Free water taxi between both InterContinental properties
Protected lagoon is smaller than those at other resorts
Fitness center is small and unimpressive for a resort of this caliber
Overwater bungalows are the only room option (a pro for some)
Everything is expensive
The luxurious InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa is about as good as it gets in French Polynesia. Its 80 overwater bungalows, beautiful infinity pool, and stunning beach are real standouts, but the piece de resistance here is the spa. World-renowned for its incorporation of ocean elements into every spa ritual, the 43,000-square-foot Thalasso Spa is, simply, magnificent. Other amenities include three restaurants, two bars, a sundries shop, and a small protected lagoon. Plus, guests have free access to sister property, InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort and all of its amenities. Overwater bungalows are the only room type here (how terrible, right?), so travelers looking for on-land accommodations at a similarly luxurious resort should check out the Four Seasons, though nightly rates are typically higher.
The InterContinental experience begins at the airport, where hotel staff members greet guests as they deplane. Upon arrival, guests are welcomed with fresh flower leis and escorted to the hotel’s private boat. After a 35- to 40-minute boat ride (the InterContinental is one of the farthest resorts from the airport), guests arrive at the hotel dock, and are immediately whisked away by golf carts. Check-in takes place in a gorgeous open-air room that overlooks Bora Bora’s stunning crystalline lagoon, and Mount Otemanu in the distance. Staff members welcome new arrivals with cold towels and vanilla-infused iced tea before leading them through a personalized check-in process. If rooms are not ready when guests arrive, the hotel has several day rooms, where guests can shower and store luggage until their bungalow is ready.
Almost all guests at the InterContinental are couples, many of whom are celebrating anniversaries or honeymoons. We did see a few families with children, but they were certainly the minority. Americans comprise the majority of guests here, along with a smattering of European, Chinese, and Japanese travelers.
Bora Bora, perhaps French Polynesia’s most famous island, is known for its incredible beauty, the highlight of which is its crystalline lagoon. Bora Bora’s main island is surrounded by dozens of tiny islands, known as motus. Guests traveling to Bora Bora have two options: stay on the main island, or stay on a motu. The majority of Bora Bora’s most exclusive resorts are located on private motus, while more budget-friendly options are located on the main island, and the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa is no exception. Located on a private motu about 35 minutes from the airport, the InterContinental feels secluded and exclusive. The resort offers stunning views of Bora Bora’s famous Mt. Otemanu, which, in local mythology, is believed to be the birthplace of the Polynesian islands.
Luckily for InterContinental guests, the hotel offers a free shuttle boat service to its sister property, the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort. Le Moana is located on the main island, and is within walking distance of several local shops and restaurants. It’s also across the street from Bora Bora’s famed Matira Beach. The free shuttle service gives guests the best of both worlds: the exclusivity and privacy of the motu with access to the local culture on the main island.
All travelers going to Bora Bora must first fly to Papeete, Tahiti. From Tahiti, Bora Bora is about a 45-minute flight. At the airport, guests will be greeted by InterContinental representatives and escorted to the hotel’s boat for immediate transfer to the resort.
Massive overwater bungalows with luxe decor and amenities
Overwater bungalows are the only accommodation option at the InterContinental — not that we’re complaining. The hotel’s 80 rooms are massive, and sumptuously designed with rich decorative details. Bungalows are split in two equally sized halves, creating designated living room and bedroom spaces. Living spaces feel modern, with island-inspired flair. Bright, Gauguin-esque artwork hangs on the walls and sleek sofas have a tropical feel, thanks to some thatch-work inlays. Floor-to-ceiling shuttered windows add lots of light, and a relaxed, beachy feel. A large, glass coffee table anchors the room, and allows guests to peer into the lagoon beneath.
Top-notch amenities include flat-screen TVs, Bose sound systems, fully stocked minibars, and Nespresso machines (although guests have to pay to use the latter two). In the bedroom, a massive king-size bed occupies the center of the room, and overlooks the turquoise lagoon thanks to a fourth wall made entirely of windowpane. The bed is simply dressed, with a white duvet and large white pillows, but gets a splash of color from a patterned turquoise bed runner and Euro shams. The bathroom is open to the bedroom, but can be closed off with sliding pocket doors. It has a decadent, spa-like feel, with a large soaking tub perched up against a floor-to-ceiling window and a two-person walk-in shower with a rainfall showerhead. Two freestanding sinks hold Agraria toiletries and boxes of thoughtful amenities like combs, lip balm, and after-sun lotion.
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the bungalows’ incredible outdoor spaces. Each bungalow has a massive overwater deck with cushioned lounge chairs and a small outdoor table set. From the deck, guests can walk down a set of stairs that leads to a lower overwater pontoon. From here, guests can access the lagoon by climbing down a ladder right into the water. Many of the InterContinental’s bungalows have full or partial views of the stunning Mt. Otemanu. Four two-bedroom villas were added in 2017 and include private plunge pools.
