I recently enjoyed an incredible holiday in French Polynesia (Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora). Read my trip reports here:
Today: Review of Four Seasons Bora Bora
Wrapped by majestic views, Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora is surrounded by sand-fringed islets on an outer coral reef that enclose a turquoise lagoon. The resort offers 115 spacious hideaways with 100 overwater bungalows and 7 enormous beachfront villa estates, all overlooking the lagoon’s crystal clear waters and some with spectacular views of Mount Otemanu, French Polynesia’s sacred mountain. Inspired by local architecture, all guest accommodations offer a restful, airy ambience; complete with traditional teak wood furnishings, high ceilings and thatched roofs made from pandanus leaves. Distinctive touches include the fragrance of vanilla and the texture of black pearls in the spa, alfresco dining overlooking Bora-Bora’s famed lagoon, and signature Four Seasons service at every turn. IMHO, Four Seasons Bora Bora is the best luxury resort in Bora Bora.
Have you ever stayed at Four Seasons Bora Bora? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my YouTube video):
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Four Seasons Bora Bora is located on the iconic and world-famous island of Bora Bora in French Polynesia. One of nine islands within the Society Islands, Bora Bora was formed over seven million years ago by a volcano. Like most of the islands in French Polynesia, Bora Bora is surrounded by a ring of coral reef, also known as an atoll, which is comprised of several islets or motus, one of them being home to the Four Seasons Resort. The coral reef surrounds a ridiculously clear lagoon (often dubbed the most beautiful lagoon in the world), which makes for some memorable snorkeling and scuba diving with tropical-colored fish, reef sharks and giant manta rays. The tallest point on Bora Bora and one of the world’s most iconic landscapes is the breathtaking Mount Otemanu, which rises 2,835 feet high (727 meters) above sea level.
- The Four Seasons experience begins upon arrival at the Bora Bora Airport, where guests are greeted with a tiare flower lei, cold bottled water and a chilled oshiburi towel. Staff handles the luggage, which is placed directly in the villas at the resort, while guests are escorted onto one of the property’s custom-crafted Andreyale Bateux Taxis (taxi boats). Named Heinoanoa, Lean, Poeiti and Vaihani, these yachts were inspired by the commuter boats of New York City of the 1920s, used to transport Wall Street executives from their homes in Long Island to the Manhattan Financial District. They feature woodwork and decking of dark mahogany and teak, with crème colored seating and accents of stainless steel. Guests sit aboard these magnificent vessels, taking in the sights of the island, on a stunning 15-minute cruise to the resort, where upon arrival, they are taken directly to their room.
- Opened in September 2008, Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora was designed by Paris based architects Didier Lefort and Pierre-Jean Picart, with San Francisco based BAMO as the interior designers. Taking cues from its stunning surrounding, the local culture and natural resources, the property’s stunning design fuses classic Polynesian architecture with sophisticated elegance that is Four Seasons. The orientation of the buildings and framing of windows emphasize the killer views, while simple shapes and soothing interior colors allow the visual focus to remain on the brilliant turquoise of the surrounding lagoon. Design inspiration is drawn from elements specific to Bora Bora, including local tools, small utilitarian furniture, and adornment including feather, bone, carving, and tattoos. These touches of culture add “ornament” to a very serene design. All in all, the resort feels luxurious, timeless and classy.
- Four Seasons Bora Bora features a total of 108 one and two-bedroom overwater villas, 27 of them fitted with a private plunge pool. Refurbished in 2019, the decor of the overwater bungalows reflects a contemporary Polynesian feel, complete with new furniture, fixtures, lighting and technology. During my holiday, I stayed in a one bedroom lagoon view overwater villa. The interior of the bungalow was split between three rooms: the bedroom (with a kingsize bed outfitted with a fluffy duvet and down pillows), the bathroom (with double vanity, walk-in shower and a deep soaking bathtub in front of a large picture window), and a spacious living room (with a sofa bed, a large desk, and a wall-mounted flat-screen TV); all three rooms could be opened to or closed off from one another with sliding pocket doors. Large glass doors gave way to a wide outdoor deck, with a dining area, two loungers, and a stepladder to get in the water.
