Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
In summer 2022, I enjoyed an incredible holiday in French Polynesia (Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora). Read my trip reports here:
- Review: Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to Los Angeles
- Review: Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class (Los Angeles to Papeete)
- Review: The Brando
- Review: InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa
- Review: Air Tahiti ATR 72 Economy Class from Tahiti to Bora Bora
- Review: InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa
- Review: St Regis Bora Bora (today)
- Review: Four Seasons Bora Bora
- Review: Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class (Tahiti to Los Angeles)
- Review: Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner Business Class (Los Angeles to Paris)
Today: Review of The Regis Bora Bora (French Polynesia)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: St Regis Bora Bora
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Reaching out across 44 acres of lush landscaping edged by white sands and a crystalline lagoon, The St Regis Bora Bora Resort represents the epitome of carefree elegance. The resort’s 100 accommodations comprise the largest over-water villas in French Polynesia as well as some stunning beach villas, each one adorned with exotic woods, handwoven fabrics and regional art. Rising in the distance, the towering majesty of Mount Otemanu is an ever-present symbol of the lofty luxury and personalized service that are the hallmarks of the resort. Suspended over water is the Lagoon Restaurant, with views of Mount Otemanu, where Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s menu offers the finest dining experience. The St Regis butler service offers coffee and tea delivery with wake-up calls, Champagne sabering, and more. A highlight is the Iridium Spa, set on its own private island, offering relaxing treatments.
The St Regis Bora Bora features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels & resorts in French Polynesia and the best St Regis hotels & resorts in the world.
Have you ever stayed at The St Regis 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
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The St Regis Bora Bora is one of Bora Bora‘s most coveted addresses. The legendary island of Bora Bora is part of Tahiti’s Leeward Islands which make up the western side of French Polynesia, a French territory in the Pacific Ocean. In ancient times, Bora Bora was named “Pora pora mai te pora”, which means “created by the gods” in the local Tahitian dialect, and over time, the name was shortened to Pora Pora. Because Tahitian does not distinguish between the sounds of the letters ‘b’ and ‘p,’ the name of the island was often mispronounced as Bola Bola or Bora Bora until explorer Jakob Roggeveen arrived in 1722 to name the island Bora Bora. The island is surrounded by a magnificent lagoon, barrier reef, and several motus (islets) made up of broken coral and sand. At the center of the main island are the remains of an extinct volcano with two dramatic peaks, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu. At 2,835 feet high (727 meters), Mount Otemanu is Bora Bora’s highest point and a major distinguishing landmark.
- Located on its own private coral island (motu) on a barrier reef along the eastern side of Bora Bora, The St Regis Bora Bora can only be reached by boat. The views during the 20 min boat trip from Bora Bora’s tiny airport to resort’s main dock are breathtaking: Bora Bora’s crystal-clear lagoon is colored in a million shades of blue and surrounds the iconic Mount Otemanu, believed to be the birthplace of the Polynesian islands in local mythology. Upon arrival at the dock, guests are welcomed by their private butler, escorted via a staircase to the thatched roof lobby pavilion for the check-in procedure, and whisked away by golf cart for an orientation tour of the massive resort grounds. The St Regis Bora Bora is divided into three separate areas, which are connected by pedestrian bridges: the main area (featuring the lobby, main pool, beach, and all restaurants), an Y-shaped jetty (featuring the overwater villas and adults-only pool), and a motu (housing the beach villas, lagonarium, spa, and sport facilities).
- The 44-acre resort is a huge property, but luckily, free bike rentals and an efficient 24/7 buggy service are available to guests which makes it easy to get around. Despite its massive size, The St Regis Bora Bora feels modest in scale because of its intimate architecture and design. The vast majority of the resort’s public areas and accommodations consist of small pavilions with thatched roofs, open walls and a simple yet elegant décor. The traditional Polynesian style of the resort was designed by architect Pierre Lacombe and interior designer Meriem Hall, who both spent an entire year on site planning what was to become the St Regis Bora Bora. Lacombe choose simple and natural materials for building the resort, such as pandanus to line the ceilings, Asian hardwood for the floors, and durable granite for some finishing touches. Hall’s work began where Lacombe’s left off, and she infused the décor with a touch of feminine, adding rugs, draperies and upholstery to soften Lacombe’s clean lines. The overall result is a serene and convivial resort, which feels more like a Polynesian village than a hotel.
