Today: St Regis vs Four Seasons Bora Bora: which one is best?
Featuring an insanely beautiful lagoon and magnificent tropical scenery, the South Pacific island of Bora Bora is one of the world’s most beautiful destinations. When you are considering a luxury holiday in Bora Bora, chances are that you’re faced with the dilemma of staying at either the Four Seasons Bora Bora or the St Regis Bora Bora, the two most exclusive 5-star hotels on the island. I recently stayed at both resorts (read my review of the St Regis Bora Bora here and my review of the Four Seasons Bora Bora here). While both properties are top-notch resorts and located very close to one another in Bora Bora’s mesmerizing lagoon, there are some major differences between the Four Seasons and the St Regis, which might have an impact on your travel experience. Here’s my detailed comparison of both resorts, which makes it obvious that there is a clear winner, at least in my humble opinion.
Bora Bora also features two other five star resorts: the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa (which I reviewed here) and the Conrad Bora Bora. I’ve left them both out of this comparison for two reasons: (1) the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa will soon be refurbished and rebranded under the umbrella of a new luxury hotel brand; and (2) the Conrad Bora Bora does not enjoy any view at all of Bora Bora’s iconic Mount Otemanu since it’s facing away from the mountain (so I would not recommend to stay at this resort since the view of Mount Otemanu is one of the main reasons to travel to this remote island destination).
Have you ever stayed at the Four Seasons Bora or the St Regis Bora Bora? If wo, what was your experience and which resort did you prefer? Leave a comment.
For ease of navigation, I’ll compare the following aspects of the Four Seasons Bora Bora and the St Regis Bora Bora (announcing a winner in each category):
- Overwater villas
- Beach villas
- Views of the lagoon & Mount Otemanu
- Views of the sunset
- Restaurants & food
- Room rates, expenses on site & value for money
- Snorkeling & lagoonariums
Both resorts feature a traditional design, with thatched roof pavilions and Polynesian architecture. In a sense, they both feel very similar, but IMHO, the Four Seasons Bora Bora feels a bit more chic and elegant compared to the St Regis Bora Bora (although the difference is marginal).
- Opened in 2008, Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora was designed by Paris based architects Didier Lefort and Pierre-Jean Picart, with San Francisco based BAMO as the interior designers. Taking cues from its stunning surrounding, the local culture and natural resources, the property’s design fuses classic Polynesian architecture with sophisticated elegance that is Four Seasons. Design inspiration is drawn from elements specific to Bora Bora, including local tools, small utilitarian furniture, and adornment including feather, bone, carving, and tattoos.
- Opened in 2006, the St Regis Bora Bora 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 resort, which feels more like a Polynesian village than a hotel.
Winner: Four Seasons Bora Bora
2. OVERWATER VILLAS
Both resorts are famous for their overwater villas which are perched over the lagoon with views of either the lagoon or Mount Otemanu. The Four Seasons Bora Bora features 108 overwater villas spread along two jetties, while the St Regis Bora Bora has 77 overwater villas located along one Y-shaped jetty. There are some major differences between the overwater villas at both resorts:
- In 2019, all villas at the Four Seasons Bora Bora were refurbished and fitted with a contemporary Polynesian feel, complete with new furniture, fixtures, lighting and technology. As a result, the decor of the villas feels fresh and chic, and definitely has a wow factor. Unfortunately, that’s not the case at the St Regis Bora Bora, where the villas are showing their age a bit – especially in the (dated) bathrooms – and could use a refurbishment in the near future.
- The overwater villas at the St Regis Bora Bora are 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. Although the overwater villas at the Four Seasons Bora Bora also feature separate bedrooms and living rooms, they are not as spacious at their St Regis Bora Bora counterparts (although the difference in size is hardly noticeable due to the smart layout of the Four Seasons’ overwater villas).
- At both resorts, 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, at the St Regis Bora Bora, complimentary bikes are provided as well as golf cart service (24/7), which makes it very easy to get around. At the Four Seasons Bora Bora, bikes are not provided since the resort’s jetties are too narrow for bikes and buggies to pass at the same time; guests have to either walk or rely on the 24/7 buggy service, which often involves a 15 min wait (especially when you’re staying at the villa at the jetty’s far end).
Winner: Four Seasons Bora Bora (because of the nicer room decor)
3. BEACH VILLAS
Both the Four Seasons Bora Bora and the St Regis Bora Bora feature a couple of beach villas:
- Nestled along the pristine shores of Bora Bora’s enchanting turquoise lagoon, the seven beachfront villa estates at the Four Seasons Bora Bora are popular for family gatherings, extended stays or group getaways. There are one-, two-, and three-bedroom options, all of which have infinity-edge pools, enclosed gardens and panoramic views of Mount Otemanu. All villas also enjoy direct access to a private stretch of white sand beach.