- Besides overwater villas, the Four Seasons Bora Bora also features a couple of beachfront villas, which are much larger than their overwater counterparts but feature similar design and amenities. Nestled along the pristine shores of Bora Bora’s enchanting turquoise lagoon, these beachfront villa estates are popular for family gatherings, extended stays or group getaways. There are one-, two-, and three-bedroom options, all of which have infinity-edge pools, enclosed gardens and panoramic views of Mount Otemanu. The beach villas offer the very best in space (spanning from one-third to over a full acre) and privacy (with direct access to a private patch of sand that cannot be accessed by other guests). Exclusive services include personal pre-arrival planning, round-trip private airport transfers, daily breakfast, a personal Villa Host, private beach setup and more.
- Four Seasons Bora Bora is a sprawling property, but the resort still feels pretty walkable (24/7 buggy service is provided as well). Most of the hotel’s facilities – restaurants, pool, beach, and kids’ club – are centrally located at short distance from the overwater jetties. One of the resort’s main draws – besides its overwater villas and incredible views – is its dreamy beach, where most guests spend their day lounging on a sunbed under an umbrella. Featuring soft white sand and calm turquoise waters, the beach enjoys an incredible view of Mount Otemanu (possibly the best view from all the Bora Bora resorts I’ve stayed at). The beach also boasts a terrific viewsof the sunset (contrary to the St Regis and InterContinental next door, where the sunset view is blocked by the mountains). Just behind the beach is an enormous lagoon-style swimming pool, surrounded by palm trees, cushioned loungers, and shaded cabanas. Next to the beach is an open-air water sports center, where guests can try out kayaks, paddleboards, and water bicycles. For a fee, guests can also rent jet skis on an hourly basis.
- Four Seasons Bora Bora has four on-site restaurants, which serve excellent food ranging from classical French dishes to innovative Asian cuisine:
- Arii Moana is the resort’s signature restaurant, offering a casually elegant dining experience with classics from the Mediterranean region that pay tribute to the resort’s chic and lively waterside setting.
- Located on the sandy shore of the lagoon, next to the pool and beach, is Faré Hoa Beach Bar & Grill, an open-air restaurant with toes-in-the-sand charm. Featuring a modern grill concept, Faré Hoa serves fresh local fish, a fine selection of steaks, and an array of starters and side dishes. On selected evenings, themed dinners are also organized here.
- Breakfast is served with a fresh sea breeze at Terre Nui, an open-air restaurant which is set in the resort’s lush garden. Breakfast is comprised of a (rather limited) buffet complemented by a wide range of à la carte dishes.
- Vaimiti serves eclectic Asian cuisine and sunset cocktails. Housed in an overwater structure, it is the resort’s most idyllic dining venue, enjoying killer views of Bora Bora’s iconic Mount Otemanu and the sunset.
- Situated on the highest point of the resort’s motu, the Te Mahana (the sun) Spa at Four Seasons Bora Bora captures the energy of the Tahitian spirit with a unique sense of simplicity and luxury. Treatments are rooted in ancient tradition, intended to refresh and rejuvenate. With its soaring 72 ft (22 m) ceiling, the cathedral-like spa provides a healing haven with depth of view in all directions, surrounded by native trees and the fragrance of the kahaia blossom. Raised walkways, suspended above a plantation of pandanus trees, lead to seven air-conditioned treatment rooms, while the spacious overwater Fare Miti Spa Suite, with glass floor suspended above the lagoon’s pristine waters, is the ultimate private experience for couples. Guests can also enjoy the natural healing energy of Bora Bora’s climate in one of two open-air treatment pavilions, nestled deep within the tropical grove. The spa also features two decks with a Jacuzzi, one facing the Pacific Ocean and one overlooking the gardens.
