Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Honeymoon in Paradise--Moorea and Bora Bora

Honeymoon Review 4/11/2004-4/22/2004
Photo link: http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=9AcNGLRs5bMJI


Intercontinental Beachcomber, Moorea:

Although everyone seems to like Bora Bora better, my husband and I actually preferred Moorea. We loved the dramatic setting with the lush mountains in the background, leading down to the stunningly beautiful beaches!

We arrived at the resort around 9 PM, after many long hours of traveling. The lobby is open-air and very large, with a gift shop and a pearl shop. There are Tahitian paintings (many for sale) decorating the few walls. Off the lobby area in the same very large building, there is also a large, airy bar/lounge opening onto the pool area, and with a view of the beach just beyond the pool. Every day, local artists set up shop in the lobby, and we enjoyed looking over their handicrafts. The lobby also has a hidden closet filled with books (just ask the front desk)which was great for me, since I love to read, but had somehow forgotten to pack a single piece of reading material.

While we checked in, we were given tall glasses of the most wonderful cold fruit juice, which were very welcome, considering the heat. Checking in took no time at all, and we were taken by golf cart to our beach bungalow. Inside, we found a platter of fruit and chilled bottles of champagne and mineral water waiting for us. We also found a pareu and t-shirt wrapped in shell bracelets on the flower-strewn bed.

The bungalows are lovely inside, decorated with dark tropical woods and Tahitian artwork, with a separate bedroom and sitting area with a sofa, chairs, a large desk, television, etc. The bathroom was not huge, but spacious enough, and very pretty. It had a huge bathtub and an open shower, so you never have to lose the view, even while soaping up! (Another bonus to our particular bungalow was that no one ever walked past the front of it, so it was always very private!) Every bungalow here has air-conditioning, which was very important to us! I love the way the bungalows are constructed. There were shutters on either side of the bed, which could be opened to let in the fragrant breezes. The one time it rained during our trip (very late at night), we woke up to the sound of the downpour hitting the thatched roof, a very unusual sound, but also romantic!

I had requested #311, and they gave it to us! It is definitely the best one at the resort. While it was very dark when we first got to the room, waking up the next morning, we were greeted with the most beautiful view imaginable. The deck of 311 is framed with beautiful tropical palms and other tropical trees and bushes. It is right on the beach (a few of the bungalows are set back a bit), allowing us a perfect view of the ocean, and immediate access to the beach. There was a hammock right next to our bungalow, which was not once (that we noticed) used by anyone else the entire time we were there.

Each morning, we would wake up about 4:30 or 5 in the morning due to jet lag, but it was actually really nice to be up so early. We would sit on our deck and just watch the sun coming up over the mountains. It was also fun to watch the big fish (and sharks!) feeding right in front of our balcony, causing hundreds of splashes as the little fish tried to escape being breakfast! Then we would go for a long walk, with the resort all to ourselves. The early morning was the best time for seeing unusual sea life, since the water would generally be very calm, and it would still be a bit dark. One morning, there was a two-foot-long shark about six inches from my foot as I stood on a tiny rock jetty. The next morning, I saw a very large eel swim right by (cool, but a little scary!)

The resort itself is relatively large and very lush. There are several different beaches, all with different and beautiful views and clear water. The beach right in front of our bungalow looked straight out to sea; to the right, we had a view of the overwater bungalows. One thing to note is that the OWBs at this hotel are really only halfway out of the water, so I would not recommend staying in them if you are looking for the true OWB experience. They are, however, very pretty, surrounded by lovely landscaping-actually much nicer to look at than the usual OWBs.

The resort is the home of the Dolphin Quest habitat/experience, which I go into more detail about in my activity reviews. There is also a sea turtle habitat at the resort. The resort also is home to a full service spa (the Helene Spa). We never made it over there for any treatments, but they all sounded wonderful! The concierge is happy to sit down and discuss the various activities with you, but we ended up just hanging out on the beach for the majority of our trip.

