Known worldwide as the honeymoon island, Bora Bora is considered the ultimate dream destination. Home to untold luxury and natural beauty this island is the true definition of paradise. Unfortunately the luxury aspect was out of reach on my humble budget but I did get to experience other aspects of paradise by backpacking Bora Bora.

Bora Bora Island
Famous entrance of Bora Bora!

About Bora Bora

Located on the Leeward section of the Society Island Archipelago, Bora Bora has been the world’s top luxury travel destination for decades. But before the tourism industry took a hold of this small lagoon paradise Bora Bora was playing a larger roll in World War 2. During the war little known Bora Bora became a resupply depot for the US Navy. And after the war the beauty of Bora Bora became widespread, developing into the luxury destination it is today.

WW2 cannon Bora Bora
World War 2 defense cannon
Bora Bora Lagoon
Stunning multi-hued lagoon

Bora Bora is surrounded by a multi-hued turquoise lagoon, crafted from it’s coral reef. Besides providing stunning water this coral reef protects the internal lagoon and has created multiple small motus that house high end luxury resorts and over water bungalows.

Over water bungalow Bora Bora
Over water bungalows

With most of the resort development contained to the motus the main island of Bora Bora is relatively undeveloped (the resorts try their hardest to keep their guests and money contained to the resort only). But for us budget minded individuals staying on the main island is the only way to afford a few days in absolute paradise.

Bora Bora Island
Main island of Bora Bora
Bora Bora Island
Edge of town on the main island

The main city of Vaitape is home to most of the island’s population and it is where you will start, after a quick ferry ride from the motu airport to the main island. In Vaitape you have access to 2 grocery stores along with a slim handful of restaurants and fruit stands. There are a couple boutique shops and pearl stores in town but these are overpriced and geared to the resort tourists.

Viatape Bora Bora
The main town of Vaitape
Bora Bora Ferry Terminal
Ferry terminal onto the main island from the airport

Transportation on Bora Bora

There is no public transportation on Bora Bora and hitchhiking was slightly difficult, even on the main stretch of the island, Vaitape to Matira Point, it took us a long time to get a ride. Most people work at the resorts and not on the main island, leaving very little traffic except around sunset or early morning. On the backside of the island, away from town, vehicles are definitely few and far between.

Bora Bora lagoon
It is easy to escape from people on the island

In Viatape you can rent bicycles, scooters and even tricycles. I recommend renting bicycles to explore the island. Bora Bora is stunning and it is not too difficult to cycle around.

Biking around Bora Bora
Circling the whole island!
Biking around Bora Bora
Always stopping for a photo

Accommodation on Bora Bora

Unfortunately Bora Bora does not have much for budget accommodation on the island yet but things are changing and prices are getting more reasonable. AirBnB has made a huge impact to find cheaper accommodation and a few budget minded guest houses are now open.

Garrick Yrondi Bora Bora
The Garrick Yrondi art house we got to stay in for one night

Camping is another story, to our persistent attempts Emma and I found out that the campground recommended in the Lonely Planet, 10th edition is closed, and it has been for quite a while. When we were biking around the island we found a homemade campground sign, located on the northeast side, close to Fitiiu Point, but we could not find the owner or anyway to contact them, also we did not see anything to indicate that you could truly camp here.

Bora Bora
The main island of Bora Bora is still wild

I would not recommend showing up to the island will all of your hope into camping. It might not be a real thing. We stayed at Sunset Hill Lodge which was nice. Our room was big, clean, we had AC in the room along with our own kitchen and bathroom.

Sunset Hill Lodge Bora Bora
Part of our room at Sunset Hill Lodge

What to do on Bora Bora

Rent a bicycle – Biking around the island is definitely something you should do! It is cheap and this way you get to leisurely explore the whole island. We rented bikes from the Avis shop in Vaitape and got a discount through our accommodation.

Biking Bora Bora
Biking around the island!

Visit the WW2 cannons – While biking around the island make sure you stop by and check out the various WW2 cannons left behind from the US Navy. They are scattered around the island but the most accessible ones are on Fitiiu Point. You do not need a tour but there is a small entry fee.

WW2 Cannon Bora Bora
World War 2 defense cannon
WW2 Bunker Bora Bora
World War 2 Bunker

Hiking Mount Pahia – I unfortunately did not get the chance to hike when I was here. Like everywhere else in French Polynesia most of the information is geared towards you hiring an expensive guide. But from what I have gathered talking to people this hike is actually one that you can do on your own. It takes over 4 hours and you must do it when the weather is dry, even if it rained the night before you should avoid hiking. To find the trail head go to the main town of Vaitape and take the road directly south of the Protestant Church. Follow the road to a mango grove where you then veer left to find the bottom of the cliff and start the hike.

Bora Bora Adventure
Rugged peaks
Bora Bora Holiday
Look at those views!

Matira Point – Located on the southern tip of the Bora Bora, this small but nice stretch of sand is the only beach on the main island. It’s a good place to relax, the water is shallow and superb.

Bora Bora Beach
Matira beach
Bora Bora Beach
Enjoying the shallows
Bora Bora Beach
Matira Point

Lagoon Tour – Since you are in paradise make sure you can splurge on a lagoon tour. The price is a little steep compared to backpacking other island countries but the water surrounding Bora Bora is completely out of this world. Honestly I was blown away with its beauty. After visiting French Polynesia for almost 2 months Bora Bora is hands down best water I saw anywhere.

Snorkeling Bora Bora
Exploring lush coral
Snorkeling Bora Bora
The visibility was astonishing
Snorkeing Bora Bora
Giving tongue
Snorkeling Bora Bora
The clearest water in the world!
Snorkeling Bora Bora
Gathering some curious friends
Snorkeing Bora Bora
Scared to death

Final Thoughts

There is a good reason why Bora Bora’s reputation is what it is, here is true paradise. I am glad that it is becoming more open to budget travel, for those who want to backpack Bora Bora. This was definitely the highlight of my time on the Society Islands. I would love to come back to experience resort life but for now I am happy that I was able to explore it at all.

Where is your favorite island? Let me know in the comments below! To find out more about my adventures visit the Destination French Polynesia page or check out my other favorite island Fakarava!

Snorkel tour Bora Bora French Polynesia
Shark attack!

Backpacking Bora Bora on a Budget French Polynesia

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