- The St Regis Bora Bora has 13 beach villas, which all have private outdoor Jacuzzis while the two two-bedroom villas also come with private swimming pools. However, contrary to the Four Seasons Bora Bora, the beach villas are not located on the lagoon side of the resort but on the reef side, where they look out over a rocky shore (there’s no beach here) and the Pacific Ocean. The only exception is the resort’s largest villa – the Royal Suite – which is set on a secluded cove on the resort’s pristine lagoon-facing beach; this villa features three bedrooms, a private swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna.
Winner: Four Seasons Bora Bora (because of the views and access to a private beach)
4. VIEWS OF THE LAGOON & MOUNT OTEMANU
A major difference between both resorts is the view: the entire Four Seasons resort is looking out to the iconic Mount Otemanu, emphasizing the killer views, which is not the case at the St Regis.
- Although the St Regis Bora Bora directly faces Mount Otemanu, the famous mountain at the center of the island, only few 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. All 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).
- All public areas of the Four Seasons Bora Bora (with the exception of the spa) are located along the shoreline and thus come with a stupendous view of the lagoon and the mountain. That includes the beach which enjoys the best view from all the Bora Bora resorts I’ve stayed at. So if a view of the mountain is what you’re looking for (and let’s face it, that’s why most travelers flock to Bora Bora), the Four Seasons is far superior to the St Regis Bora Bora.
Winner: Four Seasons Bora Bora
5. VIEWS OF THE SUNSET
Both resorts enjoy a view of the sunset and they both have a bar from where to watch the sunset (the casual Vaimiti Bar at the Four Seasons Bora Bora and the chic Bar 727 at the St Regis Bora Bora). The only difference is that at the St Regis, the sun will disappear behind the island’s mountains about 30 minutes prior to the real sunset, while the Four Seasons Bora Bora enjoys an unobstructed view of the sunset (from every part of the resort, including the beach) until the very end when the sun disappears at the horizon.
Winner: Four Seasons Bora Bora
Both the St Regis Bora Bora and Four Seasons Bora Bora are located on private coral islets (‘motus’), featuring their own private beach clubs, which are exclusively available to their guests. There are a few differences though:
- 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. In contrast, the beach at the Four Seasons Bora Bora features super soft, white sand, which is great for barefoot walks.
- As already mentioned, the beach at the Four Seasons Bora Bora faces the mountain and enjoys spectacular views of Mount Otemanu while the beach at the St Regis Bora Bora faces an inlet of the turquoise lagoon and does not come with a view of the mountain.
- At the St Regis Bora Bora, the water sport center is located on the beach, and occasionally this may cause noise disturbance, especially when jetskis depart or arrive (and there’s quite a lot of them at the St Regis Bora). At the Four Seasons Bora Bora, there are two water sport centers: one for non-motorized sports (e.g. kayaks, peddleboards) is located on the beach, while the other one for motorized sports is located in another part of the resort (as a result, there’s hardly any noise disturbance from jetskis at the Four Seasons).
Winner: Four Seasons Bora Bora
Both resorts feature a wide variety of dining options, but again, there are some differences:
- Lagoon by Jean-Georges Restaurant is the St Regis Bora Bora’s signature restaurant and it offers the most sublime dining experience on the island. 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. Unfortunately, the Four Seasons does not have a restaurant that matches the gastronomic experience offered by Lagoon by Jean-Georges Restaurant.
- The other restaurants at the St Regis Bora Bora feature a more casual vibe: Far Niente Restaurant offers Italian cuisine while Bamboo Restaurant serves Asian cuisine prepared with a variety of Japanese and Chinese techniques. Both restaurants are located next to the each other in the resort’s garden next, and despite their rather uninspiring setting, they serve great food. The St Regis Bora Bora does not have a real beach restaurant for dinner (it’s only beach restaurant – Te Pahu – is only open for breakfast and lunch).
- The Four Seasons has three restaurants: Arii Moana serves Mediterranean cuisine, Vaimiti is an Asian restaurant, and Faré Hoa Beach Bar & Grill is an open-air restaurant with toes-in-the-sand charm which serves fresh local fish and a fine selection of steaks. Food at all the venues is excellent (and marginally better than the food served at the St Regis Bora Bora’s casual restaurants). All the restaurants are also located along the beach (which is a plus compared to the garden location of the casual dining venues at the St Regis Bora Bora). But as already said, the Four Seasons Bora Bora lacks a truly exceptional restaurant befitting its fabulous reputation (which is rather disappoinrting).