There are a couple of restaurants at the hotel-one is right off the pool, with indoor and outdoor seating. It has basic dishes such as hamburgers, steak or mahi-mahi sandwiches, and salads, as well as various pasta dishes and pizzas. The food was quite good, and service was excellent, very fast in comparison to anywhere else we went in French Polynesia. The other restaurant is on the second story of the main building. It has a good selection of salads and appetizers, and many different meat and fish entrees. The service here is also good, and usually the food was as well. The only complaint we had was that the tomato and mozzarella salad was salty beyond belief, and the lobster Bob ordered one night looked like something out of a horror movie. We still can't even describe what was wrong with the meat of that lobster-just don't order it!

As far as room service, we took knotties advice and ordered one breakfast each morning to share. It was delicious, and definitely more than enough food. It was always delivered quickly, was very fresh, and the room service staff was very sweet and accommodating (I am very picky about how food is cooked!) We also enjoyed happy hour at the bar. Along with the drinks, they bring a dish of delicious black and green olives and fresh coconut (I know it sounds like a strange combination, but actually was great!).

The resort was not crowded at all, which was very nice, and there also were almost no children staying there-definitely a plus on a romantic vacation! One of the only things we did not love about the hotel was the pool. It was nice, but somewhat generic, ie no unusual shape, landscaping, or other special details. It is, however, right next to the beach, with a lovely view of the water. But overall, we loved the resort, and can't wait to go back soon!

Intercontinental Beachcomber, Bora Bora:

This 5-star resort is located at Matira Point, on Matira Beach, which was recently named the best beach in the world! It is three miles of the most gorgeous sand and sea you can imagine, making the location hard to beat. The only downside is that the hotel is adjacent to some local homes, which are not exactly luxurious-looking, though they are picturesque, set against such a stunning backdrop.

We arrived by boat from the airport (as with all Bora Bora hotels), and were greeted with shell leis, then taken to the bar overlooking the pool to check in. Our check-in forms were brought to us on a silver tray, along with cool cloths and glasses of delicious fruit juice. The concierge personally checked us in, then took us on a tour of the resort, and to our overwater bungalow.

On outside the OWBs are typical-they look like every other OWB in FP. The stretch far into the lagoon, and surround stunning coral gardens. At night, the walkway down to the OWBs is lit with tiki torches, which also cast a glow throughout other parts of the resort. The resort actually underwent a complete renovation/facelift a year or so ago, so everything is very new and luxurious. On the inside, the bungalows are spacious, with a bedroom, large bathroom, and living room. The bungalows have very high ceilings and lots of windows, which makes them feel very open and airy. The bathroom was decorated to give the feeling of being outside, with vines and plants everywhere, and shutters that can be opened for a view of the water. Like in Moorea, the bungalows are all air-conditioned, and also have ceiling fans.

The living room was pretty much the same as at the ICB Moorea, but with a glass-topped coffee table that could be opened so as to feed the fish. Each bungalow has a coral reef directly underneath, so there are always tons of fish to look at. The bedroom had an enormous window, perfectly placed for watching the sunrise from bed. The porch was large, with two levels-the top level contained two cushy lounges flanking a small table, as well as a built in table and seats. Steps led to the lower platform, which had a ladder into the water. The lower level was also great for sunbathing.

Once again, we found a t-shirt and pareu waiting for us on a bed of flowers, and more fresh fruit and champagne, and they had also left a pretty carved mother-of-pearl necklace and a 'jet lag kit' full of goodies! We had a Horizon OWB, with a view of the ocean and other islands far out on the horizon. The basic OWBs are a bit smaller, and have a view of Bora Bora's mountain, and a couple of motus. Either way, you will have a lovely room and a spectacular view!

The service was generally good, although not quite as good as at the ICB on Moorea, especially at the poolside restaurant, the staff was on island time, which can get frustrating at times. The exceptions to this were Jerome, the concierge, who spent quite a bit of time going over the various activities and excursions with us. He was one of the most helpful and knowledgeable hotel staffers I have ever met in any hotel in the world. Stephanie at the front desk was incredibly friendly and helpful as well.

