Our first stop was Club Med Bora Bora. It might seem like an unusual destination for us, given our usual choices of pensions and cheap backpacker hotels. Well, believe it or not, Club Med is the "cheap" option on Bora Bora. It is recommended by Lonely Planet as being the best deal/most affordable way to see Bora Bora. When we priced out staying at a cheaper hotel, then adding the price for meals, drinks, activities like sailing and snorkeling (all included at Club Med) it was far more expensive.
Papeete, where all the international flights arrive, is on the island of Tahiti. It is technically possible to take a ferry to go from Papeete to Bora Bora, but it takes something like 16 hours and it didn’t sound like the most comfortable boat. So, like everyone else, we opted for the very expensive Air Tahiti Nui option. It cost $400 per person for a 45 minute flight.
Upon arrival in Papeete, we had to pick up our bags and re-check in to our Air Tahiti Nui flight to Bora Bora. Check in was unbelievably slow. Although there were only about 5 of us in line, it took the check in gate agent about 5 to 10 minutes for each person.
The Papeete airport (Faa) is a hot, open air building but has the conveniences of an internet café, a bank (which didn’t work with any of our bank cards!) and some basic dining and shopping options. The flight to Bora Bora only takes 45 minutes, and the flight attendant announced the various islands as we passed them. Of course, all the good views were from the opposite side of the plane to the side we were on. (It is much better to be on the left side of the plane when going from Papeete to Bora Bora!)
The airport in Bora Bora is not on the main land. It is on a motu, a 20 minute boat ride from the main city of Vaitape. Some of the more expensive hotels pick up their guests directly from the airport. For the rest of us, the boat ride gives you a good introduction to the island – a free sightseeing trip covering most of the western side of the island.
In Vaitape, representatives from the various hotels and resorts meet their guests off the boat. We wanted to try to get cash out using the bank machines in town, so we asked the Club Med rep to hold on while we tried the 3 machines right next to the pier. No luck at any of them. ("Your bank has instructed us to return your card") During this time, our Club Med rep took off on us. Of course, we can hardly complain, as he wasn’t even supposed to be giving us a ride – since our transfer wasn’t technically included.
While we were waiting for the Club Med rep to come back, we watched outrigger canoe races, part of the Heiva Festival, which is an annual cultural festival celebrated throughout French Polynesia.
The shuttle to Club Med took about 10 minutes, on a pleasant ring road around the island.