- The St Regis Bora Bora offers 90 elegantly appointed villas, comprised of 13 beach villas and 77 overwater villas. Perched over the lagoon with views of the either the main island or Mount Otemanu, the one- and two-bedroom overwater villas are the most popular pick amongst travelers and are renowned as the largest overwater accommodations in the South Pacific. Villas have separate bedroom and living room areas, with window panels imbedded in the floor, which allow to look into the turquoise-blue lagoon and marine life swimming beneath. Elegant Italian marble bathrooms feature oversized sunken tubs and rain showers. Outdoor living areas offer direct access into the lagoon for a spontaneous swim. Some overwater villas also offer plunge pools or whirlpools. Nestled on the reef side, the beach villas also have private outdoor Jacuzzis and two two-bedroom villas come with private swimming pools. Set on a secluded cove on the beach’s pristine white sand, is the resort’s largest villa – the Royal Suite – featuring three bedrooms, a private swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna.
- With four restaurants and two bars to choose from as well as the private dining, special themed nights and bespoke offerings for special occasions, The St Regis Bora Bora Resort offers a wide range of culinary options for discerning travelers:
- Lagoon by Jean-Georges Restaurant is the resort’s signature restaurant since its opening in 2006. Suspended over the water and offering striking views of Mount Otemanu, the venue delights the senses with a memorable fine dining experience that has earned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten his renowned reputation as one of the world’s leading Chefs. Signature dishes include red tuna coconut, beef truffle and lamb thyme.
- Nestled in the resort’s garden, Far Niente Restaurant pays homage to the time-honored traditions of Italian cuisine and boasts an assortment of authentic dishes and drinks.
- Next to Far Niente is Bamboo Restaurant, where guests can sample bold yet delicate flavors of Asia, prepared with a variety of Japanese and Chinese techniques.
- Located along the resort’s private beach, Te Pahu Restaurant is open for breakfast, which comprises a small buffet complemented by à la carte dishes. On selected night, Te Pahu also hosts special themed dinners and Tamure dance shows to the ancient beat of Toere drums.
- Located between the main beach and main pool, netx to Te Pahu, is the casual Aparima Restaurant & Bar, which offers light meals, tasty snacks and refreshing cocktails during the day.
- Located next to Lagoon by Jean-Georges Restaurant and enjoying a spectacular view, 727 Bar is one the resort’s highlights. The bar’s overwater terrace is the perfect spot for a pre-dinner cocktails while admiring the spectacular sunset view behind Mount Otemanu. Each night, the bar also hosts a Champagne sabering ritual – a St Regis signature service originating from the days of Napoleon when he used a saber to uncork Champagne in both victory and defeat in battle.
Over 100 years ago St Regis’ founder, John Jacob Astor IV, introduced the brand’s legendary butler service. It quickly became a much-loved signature offering enjoyed by guests at St Regis hotels and resorts around the globe. Today, white gloves are a thing of the past, but butlers are still recruited from top butler and hospitality schools and put through a rigorous St Regis butler training program to perfect the art of highly personalized, anticipatory service which includes curating memories-of-a-lifetime experiences, perfecting meticulous attention to detail and learning to anticipate unspoken guest preferences and desires. In keeping up with the times, E-butler service is now also accessible by email or phone. Butler service at The St Regis Bora Bora Resort may begin with the unpacking and arranging of your wardrobe to your preference in your villa and also includes daily complimentary pressing of up to two garments per guest.
- Enjoying a striking, movie-set view of Mount Otemanu, The St Regis Bora Bora’s world-class spa is located on a small island in a man-made lagoon. The Iridium Spa is comprised of one outdoor and five indoor treatment rooms, a Balneotherapy room, Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, a boutique and a relaxing lounge with a hypnotic view. The spa offers a variety of pampering offerings including Polynesian-inspired treatments, Sothy’s signature facials, Balneotherapy, romantic couples treatments, manicures and pedicures. Signature treatments include the locally inspired Polynesian Massage and Miri Oil Massage which combines massage, stretching and percussion-like movements using fragrant, healing Miri oil sourced from the medicinal Miri leaf known for its antibacterial and healing properties. A variety of complimentary wellness classes are offered each week including Kundalini Yoga, crossfit training, and meditation sessions.
