At these idyllic properties, the underwater scenery is as memorable as the topside views
The sparkling waters of Bora Bora’s lagoon are a paradise for swimmers and snorkelers. Entering this aquatic paradise is as easy as wading in from a beachfront room, or dropping in from the deck of an overwater bungalow. But some locations are better than others, and we’ve found three resorts that offer the best underwater scenery and fish life, along with the easiest access to the water.
Conrad Bora Bora Nui
A stay at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui begins with a boat ride, because the resort is located on Motu To’opua, an unspoiled islet off the west coast of Bora Bora. This 114-room resort, formerly known as the Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa, underwent a multi-million dollar renovation before reopening in March of 2017. Much more than deco update, this renewal includes room enlargements, new decks, the addition of floor-to-ceiling windows and new bathrooms with oversized soak tubs. The over-water bungalows are among the largest and most luxurious in the Islands of Tahiti, and range up to a two-story presidential suite with 3,000 square feet of living space. The property now includes a full-service spa, kids club, mini-golf course, fitness center and several dining options.
Unlike some over-water properties, which perch over stark sand bottoms, many of the bungalow rooms at Bora Bora Nui follow the contours of a reef line that provides shelter for a range of marine life. Guests can get a preview of what awaits below through glass floor panels, then enter right from their private deck. Insiders say the best snorkeling is from bungalows in the 300 wing. There are more reefs awaiting discover at points all around the resort’s private island, along with regular excursions to nearby sites where snorkelers can swim with stingrays and turtles, or participate in a shark encounter. Families with younger children may want to schedule a trip to the Bora Bora Lagoonarium, which is a private snorkeling park where marine life encounters take place in a controlled environment.
Le Méridien Bora Bora
Water is a key element of this landmark resort, which straddles a barrier island between the blue Pacific Ocean and Bora Bora’s turquoise lagoon. The property can only be reached by boat, and rooms perch over the water, or overlook a white sand beach, with sunset views of iconic Mount Otemanu. The setting is that of a traditional Polynesian village, with plenty of thatched roofs and native woods, but the amenities are fully modern. The resort’s signature Le Tipanie restaurant sits on the banks of a sheltered interior lagoon, while the Le Te Ava restaurant allows guests to dine with their feet in the sand. The water sport center’s range of water sports includes kayaks, wave runners, parasailing, waterskiing, deep-sea fishing and excursions in traditional outrigger canoes. An on-site spa and wellness center offers a range of relaxing and therapeutic treatments.
Le Méridien has a reputation as one of the best resorts for snorkelers in Bora Bora. As expected, there are things to see right below the over-water bungalows, but that’s just the beginning. The property’s sheltered lagoon is filled with colorful tropical fish, and home to a turtle sanctuary and coral nursery. Guests are able to explore these calm and sheltered waters with mask and snorkel, which is an especially good option for novices and children. Highlights include a school of resident eagle rays and several colonies that house colorful clownfish. More experienced snorkelers can venture to a more exposed reef line on the ocean side of the resort, and the truly adventurous can ask directions to an area known as shark hole, which is a nursery where black tip reef sharks give birth.
Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach Resort
It’s not surprising that the setting has a cinematic quality, because this beachfront resort was originally built by filmmaker Dino de Laurentiis as a set for his film Hurricane. Today, the property includes 37 traditional French Polynesian bungalows with pandanus leaf thatched roofs, each tucked into a lush tropical garden fronting a stunning white-sand beach. Another 13 bungalows sit on pilings in the lagoon, and a ferry connects guests to a nearby private island that holds an additional 20 overwater rooms. Rich woods and bright colors set the tones in the overwater bungalows, where glass panels in the floor reveal tropical fish swimming below. Each offers a king size bed, luxurious bathroom and a private terrace, where breakfast can be delivered by outrigger canoe.
Marara Beach is located within a sheltering cove on Bora Bora’s southeast coast. This location ensures calm waters for snorkeling on scattered coral heads that begin less than 100 feet from shore. Guests staying in garden bungalows can wade in directly from the beach or enter from the resort’s dock. Access is even easier from over-water bungalows, which include entry ladders on waterfront decks. The greatest numbers of tropical fish are found on the more defined reefs at the eastern end of the beach, and in the area between the resort and Sofitel’s private island. For more snorkeling adventures, guests can paddle a canoe or kayak to the reefs surrounding a nearby deserted island.