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Bora Bora Cruises

About Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Considered by many the world’s most beautiful island, the Society Island of Bora Bora in the nation of French Polynesia is only 4 miles by 2½ miles. This stunning land is made up of a central island and a barrier reef of motus, or islets, each one variously connected to the next depending on the tides. Its deep lagoon glows countless shades of turquoise and emerald, and its palm-lined shores and steep forested slopes rise up dramatically to the pillar-like peak of Mt. Otemanu at 2,379 feet. American novelist James Michener put the island on many travelers’ itineraries in the 1950s when he called it “the South Pacific at its unforgettable best.” Rugged mountain roads through lush landscapes lead to spellbinding cliffside views.

Long before Michener’s acclaim, the island saw the arrival of Polynesia’s Tongan people in the 4th century. Though Europeans sighted the remote land in 1722, it was James Cook who landed here in 1770. Missionaries from London followed 50 years later, eventually establishing a Protestant church. France annexed Bora Bora as a colony in 1888. During World War II, the United States used the island as a military base, but combat never reached the remote outpost. Today, French Polynesia is an overseas collectivity of France. Bora Bora’s port town of Vaitape, on the west coast, faces the main channel that leads into the lagoon.

Bora Bora Lifestyle and Culture

Life moves slowly on Bora Bora and in its main town of Vaitape. The mantra here is “aita pea pea,” or “not to worry.” Indeed, worries tend to melt away amid the dreamlike atmosphere. Visitors who embrace the island’s leisurely pace get the most out of their visit, better able to savor the tropical beauty, the ever-changing hues of the turquoise waters and the emerald-draped hills. Locals celebrate their culture and traditions with elaborate, colorful costumes and songs and dances that date back centuries. Many of the most elaborate dances are dedicated to local Polynesian gods, who are further commemorated by temples in the nearby jungle.

French and Tahitian are most widely spoken on Bora Bora, and its people are welcoming and open. So proud are they to call their island home, they want visitors to get its spelling right: As there is no “B” in the Tahitian language, its correct name is Pora Pora. But “aita pea pea,” as the locals say. After all, they know that it’s Bora Bora with a “B” that evokes dreams of tropical splendor.

Bora Bora Sights and Landmarks

It’s hard for any visitor to choose what makes the strongest first impression upon arrival in Bora Bora: the needle-like peak of Mt. Otemanu in the island’s center, soaring from emerald slopes, or the turquoise, sapphire and indigo hues of the waters that surround it. The island is encircled by a multihued lagoon that is protected from the open ocean by a ring of tiny barrier islands, or motus. In a sea of lush and magnificent islands, Bora Bora surely stands out for its beauty.

The grass huts in which the island’s original Polynesians lived have been replicated over the shallow waters of the lagoon. Built on stilts and connected by boardwalks that emerge from the motus, these tiny structures have become the island’s most iconic sight. The island’s main town of Vaitape is home to most of the population. Just 20 feet above sea level, it is lined with markets brimming with fresh fruit and French pastries. Cars, bicycles, two-seater buggies and even motorboats can be rented for exploring the rainforest roads and crystalline lagoon.

Bora Bora Entertainment and Activities

Ease into the slow and languid pace of life in Bora Bora or explore the breathtaking island wilderness. To get a feel for island life, stroll the simple streets of Vaitape, perhaps stopping to sample firi firi, the local doughnut. Visit the ruins of a marae, a traditional Polynesian temple, at Faanui Bay. Nearby, you might hike into the hills to view a pair of World War II coastal defense guns. Or call ahead to make an appointment to view the small private collection of model ships at the Musée de la Marine (Marine Museum).

Bora Bora offers countless opportunities to experience the aquatic life beneath its blue waters, too. Don some snorkel gear to explore colorful, pristine reefs and their resident parrot, trumpet and angel fish. Head into the lagoon to feed the rays and the blackfin lagoon sharks. Or simply find a white-sand beach to relax and swim. For a bird’s-eye view of it all, you might join a thrilling helicopter excursion.

Bora Bora Restaurants and Shopping

Historically, the cuisine and the products of Bora Bora have been limited by what has been obtained from the sea, the land and the coconut trees. Today’s dining scene combines French, Polynesian and international dishes. Many restaurants have beachside or waterview settings.

For a light lunch and a unique experience, head to Bloody Mary’s on Povai Bay. The floors are sand, the stools are coconuts and the shade comes courtesy of a thatched roof. Choose your meal from the display as you enter. At Maikai Bora Bora, sample a modern take on Polynesian cuisine in a stylish dining room. For a French midday meal, find Le St. James behind the small shopping center in Vaitape.

Island keepsakes, crafts and art are a pleasure to seek out. Visit Bora Art Upstairs for painting, carvings and other work by local artists. Find the perfect pearl at Pearla Joaillerie, owned by pearl aficionado Laurent Rebstock. Bora i Te Fanau Tahi showcases and sells crafts such as baskets, bracelets and more, strictly produced by women of the island.