- The St Regis Bora Bora offers plenty of leisure and sport facilities, including a state-of-the-art gym, a tennis court and two pools. Located on the narrow landstrip between the overwater villas is an adults-only pool, which offers private day-beds and a serene ambiance. The second, lagoon-style pool is much larger and features a swim-up bar as well as some lounge chairs in the water. A few steps from the main pool is the resort’s private beach, a wide stretch of white sands which overlooks Bora Bora’s ridiculously clear lagoon. At the beach, guests have access to free non-motorized water sports equipment, like Hobie Cats, paddleboards, kayaks, and pedal boats. Towels, sunscreen, and snorkel gear are also available for free at the adjacent beach hut. Guests looking for great snorkeling can head to the resort’s private lagoonarium – a protected lagoon with dozens of tropical fish and coral species. The resort’s marine biologists host thrice-weekly feeding sessions where guests can learn more about the local aquatic life, and get up close and personal with the fishes.
- Combining classic sophistication with a modern sensibility, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts – which currently manages the Bora Bora property – is one of my favorite luxury hotel brands in the world. Combining timeless glamour with a vanguard spirit, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts is committed to delivering exquisite experiences at nearly 50 luxury hotels and resorts in the best addresses around the world. Beginning with the debut of The St. Regis hotel in New York by John Jacob Astor IV at the dawn of the twentieth century, the brand has remained committed to an uncompromising level of bespoke and anticipatory service for all of its guests, delivered flawlessly by the signature St. Regis Butler Service. Part of the Marriott Hotel Group, St Regis participates in Marriott Bonvoy, the global loyalty program from Marriott. The program offers members an extraordinary portfolio of global brands, exclusive experiences, and great benefits including free nights and Elite status recognition.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- The St Regis Bora Bora directly faces Mount Otemanu, the 727 m (2,385 foot) mountain at the center of Bora Bora and the most iconic scenery in all of French Polynesia. As a result, the following areas of the resort enjoy an iconic view of the mountain: the arrival dock, a few dozen overwater villas, 727 Bar and Lagoon by Jean-Georges Restaurant. However, the other parts of the resort – including the beach and the pools – are facing the opposite side towards an inlet of the turquoise lagoon and do not come with a view of the mountain (unless you wade into the sea, after which the mountain pops at the horizon).
- The decor of the villas features a traditional Polynesian look with wood furniture and wall motifs. For some guests this might feel authentic, but for others (including myself) the design might feel a tad dark and dated. Athough the villas are the largest accommodations in the South Pacific and well maintained, they are showing their age a bit, especially in the bathrooms, and could use a refurbishment in near future.
- Some of the overwater villas lack a bit of privacy. For example, the resort’s main boat dock is just beyond the overwater villas facing the mountain, so there is regular boat traffic a short distance away on this side of the resort. Occasionally, jet ski visitors also zoom past the villas on the resort’s other side (close to the spot where the water sport center is located).
- The sparkling resort grounds are spread out and some of the overwater bungalows are pretty far from the beach and main resort area, so walking back and forth can take some time and get annoying. However, complimentary bikes are provided as well as golf cart service (24/7). The massive resort grounds also have the advantage that the property never feels too crowded, even during max occupancy (which was the case during my stay).
- Breakfast at the resort is comprised of a buffet, complemented with à la carte dishes. IMHO, the buffet is rather limited and a bit disappointing for an ultra-luxe hotel of this category (especially when compared to the lavish breakfast buffets offered at some of the world’s best beach resorts).
- The private beach of The St Regis Bora Bora is composed of coral sand (which is not very soft) and has some rocky parts along the shoreline. This is not different though from the other resort beaches on Bora Bora, and it’s still a magnificent white sand beach.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 7/10
- Spa: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: exceptional 9/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, complimentary round-trip boat transfers, and 20% discount on spa services , excluding spa packages, yoga classes and beauty products).
- Save money: Marriott Bonvoy elite members are well treated here, with – among other benefits – free WiFi, a room upgrade (when available), early check-in or late check-out (when available), and complementary breakfast (for top tier members). Read here my review of Marriott Bonvoy.
- Save money: book your room with an additional 25% off making use of a Best Rate Guarantee.
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like The St Regis Bora Bora (and/or receive many free perks).
- Room tip: Most of the overwater villas are placed along one long pontoon in the lagoon. The bungalows on one side of this pontoon have spectacular views across the lagoon towards Mt Otemanu and Bora Bora’s main island, while the bungalows on the other side look back at the motu towards land owned by neighbors of the resort and are close to the water sports center, where noisey jetskis are often present. I highly recommend to pay more and go for an overwater villa with Mt Otemanu view (which also offer terrific sunset views).
- 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 St Regis’ main dock for a scenic 20 minute transfer by boat.
Below is a selection of my photos of The St Regis Bora Bora Resort. To view more photos (including breakfast and dinner), click here.
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Is the champagne at the sabering complimentary?