Dreaming of Bora Bora? Yes, I was, too.
Yet trying to stretch our budget across a three-and-a-half week trip around French Polynesia, I thought that uber-deluxe Bora Bora, where room rates of $1000 per night or more are commonplace, would be out of our price range.
That was before I found the Hotel Maitai Bora Bora.
The Hotel Maitai Bora Bora is a mid-priced lodging near Matira Point at the island’s southern tip. It’s not out on one of the motu, or small islands, that surround Bora Bora, where the most luxe accommodations are located, so it doesn’t have that escape-from-it-all feel. Still, it offers comfortable accommodations and a lovely white sand beach. Since we wanted to alternate time exploring the area with time lounging at the beach, too, we found the location to be pretty handy.
The main coastal road bisects the hotel property. The lobby, a restaurant and bar, and many of the rooms are on the inland side, while a beachside eatery, bungalows, and of course, the white sand beach are on the sea side. The grounds are lushly landscaped, and signs identify the fruit de pain (breadfruit), aloe, tiare, frangipani, and other tropical plants that line the paths between the buildings.
Guest Rooms and Facilities
The Hotel Maitai Bora Bora offers four very different types of rooms. The least expensive of the 74 units are located across the road from the beach in two standard hotel buildings. The 28 “garden units,” on the lower floors, are the cheapest; you get a basic room with no view and no frills. Garden room double rates starts at 18,500 XPF (US$210).
The next step up are the 20 “ocean view” units, which generally have the same layout and amenities as the garden units. They’re located on higher floors — a steep walk up from the beach — and the higher price gets you sweeping views out across the lagoon. Ocean-view doubles start at 25,000 XPF (US$285) per night.
Moving up the price scale, the 13 beach bungalows sit right on the white sand beach, with the surf lapping the shore just outside your front door. The downside is that the coast road runs directly behind the bungalows, and you may hear some traffic noise. Beach bungalows start at 32,250 XPF (US$370).
If you want the true Bora Bora experience, consider one of the 13 overwater bungalows, which are clustered in three groups that you access via walkways from the beach. They’re not as private as those at the posher resorts — you’re close to the beach, the cafe, and the road, but you’re still over the water. Nightly overwater bungalow rates begin at 43,210 XPF (US$495).
Our room, #94, was one of the ocean-view units. That view was the room’s best feature, looking out across the hotel grounds to the lagoon and the distant motu.
Furnished in a rather dated tropical style, the rooms are comfortable and include all the standard conveniences, from flat-screen TVs to electric kettles and a mini-fridge. A folding shutter that opens into the bedroom let more light into the otherwise dark bathroom.
Wi-Fi is available throughout the property, but rates — as throughout much of French Polynesia — are high: 500 XPF (US$5.75) per hour.
Restaurants and Bars
Guests can dine at two restaurants, a slightly more formal-feeling space in the lobby and a busier cafe overlooking on the beach, which was especially popular for lunch and afternoon cocktails. Like many island eateries, both specialize in seafood, although the beach cafe also serves salads, burgers, pizzas, and other casual fare.
The Maitai offers room-only rates, as well as meal plans that include breakfast and dinner. In the off-season months of November through April, they often offer specials where rates including meals are the same as the rates without the dining option — an excellent cost-saver!
Just up the road from the hotel is a small local grocery store, where we bought French cheeses, baguettes or a locally-made coco bread, and fruit for picnic lunches on the beach. Several other restaurants are located within walking distance of the Maitai.
At least once a week, the Hotel Maitai hosts an evening barbecue on the beach, and it’s a don’t-miss event. They fire up a grill to cook excellent fresh tuna, chicken, a chorizo-like sausage, and steaks. You help yourself to side dishes from buffet tables heaped with salads like marinated cabbage or shredded carrots, poisson cru (a ceviche-like cured raw fish dish), and rice.
For dessert, sample the po’e, a traditional Tahitian pudding made from roasted fruits and coconut milk, or finish up with fresh mango, pineapple, papayas, and other tropical fruit. The 3500 XPF ($40) per person price covered all you can eat as well as two drinks.
During the BBQ, a lively local band played for almost two hours, entertaining us with a jazzy mix of French and Tahitian music.
Activities and Amenities
The Maitai staff works on cultivating that island feel, starting with a welcome glass of fruit juice when you arrive. The staff moves easily between French and English, and I heard one of the front desk personnel assisting a customer in Italian as well.
Most guests seem to spend their days lounging or reading on the hotel’s narrow white sand beach, which is nicely shaded with coconut palms.
If you’re feeling more active, both kayaks and snorkeling gear are complimentary for guests. We took a kayak one day and paddled around the lagoon. On another day, we rented bicycles and pedaled the entire 32-kilometer mostly-flat coastal road that loops around the island.
The Maitai has no pool or fitness center, but with the beautiful sandy beach and the warm lagoon water, we didn’t miss them. About a 15-minute walk from the hotel, Matira Beach is an even more gorgeous, and much larger, stretch of sand.
The hotel arranges all sorts of excursions, ranging from island tours to boat trips out to the motu to hikes to the island’s interior. The excursions aren’t cheap, though, with many starting at about 7000 XPF (US$80) per person, but that’s Bora Bora pricing.
The Maitai also provides airport pickups and runs shuttles twice a day to and from Vaitape, the island’s main town, for 2400 XPF (US$28) round-trip per person. If you really want to go exploring, it’s handy to have a car, but you’ll pay for the convenience. One-day rentals are over US$100.
The Hotel Maitai Bora Bora isn’t that once-in-a-lifetime experience of a remote, ultra-deluxe island escape, but it’s a worthwhile choice for experiencing the island of Bora Bora at a more moderate cost.
During our stay, we sat out on our terrace every morning, sipping our coffee, enjoying the view, and feeling happy that yes, we’d dreamed of Bora Bora — and, finally, here we were.
Looking for a budget-friendly place to stay on the island of Tahiti, too? Check out our review of Pension de la Plage: A Friendly and Affordable Guesthouse in Tahiti
Hotel review by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the books, Moon Handbooks: Ontario and Living Abroad in Canada. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. I paid a discounted media rate for my stay at the Hotel Maitai Bora Bora.