French Polynesia

Le Meridien Bora Bora

Bora Bora, I am back!!! It’s been 4 years but I finally have the opportunity to re-visit Bora Bora, the most beautiful tropical destination that I have ever seen. Last time, we stayed 4 nights at the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso with IHG points and free night certificates. This time, thanks to the Marriott-SPG merger, I was able to book 4 nights at the Le Meridien Bora Bora and St. Regis Bora Bora (2 nights each) by points and free night certificates as well.

On early September of 2018 when the Marriott-SPG merger integrated both loyalty programs into one that everyone was eager to book the most prestige SPG properties with a cap of 60,000 Marriott points. Of course with every large system integration, issues were unavoidable. I remembered I tried with the website and the mobile app to book a night at the St. Regis Bora Bora with points and it kept showing error. I press confirm on the app once every few seconds in hope of it’ll get through. Then, I tried calling the number and the agents were clueless on the integration that they sounded shock when I asked if there are any rooms available at 60,000 Marriott points; one laughed that no way it’ll be that cheap!

Persistent was the key to success! I didn’t give up and I called every day and tried booking on the app every few hours. A few days into the integration, I was doing my routine booking on the app every few hours, when it displayed the confirmation number, I literally screamed “OMG, Jason, I booked the St. Regis Bora Bora!” I successfully booked the 1 bedroom reefside pool villa with 60,000 points per night for 2 nights in March. I tried to book the Le Meridien right after but it didn’t work…but hey at least I secured 2 nights.

For the next few days, I continued my routine of calling and trying with the app. Then, the agent found an available night for 60,000 points but when he tried to book, he hit an error and submitted a ticket to IT to get it to resolve. I continued to call every day to check and ask for the status of the issue, of course, I had to repeat myself over and over again on the situation and it didn’t resolve the issue. Then magically one day, the agent was able to find one night and proceed to the next step and I asked if I can use my Ritz-Carlton certificate (I got two from the Ritz-Carlton credit card that I newly opened and met the spending requirement). Surprisingly the agent was able to apply my certificate without any issue and I got one night booked, that’s 75% of the way! I kept doing the same thing calling and after a week, I was able to book the 2nd night with the certificate via calling. I couldn’t tell you how excited I was that my master plan worked and on my way back to Bora Bora!

After the confirmation numbers, I contacted Le Meridien Bora Bora via email to ask for combining the two nights so I don’t need to change room and asked for a quote to upgrade from a beach bungalow to an overwater lagoon bungalow (the lowest category of overwater bungalow then it goes to premium and otemanu premium). The room categories are based on the view (of the mountain peak – Mt. Otemanu) instead of the room size; the majority of the overwater bungalows are similar in size. I was quoted at 34.200 xpf per night (around $322). I didn’t reply since the price sounded very high. I tried again few weeks later and asked if they can give a discount for Platinum members to upgrade to an overwater bungalow….I was quoted 25.000 xpf per night (around $235) not including tax. This sounded more reasonable so I replied to confirm the upgrade.

I didn’t stop there….two weeks before our departure when the hotel contacted me for the flight information and preferences, I checked the cash value of the beach bungalow and the overwater bungalow. The beach bungalow for the dates we will be staying was 65,003 xpf while the overwater lagoon bungalow is only 69,880 xpf. That’s the difference of
4,877 xpf (around $46) only. I nicely asked if they can lower the upgrade price because 25,000 xpf is a lot more than the difference in the cash price of the two rooms. I was so shocked to get a response that they will match the price difference cost of 4 877 xpf + 14% tax per night. OMG I saved almost $400 by just checking and asking! See persistent does pay off!

To sweeten the deal even more, one week prior to our departure, I double check the confirmation on the app and very surprised to see my room as “overwater lagoon premium bungalow”, I got a one category free upgrade as a Platinum member (thank you again to the Ritz-Carlton credit card)!!!

Done with the long story, get back to the trip report πŸ™‚ The morning of departing Moorea, I took more photos of the Sofitel Moorea grounds and had breakfast…disappointed that no more shumai today but instead very hard spring rolls. The hotel staff sent a golf cart to pick up our luggage while we completed the checkout paperwork. We loaded our luggage into the rental car, drove to town to fill the tank at 2300 xpf (around $21), returned the car to Avis, and they dropped us off at the airport.

