Bora Bora resort

Overwater bungalows at the Intercontinental Resort

Bora Bora has a wide range of places to stay. They range from economy hotels all the way to ultra luxury resorts. At the very high end are two five star plus hotels: the St. Regis and the Four Seasons. They are very luxurious but very pricey. Definitely out of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. If you saw the recent movie Couples Retreat, it was filmed at the Four Seasons Resort on Bora Bora. It's a mediocre comedy but worth watching for the scenery. We decided to splurge and picked a place that was just a notch below the very top end, the Intercontinental Resort and Thalasso Spa. There are actually two Intercontinental properties on Bora Bora. We were at the nicer of the two, a new resort on a motu near the St. Regis and Four Seasons. At first Sandy thought that we were at the other one, the Intercontinental Le Moana. It's older and is on the main island. She had done all her homework checking for nearby restaurants and such for the Le Moana. But while talking about it on our flight to Tahiti we figured out that we were at the nicer of the two, which was actually a pretty good deal. Not bad for booking through Costco Travel.

Our living room - with welcome champagne and glass table

We were hoping that the resort would be really nice. Checking TripAdvisor before our trip, most people raved about the resort and the island in general. But there were a few very low ratings with various horror stories. Usually they involved critter infestations or rude and unhelpful staff. We decided to stay optimistic since we really wanted to visit the island.

A few people may have had bad experiences but ours was exceptional right from the start. After getting the royal treatment at reception as we checked in we were taken to our accommodations. They were absolutely incredible.

One of the things that is special about vacations in French Polynesia is overwater bungalows. Many of the resorts have huts actually built out over the water. The Intercontinental that we stayed at in Tahiti had them, but there were only a few of them lining the shore. You could access the back of each of them via a short walkway from the shore. We opted to stay in a room in the main hotel building. But in Bora Bora we decided that we were going to splurge and go for the full experience.

The view from our patio

The Intercontinental Thalasso Spa has about eighty overwater bungalows. Each one is built on stilts which lift it above the water. They are arranged alongside a long, narrow, winding pier that extends quite a way into the lagoon. Ours was near the end, so we were almost a quarter of a mile from the beach. The lagoon is quite shallow, so even at our bungalow the water was only about eight feet deep. The huts are carefully positioned so that they all have beautiful views of the lagoon and Mt. Otemanu on the main island, as well as privacy for that South Seas Robinson Crusoe feeling. Every room had a view. The living room had double glass doors leading out to a large patio. The patio had a nice shaded area where we could keep cool as well as space to lie in the tropical sun. Steps led down from the patio to a swim platform which had a ladder for getting in and out of the water. We could step right out of our room onto the patio and then into the lagoon for a swim or snorkel. There was even a hose and freshwater tap on the swim platform so you could rinse off the salt water.

If it got too hot outside it was wonderful inside the bungalow as well. The bedroom had a large picture window so we could lie in bed and admire the lagoon. Even the bathroom had a large window so you could soak in the tub and gaze at the mountain. The final touch was a glass cocktail table in the living room. You could sit on the couch and look down into the the water under the hut. At night you could turn on lights underneath the bungalow so that you could watch the fish below. When we arrived there was even a complimentary bottle of champagne on the table to welcome us. Unfortunately I was a klutz and broke one of the chamgaigne glasses. Fortunately I didn't spill any wine though.

Looking back towards shore - we're a ways out

The bungalow was about as luxurious as you could ask. It was probably as nice as any hotel room or resort that we had ever stayed at anywhere. The living room was spacious. It had a flat screen tv (which we never used of course). There was a stereo which we used to play some of our cd's we had brought along. The king size bed was very comfortable. There was a large walk-in closet for storing all of our stuff. The bathroom had His and Her sinks and came complete with a large walk-in shower and a big tub for soaking.

The patio was an excellent place to lounge for as long as we wished. Even though the weather was hot there was usually a nice breeze blowing that made it very comfortable. And we could climb down the ladder anytime for a quick swim. It was fun to snorkel under the hut and there were even a few small, colorful fish around the pillars that supported the bungalow. But the lagoon had a sandy bottom with no reef so it wasn't the best spot to snorkel. Couldn't beat it for convenience though.

Steve chills out on the swim platform

But when we did have enough heat and sun we could come inside the air conditioned hut. They had an amazing system for cooling the huts. They don't use a normal air conditioner with a big compressor. Those use a lot of electricity which is expensive to produce on a remote island. Generating electricity also causes pollution which is a problem in such a small environment as the island and lagoon. Their environment is pristine and the people want to keep it that way. Instead they ran a pipe that was over a mile long into the ocean down to a depth of 3000 feet. That deep the water is very cold. Heat exchangers cool water in a freshwater circuit which is pumped through the rooms in the resort. It cools the rooms effectively, is quiet, and uses only one tenth the electricity of conventional air conditioning. This was the first hotel in the world with a system like this. Very cool technology (sorry - I just couldn't pass that one up). And to complete the high tech paradise they even had wireless internet so that Sandy could check email. But the idea of the trip was to relax, so she only did it once in a while to see if there was anything that was urgent. You could have an awesome vacation even if you never left your hut.

Here's a video that I found that explains how the Deep Water air conditioning system works and shows how it was constructed. It also has some nice views of the resort.