hot items such as scrambled eggs and steamed vegetables:

The bread counter:

Salads:

More pasteries:

Order your made to order omelette:

Beacons, beans, and potatoes:

The breakfast buffet was okay, worth the half price but definitely not the full price. It was not as good as the Four Seasons in terms of quality and selections. The restaurant staff was very attentative to clear our our table, refilled our water, and welcomed us by our names.

After breakfast, it was photo time! We walked to the left pontoon to start taking photos from there on. In my opinion, the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso has the best location for photographs!

Both the left and right pontoon are facing the mountain; I preferred the angle from the right pontoon more. However, the little island on the left pontoon and the beach are beautiful backdrops as well!

Then, we walked to the chapel but it was locked. Jeffrey asked Axelle and she said she could arrange a time for us to visit it if we want to.

This chapel has a better view than the chapel at the Four Seasons where it’s tucked inside the manmade lagoon.

The resort’s lagoon has a lot more corals than 7 years ago but the beach is definitely smaller due to beach corrosion.

This was taken 7 years ago, you can see the difference:

Same location, same people, 7 years ago ๐Ÿ™‚

After we finished our photos of the left pontoon, we were on our way heading back to the right pontoon and saw the staff setting up the flower crown-making class on the grass area next to the pool. We saw lots of colorful flowers so we signed up for the class last minute.

Look at those beautiful and colorful flowers, much better than the leaves at Le Bora Bora’s crown-making class.

Ta-da, my self-made flower crown!

The hotel staff made it so fast and spread out the flowers so wide, very skillful!

The flower crown was such a great prop for photos ๐Ÿ˜€ We went over to the beach and the right pontoon for more photos!

The right pontoon of the overwater bungalows and Mount Otemanu are picture-perfect! After staying at all the Bora Bora resorts that have views of Mount Otemanu, Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso has the best view in my opinion!

We walked over to the resort’s dock and stopped at the grass area for photos to have a mix of water and land:

The long walkway to the resort’s dock:

Then, we headed back to the right pontoon:

Lastly, back to our beautiful villa:

We decided to order room service for lunch since our room has the best views and spent the most time to make our money worth ๐Ÿ˜‰ The room service menu has all Le Sand has for lunch and more variety. However, the quality is bad!!! I ordered the spaghetti bolognese for 2700 xpf and it was dry and tasteless OMG. I can even make better spaghetti with canned sauce than this! Jason ordered the ribeye for 3900 xpf, it was overcooked and dry!!! The delivery fee was 1000 xpf but at least we save on drinks (water cost 800 xpf) and have good views.

We continued to have photos in our villa, they were having so much fun!

At 3 PM, the resort offered the canoe lagoon tour as one of the free activities and we took advantage of that. It turned out that the pool guy was taking one by one out around the resort’s lagoon on the canoe for around 15 minutes. We were the 2nd pair of guests arrived so we waited 15 minutes for our turn.

We passed by the other 2 bedroom Villa Teremoana that is located on the left pontoon, we think our villa has the best view!

Then, it was Jeffrey’s turn, he even asked to drop off at our villa haha!

Another freebie was delivered to our villa but they weren’t good, too bad!

Another sunset but not colorful, ahhhh one more sunset to go in our Bora Bora trip ๐Ÿ™

For dinner, we arranged with Axelle to have it at our villa and she said we can order from any of the restaurant menus, not just the room service menus, VIP treatment! Jeffrey even asked for table setup and the staff fulfilled our request!!! Look at the bouquet they made; they didn’t even charge us extra for the setup; only the regular 1000 xpf delivery fee! We really appreciate their effort and tipped the staff who set up the table.

I set up the tripod for a group photo, Bon-appetite!

I ordered glazed duck for 3950 xpf, it was okay but the noodle was dry and had no taste. I wish I have oyster sauce!

Jason ordered the prime rib special that Le Reef has for that night, it cost 9640 xpf which included the prime rib, sides, and the creme brulee as dessert. The prime rib was not bad I heard.

Judy ordered the squid ink spaghetti and it was fine.

The creme brulee was not good, I can make it better! Sometimes I can’t understand how restaurants can consistently make bad food and not improve if you make it every day, wouldn’t you eventually make it right at least?

Despite the mediocre food, we had a great evening dining under the stars at our beautiful villa!

The next morning, we took our COVID antigen/rapid test that we brought with us on the trip. We ordered the test kits via eMed; 6 kits for $150 plus shipping and tax totaled $174.22. The 6 test kits can be shared with 3 people; when ordering, you can enter the names of the 3 people who will be taking the test. It was cheaper than testing at Tahiti airport and more convenient. The good news is that all of us tested negative so phew, we were all set to go home!!!

We went to breakfast while the guys were busy packing up; they didn’t have mango juice at the juice section this time. I asked the waitress and she quickly brought out a big glass of mango juice to me ๐Ÿ™‚

After the quick breakfast, we went for last photo ops.

I arranged the private transfer with the resort to transfer us to Conrad at 11 AM for 31000 xpf for 6 people which they outsourced to Lady Pearl Bora Bora; it was much cheaper than what Conrad had quoted us at 75000 xpf! We checked out at 10 AM, the golf carts were there to pick us and our luggage up.

Our final bill: 557,564 xpf which included the 160,000 xpf per night upgrade, meals (the room service lunch and dinner for all 6 of us were charged to our room bill), private boat transfers, taxes and fees. As promised, we received our photos and the goodbye gift which is a Tahiti salt set; it’s different than other resorts that give shell necklace. I think they are thoughtful!

My ratings of Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso (1 bad to 5 excellent):

  1. Service โ€“ 4, the service we received at check-in left a bad first impression, other than that, the rest of the staff were great especially Axelle. We were thinking was it a training issue? We wish they put the breakfast staff at front desk; they are definitely more professional! All the requests were fulfilled like set up our dining table and got me the mango juice at breakfast even though it was not offered at the juice counter.
  2. Facility โ€“ 5, beautiful hotel grounds, landscaping and well maintained. The 2 Bedroom Villa Teremoana definitely spoiled us!
  3. Food โ€“ 3, not the 5* resort quality as you would expected for the price we paid. Even simple food like spaghetti was tasteless and dry. Overall at least the food is edible.
  4. Photo ops โ€“ 5, the best views of Mount Otemanu of all the resorts! The overwater bungalow pontoons, the chapel, the beach, all are picturesque spots!
  5. Activity โ€“ 5, the flower crown making class and the lagoon canoe tour were great especially they were free.

My recommendation: the best resort for iconic Bora Bora Mount Otemanu photos! Both the Four Seasons and the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso have bad food but if I have to chose one, Thalasso was at least edible. Therefore, I recommend the Thalasso over the Four Seasons.

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