Shark & Stingray Encounter
Food and Drink in Bora Bora
Dining out on Bora Bora is an expensive proposition (think US$40 hamburgers in some resorts) but there are a few don't-miss restaurants that are worth the splurge. Just about every venue offers freshly caught fish and a local specialty called poisson cru (raw tuna marinated in coconut milk and lime juice). Delicious tropical fruits and vegetables -- including oddities like breadfruit -- are also on the menu. Most hotels feature at least one restaurant, but cheaper alternatives can be found around Vaitape and Matira, about three miles to the south. Free transportation is often provided by each dining establishment, so give them a call directly before hiring a taxi.
The can't-miss lunch spot on Bora Bora is Bloody Mary's (689-67-72-86; the restaurant doesn't take reservations for lunch though they are accepted for dinner -- and highly recommended). This is a fun, casual joint with actual sand floors (you can check your shoes at the front!), great water views and numerous claims to celebrity patronage. Freshly caught seafood takes center stage at dinnertime, but lunches are a bit simpler and a lot more affordable with items ranging from cheeseburgers to fish sandwiches. Be sure to check out the funky, open-air restrooms complete with waterfall sinks and phallic toilet flushers. Open for lunch and dinner every day except Sunday.
Another restaurant with great views is the Bora Bora Yacht Club (689-40-67-60-47, reservations recommended), less than two miles (3 km) north of Vaitape. A yachties' favourite (with fantastic sunset views), it serves fish and seafood dishes -- mahi-mahi and poisson cru), French specialties such as foie gras and duck, along with rack of lamb and beef dishes. Prices are slightly on the high side, but reasonable for Bora Bora. Open for lunch until 2.30pm and dinner from 5:30 pm.
Located in Vaitape, Restaurant le Saint-James (689-40-67-64-62) serves lunch and dinner daily, except on Sundays. The menu heavily favors local fish and seafood but also serves excellent beef and duck dishes. Desserts are decadent, so don't miss them.
Beaches in Bora Bora
Matira Beach, about four miles (6 km) south of Vaitape, is absolutely stunning. An easy shuttle bus and taxi ride away, it's the only public beach in Bora Bora. As it's part of the lagoon, there are no waves and it's quite shallow, meaning you have to walk quite a way out to get to the deeper water. At about a mile (1.5 km) long, Matira Beach occupies both the west side and east side of the narrow strip of land, Matira Point. It's the west side that's open to the public (the other side has several resorts with private stretches of sand nearby). There are a couple of restaurants and cafes, along with change facilities. There is very little shade, save for a few trees by the roadside.
Don't Miss in Bora Bora
Four-wheel drive adventure: Take in the island's highlights -- on and off road -- in a sturdy 4WD. The open-air, six-passenger safari vehicle circles the island and ascends several hills for views of the harbor, Faanui Bay and Matira Beach. Stops include a WWII naval gun site. There may be a chance to visit the studio of a local artist who paints pareos; make sure you request a stop there. Bora Bora Tupuna Safari (689-87-71-34-84) has been operating for almost 30 years and is located just off the coastal road about a short walk north of Vaitape town.
Editor's Note: The ride is very bumpy and may not be suitable for those with back problems. Pregnant travelers should not take this tour.
Shark and ray feeding: This is an exhilarating way to experience a snorkel trip. Passengers don snorkeling equipment (minus flippers) and swim among affectionate stingrays (you are encouraged to kiss them) and black-tipped sharks (which are not threatening and do not come very close). The tour also includes excellent snorkeling in one of the coral gardens that surround Bora Bora. Raanui Tours operates a three-hour trip (689-87-79-43-14).
Private island picnics: If your cruise ship hasn't arranged for a private motu tour (or island beach on the outskirts of the lagoon), head for Matira Beach, a 15-minute trip by car from the pier at Vaitape. Other options include some of the resort beaches (which may offer day passes to cruise passengers that include a meal and beach access); among them are Sofitel Marara Beach Resort (689-40-60-55-00), and the Intercontinental Le Moana Resort (689-40-60-49-00).
Jet-skiing: This is a great way to zoom around the amazing lagoon either as the driver or a pillion passenger. Groups of jet skiers follow the leader who loops the island and then arrives at a remote beach for a swim and a coconut tree-climbing show. Matira Jet Tours has been operating for years. (689-40-67-62-73).
Scuba Diving: Sharks, rays, millions of fish and manta rays inhabit the lagoon and areas near the fringing reef. Some companies operate night dives for those who are overnighting on their ship. Check out Bathys/Top Dive (689-60-50-50) and the Bora Bora Diving Center (689-67-71-84).
Bicycles: Rent a bike and ride around the entire circumference of the island (it takes about three hours on flat, well-paved roads). Just make sure you wear sunscreen and take water. There are a few little snack bars along the way and grocery stores called magasins. You can rent bikes and e-bikes in Vaitape at the pier.