- Nestled within the grounds of Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora is an inner lagoon teeming with exotic marine life. The Vaitea Lagoon Sanctuary is home to more than 100 colorful species, including octopus, eagle ray, lizardfish, Picasso trumpet fish, soldier fish, fire fish, unicorn fish, spotted puffer fish, parrotfish, peacock damselfish, clownfish and butterfly fish. Led by the resort’s marine biologist, the Lagoon Sanctuary offers activities for guests of all ages, including coral grafting discovery, discussions on Polynesian ecology, fish and octopus feeding and more. Guided snorkeling tours of the lagoon are offered to guests and the lagoon is always open for guests to explore on their own. More than just a spectacular snorkeling location, the sanctuary is also a research facility and a place where the marine environment not only thrives but grows, furthering the delicate and wondrous ecosystem.
- Set over the water along the resort’s inner turquoise lagoon is a large boutique, which is centrally located between the lobby, restaurants and spa. Called MoeMoea (meaning “dream” in Polynesian), the shop sells the best of resort wear, casual and active apparel, accessories, women’s luxe apparel, swimwear and more. The store features well-known brands such as Camilla, Missoni, Onia, Solid & Striped, Vilebrequin and Zimmermann, while also showcasing boutique brands such as Adriana Iglesias, Benson and Swims, B+S Caftans, March 11 and Su Paris. Created with the intent of keeping an indoor/outdoor feel in line with the resort as a whole, MoeMoea also features unique elements, such as the ability to swim up to the boutique directly from the lagoon, using stairs that lead from the water to the store. The property features two other shops as well: Tahia, a pearl boutique, and Manua, a shop selling locally made crafts like Bora Bora’s hand-painted pareos.
- Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora is dedicated to conserving energy and precious natural resources, as well as working to better the local community, all while consistently delivering an extraordinary and pampering guest experience. From the use of environmentally friendly supplies and equipment, to the reduction of waste and use of new energy alternatives to nature clean-ups, the property is on the forefront of green and community initiatives. Here are some of the initiatives underway at the resort:
- Water-efficient landscaping includes the use of greywater and rainwater harvesting for irrigation.
- Linens and towels are replaced every third day, unless otherwise requested.
- Single-use plastic water bottles, food & beverage containers, and lotion, shampoo & conditioner bottles are eliminated.
- Linen, furniture and equipment is donated to the local community through Anau Primary School and Association Ia Vai Ma Noa Bora Bora, a non-profit dedicated to the economical, social and environmental development of the island-state.
- Excess edible food is donated to those in need through the local charity Caddie du coeur.
- Solar panels are installed on each bungalow’s thatched roof, providing a natural and sustainable power source for heating water and electricity.
- Bath amenities are provided by Panpuri, a 100% natural and organic wellness lifestyle brand from Thailand.
- The property is managed by Four Seasons, probably the best known luxury hotel brand in the world. The Toronto-based company has transformed the hospitality industry in a tale of continual innovation, remarkable expansion and a single-minded dedication to the highest of standards. Four Seasons was founded in 1960 by the young architect Isadore Sharp, but the real breakthrough of the brand came in the seventies with the opening of the Four Seasons London. Although the company went public in 1986, the Sharp family – along with a group of like-minded investors such as Bill Gates and Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal – took the company private again in 2007 to protect the integrity of the brand well into the future. Four Seasons currently manages more than 120 hotels and resorts worldwide. The company also offers private jet travel onboard its own Airbus A321 (with Business Class layout), and will soon launch private ultra-luxe yacht itineraries.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- Some overwater bungalows at the Four Seasons Bora Bora lack privacy, despite the fact that they are spaced far apart. For example, the outdoor decks of the beach view bungalows face the beach (where most guests are chilling during the day) and may have less privacy for this reason. Some of the lagoon view villas of the resort’s one jetty look straight at the overwater bungalow of the resort’s other jetty, although there’s a huge distance between the two jetties so it’s not really a problem (except perhaps for couples in quest of complete privacy). Occasionally, kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders and swimmers might also pass in front of the villas.
- Out of all the accommodations at the Four Seasons Bora Bora, the overwater villas with mountain view are best. Situated at the far end of each jetty, these villas enjoy the most privacy and the best views of Mount Otemanu. The only downside to these villas is that guests are a little further away from the property’s facilities, like the restaurants, beach, and pool, and will either have to walk quite a bit or rely on the resort’s 24/7 buggy service, which often involves a 15 min wait (bikes are not provided since the resort’s jetties are too narrow for bikes and buggies to pass at the same time).