The small beach area at the Sofitel Moorea with views of the overwater bungalows.

The pics below looked taken from a drone but they were taken up from the restaurant bar. I contacted the hotel before and they said drone is allowed but with some rules. However, when we asked at the front desk, they said no drone allowed. GRRRR, I hand-carried the drone all the way to French Polynesia and couldn’t use it, what a waste of space and hassle!

Last look at the pool area before our departure.

We got dropped off at the Moorea airport waiting for our short flight to Bora Bora, around 50 minutes of flight time. The “checkin” process was easy, while weighting our carry-on bag, the staff seemed rushed so even before Peter got his hand off Jason’s backpack for the full weight, he was like good and give us the approved carry luggage tag! There is no security whatsoever, Jason described it as like waiting for a bus LOL! If there’s no security at the airport that shows how safe that place is! I told Peter and Jeffrey to sit on the left side of the plane for the view of Bora Bora so we lined up early before the boarding begin.

As usual, families with kids were to board first and then us next. Despite many families in front of us, I was surprised to see that no one sitting on the front rows except the 1st row so we took the 2nd and 3rd row on the left. The views from the 2nd row was excellent, almost unobstructed from the plane’s propeller. The plane flew over Taha’a and Ra’iatea; we visited
Taha’a on our last trip to French Polynesia:

After a few minutes passing Taha’a, it is Bora Bora!!! The beautiful Bora Bora, I am back! Probably due to wind direction, the plane flew further out from the island and then made a U-turn to land so I didn’t get any closer shots of Bora Bora and the resorts.

The furthest “2-Y” of the overwater bungalows out is the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso where we stayed 4 years ago. To the next is Le Meridien Bora Bora, the big “Y” is the St. Regis Bora Bora, and the closest set of overwater bungalows on the right of the photo is the Four Season Bora Bora.

The plane few pass the island then made a U-turn to land.

Bora Bora airport is located on a separate island that’s not connected by road to the main island so the only way to get to the resorts is by boat. There’s an Air Tahiti shuttle boat to the main island but if your hotel is located on its own island or islet, you’ll either need to take the hotel shuttle from the main island (usually extra fee and not every hotel offer this option) or take the hotel boat directly from the airport for an outrageously expensive fee….when you are in Bora Bora, time is more valuable so don’t nickel and dime and just take the direct boat transfer πŸ˜‰ It cost 11,760 xpf (around $111) round-trip per person for the Le Meridien Bora Bora boat transfer. Since we only taking one-way and it was free transfer to the St. Regis Bora Bora, I contacted the hotel in advance for the arrangement and they only charged us one-way of 5,580 xpf.

Once we landed Bora Bora, we walked to the Le Meridien desk to “check in”, we were welcomed with a flower necklace, Le Meridien tags to tag our luggage, claim our luggage, and the staff helped to load our luggage to the boat; the whole process was very smooth. Le Meridien Bora Bora’s boat:

The boat was very spacious with only 4 of us and a family of 3.

On our way to the resort with beautiful views of Bora Bora on the boat. Even though it was my second time to Bora Bora, that excitement of seeing the eye-blinding turquoise lagoon was unforgettable.

The overwater bungalows of Le Meridien Bora Bora:

We arrived the resort and the view of Mt. Otemanu from the boat docked at Le Meridien’s pier was unbelievable!

We were greeted by a Korean lady who drove us on the golf cart to the hotel lobby to check in. It was a very short ride. There were well prepared for our arrival with drinks on the table ready for us. The check in was quick and I was super glad to hear that our rooms were already ready; we arrived around noon time so no need to hang around to wait. Since I am a Platinum member, I was offered a choice of welcome gifts: pearl bracelet, 1000 points, or wine. I choose the pearl bracelet but they ran out so my second choice was point…however, they delivered the wine to my room. Also, as Platinum member, I was given free breakfast for two per day; I asked to double confirm because breakfast is very expensive in French Polynesia (around $50 per person)! Silly Jeffrey, he booked the room (paid in cash) without breakfast and didn’t even realize this until check in!

