Greetings from French Polynesia.
As I write this, I find myself far from anywhere on a small island in the South Pacific. This part of the world has been a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time, and I have to say it’s pretty surreal to finally be here.
While my return trip is still unscheduled, I was able to score some great flights and stay on this very special trip, and here’s how it all came together.
As some of you may know, 2023 marks a significant milestone in my life. I’m getting married this summer and my partner Jesse and I have been busy making all the necessary arrangements and preparing for the big event.
The months leading up to the wedding will be very busy, and we’ve chosen to front-load our travel early in the year, especially to some of the further afield destinations on our list.
Truly unique natural beauty Bora Bora making it the poster child for aspirational travel, and a place we’ve both long been interested in.
With azure-blue water, coral reefs and the ever-present Mount Otemanu towering in the background, there are many reasons why this place is known as a world-class romantic destination.
After getting engaged in the Maldives three years ago, it also seemed fitting that we would come here to Bora Bora for a ‘pre-honeymoon’ as we are about to embark on a bigger trip together later this year.
As we spend quality time together in the heart of the South Pacific, it’s another stark reminder of the gift of travel, as well as the power of Miles & Points to unlock some truly unforgettable travel experiences.
As you can imagine, there isn’t much choice when it comes to direct flights from North America to French Polynesia. To compound matters, finding multiple seats in the premium cabin is more difficult, but not impossible.
We paid to get here 80000 American Airlines has AA miles per person to fly business class on Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles to Papeete. Access to this particular route can be difficult, but I booked this trip almost a year in advance and was able to lock down seats.
For Jesse’s return trip to Vancouver, I booked him into an outstanding, though perhaps lesser-known, Aeroplan sweet spot that uses distance-based pricing from the North American to Pacific chart.
For his flights from Papeete to Vancouver via San Francisco, I only bought one 53,400 Aeroplan points, the first step in United Polaris Business Class and the second in Air Canada Regional Business Class.
The flights measure 4,989 miles of flight distance, a very satisfying 11 miles short of crossing the next distance band, 5,000 miles.
Again, business class flights on this route are relatively hard to come by, but luckily in this case, United released a lot of space on the Papeete-San Francisco route relatively last minute.
Although I had originally secured seats on Air Tahiti Nui’s new Papeete-Seattle route for 80,000 American miles, I switched to the United route using less Aeroplan points as soon as it became available.
While Jesse flies home to North America, I’ve booked myself Air Tahiti Nui Premium Economy From Papeete to Auckland 25,000 American miles.
At just five and a half hours, this flight certainly doesn’t have to have a seat, and I thought this might be a useful review for anyone traveling to Bora Bora in premium economy.
I will continue my trip from New Zealand with flights, hotels and travel plans in separate updates.
As I mentioned earlier, this is very much a “pre-honeymoon” as there is a lot of anticipation before our wedding in the summer.
(I just coined the term “pre-honeymoon”. Maybe, but it seems to have gone down well with the hotels we’ll be celebrating at. 😉)
Before catching our flight to French Polynesia, we’d spend a night at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, one of Los Angeles’ fanciest hotels and one of the best possible uses of a Hilton Free Night Award.
We will then spend a total of two weeks in Bora Bora, divided as follows:
Our first five nights are at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, which I booked almost a year ago at a discount rate. 89000 Hilton Honors points per night.
We took advantage of the Fifth Night Free and the stay was 356,000 points, allowing me to finally redeem a large chunk of the Hilton Honors points I’ve been saving up for years.
(Today, the resort costs 120,000 points per night, which is a significant increase. However, the Fifth Night Free benefit can be very useful for earning Hilton Honors points here.
Points redemptions apply to the base level Lagoon View Suite, but I managed to upgrade to the King Beach Pool Villa prior to arrival thanks to my Hilton Diamond status from my Amex US Hilton Aspire card.
We want to try some beach villas on this trip after seeing some overwater villas in the Maldives on previous trips. However, I may ask that further upgrades to the overwater villa here at the Conrad will be one or two of the last nights for balanced reporting. 😉
After the Conrad, we will spend three days and two nights at the St. Regis Bora Bora. I booked cash and points for this stay 120,000 Marriott Bonvoy points + 40,000 XPF ($480 CAD) for one night in St. for Regis’s Beachside Villa.
