The cobalt blue waters of Bora Bora lure you in with their mesmerizing beauty.
And what about those iconic overwater bungalows in Bora Bora?
All you want to do is chill on the deck of your bungalow, drinking in the views of Mt Otemanu – and occasionally slipping into the lagoon for a cooling dip.
The island and its surrounding necklace of motus are so steeped in beauty, it’s hard to tear yourself away from your bungalow to do very much.
But when you’re ready for a change of scene, there are actually many fun and unique things to do in Bora Bora.
So don’t leave this French Polynesian island without signing up for at least some of the following Bora Bora activities!
Things to do in Bora Bora
So, what can you do in Bora Bora?
It’s mostly about beaching and swimming, isn’t it?
True, many of the activities in Bora Bora involve the water. But not all.
Here are 15 amazing things to do in Bora Bora.
1) Snorkel with sharks
If you don’t know what to do in Bora Bora besides swimming and sunning, you can start with snorkeling with sharks.
Don’t worry, these little fellows aren’t dangerous to humans. And you snorkel in waters shallow enough to stand in.
Side-by-side with other snorkelers, we hung on to a rope and watched as a guide threw out chum.
The shiver of black-tipped reef sharks darting about zoomed in to tear at the fish bits. (Shiver: Isn’t that a cool name for a group of sharks?)
And you don’t just snorkel with sharks.
The experience starts in a different snorkeling spot with petting and feeding stingrays.
2) Bicycle around Bora Bora
Taking a biking adventure is one of the most fun things to do in Bora Bora.
You can easily circumnavigate the island on two wheels. So rent a bike and hit the road!
The paved coastal road around Bora Bora is 20 miles (32 km) and it’s flat the whole way.
Pedal past quaint fishing villages, check out ancient Polynesian temples and soak in the stunning scenery at various lookout points. Allow 4 hours for your ride.
A cool place to stop for lunch and drinks after your ride is Bloody Mary’s (see #14).
3) Chill at Matira Beach
This beach is exquisite with its white sands and sparkling lagoon water – one of the best beaches in Bora Bora (perhaps even the best beach).
Matira Beach stretches for about a mile along the southernmost tip of the island. It’s a public beach, so you can enjoy hanging out along the shores and go for a swim. The waters are gentle and the sandy entry is easy.
There are also some great coral sections where the fish hang out, so snorkeling is very good here too.
Spread out your beach mats and towels underneath the coconut palms, and settle in for a relaxing day. Several affordable cafés and restaurants strung along the waterfront will happily welcome you when you get hungry or thirsty.
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4) Take a Bora Bora jeep tour
We must include taking a jeep tour in our list of top activities in Bora Bora.
On a guided tour, you’ll bounce along bumpy roads in your tough little jeep on a trip around the volcanic island. We had to hang on tightly to the roll bars to avoid getting tossed around – but that was part of the fun.
On the way, you’ll get a crash course in the fruit trees and flowers of the island (when your driver stops).
If you’ve been to Hawaii, you might recognize some of them.
The ancient Polynesians took “canoe plants” with them to Hawaii, where they now produce Hawaiian fruits such as breadfruit (which also grows in French Polynesia). You’ll likely sample coconut and pomelo.
What’s also cool: During World War II, Bora Bora was an American military base. Your jeep tour will stop at the 20-foot cannons left behind after the war – good photo opps!
This all-day tour includes a morning jeep tour, lunch at Bloody Mary’s and a 2-hour jet ski experience in the afternoon.
Or swap out the jet ski experience for snorkeling with sharks and sting rays in the afternoon instead on this island tour by 4WD vehicle.
5) Snorkel in the Lagoonarium
The Lagoonarium is a natural (not man-made) part of Bora Bora’s lagoon where you can snorkel in safety under the supervision of guides.
Located near the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort, the family-owned attraction is perfect if you want to see all manner of marine creatures in one space.
You’ll spy turtles, sting rays, eagle rays and sharks. Tropical fish like parrot fish, butterfly fish and jackfish swim around you as you watch in awe.
You might even get to see dolphins as they play in the water!
The Lagoonarium is particularly ideal for families with children or if you’re new to snorkeling.
Several tours package the Lagoonarium with other Bora Bora activities.
6) Try the local beer
You have to try the local beer of the island. The traditional local beer of Tahiti is Hinano lager. It’s been brewed since 1955.
Named after a white flower indigenous to the South Pacific, Hinano has a bitter crisp taste. Some people love it while others would rather buy another general beer at the local grocery store.
Since Hinano beer is brewed locally, it’s much less expensive than the imported beers with heavy taxes. (We should let you know that the legal drinking age in French Polynesia is 21.)
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7) Hike up Mount Pahia
Yes, Mount Otemanu is one of the most striking Bora Bora attractions. But there’s also Mount Pahia.
And if you’re up for a challenge, traipsing up Mount Pahia is one of the most adventurous things to do in Bora Bora.
What makes this tough hike worth it is the view at the top – the lagoon views are truly staggering.
Also, few people set out on the island’s hiking trails, so you get to enjoy Bora Bora’s glorious outdoors without other people around you.
The trail starts near the center of Vaitape and it’s generally easy to follow. You might therefore be tempted to go on your own. But don’t be fooled by the mountain’s relatively small size – 2,159 feet (658 meters).