The ICB Bora Bora is small and intimate, and the grounds are lush and beautifully landscaped. There are several restaurants, as well as an indoor/outdoor bar next to the pool. The dishes are similar to that at the ICB Moorea, but better-every lunch and dinner we had was excellent. We ordered room service for breakfast each morning again, but it was not quite as good as at the first resort (or we may have just been tired of it!).

The lobby is open, with a pearl shop inside and a gift shop outside. In the gift shop, you can check out DVDs (each bungalow has a TV with DVD player), which is nice on nights when you are too tired from activities to do anything but order room service and chill out! There is an ¡§activities¡¨ bungalow, with Internet access, a pool table, books, brochures on dozens of different activities and excursions, and the concierge desk. The pool is beautiful-the main pool features a rocky waterfall and infinity edge. The water pours over the edge into a smaller pool with a sandy bottom, which is fun to sit in, looking out at the ocean.

Snorkeling equipment is free, but I would recommend bringing your own, especially if you are germ-phobic. There are also canoes, kayaks, and windsurfing equipment available, all free to rent (same thing at ICB Moorea). Several hammocks hang from palm trees at the edge of the water, and there are always plenty of beach loungers and umbrellas for when you want a bit of shade.

Overall the resort was wonderful, and though the service in general could be improved, I would still recommend the hotel as a lovely option in Bora Bora.



I love parasailing, and try to do it whenever I go to the beach, but it was particularly amazing in Bora Bora! Bob had never been before, but was so excited to try it. He and I went together, which was so much fun, pointing things out to one another from such an unbeatable vantagepoint. Although the guys running the operation looked a bit shady, they were actually very professional and nice. We chose the 25-minute 'sail' which took us up to 300 meters. From that height, the peak of Bora Bora's mountain seemed to be at eye level, and the boat pulling us along was a speck in the water.

I don't know about the shorter 'flights' (there were 2 other options-15 min./100 meters and 20 min/200 meters), but we circled the entire island. One thing I always love when parasailing is being able to see what's in the water, and the water is so clear there that you can see huge fish, stingrays, etc when you are not too high up.

Our favorite part may have been when we were being pulled back down towards the boat. We looked down, and directly under us were 7 or 8 HUGE sharks (I say huge because they even looked big from hundreds of feet up!). They were all together in a group, and it looked as if they may have been mating (Bob and I disagree on this-he likes to think that we witnessed a shark fight...lol)

Overall, we highly recommend parasailing while you are in BB. As far as price, it was about $300 USD for our excursion. For the 15 min, it was around $220, and about $290 for 20 min. (By the way, I kept the activity price list from our resort, so if you have any questions about activity prices, feel free to ask!)

Lagoonarium and shark feeding:

We thought about doing the 'Shark Boy' excursion, which we had heard good things about, but ended up going on the Lagoonarium tour instead, which includes shark and ray feeding, as well as snorkeling in the coral gardens. The only complaint we had about this tour was the number of people with us-around 20 or so. Oh, and the fact that the loincloth-clad guide spent most of the time on the boat talking to the people sitting next to and across from us, with his (almost) bare crotch and rear end in my face. But we still managed to have a great time-loincloth guy has since provided us with many laughs!

First, the tour took us out to the reef, where we hung onto a rope while the guide fed sharks and rays inches from us. It was amazing, and just a little bit scary. (I am proud of myself for not freaking out so much I frightened the sharks, like one woman on our tour did!)

Next, we went to the coral gardens for snorkeling. We loved this, although the current was so strong, we almost didn't make it back to the boat when it was time to go! But the water is deep here, fish in this area are amazing, and you can see huge clams, eels, and other interesting sea creatures.