Unfortunately, the resort’s entry-level Garden View Villa was not available at points; however, this redemption also locks in our preferred room type without the need to “suite-speak”. In fact, the Beachside Villa actually looks a little better than the Overwater Villas at this resort, so I’m pretty happy with the result.
We decided to only spend two days at the St Regis because, frankly, the property looks a little dated. As a fan of the brand, I still wanted to see what it was like, and I hope it exceeds our expectations.
Both the Conrad and the St. Regis come with additional boat transfer fees 7500 XPF ($90 CAD) per person in one direction, which is fortunately a little less than Maldivian seaplanes.
Our stay at the Conrad and St. Regis allows me to check out the best resorts in Bora Bora that can be booked with points. However, I spent the rest of the trip at several world-class properties that can only be booked with cash.
For our last five nights, we booked two properties with cash. We’ll spend three nights at the Four Seasons Bora Bora, widely considered the island’s best property, and two nights at The Brando, a luxury resort on its own private island of Tetiaroa, often billed as one of the hotels. the best and most exclusive resorts in the world.
To give you an idea of the price range, public rates at the Four Seasons Bora Bora start at $2,500 (USD) per night. Prices at The Brando, meanwhile, can be found in their brochure, starting at €2,900 per night for the Villa & Breakfast rate or €3,900 per night for the all-inclusive rate.
Now, while I was able to collect some travel industry prices for these ambitious resorts in support of our travel agency, I wouldn’t call them cheap. In fact, they are easily the most money I have ever spent on one night in my life so far.
I am undoubtedly very fortunate to be able to pursue these experiences in the service of both personal and business goals, and I look forward to fully indulging in the experience.
At the Four Seasons, we’re all about fully immersing yourself in true five-star luxury. The resort’s ground floor bungalows and beach villas have been recently renovated, giving us a taste of the modern direction the idyllic resort is taking.
We’re sure to marvel at the island’s natural beauty from the exquisite comfort of our one-bedroom Mountain View Overwater Bungalow, overlooking Mount Otemanu by day and losing ourselves in the unspoiled Tahitian sky at night.
Our stay at The Brando will be the second we’ve had on a private luxury island, after Calala Island in Nicaragua. To call this resort classy is definitely an understatement, as it is actually an atoll made up of dozens of small islands surrounding a beautiful bay.
To add to its appeal, the island can only be accessed by private jet, which is sure to provide us with a sense of seclusion and exclusivity in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Once again, we plan to fully immerse ourselves in the experience as we relax on the white sand beaches and soak up the resort’s unique flora and fauna.
To access all these experiences, I need to book inter-island transfers between Tahiti and Bora Bora, which can only be booked with one of two airlines (Air Tahiti or the new start-up Air Moana) or a ferry service. which unfortunately did not suit my date.
The cost of flights with Air Tahiti is approx $400 (USD) one trip per person, which isn’t entirely unreasonable, although it’s certainly another layer of expense to consider when planning a trip to French Polynesia.
I’ll share a future article about the logistics and costs of a Bora Bora trip, and compare our experience here to what’s offered in the world’s other premier destination for oversea villas, the Maldives.
Before we get married this summer, my partner Jesse and I embarked on a “pre-honeymoon” trip to French Polynesia, where we’ll be living in the lap of luxury for the next two weeks.
As one of the most popular destinations in the world, Bora Bora is at the top of many bucket lists, including ours. Right now, I feel especially grateful to be able to combine personal and business travel to this part of the world while spending some quality time with Jesse in the run-up to our wedding.
Booking flights to this part of the world and getting access to some of its luxurious mansions definitely came with some extra work, including planning this trip almost a year ahead of time, which is definitely worth the price of admission.
In addition to the usual flight and hotel reviews (of which, I expect, the words are quite extensive), I look forward to offering some additional information on the logistics, pricing, and general planning process of a trip to Bora Bora. this travel collection will help those of you thinking about a similar once-in-a-lifetime trip to make it a reality.