The hike up Mount Pahia is difficult and steep. You hike through thick jungle, and there are five short, and especially steep, sections where fixed ropes are attached to help you.
Getting back down is perhaps even more difficult (you might be scooching down on your butt a lot).
For safety’s sake, we’d recommend having a guide if you’re going to tackle Mount Pahia. It’s supposed to be a 6-hour roundtrip hike, though it takes some hikers up to 8 hours to get back down.
8) Stay in an overwater bungalow
The ultimate Bora Bora experience includes staying in an overwater bungalow.
Made of pandanus palms and other local wood, these bungalows typically have palapa roofs. And as they perch on stilts over the water, the crystal clear waters of the lagoon are right below your feet.
A wonderful way to greet the day is to jump from your deck into the water for a pre-breakfast swim!
Many of Bora Bora’s overwater bungalows have glass panels in the floor where you can stare at the fish as they swim underneath you. And some – like those at the InterContinental Bora Bora & Thalasso Spa – even have their own private pools too!
You can choose from ultra-luxury overwater villa resorts like the Four Seasons Bora Bora (where we stayed) to more rustic and intimate bungalow resorts.
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9) Care for sea turtles at the Bora Bora turtle sanctuary
Get a hands-on experience with sea turtles at the turtle sanctuary.
Located at Le Meridien Bora Bora, the non-profit Turtle Center Project was established in partnership with Bora Bora’s environment ministry.
Injured sea turtles are brought to the sanctuary to be nursed back to health, so they can hopefully be released back into their natural world. You can help care for them, perhaps by cleaning a turtle’s shell to prevent algae buildup.
The marine biologists who take care of these sweet animals are extremely knowledgeable, and you’ll learn as much as you want to know about rehabilitating sea turtles.
Then you can swim with the turtles. There are other sea creatures like eels and puffer fish to see as well.
10) Go on a thrilling helicopter ride
One of the best things to do in Bora Bora is taking a short helicopter ride around the island.
The views will leave you speechless. You see the turquoise waters from above and get aerial views of Mount Otemanu and Pahia.
11) Shop for black pearls in Vaitape
Black pearls are said to give visitors “pearl fever” as they hunt for these bewitching gems.
They’re cultivated by pearl farmers in French Polynesia’s lagoons.
Bora Bora’s main town, Vaitape, has numerous upscale stores where you can shop for these pearls. Some of the jewelry is truly exquisite – and the prices eye-popping.
But it’s possible to buy reasonably-priced black pearls to take home as a memory of your Bora Bora trip.
12) Learn to SUP
Learning to SUP is no doubt one of the top things to do in Bora Bora.
You have to know the cool lingo first, so “SUP” is really learning to do stand-up paddleboarding on the water. (If you already know how to do it, then just have fun and get some core exercise.)
If you’re a newbie, you’ll start with kneeling on your board to get the feel of balancing on it. Pretty soon, you’ll feel comfortable enough to stand up.
The water is flat and calm much of the time in Bora Bora’s lagoon, so this is an ideal place to learn to SUP. And if you fall off, well, the water is warm – and falling is all part of the fun, right?
Look for fish and stingrays while you SUP, get a little workout and enjoy this different way to experience being out on the water.
Most resorts have SUP boards, and they’re usually free to use.
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13) Ride a jet ski around Bora Bora
Zip around the island on your own jet ski or wave runner!
Going on a 2-hour jet ski adventure is one of the most thrilling things to do in Bora Bora.
You’re in for the ride of your life as you cruise through the crystal clear blue water. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, and watch how the lagoon turns different shades of blue and aqua.
14) Eat at Bloody Mary’s
You have to eat at Bloody Mary’s while you’re in Bora Bora!
Built of bamboo with a sandy floor, the whole place looks like a tiki bar straight out of a movie. Indeed, the resto is a Bora Bora attraction for stars. Celebrities like Pierce Brosnan, Jimmy Buffet, Paris Hilton and anyone with paparazzi appeal have all dined here.
Yet with its wood tables and simple wooden stools, Bloody Mary’s also manages to hang on to an unpretentious fun vibe.
What to order? The fresh fish caught by local fishermen just hours earlier.
15) Pet the stingrays
Every afternoon, wild stingrays are fed at the beach at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa.
You kneel in the water and the stingrays swim around you, brushing their smooth (and silky-feeling) bodies against your legs.
If you wish, you can take a piece of fish from the guide to feed a stingray. The mouth of a stingray is underneath its body. So it will “climb” up your arm to suck up the fish.
You can also pet or stroke the top side of the stingrays – their skin feels soft and slippery.
The stingrays are so used to being fed at this spot that they theoretically don’t pose a danger (so long as you don’t touch their stingers).
Of all the things to do in Bora Bora, petting the stingrays is one of the most unique experiences.
But it’s best if you can remain calm when the rays come to you, so you don’t accidentally hurt them by moving suddenly or stepping on them.
These top activities in Bora Bora will keep you having fun your entire trip!
Of course, take time to recharge at your resort and play in the lagoon before you head out on these adventures.
And then, enjoy some or all that Bora Bora offers!
Photo credits: 10, 11, 14, 16, 26, 27, 32 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 19 InterContinental Bora Bora Resort | 20, 21 Le Meridien Bora Bora | 23 Tahiti Nui Helicopters