- The Four Seasons Bora Bora is one of the world’s most famous and sought after luxury resorts, offering its guests a plethora of amazing amenities. So, it shouldn’t come as a shock that everything at the resort is very expensive: entry rates in high season are above $1500 USD per night; a cheese burger is $37 USD, a cocktail is $28, and a three-course dinner is usually no less than $100 USD per person (excluding beverages). But although the Four Seasons Bora Bora is far from inexpensive, IMHO, it is worth every penny since you’re staying at a fabulous resort in one of the world’s most iconic destinations.
- Food at the Four Seasons Bora Bora is excellent, with the three on-site dinner venues serving a variety of Asian, French and international cuisine. I thoroughly enjoyed each meal I had at the resort although I did miss some Tahitian local cuisine (apart from the weekly Polynesian buffets). Also, while all restaurants are excellent, none truly excels and the property lacks an exceptional restaurant befitting its fabulous reputation. I would love to see the resort collab with a Michelin star chef in the near future to open a new venue (or transform one of its currents restaurants), which could help the Four Seasons Bora Bora to profile itself as a culinary destination (a bit similar to what the St Regis Bora Bora is doing with its Lagoon by Jean-George Restaurant, which is managed by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten).
- Breakfast at the resort is comprised of a buffet, complemented with à la carte dishes. IMHO, the buffet is rather limited and a bit underwhelming for an ultra-luxe hotel of this category (especially when compared to the lavish breakfast buffets offered at some other Four Seasons resorts, such as the Four Seasons properties in Mauritius, the Maldives and the Seychelles).
- The Four Seasons Bora Bora is located on an enormous beachfront estate, featuring the best and softest white sand beach in Bora Bora. About half of that is home to the resort’s public areas, including the main beach club as well as the idyllic beaches lining the lagoonarium. The property’s other half also features a sublime white-sand beach, but that beach is not accessible to most guests as it is kept completely private and for the exclusive use of the guests that booked one of the resort’s beachfront villa sanctuaries. Of course, when you are booked into one of these villas, you’ll appreciate the serenity of your private beach, but it also means that long, relaxing beach walks at the property are not an option for other guests.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 10/10
- Pool: 10/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Food: 8/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: 8/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 8/10
- Overall experience: exceptional 9,2/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking the Four Seasons Bora Bora via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD resort credit).
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Four Seasons Bora Bora (and/or receive many free perks).
- Room tip: since the beach view villas may have less privacy, I recommend to book at least a lagoon view villa. The best bungalows are the mountain view villas which face Mount Otemanu directly.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
French Polynesia is best visited between June and September when the climate is at its driest and the weather is balmy (but windy). However, this is high season, so it will be busy and the hotel rates are skyrocketing. The months on either side of this period (May & October) are known as the shoulder season and offer comfortable weather too, but with lower prices and less wind. Although French Polynesia can be visited year-round, the months of November to April bring more humidity and cloudy days, with tropical showers passing at greater frequency than other times of the year. However, they are often interspersed with periods of sunshine. This is a humid time of year, though, which can be uncomfortable and I recommend choosing a hotel with A/C if visiting during these months. The islands rarely suffer from tropical storms except during years when El Niño affects ocean currents.
HOW TO GET THERE
The only way to get to Bora Bora is via Tahiti’s international airport in Papeete (unless you travel by cruise or private jet). Papeete is an 8-hour flight from Los Angeles or San Francisco, a 22-hour flight from Paris, and a 5-hour flight from Auckland or Honolulu. Once at Papeete international airport, there are regularly scheduled 50-minute flights to Bora Bora’s small Motu Mute Airport. For the final leg of the journey, the resort arranges a transfer from Motu Mute airport to the Four Seasons’ main dock for a scenic 15 minute transfer by boat.
Below is a selection of my photos of the Four Seasons Bora Bora Resort. To view more photos (including breakfast and dinner), click here.