Toopua atoll (foreground) & Mt. Otemanu
You’re going to be hard pressed to come up with a more spectacular tropical incentive split-program than Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa and Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa. First, a quick geography lesson: Tahiti is the hub island in French Polynesia but it’s commonly used to refer to the entire region, known as the Society Islands. Moorea lies just off of the island of Tahiti, about a 10-minute flight away. Mythical Bora Bora, meanwhile, is another 45 minutes heading west. Both resorts are completely secluded without eyesite of another hotel, and both will make your clients smile uncontrollably the minute they’re alone in their overwater villas. They are truly spectacular, and many people who travel professionally for a living say nothing anywhere compares to the beauty of Tahiti.
Flights from LAX aboard Air Tahiti Nui are eight hours. You might be surprised to learn Tahiti is actually farther east than Hawaii. We were. This is Part 2 of our Hilton Resorts Tahiti review, covering the Bora Bora resort. For part 1, visit: Moorean Eden: Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa.
HERE’S YOUR ‘WOW’ REVEAL
Bora Bora is the one of the most dramatic destinations in the world that will bend your knees and stop your breath the moment you get off the plane from Tahiti. A ring of atolls surrounds the majestic remains of the ancient volcano, Mt. Otemanu, and the shimmering waters of the lagoon in between is a jewelbox of sapphires, emeralds and diamonds.
While all of the big brand hotels are located on the east side of Otemanu, the Hilton Bora Bora Nui is located in the far southwestern reaches alone on Toopua atoll. Arriving by boat, you feel like you’ve reached the end of the earth as the water turns deep cobalt blue on the other side of the reef. The 86 overwater villas stretch along the longest beach in French Polynesia while the 36 land villas slope up the palm-swathed hillside. Perched on the crest of the hill on a leafy promontory, the Hina Spa overlooks the atoll, beach, water and Mt. Otemanu.
SUPER SUSTY SPA
Anthony Nayeli is the spa director at Hina Spa with a passionate concern for protecting this Polynesian paradise. He says sustainability has only come to the fore in the last couple of years as more and more hotels are being built in the islands.
“I want us to be doing so much in terms of sustainability that the rest of the hotels are shamed by our example,” says Nayeli. “So a visit here is not just an incredibly luxurious escape, but it’s also not exploitive in any way.”
The spa consists of three large spa cabins overlooking the 360-degree jaw-dropping panorama. At the very top of the bluff, there’s a sign marked “The Million Dollar View” pointing down a trail. At the end of trail, there’s an open-air covered deck with two spa beds (above), and if anything, the sign is underestimating the view.
Signature treatments include the deep tissue “Bambu Renu” massage utilizing bamboo stalks of various lengths to address deep pressure requests. A portion of proceeds from the massage go to the Green Island Project, a renewable energy company in Tahiti.
The “Te Moana” is a hot stone and cold seashell massage. The heat is designed to increase circulation while the shells release toxins through the skin. Proceeds from that are donated to the BIOROCK company, which uses electrostimulation to promote coral generation.
And the “Be the Difference” signature package treatment includes a sea salt and ylang ylang body scrub, marine algae body wrap, and 50-minute massage. Funds from that are given to the Algalita Marine Research Foundation and its anti-pollution initiatives throughout the islands.
“There’s a real sense of place in the spa menu with all of the local ingredients like the fresh fruits and plants,” says Nayeli. “And we have the best price point, there’s a better value here. It’s $140 for a 50-minute massage, and $130 per person for the couple’s massage, which you’re not going to find anywhere else in Bora Bora.”
FOOD + NIGHTLIFE
In the heart of the resort right on the beach, Hilton’s tiered pool is the largest in Bora Bora. Adjacent, the Tamure Grill and Ta’ie’ie Bar is an ultra casual thatch roof venue with a big sandy floor. Rent this for as big a group as you want because it spills out onto the long beach. This is a fantastic way to start every morning for breakfast in your shorts and flip flops with a nice breeze coming in off the water.
On the other side of the pool, the Iriatai Restaurant and Upa Upa Bar (above) are housed on the second story of a Polynesian vernacular building with undivided open vantages of the beach and water. The polished wood floors, beam ceilings, and authentic art and furnishings throughout make this an absolutely gorgeous experience. You can easily host a buyout up here with live music and dancing. Iriatai is available for group bookings before 2pm or all night on Tuesdays when everyone gathers at Tamure Grill for the weekly Polynesian dance and buffet gala.
The cuisine at Hilton Bora Bora is delicious because everything tastes so fresh. The French, Asian and Pacific fusion menu serves items such as baked spiny lobster in tarragon lobster bisque. The hotel can also organize private group dinners right on the sand away from the crowd due to the size of the beach.
During my site inspection with Karine Peyras, assistant manager, she says, “Here we are, I have 200 people at the resort and there’s no one on the beach.” People spend a lot of time in their villas here, or they’re at the pool or sailing offshore. That sense of openness without a lot of hustle and bustle is seriously to die for.
All of the overwater bungalows have amazing views of the water so you can’t really go wrong with any of them. However, the units toward the east have both views of the water facing away from the island and views through a narrow lagoon looking toward the volcano. All of the accommodations include cathedral ceilings, wood floors, intricate woodwork, Italian marble bathrooms with large floor tubs, and big 4-poster beds with delicate linen drapery.
The overall ambiance is much more South Pacific/Balinese in feel than some of the other hotels, but it’s tasteful and subdued. The water is almost clear below the villas where you can see the colorful butterfly, parrot and trigger fish. The decks are extra large, and the villas themselves start at almost 1,000 sf.
The marquee accommodations are the two 3,200-sf Presidential Overwater Villas, which Kim Kardashian booked for her high-profile honeymoon in 2011. The 2-story structures opened in October 2009 with two bedrooms/baths, a jacuzzi and an extra large living room for entertaining. The ultra-cool villas can be booked for 30-pax cocktail receptions.
A short 20-minute boat ride from Hilton’s overwater lobby, the island of Motu Tapu offers permanent facilities for private group events. Completely encircled with blinding white beaches, the island is simply awesome for a day of beachcoming or an awards dinner at sunset. Bartenders and waiters are waiting with Mai Tais, mahi mahi carpaccio and crab and pineapple salad as your group pulls up in the private launch.
This tends to be a highlight of any program at Hilton Bora Bora Nui.
“Ah, Motu Tapu—that is the most beautiful place in the world,” says Peyras.