Before heading to our room, we were given a resort tour and I was disappointed that it was a walking tour instead of a tour by golf cart unlike the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso. The lobby, the restaurants, pool, beach bar are around the same area so walk-able instead the need of a golf cart.

A look of the Tipanie, the hotel’s main restaurant opens at breakfast and dinner.

The view from the Miki Miki terrace and bar.

The resort tour was very quick and then we were on the golf cart to our overwater bungalows!!! Our room was 239 while Peter and Jeffrey’s room was 218; almost adjacent to ours.

Once we opened the door, although the room is much smaller at only 593 sq. feet than the overwater bungalow at the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso at 1,200 sq. feet, the huge glass floor stood out! Also, on the table are free gifts: a bottle of wine, a Le Meridien Bora Bora t-shirt, and a beach wrap (very good quality), wow!

The room looked modern and in great conditions. The bed was a little bit too soft though.

The little walk in closet was very hot because of those windows that the outside hot air get in. I noticed at a later time that the small luggage was missing! I called the front desk and they said they’ll contact the porter department.

The hotel safe was definitely more hi-tech than others, contact-less open and close by the room card. If you have two room cards, only the one that you tapped on to close it will work to open it. Le Meridien’s room card is very cute looking as well.

The room design/layout is well thought out to make the most of the limited space.

The bathroom is behind the coach, the mirrors looked cool and the double sinks looked contemporary. However, the faucet is too close to the wall that it was awkward when washing my face, I wish it extended out by another two inches or so.

The toiletries smell was minty and herbal which I don’t like. Again, I think the Sofitel Moorea toiletries brand is the best.

The shower and right next to it is the toilet.

The bathtub that you can open those wooden shade for the view outside the lagoon.

The current is super strong underneath our overwater bungalow and no corals at all so not much fish swim by. Otherwise, this photo would be so cool!

Next, we checked out the deck and its view, wow I couldn’t believe it our premium room has a view of Mt. Otemanu! I much preferred this view than the end of the pontoon room because I like my photos to have both the mountain peak and the overwater bungalows, isn’t this postcard perfect?

We took so many photos on our deck then we headed out for more photos. After staying at both the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso and Le Meridien, I think Le Meridien has the best in-front views of Mt. Otemanu! One more thing to note is that the wifi at Le Meridien is super fast; after the snail speed at the Sofitel Moorea, we were super thankful that we finally have fast internet at the Le Meridien!

The main difference between Bora Bora and the Maldives, the mountain backdrop that the Maldives lacked of, paradise couldn’t get better than this!

We checked out Peter and Jeffrey’s room – 218 which has no view of
Mt. Otemanu and a little bit smaller at 540 sq. feet; their deck is smaller and the rest of the bungalow is the exact same thing.

Then, we walked to the pool bar for lunch and the view from our table was another amazing spot!

I ordered the pork belly which tasted pretty good.

Jason ordered the wings…decent.

Peter ordered a dim sum platter and it consisted of pork buns, shumai, and dumplings; two of each. He was craving for dim sum so he was happy. Jeffrey didn’t feel like to eat so he jump in the pool. The waiter was very attentive that he got us towels.

You have to pay extra for good views right? At this point, I don’t mind the expensive price for this view!

For three of us, it cost $84.69 with a big bottle of water, not too bad! After lunch, Jeffrey and Peter decided to hang out at the pool while Jason and I explore the resort. In the middle of the resort is this big private lagoon.

The main hotel restaurant – Tipanie right on the private lagoon.

We walked to the other pontoon of overwater bungalows, a more direct view of Mt. Otemanu. By this time of the day, after 2 pm, Mt. Otemanu started to be in shadow so the best timing for photos of Mt. Otemanu and best lighting of the turquoise lagoon is around 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM when we were there early March.

The hotel planted corals near the hotel’s chapel.

Across from the main private lagoon is the inner lagoon where the swimming with the turtle takes place (advance reservation is required). Peter wanted to book this activity but space is limited per day and they were fully booked till Sunday πŸ™ Make sure you contact the hotel in advance to secure a spot if you are interested. Le Meridien is famous for its Turtle Sanctuary. Besides swimming with the turtle, there are other programs too and a free turtle feeding at 10:30 AM daily.

