Post-Pandemic Travel 2022 ✈ Conrad Bora-Bora
The pandemic had definitely changed the way I choose my travel destinations. I used to think that we should focus on traveling to places that require more physical fitness while we are young'er' and save the relaxing destinations for the future. However, the pandemic made me realize that life is short and the world can change anytime. We will seize the opportunity to travel to places we want, while we can. If you've been following my travels in the past 2 years, you may have noticed that I've been slowly checking off several destinations on my bucket list...Maldives, Banff, Lapland, and now...Bora Bora! Post-pandemic revenge travel is real...lol!
Bora Bora is an expensive travel destination, even more expensive to stay in an overwater bungalow at a 5-star hotel. However, we were able to 'afford' all these luxuries thanks to points and miles. Spoiler alert, the total out-of-pocket cost for our trip was approximately $500 for the two of us. =P
The planning for this trip started in February 2022 when FrequentMiler posted about wide-open availability at Conrad Bora Bora. I knew these wouldn't last long so I quickly booked 3 nights at the Conrad for September 2022 using 89,000 points/night and 1 free night award. After securing our accommodation, we booked our roundtrip flights to Papeete for 70,000 United miles per person. We couldn't use any airline miles for the Air Tahiti flight between Papeete and Bora Bora, so we booked the roundtrip flights for both of us in June 2022 with 73,264 Chase Ultimate Reward points.
31 Aug 2022 (Wed): Huntsville - Denver - Las Vegas
Our looong 45-hours journey from US to Bora Bora on 5 flights (Huntsville - Denver - Las Vegas - San Francisco - Papeete - Bora Bora). Booking with miles means our flight options are limited, which explains the longer route. Almost all routes require an overnight transit somewhere, so we chose to transit in Las Vegas. Hubby hasn't been to Vegas so this was a good opportunity to visit Vegas. Besides, Vegas is a city that doesn't sleep so it's perfect to spend the night sightseeing in the city.
1 Sept 2022 (Thurs): Las Vegas - San Francisco - Papeete
After spending the night in Las Vegas, we took the 6am flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco.
Used our United Club Pass to visit the United Lounge at Terminal G during our 6-hours transit in SFO. Nothing fancy in this lounge but at least a quiet place for us to rest before our long flight.
Boarded our flight at 1.30pm from San Francisco to Papeete. The flight was pretty full but we managed to get a row of 3 to ourselves. =) We also had Economy Plus seats thanks to my United Silver status so it was pretty comfortable. Food onboard was mediocre but better than nothing.
Finally made it to Tahiti at 6.55pm after 8.5 hours. Tahiti airport felt a bit like Langkawi airport.
Tahiti is only 4 hours behind Central Time (same as Hawaii) so the time difference is not bad.
There were local musicians singing at the immigration area to welcome travelers to Tahiti. It took about 30 minutes for us to get through immigration coz there were only 2 counters open (p.s. there was no air-con), and the performance continued the entire time.
Since it was already late when we arrived Papeete, we decided to stay near the airport for night and fly to Bora Bora early the next morning. After picking up our luggages, we walked about 5 minutes across the main road to Tahiti Airport Motel. The motel was visible from the Terminal.
We had to walk up a steep alley to get to the hotel, but it was ok as our luggages weren't too heavy.
We booked this hotel with 4,100 Chase Ultimate Reward points + $50.64. We also received a $50 hotel credit with our Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card for this stay. This hotel is pretty basic but good enough for 8.5 hours rest (we checked-in at 8pm and checked out at 4.30am).
2 Sept 2022 (Fri): Papeete - Bora Bora
After a good night's rest, we left the hotel at 4.30am and walked back to the airport to catch our 6.45am flight to Bora Bora.
We arrived the airport at 5am and dropped off our bags (we get one checked-bag each on Air Tahiti). There was no lines at check-in and security, and the domestic terminal is small so we were at the boarding gate by 5.15am (too early). One reason we wanted to be early is because the flight is open seating, and we wanted to be the first to board the flight and choose our seats. We were so early that the monitors weren't showing which gate our flight was departing from yet, and as soon as Bora Bora showed up at gate 52, we quickly walked over to sit close to the gate...kiasu lol!
There were about 8 people ahead of us but we still managed to get the front row seat on the LEFT SIDE. I've done my research and my goal was to get a window seat on the left side of the plane for the best view flying into Bora Bora, mission accomplished!!
And our reward...amazing aerial views of Moorea and Bora Bora from the plane!! Look at the many shades of blues!!
After a short 1-hour flight (and many hours of traveling), we finally made it to Bora Bora at 7.30am! Bora Bora airport is small and is located on its own island, so the only way to leave the airport is by boat. Only 6 hotels have private boat transfer from the airport - Conrad, St. Regis, Intercontinental, Four Seasons, Le Bora Bora, and Maitai. All checked baggages were offloaded in a cart at the arrival hall and everyone just looked for our own bags. I was too busy taking photos of the turquoise waters outside and left hubby picking up our luggages himself...haha!
