How to Vacation in Bora Bora on the Cheap

The most popular island in French Polynesia, Bora Bora is a bucket-list vacation spot, thanks to its jaw-dropping turquoise waters, lush mountainous landscape, and romantic overwater bungalows. It's a picture-perfect destination that's often chosen for once-in-a-lifetime honeymoons, but you may be surprised to learn that it's possible to visit Bora Bora on the cheap. After traveling all around Bora Bora, we learned a few tricks to saving some cash, so you don't have to wait to take that dream-worthy getaway.  

1. Travel during off-season.

Given that Bora Bora has an isolated location in the South Pacific, it's no surprise that flights to get there are pricey. However, certain months are more popular than others -- May through October -- as the weather is dry and temperatures range from the upper-60s to mid-80s, and flights reflect this. December through March has the most unpredictable weather, with rain and slightly higher temperatures, while April and November are the shoulder seasons. Budget travelers should stick to the off-season for cheaper airfare and keep an eye on flight deals. Hopper is a great app for analyzing when the cheapest flights are available and when you should book them. 

Tip: Once you land at the Bora Bora Airport, which is located on its own island, take the free ferry that travels to Vaitape on the mainland. Many guesthouses and hotels will pick guests up from there. 

2. Stay in a pension or budget hotel.

Beach at Village Temanuata/Oyster

While Bora Bora offers over-the-top luxury hotels, such as the Four Seasons and InterContinental, there are also some budget-friendly picks. Pensions, or guesthouses, dot the mainland, as do a couple of affordable hotels. We particularly love the two-pearl Village Temanuata as it has a privileged location on the breathtaking Matira Beach. Features are limited to a small private beachfront and room-delivered breakfast, but rustic bungalows offer all the necessities. Sunset Hill Lodge is another suitable option, as rates are cheap and it's close to where the free airport ferry drops off travelers. Tip: If you're having trouble booking a budget property online, consider emailing the hotel, as that's often a reliable way to confirm dates and availability. 

3. Buy food at the supermarket.

The Bungalow With Garden View at Village Temanuata/Oyster

The majority of food has to be imported to Bora Bora, resulting in sky-high prices for everything (think $20 cocktails and $38 steak dishes). On the upside, Village Temanuata and most pensions have kitchen facilities available either in a communal space or in rooms. The former's bungalows offer one-burner hobs, microwaves, kettles, and all the necessary cookware and dishes. Those willing to cook themselves can save a significant amount of money by shopping at the affordable supermarkets and fruit stands on the island. There aren't a ton of options, but mainland Bora Bora has Tiare Market, Super U, and Chin Lee -- one of which will likely be within walking or biking distance. Although grocery store prices are closer to Whole Foods than Trader Joe's, they're still a better value than dining at a restaurant.

4. Get around by bike.

Lobby at Village Temanuata/Oyster

Taxis are pricey throughout French Polynesia, so renting a car or bike provide cheaper alternatives. If you're not planning on doing a ton of driving, stick to renting a bike. Many hotels have bikes available for a daily fee, but look around to compare prices. Also, don't expect brand-new bicycles and know how to put a chain back on, as many past travelers have noted the chains often fall off. Still, if you're simply going to and from the beach, supermarkets, or shops, it'll save you a pretty penny over taking a cab (non-metered).

5. Rent a kayak and snorkeling gear instead of booking a tour.

Water Sports at Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island/Oyster

In a similar vein, travelers should rent kayaks and snorkeling gear versus booking a guided tour to save some dough. Travelers can kayak around Bora Bora or head to what's known as the Aquarium, an excellent snorkeling location with gorgeous coral gardens and marine life. It's located due east of the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort, near the Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island resort. Guesthouses may have some for free or a reasonable rental cost, but if you can't spot a place to rent one, ask hotel staff or locals for information. 

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