Our lagoon safari with Patrick Tairua was likely the best excursion we have ever arranged. Only 12 of us on his outrigger. The transits from site to site were incredibly scenic. We fed and swam with rays and reef sharks. We snorkeled in a coral garden teeming with beautiful fish of many species. We ate a magnificent picnic lunch on a motu owned by members of Patrick's family, on a table in the water, served on woven plates made from local greenery, consisting of spiny lobster, grilled fish, poisson cru, pork, root vegetables, fruit, and cold local (Hinano) beer. Worth every penny of the $130pp cost.
We also took a 4X4 excursion with Patrick. 7 of us in a land rover type vehicle that took us to several magnificent vistas that showcased the beauty of Bora Bora. Patrick is the consumate host and we were fortunate to have hooked up with him.
We spent 4 nights here pre-cruise at the Hilton Resort (thank you Hilton Honors Loyalty Program) and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. As it was low season we managed to upgrade to an overwater bungalow and that was a magnificent good deal! Everything one reads about the OWB's is true. The restaurant was quite good with sumptious breakfasts and a varied comprehensive dinner menu. We highly recommend the mahi mahi in anchovy sauce. Luckily we were there on one of two nights when a Tahitian folkloric show is presented...great fun! The Toatea Creperie on the overwater boardwalk was quite good as well. Didn't try the dessert crepe offerings but the entree's were good. The open air ambiance was a nice change from the restaurant plus we could easily see fish and sharks gliding by under the boardwalk. Hilton personnel were so nice. Barbara at the reception desk is a jewel as is Marie Claire in the Robert Wan pearl jewelry shop. We took advantage of a phenomenal sale there to buy some nice bracelets the cost and quality of which was unequalled anywhere else on this vacation.
We took a wonderful 4x4 excursion with Albert Tours (about $40pp) that took us to several magnificent vistas, a juice factory, and black sand beach. The scenery was breathtaking.
We also did a lagoon safari with Albert Tours (about $70pp) that was quite good and we swam with rays and sharks, visited a coral garden, and had a nice beach picnic with fish, chicken, fruit, and local beer. We highly recommend both of these Albert Tours offerings.
Went with new friends from the ship on our own to a small motu not far from the ship tie up pier. The water was a bit bumpy and the current more active but we still managed to see great fish. $25pp. No frills!
3 might be a stretch but we enjoyed the market and the pizzaria next to the Robert Wan Pearl Museum and shop. "Les roulettes", the trucks which come to set up their little restaurants every evening in the square on the waterfront next to the tourist information center was OK the first night, so-so the second night, and dreadful the third night. Choose your dining venue carefully when visiting "les roulettes". We didn't find much of great interest on the island. 2 nights here pre-Moorea and 3 nights here post cruise waiting for Air France to take us back to LAX.
We took a circle island tour with Dave's VIP Tours ($45pp) and was less than impressed with the grotto, blowhole (calm sea caused no Wow! factor), Paul Gauguin Museum, Capt Cook Monument, and the Stevenson Lighthouse. The coastline was beautiful but after all the other stops we made on this holiday it got old quickly. Also, Dave's banter during the ride was obviously canned and it became annoying after about an hour. He needs to change his approach and inject some spontinaity into his remarks. Find someone else to take you around the island.
We stayed a total of 5 nights at the Fare Suisse (80 euros/night) and cannot understand all the hoopla it receives on tripadvisor.com. True, it's located close to downtown Papeete, has complimentary wi-fi, and it's far less expensive than the hotels but it provides little more more than basic shelter and bathroom facilities. Some rooms are not air conditioned so beware when booking. The shower is good but the bathroom is very dimly lit. The beds were just OK and the furnishings spartan. The breakfast (10 euros pp) consisted of a granola type cereal, baguette, butter, two types of jellies, ham, cheese, fruit, coffee (quite good), and juice. The menu did not vary and became uninspiring after day 2. Heads up on the 80m unlit uneven dirt road access to Fare Suisse, it's a broken ankle waiting to happen as you walk it during the night. Also an aggressive dog accosted us one evening so take along a big stick with your flashlight. The best attribute of Fare Suisse is the interesting clientele it attracts. More of a backpacking, wandering adventurer on a budget vacationer. Very interesting folks. Beni, the innkeeper, is actually the Swiss consul to French Polynesia and is very accommodating as long as you operate on his schedule. Complimentary rides to/from the airport and ferry terminal are greatly appreciated. His helpers are not very English language proficient.