Climbing into a water taxi on the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora in December, I had goose bumps — despite the “35, feels like 45-C” temperature that day.
Part of the reason was, well, Bora Bora, and the other was that my husband and I were headed to the St. Regis Bora Bora Resort, which is only accessible by boat or helicopter.
One of the pitfalls of being a travel writer is what I like to call “Travel Writer Envy,” which I tend to suffer after reading beautifully crafted stories written by friends and colleagues. And it was after reading such a story about the St. Regis Bora Bora several years ago that I became fascinated with this South Pacific paradise.
Another pitfall of travel writing is when a destination doesn’t live up to its hype, but I knew that was certainly not the case with the St. Regis from the moment we entered the stunning lobby of the resort, which at the time was decorated in an upscale, “Christmas in French Polynesia” motif.
After checking in we were driven by a golf cart to our suite and along the way our young, female butler gave us a tour of the property past the private “Lagoonarium,” which is stocked with tropical fish, for guaranteed colourful snorkelling, and along the wooden boardwalk to our deluxe one-bedroom overwater villa.
We were spending the night on Bora Bora as an overnight excursion from our seven-day Dreams of Tahiti luxury cruise of the Society Islands on the Wind Spirit, a small Windstar cruise ship that during our trip hosted just 140 passengers.
Windstar passengers had an option for a variety of excursions during our two days on Bora Bora, including overnight stays (at a cost) at properties boasting bucket-list worthy overwater bungalows, including Le Meridien and the Conrad Nui. We arranged our stay at the St. Regis on our own.
Our 1,550-square-foot, thatch-roofed villa overlooked the turquoise green lagoon, which appeared to stretch on for miles, while the other side of the resort takes in views of Mount Otemanu, Bora Bora’s tallest peak at 2,385 feet.
Once our blue-suit clad butler showed us around our villa we immediately headed out to our private deck where we were able to climb in and out of the blue-green water via the ladder attached to it.
The water surrounding our villa was a lot deeper than I expected, but what I discovered is it’s so saturated with salt, I could simply float in a standing position without even moving my arms. We could have also swam in the Lagoonarium or at the pool or even off the main beach, but we choose to make the best of this rare occasion by floating around our villa.
We also had our own gazebo overlooking the water, which was where we enjoyed wine as the sun set and coffee at sunrise. Some of the larger beach villas and lavish Royal Estate also come with private plunge pools and hot tubs, which is just one of the reasons the resort is so popular with celebrities and for movie shoots.
The St. Regis is where Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban honeymooned and where the movie Couples Retreat starring Vince Vaughn, John Favreau and Kristen Bell was filmed. And for those who like to get pampered while on vacation, a visit to the 13,000-square-foot Miri Miri Spa, which is located on its own private island in the lagoon, is a must.
The main beach is where guests can borrow beachcomber bikes, snorkel gear and kayaks and sign up for activities such as deep sea fishing, hiking, sailing and more. Scooter rentals, tennis, water sports and yoga also keep guests busy.
When it comes to fine dining, the St. Regis is where you’ll discover world-class dining at Lagoon by Jean-Georges, Bam Boo for vibrant sushi and fresh fish, Italian specialties at Far Niente Ristorante and craft cocktails and appetizers at Aparima Bar.
We enjoyed a beautiful brunch buffet at Te Pahu before checking out, but if you really want to go all out, you can splurge and enjoy the Canoe Breakfast. As part of this package, breakfast is delivered to your terrace by an outrigger canoe and while staff decorate your table and set up on the deck, you enjoy a short cruise across the lagoon before returning to eat.
After (sadly) leaving the St. Regis, we headed back to the Wind Spirit to get ready for the Bora Bora: Celebration Festival event on a private motu (tiny islet), where upon arrival to this tropical island by tender boat, we were greeted with leis before enjoying drinks and a luau-style barbecue.
But it was after dinner, as the sun began to set, that the real action began and we were treated to graceful performances by Polynesian dancers and, as the grand finale, the gasp-inducing acrobatics of athletic fire dancers.
With the fire dancers wearing nothing but loin cloths, I had to wonder how they avoided serious burns when I could feel the heat from the flames leaping from their props from my seat some distance away. But the dancers remained unscathed as they brought the show to a dramatic close.
As we clambered aboard the tenders for our return trip to the ship, in the distance we could see the Wind Spirit, which for the first time during our cruise was glowing with white lights from deck to sail against the night sky — another dramatic highlight of a trip already full of firsts.
Sandra Thomas was a guest of St. Regis Bora Bora, which did not read or approved this article in advance.