The final portion of this tour is the Lagoonarium itself, which is on a private motu. Here, there are different areas blocked off with fences (not the most aesthetically pleasing things, but I guess they get the job done!)

Each area has different types of sealife, and you can get into the 'pools' and swim with the sharks, etc. The first area has huge sea turtles. The next pool contains jackfish, which are enormous, and stingrays, including one with no stinger, which you can pet (and I did, with much apprehension).

The third pool is home to more stingrays, tropical fish, and lots of sharks! There is also a small cage containing a large and rather mean looking moray eel. The guides open the cage, and you can pet the eel, which is surprisingly silky to the touch! The final pool is quite large and relatively deep, with more fish, stingrays and eagle rays, and lots of large sharks (lemons, black tips, and white tips).

I know it seems scary at first to swim with sharks, but it is really so amazing-I am now (almost) over my lifelong fear of sharks (thanks to my brother, I was forced to watch Jaws at a young age!) To be honest, I was much more afraid of the rays, which come right up to you, as if to investigate. One actually swam up and wrapped himself around my husband's face, which gave him quite a shock! But the sharks tend to keep their distance-I guess they really ARE more afraid of us than we are of them!

In all, it was a fabulous thing to do. We did the half-day, which I would recommend over the full day. The full day does include lunch, but by the time the 'half-dayers' left, we all agreed that a full day would be too long-you will be tired and sunburned by the end of the tour!


We never made it to the Helene Spa at our resort, but instead ended up getting a side by side couples massage in our bungalow. Both of the masseuses were amazing-we felt so completely relaxed and blissful afterwards. I would definitely recommend honeymoon massages!!!

Private motu picnic:

Our hotel in Moorea gave this to us as a wonderfully unexpected perk when we checked in. They took us on a catamaran to a private motu, and dropped us off for several hours with champagne and a picnic fit for a king-fresh fish, fruit, cheese, bread, etc. We went snorkeling, explored the truly deserted island, and just had a very romantic day. It was truly like being in the movie 'Blue Lagoon'. We had such a great time that we ended up doing another motu picnic in Bora Bora (see below).

Semi-private motu picnic:

Just a hint to those of you traveling to FP-unless you are dead set on having your own private island for a few hours, this is a better deal by far. We were transported by boat to an island that, while not truly deserted, was still very secluded and unpopulated. The private motu picnics cost anywhere from $500-$1000 USD, and this excursion cost around $100 USD total for transportation and our picnic lunch.

When we first landed on the motu, there were a few other couples, but they left after a few minutes, and we had the beach and jungle to ourselves for the rest of the afternoon. Again, we went snorkeling in a gorgeous green sheltered 'lagoonette', as we called it, and just enjoyed the feeling of being completely alone on this stunning isle.

Dolphin Quest:

We had planned to do this, as it is located at the Moorea Beachcomber, where we stayed, but decided against it. We spent a lot of time watching the dolphins, and you can get within a few feet of them, which is incredible. But the price was around $700 USD for an hour, and after talking to a few couples who had participated, we decided it was not worth it to us. One of the trainers let us dangle our feet in the water and play with the gorgeous animals anyway! From what we observed/heard the DQ mainly consists of standing in the water near the dolphins while they do tricks and the guides talk about them. I would recommend just sitting on the shady beach at the edge of their habitat and watching/listening to the others do the Quest. Odds are, the trainers will let you pet the dolphins anyway-this way, you'll have the basic experience, and save $700.

Bloody Mary's:

Well, the food was good. The atmosphere was fun. The service was not very polished (then again, FP is not exactly known for stellar service!). When we walked in, they told us how they have no menus, and we were led to a table piled with raw fish-much of it dead but physically intact (call me provincial, but I really don't like to see how my food looked when it was alive!). Then someone who did not really speak English proceeded to tell us what each fish/dish was. Since neither Bob nor I could really understand what she had described, we decided to go to the bar first and order later.

