You may be thinking – Bora Bora on a Budget? That’s an oxymoron!
Well, if you are, you’re partially correct. Bora Bora is an incredibly expensive place in general. Pete (being the point master he is), however, found us a way to get to Bora Bora for pretty cheap (with a mix of points and dollars) and stay there for almost free! In this post, I’ll share the details of what we spent on our trip to Bora Bora, including how we booked our stay for cheap, the food we bought, and the price of our flights.
Many blogs have written about how to get free nights in Bora Bora, so I won’t spend much time discussing the details here, but I’ll give you the summary.
We started planning our trip to Bora Bora a year in advance, which was pretty risky to begin with, since Pete and I had only been dating for about a year. We decided to go for it because we couldn’t pass up this incredible opportunity.
IHG was having a promotion (like they do frequently): if you spent a certain number of nights at their properties, you would get free nights at any of their properties. Since IHG owns a large range of hotels, Pete realized we could book nights at Holiday Inns in our area and get free nights at some of IHGs amazing hotels in return, including their InterContinental resorts in Bora Bora!
This plan seemed crazy to our friends and family, since the payoff was so far in the future and we were paying for hotels we didn’t even stay at. However, we only had to check in to 3 Holiday Inn hotels each, and it cost a total of $277.29 per person*.
If you don’t care about the booking details, here’s the short story: for under $300 per person, Pete and I stayed at InterContinental resorts in Bora Bora for 7 nights.
From the IHG promotion we earned from checking into Holiday Inns, Pete and I each got 2 free nights at any IHG property. We went online to book 4 nights: 2 at the Intercontinental Bora Bora Thalasso Resort & Thalasso Spa, and 2 at the InterContinental Le Moana Bora Bora. Due to some glitch in the system, we actually ended up being able to book 4 nights each! In total, we booked 2 nights at Le Moana, and 6 at the Thalasso (if you’re realizing that the math doesn’t add up, we cancelled one of our nights at Le Moana).
*$95.54, $82.07 and $99.68 are the costs of each night; the price of Pete’s nights may have varied a little
Pete knew from all his research that food in Bora Bora, particularly at the InterContinental Thalasso, is incredibly expensive. We brought groceries with us, and we stocked up at the grocery store on the mainland when we arrived.
What We Brought
We brought the following groceries/materials with us to Bora Bora:
- Cup noodles (naturally): 4 per person. (“You guys actually ate cup noodles in Bora Bora?” Yes, yes we did, and we loved every second of it!) These were great, and having a variety of flavors is highly recommended.
- We felt pretty bad-ass eating $0.50 Cup Noodles on the deck of our over-water Bungalow, watching all the other guests walk to their $90-per-person dinners
- Trail mix: large bag; ate every last peanut
- Loaf of bread: PB sandwiches 4 lyfe
- Oatmeal packets: didn’t eat many of these, since we purchased the $20-per-person unlimited breakfast buffet
- Since we didn’t purchase a meal plan with our stay, they offered us 50% off their normal breakfast price ($40 per person) – it was fantastic and we often filled up so much that we didn’t need lunch
- Granola bars: didn’t eat many of these either
- Plastic knife, 2 bowls: free from home; essential for making the PB sandwiches and the oatmeal.
- Doritos & Oreos: free from the airport lounge (gotta pinch those pennies!)
- We had a philosophical moment when we realized that chips are the food you eat when you’re not hungry, but just want to eat, so we avoided buying these and didn’t regret it
- Peanut butter: don’t bring this on the plane! We were devastated when TSA took away our peanut butter because apparently it falls under the category of “cream.” We bought this again at a local grocery store when we arrived in Bora Bora.
Total: $33.27 (including the peanut butter the TSA took away)
- Tip: you can use the hot water kettle from the hotel room for both the cup noodles and the oatmeal. We didn’t try Easy Mac, but I’m sure that would work as well.
What We Bought
In addition to peanut butter, we bought the following (unnecessary) items during our trip:
- Rum: we bought a bottle from Duty Free in the Tahiti airport
- Beer: we fell in love with Tabu (The Tiki Tequila) beer. We bought 3 6-packs (one at our first grocery run, and two at our second). P.S. – if anyone knows how to import this beer, let us know!
- White Wine: totally disgusting, but we got one of the cheapest bottles…
- Pineapple juice: for the rum; ended up purchasing mango juice later since the pineapple juice tasted very weak. Mango juice is definitely worth the slightly higher price.
- Coke Zero: for the rum and just drinking
- Candy: to satisfy my addiction
- Note: this would be a lot cheaper if we didn’t buy alcohol. If you do drink, however, I recommend you buy the alcohol from duty free or grocery stores, since it’s absurdly pricey at the resorts.
We also splurged on a few occasions. For starters, we couldn’t resist the deal on pizza at our first hotel, Le Moana. It wasn’t super delicious, but for about $13, it hit the spot.
At our next hotel, the Thalasso, we enjoyed Happy Hour at the bar twice. These deals include: buy one
absurdly expensive $22 cocktail, get a second one free, and some deals on appetizers. I recommend the mixed samosas and spring rolls for ~$8.
Our big splurge was on one meal at Bloody Mary’s, the iconic restaurant on the main island of Bora Bora. The best thing from this dinner was the free boat ride and the pictures we took.
(More info about our experience at Bloody Mary’s will be in a later post)
This dinner cost about $150, which really isn’t bad for a meal that includes free bread, salad, an entree and 2 drinks each.
The short story: we used points to fly from LAX to Tahiti. We bought the flights from Madison to LAX, and from Tahiti to Bora Bora. You cannot use points to purchase flights from Tahiti to Bora Bora, and we were flying around Thanksgiving, so we couldn’t find award flights from Madison to LAX for the days we wanted.
- Madison to Los Angeles: $667
- Los Angeles to Tahiti: $55.60 (taxes and fees)
- Tahiti to Bora Bora (round trip): $370.65
Overall, we each spent about $1500 on the entire 8-day, 7-night trip. This is pretty crazy when you consider the price for one night at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa is about $1000!
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Is there something else you’d like to know about our trip to Bora Bora? Know another way to save money on this type of trip? Comment below!