Winner: St Regis Bora Bora (because of the Lagoon by Jean-Georges Restaurant)
Breakfast at both the Four Seasons Bora Bora and the St Regis Bora Bora is comprised of a buffet, complemented with à la carte dishes. IMHO, the buffets at both resorts are rather limited and a bit underwhelming for ultra-luxe hotels of this category (especially when compared to the lavish breakfast buffets offered at some of the other Four Seasons and St Regis resorts in the world, such as the Four Seasons property in Mauritius or the St Regis Maldives).
Winner: none (both resorts should up their game when it comes to their breakfast offerings)
Both the Four Seasons Bora Bora and the St Regis Bora Bora feature a dedicated wellness center on their expansive resort grounds.
- Situated on the highest point of the resort’s motu, the Te Mahana (the sun) Spa at the Four Seasons Bora Bora features soaring ceilings, raised walkways, in- and outdoor treatment pavilions, as well as two decks with a Jacuzzi, one facing the Pacific Ocean and one overlooking the gardens. But while the spa offers great treatment, the facility feels a bit dated and its setting is not as beautiful as the spa at the St Regis Bora Bora.
- Enjoying a striking, movie-set view of Mount Otemanu, the St Regis Bora Bora’s gorgeous 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 highlight of the spa is its beautiful garden where guests can relax pre- or post-treatment.
Winner: St Regis Bora Bora
Although shopping might not be the primary reason to travel to Bora Bora, both resorts do have some boutiques on site appealing to ‘shopaholics’:
- The Four Seasons Bora Bora offers some of the most impressive shops I’ve ever seen at the resort. There are three large boutiques on site, the main one being MoeMoea (meaning “dream” in Polynesian), which sells the best of resort wear, casual and active apparel, accessories, women’s luxe apparel, swimwear and more. The store features well-known brands such as Camilla, Missoni, Onia, Solid & Striped, Vilebrequin and Zimmermann. The property’s two other shops include Tahia, a pearl boutique, and Manua, a shop selling locally made crafts like Bora Bora’s hand-painted pareos.
- Compared to the Four Seasons Bora Bora, the shops at the St Regis Bora Bora are not as large, do not feel as luxurious and offer a more limited range of products. There’s a general shop selling a small selection of clothes and artectacts, a luxury jewelry boutique and an art gallery.
Winner: Four Seasons Bora Bora
11. ROOM RATES, EXPENSES ON SITE AND VALUE FOR MONEY
Since the Four Seasons and the St Regis are the top resorts in Bora Bora, it should not come as a shock that they rank among the world’s most expensive resorts. Room rates in high season are above $1500 USD per night and a three-course dinner is around $100 USD per person (excluding beverages). Both resorts are more or less equally expensive (although I feel you get better value for money at the Four Seasons Bora Bora because of the better views, beach, and villas). That said, the St Regis Bora Bora has the major advantage that it participates in the Marriott Bonvoy program, which makes it possible to book free nights at the resort using Marriott Bonvoy points (although that excludes transfers, meals, and any excursions on site). In addition, Marriott Bonvoy elite members are well treated at the St Regis Bora Bora, with free WiFi, a room upgrade (when available), early check-in or late check-out (when available), and complementary breakfast (for top tier members). The Four Seasons Bora Bora does not participate in any loyalty program, so the only way to stay here is by paying the full rate.
Winner: St Regis Bora Bora (because of the Marriott Bonvoy program)
12. SNORKELING & LAGOONARIUM
Both resorts are located inside Bora Bora’s insanely beautiful lagoon. The lagoon’s clear, turquoise waters and the surrounding coral reef make for some memorable snorkeling among tropical-colored fish, harmless reef sharks and giant manta rays. The best snorkeling is enjoyed on half-day or full-day excursions (offered by many tour operators) where you get to cruise around Bora Bora’s many motus and make stops along the way to snorkel in coral gardens, swim among playful rays, and experience the thrill of swimming with docile sharks. But both the St Regis Bora Bora and the Four Seasons Bora Bora also offer their guests snorkeling on site in their lagoonariums, which are inner, partly man-made lagoons teeming with exotic marine life. At these lagoonariums, guests can learn more about the local aquatic life from marine biologists and get up close and personal with the fishes. The snorkeling experience within the lagoonariums of the Four Seasons Bora Bora and the St Regis Bora Bora is very similar, although the lagoonarium at the Four Seasons is at the least double the size of the lagoonarium at the St Regis, hence offering more possibilities to explore.
Winner: Four Seasons Bora Bora