As our plane skidded to a halt, it was simple to see we had arrived in paradise. The turquoise waters of Bora Bora stretched from the motu the airport is located on to the island itself. As we walked in through a maze of hotel booths each welcoming visitors with beautiful and fragrant flower lays we were overcome with excitement. Unfortunately, we waltzed right past the Hilton Hotel Bora Bora booth and grabbed our bags as we headed toward the free shuttle to Viatape. The Hilton had sent repeated e-mails asking us for our arrival information so they could ensure a welcome lai and spot on the Hilton airport shuttle, all for the modest cost of $125.00 xpf per person. Luckily, our research beforehand proved to be useful as we instead caught the free ferry into town and then caught the Hilton shuttle back out to the hotel for free as well (it was supposed to be $7.00 per person, but they didn’t charge us).
While honeymooners and high rollers may be willing to pay the price for the direct hotel transfer, we were at the beginning of a 9 month around the world trip and wanted to save each penny we could. Unfortunately, Hilton doesn’t operate on people skipping their pricey yacht to the hotel, and when we arrived we seemed to have caught the front desk off guard. You see as the Hilton boat arrives, you’ll be greeted by banging drums and staff waiting patiently with tropical punch and hot, fragrant towels to check you in. We were given the same after we were taken into a room littered with empty glasses and towels still out from the main shuttle’s arrival.
Once we were all checked in, a host was assigned to drive us (via golf cart) to our hillside villa overlooking the over-water bungalows out to the beautiful South Pacific. Along the way, our host pointed out the three resort restaurants and two bars, the beach -front activity center, the pool and the exercise center and spa. As we climbed up the steep hill toward our villa perched at the very top, I wondered how I would be able to make the climb several times each day.
The villa itself was beautiful and well-appointed. As the door swung open, we found ourselves standing in a living room cloaked in dark wood walls, floors and towering raised ceiling beams. A deep, soft sofa and accompanying chair were set around an older television set inside a cabinet with a mini-bar and snacks.
Behind the living room and through a pair of beautiful, tissue-thin, paper retractible screens sat the bedroom and bathroom. Beautiful white gauze-like bug nets were draped across the dark wood, four poster bed creating a relaxing and romantic atmosphere. Aside the bedroom stood a dark wood desk and wall filled with closets. To the other side, glass doors opened upon a large beautiful wood deck with double lounge chairs and a full-sized table.
In the nearby bathroom, marble tile from floor to ceiling surrounded his and her vanity double sinks, each on opposite sides of the bathroom. A separate room led to a ba’de and toilet. At the end of the bathroom, which was admittedly the size of our master bedroom back home, sat a deep jetted two-person bathtub and another room with a double shower including multiple heads and body sprayers.
It is luxury living with many of the Is dotted and Ts crossed. Unfortunately, as our week at the Hilton wore on we realized some days the cleaning crew was meticulous changing each towel and all bedding, but other times it seemed as if they didn’t even wipe the floor much less take out the trash, which was obviously overflowing.
We did spend a lot of time in our room, but of course if we weren’t in the villa, we were on the beach. The Hilton’s white sand beach stretches along both sides of its over-the-water front desk bungalow. Comfortable wicker lounge chairs line the water with umbrellas in between set out each morning. If you’re soaking up the sun long enough, you’ll be rewarded with fresh fruit skewers passed out by the staff as they make their rounds across the pool and down the beach.
We were given two towel cards at check in and each day used them to retrieve fresh beach towels from the cabana aside the infinity pool. You can also use similar cards to check out a snorkel, mask and fins for use in the waters immediately surrounding the hotel as well as during any snorkel tours you may have previously booked. The Hilton also offers a range of water activities including sea kayaks, paddle boards and even a small hobi cat sail boat the crew uses free of charge to give tours of the waters surrounding the property.
The hotel itself sits on a small motu across from Viatape and the Island of Bora Bora. Unfortunately, the hotel is positioned on the other side of the motu offering little to no views of Bora Bora from the over-water-bungalows or hillside villas. A round-trip shuttle runs regularly from the Hilton to Viatape, but costs $14.00 per person and the price increases in evening. It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone – the Hilton is trying to keep its guests at the resort for dinner instead of giving away money to other eateries on Bora Bora.
If you are looking to save a few bucks, definitely stock up on snacks and drinks at Lee’s Grocery store in Viatape during one of your trips to the main island. As you can imagine the resort charges an exhorbent amount of money for drinks and snacks from the mini bar. You can remove all mini bar items and stock the fridge with your own drinks – just make sure to alert the front desk so you’re not charged (they should remind you of this at check-in). Chin Lee’s grocery is also a great place to grab a few bottles of champagne or wine for a third of the price of ordering them at the hotel.
We also made an effort to order food from the bar near the pool and take it to our room to eat. The bar menu is by far the cheapest of the three dining options at the Hilton , and if you picked up drinks previously in town you can get away splitting a pizza for $25.00 xpf instead of spending $30.00 xpf per person. If money is not a concern, you’ll find the three restaurants more than sufficient as even the bar serves up some great local dishes.
Because my husband is a Hilton Gold member we were lucky enough to get free breakfasts during our stay. While the hot buffet is not included for Gold members, the cold or continental buffet is more than adequate and includes rice, fresh fish, meats, cheeses, an array of pastries, cereal, fruit, etc. Gold members can upgrade their free buffet to include the hot bar for $10.00 xpf each. If you don’t hold status with Hilton the buffet will cost you $35.00 xpf per person.
Breakfast is served each morning in the casual, open-air restaurant behind the bar with the white sand floors tickling your toes as you stare out toward the water. While the coffee often tasted like mud, the fresh island fruit juice is fantastic.
If you choose to explore the property, you’ll find yourself walking never-ending platforms over the crystal blue waters. In fact, the resort is so big a couple laps make for a great run. When it cools down at night you will see couples jogging through the towering palms and alongside the beach. If you’re up for a challenge run up to the top of the hillside villas a couple times – it’s sure to get your heart pumping.
While the resort can easily hold several hundred people at once, it never feels crowded. The two-tier infinity pool is big enough to handle any crowd, and the length of the beachfront never feels too busy.
Overall, the Hilton Bora Bora is a beautiful, well-appointed resort with decent service. However, for around $1,000 xpf per night, I would expect slightly more attention to detail including the cleanliness of the villas. When faced with a decision between the Hilton and other high-end resorts in Bora Bora including the St.Regis and Four Seasons , it’s most likely slightly more worn and lacking the service of a high-end resort, but you’ll be perfectly happy here as it’s a wonderful getaway for less than you’ll pay at the high-end Bora Bora luxury resorts.