A fantastic array of amenities and on-site dining options
Boredom certainly won’t be an issue at the InterContinental BoraBora Resort & Thalasso Spa. The resort is packed with amenities and offers a lot of great freebies, like excellent Wi-Fi and a multitude of water sports. However, as can be expected at a luxury resort of this caliber, everything that isn’t free is expensive. Guests looking to take a break from the resort’s sky-high prices can take advantage of its free shuttle to and from sister property, the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort. From Le Moana, guests can easily access the main island, where local dining is a little cheaper than at the resorts.
Three restaurants, ranging from casual to elegant and two on-site bars
The InterContinental has three on-site restaurants and two bars. The resort’s signature restaurant, Reef, serves breakfast and dinner. Breakfast is served buffet-style, and features American, French, Japanese, and Polynesian breakfast items. The dinner menu is a la carte, as features mostly French cuisine. Reef is a beautiful, open-air restaurant with a large terrace that overlooks the resort’s well manicured grounds. It’s stylishly decorated with a Polynesian flair that’s carried out in everything from the rounded wood seating to the unique flatware on the tables. Reef is also the location of the resort’s weekly Polynesian show and buffet dinner.
Sands Bar and Restaurant is the InterContinental’s casual poolside spot. Sands is open for lunch and dinner, and has an international menu with a slightly Asian twist. Many guests stop by Sands for a quick meal or a few drinks during the day. The restaurant has a laid-back atmosphere with indoor and outdoor seating, and spectacular ocean views.
Le Corail is the InterContinental’s seasonal fine-dining restaurant. Home to one of the largest wine cellars in Polynesia, Le Corail is often reserved for special occasions and celebrations. The menu consists of classically prepared French cuisine and a few local specialities. Advanced reservations are strongly recommended, but guests should note that Le Corail is only open during high season (April through November).
Besides the beach bar at Sands, the hotel also has a Champagne bar called Bubbles. The champagne bar is adjacent to the main lobby, and is a popular spot for evening drinks. Bubbles has a wide selection of wines and champagne, and often has live music a few nights per week.
Long, narrow beach with calm, clear water, plus a protected lagoon that's great for snorkeling
Directly in front of the pool is the InterContinental’s main beach. It’s quite long, but narrow, and can be a bit rocky along the shoreline. The beach itself isn’t as nice as those at the St. Regis or the Meridien, but the calm, crystal-clear water is perfect for snorkeling, paddleboarding, and kayaking — the equipment for which can be rented for free at the pool hut. Umbrella-covered lounge chairs are scattered across the beach, along with large hammocks between the trees. One of the coolest things to do at the InterContinental’s beach is watching the daily stingray feeding. Every afternoon, hotel staff members bring buckets of fish into the water, and guests can watch as dozens of sting rays eagerly swim to the shore.
The InterContinental also has its own protected lagoon, which is great for snorkeling and leisurely swimming. However the lagoon is much smaller than those at the InterContinental’s luxury competitors, and doesn’t have as much varied marine life.
The InterContinental’s Thalasso Spa, Deep Ocean Spa, is without a doubt its greatest amenity. The term thalasso comes from the Greek "thalassa," which means “sea.” In order to be certified with the name Thalasso, a spa must incorporate oceanic elements into every one of its rituals. But besides unique treatment offerings, the spa itself is stunning. Overwater treatment rooms overlook Mt. Otemanu, while hydrotherapy pools are sequestered in private gardens. The entire atmosphere is serene, and much of the spa is outdoors. It’s strongly recommended to book spa treatments well in advance, as reservations are in high demand and can be hard to come by on short notice.
While the spa is one of the most incredible in all of Bora Bora, the InterContinental’s fitness center leaves a lot to be desired. Located in front of the spa’s lobby, it is equipped with a few cardio and weight machines, but is small and unimpressive for a resort of this caliber.
At first glance, the InterContinental’s pool seems a bit small, especially considering it’s the only one on the property (apart from private plunge pools in select villas). But during our visit, we noticed that the beautiful infinity-edge pool and its surrounding lounge chairs are rarely crowded. We can warn you, though, that the pool receives strong, direct sunlight throughout the day, so take our advice and snag a pair of lounge chairswith an umbrella. The pool hut has towels and water sports equipment for guests to use for free.
The InterContinental is a popular spot for weddings and honeymoons — evidenced by the largely couple-centric clientele. The InterContinental has an on-site wedding chapel, and a botanic garden known as “The Garden of Love.” Both are popular venues for weddings and vow renewals. Honeymooners can book couples treatments at the spa, request private dinners on the beach, and even have breakfast delivered to their room by canoe.
There’s an on-site sundries shop where guests can purchase souvenirs and oft-forgotten vacation essentials like sunscreen or toothpaste. But don’t say we didn’t warn you — prices here are exorbitant, and even everyday items like deodorant or band-aids can easily cost four times as much as they would in the U.S.
The resort offers a nicely equipped day rooms for early check-ins and late check-outs.
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