As we were staying on the main island for one night (before going to Conrad), we took this complimentary catamaran to Vaitape port on the main island.
The boat departed at 7.55am and we were last to board coz I was too busy taking photos. =P We opted for the upper deck to enjoy the views but it was soooo windy!!! It was cloudy but luckily it wasn't raining.
Arrived Vaitape Wharf at 8.10am after a quick 20 minutes boat ride...
...and the staff from Oa Oa Lodge was already waiting for us at the dock. =) The lodge provided complimentary pick-up. We arrived at the lodge at 8.25am and was lucky to be able to check-in early.
We were rushing to get to the lodge earlier because we had booked a full day self-drive boat rental for 9am - 5pm. Our original plan was to drop off our luggages and the boat company was supposed to pick us up from the lodge. Unfortunately, we found out after getting to the lodge that our tour was cancelled due to strong winds. It would have been so cool to go around Bora Bora in a boat...oh well.
Since our plan for the day was cancelled, we decided to just chill and rest in our lodge. We booked this Standard Bungalow in Oa Oa Lodge for 4,100 Ultimate Rewards points + $50.99, and received a $50 hotel credit from the Chase Sapphire Preferred card to the out of pocket cost for our stay was $0. This lodge is pretty basic and had kitchen facilities, but it wasn't well-equipped/maintained. It does have air-con and the bed was comfortable enough that we napped for a few hours in the afternoon.
The lodge had a pool and ping pong table. There are overwater bungalows in Oa Oa Lodge as well but certainly can't compare with the ones in the other luxury resorts.
After resting and being lazy in our lodge for the day, we decided to take a 20 minutes stroll to Vaitape town to get a glimpse of the local's lifestyle. We walked by a school, bank, pharmacy, 'home depot', church, street vendors, and kids playing soccer with boombox blasting on a Friday evening. The weather and sceneries made me feel like I was in Malaysia.
Stopped by the most popular supermarket in Bora Bora...Chin Lee, to buy some drinks. A lot of tourists buy groceries and food here because they are much cheaper than what the resort charges. 6-pack of beer was around $18-$20. We came back again the next day to buy chicken rice for lunch.
Found a nice spot by the waters to watch sunset and enjoy the view of Mt. Otemanu. Saw 2 kids enjoying their Friday evening on their outrigger canoe...the laid-back island life! We also saw a group of young people hanging out at the back of their trucks blasting music as they enjoyed the sunset.
After enjoying a relaxing sunset by the waters, we walked over to the open space where all the local food trucks ("Roulotte") were parked to grab dinner. They opened at 6pm and we were one of the first few people there. We ordered Steak Frite (steak and fries) from Chez Terava, a food truck with a hot pink playboy logo on it. We headed back to our lodge after dinner and called it a day.
3-6 Sept 2022 (Sat - Tues): Conrad Bora Bora Nui
After spending a night at Oa Oa Lodge, we checked out the next morning at 9.45am and the hotel staff dropped us off at Vaitape to catch the 10.30am Conrad Bora Bora boat. Even though we arrived at the dock early, we almost missed the boat coz it was docked on the other side and wasn't clearly labeled. Fortunately, we found out and boarded the boat just in time. After a quick 10 min boat ride, we finally made it to our 'main destination' for this trip and was welcomed by the resort staff with lei and music as soon as we got off the boat.
Welcome to paradise...Ia Orana Conrad Bora Bora Nui!!!
The staff led us to this lounge area with glass bottom and amazing views to complete the check-in procedures and we were served a welcome drink. The Mr. and Mrs. Tang envelope cracked us up, I always enjoy making fun of hubby as Mr. Tang...lol! We booked the King Lagoon View Suite (the only option available using points) and were told our room wasn't ready yet. After completing our check-in procedures around 11am, the staff took us for a tour around the resort in a buggy.
While waiting for our room to be ready, we went for lunch and hung out around the lobby area till around 2.45pm when the staff came over to let us know that our room was ready.
As mentioned earlier, we booked the King Lagoon View Suite, which is the base room. We didn't know what room we got until we arrived at villa 336, and found out that we had been upgraded to the King Sunset Overwater Pool Villa!!! OMG...this was an incredible upgrade!!
3 nights in the King Sunset Overwater Pool Villa would have cost approximately $10,000!!! Thank you Conrad for this amazing complimentary upgrade!!! Let's take a tour around our fancy room. =)
We received were some snacks and drinks as part of my Diamond member benefit.
King bed with unobstructed horizon and lagoon view with fully retractable doors
Spacious bathroom with a separate bath tub, dressing room and seating area, and Shanghai Tang amenities.
Spacious deck with 2 sunbeds, dining table, private infinity pool, and floating overwater hammock.
