Bora Bora Bungalows: The South Pacific’s Home on the Water

Hawaiian beaches? We'll do you one better — with the azure wonderland that is Bora Bora.Read More

The tranquil, turquoise majesty of Bora Bora (Source: iStock / mvaligursky)

At less than 12 square-miles, you can hardly even see Bora Bora on a map — but it leaves a big impression. The island is enveloped by crystal clear waters and blanketed with trees, caves, and mountains-in-miniature, all of which beg for exploration. When you’re not in the thick of adventure on the island, however, the best place to relax and soak in the breathtaking vistas is undoubtedly a Bora Bora bungalow.

Wait — what is Bora Bora exactly?

We’re glad you asked. Bora Bora is one of those islands we have all heard of but likely know very little about. Let’s fix that.

Bora Bora is an island smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, belonging to French Polynesia — a “collectivity” of France consisting of some 118 islands and atolls (ring-shaped reefs). Its allure comes entirely from its natural assets: the turquoise lagoon in which it rests, as well as the verdant landscape of the island and the crowing Mount Otemanu (now dormant) and Mount Pahia.

On the island, you’ll find a handful of hotels/lodges, a few restaurants, and plenty of tour guides. The simplicity of the island is part of its charm; most of it has been untouched by development, with construction occurring largely on the rim.

For those who love the oceanscapes, the best place to anchor during a stay in Bora Bora is a bungalow, perched just above the water in the lagoon. These are part of the island’s unique character, and offer an experience unlike any other tropical destination in the world.

Bora Bora bungalows

You may not believe that a house on stilts can offer much in the way of luxury, but you’d be wrong. Bora Bora bungalows are some of the poshest in the world, outdone only by the natural beauty that surrounds them.

Luxe and tropical meet at The Four Seasons Resort in Bora Bora. (Source: The Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora Facebook)
Luxe and tropical meet at The Four Seasons Resort in Bora Bora. (Source: The Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora Facebook)

For example, The Four Seasons has woven together a teak wood paradise on the water, with azure accents, plush furniture, vivid textiles, and mother of pearl-bedecked lighting fixtures. As part of your accommodations at The Four Seasons, you get access to a pool, a catamaran, snorkeling equipment, and paddleboards. You can also get tennis instruction and take advantage of yoga classes. When hungry, put your feet up and request in-bungalow dining service (yes to the Grilled Mahi Mahi and Peanut-Caramel Cheesecake) delivered to you by canoe. There are also restaurants on land if you want something a bit more formal.

The St. Regis offers top amenities for guests who stay both on land and in bungalows on the water. (Source: St. Regis Bora Bora Facebook)
The St. Regis offers top amenities for guests who stay both on land and in bungalows on the water. (Source: St. Regis Bora Bora Facebook)

The St. Regis is also a prime pick for vacationers in French Polynesia. Bungalows are constructed of noble woods and Italian marble — not to mention plenty of glass for capturing the best views — with some featuring dining gazebos so you can indulge in freshly rolled sushi or impossibly juicy steak while you squint to find the horizon. Come nighttime, slide into a whirlpool for relaxing under twinkling stars. Bungalows feature all the luxe amenities you’d expect of a landed five-star hotel, including satellite TV, minibars, WiFi, and 24/7 concierge-style service.

Exploring Bora Bora

There are two distinct parts of the Bora Bora experience (outside of your bungalow, of course): adventured on land and on the water.

Most land-based adventures focus on treks to visit the Sacred Valley of the Kings, about a three-hour hike inland. More ardent adventurers can make the six-hour slog uphill to the Sacred Cave of Anau, or aim for one of the crown jewels of the island, Mount Pahia. Tourists should be warned, however, that these latter two hikes can be very steep and require special equipment and/or more than a day to complete, depending on ability and weather. It’s best to consult with a local tour guide on how to make the journey.

Mount Otemanu towers above Bora Bora. (Source: iStock / TriggerPhoto)
Mount Otemanu towers above Bora Bora. (Source: iStock / TriggerPhoto)

There are a lot more adventures mapped out for exploring the lagoon and ocean. You can rent a jet ski and zoom off on a tour of the island and reefs, linger on the beach and improve your tan, watch some whales in their natural habitat, or go snorkeling. There are even some tours that combine multiple experiences so you can get a full taste of Bora Bora.

When you’ve had your fill of adventure for the day, make the most of your cozy Bora Bora bungalow. Order some Kung Pao Chicken or sushi-grade Ahi, pour yourself some wine, and relish the good life while watching the sun set over the brilliantly blue water. Does life get any better?

For more vacation planning inspiration (and for help picking the right bungalow), visit