We walked in to check out the chapel with very cute stained-glass windows.

Inside the chapel has a setup for the romantic dinner that you can book.

Imagine walking down the aisle on this glass floor! They arranged a heart shaped by corals with many colorful tropical fishes swimming around.

Don’t forget to check out the view outside of the chapel, it’s spectacular!!! Again, we were there in the mid-afternoon so the mountain was already in shadow.

We walked the whole loop around its big lagoon and went back to our room to get change so we can take a dip in the pool….hopefully they found our small luggage because all my swimwears were in there! When we got back to our room, our small luggage was there, phew, and after a few minutes, housekeeping delivered a bottle of rosΓ© as an apology. We ended up with 3 bottles of alcohol and I don’t drink at all…but they made good props for photos hahaha!

We changed and walked back out to the main pool, we were constantly re-applying sunscreen (SPF 50) to avoid getting burned; French Polynesia’s sun is very strong! We arrived at the pool area to join Peter and Jeffrey, when I walked into the pool, I felt like I stepped on a metal plate and guess what? I got a very deep cut on my right foot OMG! I didn’t even notice the cut when I took this photo πŸ™

I didn’t think it was that bad, I thought it was a minor cut until I got back to my room and yikes, luckily, I always pack band-aids, wound healing cream, and anti-bacteria gel. I took a shower, clean my wound, and put on a band-aid…the location of the wound made it difficult for the band-aid to stay in place πŸ™ We took more photos inside our bungalow with the bottles of wine and champagne while waiting for the sun to set. The sun was “cool” and not as warm as I wished for. Still, the sunset view from our room was amazing!

Dinner time, we walked to Tipanie, the main restaurant…they only have two restaurants open for dinner: Tipanie and Le Te Ava. Tipanie built on the private lagoon and they designed it perfectly so the tables on the edge have views of the fishes swimming by. We asked for a table of 4 on the edge and were given fish food so we can feed the fishes while waiting for our food, brilliant!!! We had to take turns feeding the fishes by switching our seats, Peter and Jeffrey regretted that we should get 2 tables of 2 so we don’t need to switch back and forth haha, next time!

See the coral arrangement of the restaurant’s name? Many fishes hanging out there probably knowing it their dinner time as well.

Complimentary Amuse-bouche, not really sure what it was as I was having fun feeding the fishes.

The foie-gras portion urg….I missed the foie-gras at Le Mahogany in Moorea! All I can say is double the price but half the portion…welcome to “fine dinning” πŸ™

I got tired of steak so I ordered a curry dish which was giant clams curry and it was very fishy OMG. I thought curry should come with rice but it wasn’t. It was weird tasting grrr!

Jason ordered a parrot fish filet and it was pretty good. Jeffrey and Peter both ordered a steak and it was good quality stick, half the portion of Le Mahogany’s.

We split the bill so Jason and my dinner cost $115.93 and not full. That was when the snacks we brought from home came to the rescue in the middle of the night πŸ™‚ I did some work that night to reply emails and completing some tasks, I realized the shake in our overwater bungalow OMG. I am easily prone to motion sickness so after concentrating on replying emails, I started to feel dizzy. Oh gosh, I need to take a break and sit somewhere else. I couldn’t believe it, this was the 7th time I stayed in an overwater bungalow and never experienced shake until this one. I am not sure if the foundation is not strong enough or because the smaller bungalow so not holding down its weight? The desk area was especially bad, the rest of the bungalow was okay although I did feel the shake if I pay attention to it. I got so tired and went to sleep so totally forgot to check out the Milky Way opps…next time!

Le Meridien room 239, my ratings:

  • bed: ** too soft
  • pillow: *** okay nothing special
  • bathroom: **** modern design but the sink faucet too close that water easily splashed
  • temp control: **** good AC but make sure you aim the controller to the AC (hidden on top of the entrance door) for the change to be effective
  • outlets and USB ports: *** only two that I can find plus two USB ports on the desk
  • Wifi: ***** super fast and reliable in the middle of the Pacific

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