Trying to take an 'influencer insta shot' but too lazy to pull out the comforter...hahaha!!
We spent quite a lot of time on the deck sunbathing and enjoying the views. The pool was a bit too cold though.
Of course, gotta take my signature jump shot here. =P
Our villa had direct access to the ocean and the water was crystal clear for snorkeling!
Beautiful sunset from our deck.
Night view of our villa and surroundings. It was full moon when we were there.
Dining in Paradise
Dining in the resort is not cheap. However, thanks to the Hilton Diamond benefit that comes with my Hilton Aspire credit card, we received complimentary daily buffet breakfast (7am-10.30am). By turning our breakfast into brunch, we were able to save quite a good bit on our meals without starving ourselves.
Breakfast was served in the open-air French restaurant with nice view of the lagoon.
Wide variety of breakfast options which include both oriental and western options. There was also poisson cru (raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk), a national dish of Tahiti.
As usual, hubby went for the Western options, and I went for the Oriental options. There was no sushi so I used the salmon and rice to make my own salmon nigiri...hahaha!
The resort also offers Canoe Breakfast that costs XPF19,800 ($170). We didn't try but saw the staffs on their way to serve the canoe breakfast in an outrigger canoe.
The other restaurant we visited in the resort was Tamure Beach Grill. We had lunch here on the first day while waiting for our room to be ready. The outdoor seating area is pretty cool as we were surrounded by waters. We ordered the Oriental Fish with lagoon fish, green peas hummus, and pita bread (XPF 3,350) and the Gourmet Burger with grass fed angus beef, crispy bacon, comte cheese, and chopped lettuce (XPF 3,950). The total cost for our meal was about $63 after tax and tips.
Instead, we utilized the complimentary facilities such as bicycles, snorkels and fins. There was also sunblock and aloe vera at the pool area, which came in handy towards the end of our stay.
Snorkels, masks, and fins were available at the activity desk by the pool for free.
We also went kayaking and paddleboarding around the resort, both were complimentary.
We even 'visited' the Presidential Villas from the waters...hahaha!
There was also a tennis court in the resort. Tennis rackets and balls were available at the activity center for no extra fee.
We spent some time taking photos around the resort, making full use of my tripod. =P
The arrival/departure lounge and boat dock where Upa Upa Lounge Bar is located.
The main pool area was big but we didn't swim here at all coz we had our own private pool. =)
White sandy beaches and hammocks
There was also a 'private beach' area reserved for Hilton Gold and Diamond members.
Tropical vibes and nice walking paths all around the resort.
The many boardwalks are good photo spots. =)
Can't get enough of the crystal clear turquoise water and the many shades of blues!
Visited the Presidential Villa area. Both villas were vacant when we were there and they were doing some maintenance work.
We also walked up this little hill to the top of the resort where the spa was located...
...to this lookout point overlooking the iconic Mount Otemanu. So beautiful!!
Night sceneries around the resort.
More of my signature jumpshots! =P
After 3 relaxing days, it was finally time to bid goodbye to paradise and return home.
We checked out of our villa at 12pm and were given this day room to chill and hangout while we wait for our boat to the airport at 2pm.
The staff gave us these beads necklace as goodbye gift.
Goodbye Conrad Bora Bora Nui!! Thank you for the amazing stay and experience!! There were only 4 guests on this big boat...lol!!
Made it back to Bora Bora airport again after a 20 min boat ride. Seriously, the water is so pretty!
Bora Bora airport is small so check-in was quick. Our 3.05pm flight to Papeete was slightly delayed, but that gave us time to take few more photos. They actually used a tractor to carry all the luggages to and from the planes...lol!
Our flight departed at 3.45pm and we got a last glimpse of Bora Bora from the right side of the plane.
Landed at Papeete airport around 4.40pm, but had to wait for about an hour before we could check in for our United flight back to the US.
After checking-in, we had to wait a bit more because the airport security wasn't open until 7pm. As soon as security opened, we quickly went through security and went to the Air Tahiti Nui Lounge using my Priority Pass. It was good that we were one of the first few people to get into the lounge as they stopped letting Priority Pass people enter shortly as the lounge got busier.
Boarded our 9.10pm fligh to San Francisco. It was another full flight. We originally had a row of 3 to ourselves but hubby moved too early and a lady decided to switch seats to our row. =.=
We've heard so many bad experiences for air travel in the summer, but surprisingly, ALL our flights were on time/early.
And we were lucky and got upgraded to First Class for the last leg of our flight from Denver to Huntsville. Not a bad way to end this wonderful trip! =)
That's a wrap for our 6D5N trip to the French Polynesia. Traveling to Bora Bora was a bucket list dream come true and we are so thankful to be able to celebrate our belated birthdays at this beautiful paradise! Staying at the Sunset Overwater Pool Villa at Conrad Bora Bora was certainly an amazing icing on the cake. Thank you Conrad Bora Bora for this memorable stay!!