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Destination Guide: Bora Bora

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A Bora Bora vacation tops a lot of bucket lists — and for good reason. It's as idyllic an island as you could imagine, with deep blue water, lively reefs, a green-flanked volcano and thatched bungalows on stilts.

Bora Bora is far from everywhere. Part of French Polynesia, it's a tiny green pearl in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Getting to Bora Bora is an adventure itself. Plan on a flight of about 8 and a half hours from Los Angeles to Pape'ete, then a 45-minute flight to Bora Bora. Here's our quick guide to this fabled island.

Things to do in Bora Bora

Some travelers spend decades dreaming of a trip to Bora Bora; others derisively call the island "boring boring." If you're looking for nightlife, shopping or adrenaline-fueled adventure, it's not the right destination for you. A Bora Bora vacation is about serenity, solitude, and natural beauty. That being said, there's no shortage of things to do in Bora Bora.

See a massive shadow drift by while you're snorkeling? Don't be alarmed — it's a manta ray, a gentle giant with a fin-span of 18 feet or more. Snorkeling and scuba diving in Bora Bora offer incredible opportunities to see mantas, eagle rays and a thousand other species of tropical fish. Frommer's recommends snorkeling off the reef face at the Hotel Bora Bora or the Bora Bora Lagoonarium. Popular dive sites are accessible by boat.

Mount Otemanu is visible from almost anywhere on the island. Locals say no one has ever reached the top because the volcanic rock is too crumbly and fragile to climb.1 And you'd hate to be the one who snaps off the iconic summit, right? You can, however, hike around the base, where you may see abandoned U.S. artillery from WWII.

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The tiny dark spot on the side of the mountain is the Sacred Cave of Anau, long believed to have been inhabited by ghosts. A local guide obtained permission to bring visitors there in 2006 and now leads 4- to 5-hour, rope-assisted hikes to visit it. Your reward for making the climb? Spectacular views. If hiking's not your thing, bus and van tours let you experience the landscape and culture of Bora Bora, including a pearl farm and ancient religious sites.

Bora Bora Resorts

Don't expect the usual high-rise hotels. Bora Bora resorts are famous for their over-water bungalows on stilts. One of the must luxurious is the Four Seasons Bora Bora, where you can enjoy holistic spa treatments, explore the lagoon sanctuary and try your hand at windsurfing. You'll even find complimentary snorkeling equipment in your bungalow.

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If the Four Seasons isn't quite exclusive enough, the Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island offers near-total seclusion and lavish service. A boat shuttle connects the private island to the main Sofitel Marara Beach Resort.

"Budget" and "Bora Bora" aren't often uttered in the same sentence, but savvy travelers know you don't have to spend a grand per night to enjoy the island. Lonely Planet praises the Sunset Hill Lodge on the outskirts of Vaitape, which offers three nicely furnished waterfront bungalows starting at $114 per night.

Best Restaurants in Bora Bora

Dining out gets expensive in Bora Bora. Most food is imported, which adds to the cost, and leaving a resort to dine on the main island can be a challenge. That being said, you don't want to miss Polynesian delights like poisson cru, tuna marinated in lime and coconut.

Find local flavor at roulettes — not casino wheels, but the food trucks that set up each evening in Vaitape. Roulette Matira is a permanently parked food truck that's known for hamburgers, fish burgers, and garlicky frites.

MaiKai at the Bora Bora Yacht Club is a favorite spot for live music and tropical drinks overlooking the ocean, followed by dishes like tuna carpaccio, shrimp curry, and steak. MaiKai offers free pick-up for guests from anywhere on the main island.

For a special night out, visit La Villa Mahana, universally considered the best restaurant in Bora Bora. Operated by Corsican chef Damien Rinaldi-Dovio, La Villa Mahana has only seven tables, so make your reservation a few months in advance. The menu unites Mediterranean techniques and tropical tastes: think mahi-mahi with curry and banana, or rock lobster risotto.

Don't put off your bucket-list trip to Bora Bora. Before you begin your tropical adventure, protect your vacation with travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance. Travel happy!

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Dec 19, 2016