It would be a sin to sail all the way to French Polynesia and not stop to see the world famous island of Bora Bora so of course we made certain to stop. We’re glad we did too! The water here is so clear and beautiful. The beaches are white and soft and there’s some great restaurants too. And, fortunately for us we arrived during the Heiva Festival.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, Heiva is a month long celebration in French Polynesia where natives from all of the islands come together in song, dance, craft making etc… As said on Bora Bora Insider ““The Heiva is Tahiti’s most emphatic statement of their deep history & rich culture. It’s a non-stop, month long celebration of joy through dance, song & other cultural events giving an understanding of Polynesian culture, history & life. It’s also one of the greatest shows on earth”.
We can attest to the show being one of the greatest. We went there with our friends, Kelly & Mike of SV Dash and in spite of the rain we had a fabulous time. If you are at one of the islands when the celebration is going on be sure to get tickets and go! It’s not expensive and it was completely worth it.
Harbor & Port Check In
The Gendarmes is located very conveniently in town and they were absolutely wonderful to work with. We did our normal port check in and they gave us the paperwork we’d needed to fill out for our final check out of the country at that time. Since we, as well as many other cruisers, were very near our 90 days it was a busy place but they processed everyone very efficiently and they were super friendly.
NOTE: We have heard that since Covid they are not allowing yachties to check out of country in Bora Bora. You must check out in Tahiti. Of course this is subject to change at any moment. There’s a guide located on the Tahititourisme.com site that gives some information. Click here to go to their site. We strongly recommend you check directly with the French Polynesian authorities directly for the most current information.
We just found this notice on their site:
French Polynesia has greatly reduced the number of places cruisers can drop an anchor and Bora Bora is no exception. Since this is an ever evolving situation we suggest you check with Noonsite and Soggy Paws to get current restrictions. Both sites are closely monitoring the situation and providing up to date information.
Information per SoggyPaws as of October 2020. “There are approved anchorages in Bora Bora, but for the most part you will be required to take a mooring ball. If there are no moorings available and you are in an approved anchorage, you may drop the hook (see map on page 153 of the Society Islands compendium for information on where you can and can’t drop the hook.)
The moorings are managed by Bora Bora Mooring Services (BBMS) and the fee is 3000xpf ($30) or 30000xpf ($300) per month. These moorings were new as of 2019 and are maintained. The BBMS moorings are white and labeled “BBMS.” Do not take any other mooring as BBMS only maintains the moorings marked BBMS.
Francis, BBMS, will come by in his white, center console dinghy. He takes a photo of your boat and will provide a receipt for your mooring fee. The price includes trash pickup. He can be reached on VHF 9. Contact at email@example.com or +689 40 67 72 22 OR +689 87 79 23 57, +689 89 44 08 88.
It doesn’t appear that you can anchor at our spots anymore so it’s useless to even show them to you. It will only make you jealous!
Yachts Clubs & Marinas
Mai Kai Marina. When we were here the Mai Kai Marina was right in town. They only had slips for charter boats but they did have moorings. It appears there are still moorings out in front of the building that are now controlled by BBMS. (See Above) Most importantly they had a great restaurant and bar that had daily happy hours from 1700-1800.
At this time we are unable to confirm if Mai Kai Marina is still there. Online it shows it closed permanently but it could be under a different name. We’ve reached out to several sources to get updated information on it and will update you when we get it.
Bora Bora Yacht Club. The BBYC is located north of the main village and while you can walk to the village from there it’s about a 2.5 km walk. They do not have docks but there are moorings there. Anchoring is no longer allowed in the BBYC area.
We went there for cocktails one afternoon after taking a dinghy ride around the entire island. We planned to have lunch but the kitchen was closed. NOTE: They close daily from 1430-1800.
There is a bus called “le Truck” that runs the island every half hour or so but unless you are planning to go far you really won’t need it. Most tourists rent bicycles to get around which is the best way to get an up close view of the island. It takes roughly three hours to ride around the whole island and it’s flat so it’s pretty easy. That said, bicycle rentals can be almost as expensive as renting a car for a half day so you may want to consider that option too.
We took a taxi the day we went to Bloody Marys. After all, who wants to be riding a bike or a scooter after a few cocktails? It wasn’t too expensive and it’s easy to find a taxi right at the ferry dock.
There are also a couple of rental car companies at the ferry dock as well. You won’t need to look far to find transportation.
There are two good grocery stores here and both are within walking distance of the dinghy dock at the Mai Kai Yacht Club or the one where the ferries dock which is where we docked most of the time.
There is the China Lee which is right in the midst of town and the Super U which is just a little north of the main part of the village. We found both of them to have a good selection of items but neither were as good as the Super Fare Nui on Huahine.
There’s also a hardware store in town called the Quincaillerie de Bora Bora. They are fairly well stocked but most of the tools are not real high quality.f
And, there’s a decently stocked pharmacy in town too.
There are two gas stations close to the docks. The Total Station actually has a dock where you can tie up your dinghy. It’s a little too shallow there to bring in your yacht but the dingy tie up is nice. Note that they do require you to pay in cash (local currency).
There’s also a Mobile Station located in the midst of the village but you’ll have to haul your jerrycans in to get fuel there. We didn’t buy fuel here but heard they do accept duty free certificates.
St. James Restaurant. This is hands down the best restaurant we ate at in Bora Bora. We still talk about our meal there! And, not only does it taste wonderful, it is beautifully presented and you get the bonus of having incredible views of the bay. Make sure you make a booking ahead of time as they can get quite busy.
Bloody Mary’s Restaurant. This awesome little gem is a favorite of celebrities and great musicians alike. Jimmy Buffet has even played here. And what’s not to love? They have sand floors, a palm frond roof, bar stools made of tree trunks, great food and the best Bloody Mary you’ll ever have! This place has tons of character and is a “must see” if you come here.
Banking & ATMs
The most convenient bank is the Banque de Polynesie which is just a few steps away from the ferry dock on the main road. Since it’s the most convenient spot you might find the ATM to be empty or even out of service.
There’s also a Banque Socredo just north of the main area of town and a Banque de Tahiti at the south end. Both are within walking distance.
All along the main road in the village you will find touristy type stores with everything from clothing to electronics to jewelry. We purchased a few things here and felt the prices were in line with what we’d expect to pay.
At the ferry dock there is large outdoor market where you will find people selling food, vegetables, souvenirs and more. If you stop there on a day when a cruise ship is around there will be more vendors.
We did note some unsavory characters lurking around here as well as quite a bit of gang tagging. One day we came back to our dinghy at the ferry dock to find a young boy inside of it looking at the motor and lock. Two guys in their 20s or so were standing nearby. Dan asked the boy to get out and he went over to the young men. They all immediately left the area. Our suggestion is to lock your dinghy with a chain lock to the pier and be certain your engine is locked as well. According to reports from the Gendarmes there has been an uptick in thefts due to the downturn in tourism since Covid. We never felt unsafe here but we are very cautious about where we go and when. Just be certain to keep an eye on your surroundings and your belongings.