While sitting at the bar sipping (quite delicious!) rum punch, the host (an American) walked up to us and asked if we had ordered yet. We told him that we had not, that we had decided to have a cocktail or two first. We asked if that was all right, because he just kept standing there. Then, he had the audacity to say (and this is a direct quote) 'Well, it would really be more convenient for US if you would go ahead and order'. He then blathered on, mentioning his and the restaurant's convenience several more times. Um, oh, okay, of course we want to make things as convenient as possible for you, buddy. That's why we came here tonight, to make things easier for you. It would really be more convenient for US if you left us alone and paid for our dinner.

Well, that's what we were thinking at least. We didn't actually say that to him (hey, we were both raised in the South-we're too polite for that!) Instead, we looked at him like 'are you kidding us?' and he finally did a 180 and said that he guessed it would be okay for us to order when the next group of English speakers came through. Finally he left us alone, and we both nearly fell off our barstools laughing.

Our waitress was very sweet and helpful, though-one of the best servers we encountered our whole trip. The wine list is not extensive, but is good and reasonably priced. For appetizers, we had shrimp, steak, and veggie kabobs--yummy! We both had the special-mahi-mahi with vegetables and some type of ranch sauce, which was truly wonderful.


Le Petite Village, Moorea

This is a good place to but pareus, as well as pearls (see below). Lots of shops, all with basically the same merchandise, although some have a better selection than others do. The village is located a few miles west of the Moorea Beachcomber resort.

Black Pearl Gem Company
(located in Le Petite Village, Moorea)

My sweet husband bought my black pearl necklace here. They have a beautiful selection, and the staff is wonderful-very friendly, patient, and helpful. The prices are excellent, and the store itself is lovely. You are offered a cool drink the moment you walk into the store, and are welcome to look around for as long as you like, with no pressure as there often is in Tahitian pearl shops. They offer a free shuttle back and forth to the store from most or all of the major hotels.

General Tips:
1. Order 1 breakfast from room service. You'll save money, and there will be lots of food left over for feeding the fish!
2. Buy a couple of bottles of liquor at the duty free shop at LAX-sometimes it's nice to be able to relax on your deck with a cold drink, without having to wait for it to be delivered.
3. Bring your own snorkeling equipment--it's free at most resorts, but you get what you pay for--it is generally poor quality. The only exception to this is fins/flippers - as these are heavy and bulky, save the room in your suitcase and use the resort's fins.
4. The Bora Bora airport has a mosquito problem-bring bug spray in your carry-on.
5. Bring twice as much film/memory as you think you'll need.
6. Ditto with sunscreen
7. Don't forget reef shoes-the ocean bottom is full of things that cut and sting, and bite. (Note: I bought mine at Target for about $15 and while they are not pretty, they have worked perfectly and held up very well. Just be sure to rinse reef shoes with fresh water and put them outside to dry after every use, or the salt water will make them smell awful!)
8. Pack lightly and casually-you will wear mostly bathing suits and coverups, t-shirts, and the occasional sundress/similar outfit.
9. Get up early-the sun sets early, and you will have more daylight time. Plus, there is not very much to do at night, other than eat and drink.
10. Tamanu oil is amazing on sunburns-you can buy it at the hotel gift shop. It smells a little odd, but will heal a sunburn within 48 hours.

Note: I have tried to be as honest as possible about the good and bad things on our honeymoon. For everyone considering a trip to FP or anywhere else, remember to take 'perfect' reviews with a grain of salt. No one's honeymoon is without flaws, and there is no one 'best' place to go. No matter where you decide to stay on your HM, it will be fabulous, so HAVE FUN!


Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Carol {Everyday Delights} said...

Hi! I found your blog today while research honeymoon spots for my August 2010 trip! I live in Seattle and I'd love any advice you can offer! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This is everything that I want to do on my trip in two days (Bora Bora and Moorea)! I like to know what I'm walking into, so thank you for sharing your experiences and tips.

Alpha Maldives said...

Great tips and lots of information in this post!


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