They don’t call Bora Bora the pearl of the Pacific for nothing: This gem serves up high-def views of fantasy-blue lagoon and lush Mounts Otemanu and Pahia from every angle. Just a one-hour flight from Tahiti, Bora Bora has long been a honeymoon fave, but recently made tabloid headlines when Eddie Murphy married here, then divorced just two weeks later. Indeed, of all the French Polynesian islands, Bora Bora seems to have the most American presence, thanks to a U.S. military base established in WW2 after the attack on Pearl Harbor. As a result, some might find this Society Island a little too overdeveloped for paradise, but others will welcome the action and buzz.
When it comes to the latter, hot spot Bloody Mary’s is the off-resort place to eat, what with its wall of fame showing off its many celebrity sightings, including bathing beauties Drew Barrymore and Cam Diaz. The popular resto skews to the inauthentic – think tropical drinks in a faux beach bar setting – but at least it’s a chance to show off your tan. (By the way, divas, you can leave your heels at home – most of Bora Bora is Havaiana-friendly.) During the day, you can shop the main village of Vaitape with the rest of the turistas. Fashion Bora Bora serves up surprisingly up-to-date fashions, heaven forbid your Louis is delayed at the airport. And La Galerie is the best stop for classy souvenirs like artful pareos. You can even buy your very own Tahitian pearl at Nyco’s Black Pearl Trading Company (www.nycosborabora.com). For lunch, stop for a mahi mahi burger and Hinano beer at a resto on the water. We like Le St. James Restaurant (www.stjamesborabora.com) at Helen’s Bay Centre.
Still, no one comes to paradise for an urban experience. With a lagoon three times larger than its land mass, Bora Bora is surrounded by a wide reef and made up of many islets, all worth exploring. Take a lagoon excursion, snorkel the coral gardens, search for manta rays and explore the pass where sharks and barracuda can be found. On the main island, you can take an island tour or stretch your legs on a trek to various viewpoints.
Back at the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort & Spa (www.boraboralagoon.com), guests like Colin Farrell kick back in their luxe Polynesian-style bungalows. Features range from glass-top coffee tables for viewing and feeding fish in overwater bungalows to private pools, dining gazebos and showers in beach and garden suites. Snorkelling, canoe and kayak gear are all complimentary, but there’s also an activity desk staffed with helpful aides just waiting to help plan your day. The resort also offers DVD rentals and in-room players for rainy days (or nights) or for when you simply must have your Annie Hall fix. And though the resort has a dining room, bar, lounge and cafe, the room service is excellent and affordable when you can’t bear to leave your room. If you were careless with sun protection, book a restorative treatment at the resort’s Maru Spa, known for its tree house rooms. The spa’s Sacred Tamanu Signature Experience features a moisture- and vitamin-rich Tamanu balm, used for centuries by the local people to heal and promote skin tissue, as well as a hydrating face mask and massage. It’s divine but no excuse to skip the sunscreen!
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's bi-weekly newsletter