Review: Le Meridien Bora Bora, French Polynesia.


There are limited hotel accommodations situated on the lagoon of Bora Bora. With the potential of having views of the extinct volcano Mount Otemanu, views of the surrounding blue lagoon, and a price point that usually reflects limited supply, picking a hotel is ever more important than ever. We ended up at the Le Meridien Tahiti after our research, and experienced a well located full featured resort that was straight forward, if not a little austere.

This post is one chapter on our trip to Fiji, New Zealand and French Polynesia. This trip was redeemed through Alaska Mileage Plan and AAdvantage frequent flier programs and enhanced through Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Le Meridien Bora Bora, Motu Tape, Bora Bora, French Polynesia.

Booking the Le Meridien Bora Bora:

We ended up at the Le Meridien Bora Bora as when I presented the Bora Bora accommodation options to MrsWT73, she was firm on not staying at the St Regis after our St Regis Mauritius experience that we felt had let us down. Indeed, there was a substantial price premium for the St Regis Bora Bora hotel over the nearby Le Meridien Bora Bora property so if we were going to pay the premium, it had better be worthwhile. Since the prices were dear anyway, we decided on the Le Meridien.

I dug around on line and was able to use the SPG 50 promotion code to get the 50% off the regular rate as the best price to be located for the over water bungalow, booked at the time through the Starwood Hawaii / Asia Pacific web portal. Our rate was 73,500 CPF ($705 USD) a night, exclusive of an additional a 4% service tax charge, a 5% tourism tax, a 5% VAT tax and a 1,000 XFP Turtle Donation. A stay in paradise is never a cheap experience, but instead more of a once in a lifetime endeavour.

Marriott Bonvoy Redemption Opportunties:

The hotel is now in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program as a Category 7 hotel. Rooms are available for between a low of 50,000 to a high of 70,000 points per night with a standard rate of 60,000 points per night. The challenge with this property is that, at the time of our visit, only four Classic Bungalow Rooms in the base level Redemption Pool, making all room redemptions at a premium. Under the new Marriott Bonvoy program, you’d have access to a greater selection of rooms as the program offers many opportunities to upgrade.

If you value Marriott Bonvoy points at $0.005 a point like I do, you’d be better off redeeming points if your paid rate was more expensive than $350 USD or 34,680 CFP Polynesian Francs a night. In our case, we couldn’t find any reward availability under the old Starwood Preferred Guest Program that was in operation at the time of our stay, so we ended up having to go the cash route.

During our visit, Starwood Preferred Guest was also running their summer “Take Three” promotion that offered 3 X points for weekend stays. We earned a boat load of SPG points with this stay as we earned 4 points per dollar as a SPG Platinum 75 member, 2 points per dollar for charging to the Canadian SPG American Express Card, 3 points per dollar for the “Take Three” Promotion: totalling 9 points per dollar AND 1,500 points from SPG Amex for a stay at a qualifying resort property. This earning ratio (which is 27 Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar by today’s numbers) was about as generous as it could get. It took the sting off the expense a little, knowing that we’d earn almost

In other efforts to leverage elite status during this stay, there was no ability to apply Marriott Bonvoy / Starwood Preferred Guest Suite Night Awards at this property as “all rooms are suites”. The hotel did not permit upgrading in advance from an over water bungalow to a “view” over water bungalow, which appeared to be their highest room category. We also didn’t try on arrival as our rooms appeared to have been pre-assigned at the airport transfer kiosk. As a note, since our stay, the hotel appears to have further defined the room categories. On our visit, the room options were over water and over water view. Where as now, it states the view or direction you are reserving; Motu View, End of Pontoon View, Lagoon View.

Lastly, I also attempted to apply an SPG Your 24 request for 2 PM to 2 PM check out but it was declined outright at about 21 days prior to the stay. I did not attempt to make any follow up attempts closer to our stay.

Getting to the Hotel:

On arrival at Bora Bora airport, we were “lei’d” by being given a lei with the tiare flowers in them at the airport. Our rooms were pre-assigned at the airport podium and our luggage was marked in the airport with our room numbers. It certainly puts the brakes on those hotel front counter negotiation upgrades when your bags are being put onto the boat and already headed to a specific room. We were also given some bottled water for the short water taxi ride. On the positive side, the short water taxi ride is included in your room rate; unlike the short transfers at the Sheraton Full Moon Resort and Spa Maldives which charged $150 USD per person for a similar short distance.

We transferred to the boat through the lagoon, which took approximately 30 minutes to get to the hotel dock. Just on arrival to the hotel, it started to rain lightly.

There were four groups travelling with us on the transfer boat ride in. On arrival to the resort, we were escorted up to the hotel business center for check in processing. MrsWT73 happened to notice, despite our Starwood Platinum status, that we were among the last of the group to be checked in. We were thanked anyway for the loyalty and selected breakfast item as the Elite Platinum bonus benefit. Delays in hand, MrsWT73 started with the funny comments here: “we were better off at the Sofitel with zero status”. 

We were given a brief tour of the main reception and check in area, which included a somewhat robotic explanation of the shops, various restaurants, bars and business center. We were also told our room was now available (at 1 PM) which was appreciated given that it was early check in before 4 PM and my earlier Your24 request for 2 PM had failed to clear. We were then put into a golf cart and taken to our villa #241.

Lobby Reception at Le Meridien Bora Bora
Front Counter Reception at Le Meridien Bora Bora
The Le Meridien Bora Bora Pond

My initial impression was that we were not getting a great room thanks to the assigned low #241 number but as we started out on the walkway with rooms starting at #200 and climbing, I got my hopes up a bit.

As we arrived to the room, we ended up out about 5 villas from the end of the villa pontoon walkways, looking eastwards up the Motu toward the St Regis, straight up the channel with a peek a boo view of Mount Otemanu from the deck. Overall, I was really happy with the room assignment as I didn’t want to get stuck in an over water villa located the first one off the dock from the mainland. It turns out that these are the base level rooms and there are less than 8 of them. Aside from the far out room assignment, and the verbal welcome recognition, there wasn’t much platinum treatment here for an SPG-75 (now Marriott Titanium). MrsWT73 described it as “being treated like any other customer”. I laughed a little bit when the check in attendant at reception asked for our coupon voucher. They must not have many reservations that are booked directly via their website but rather through travel agents.

On arrival to the room, our key cards didn’t work at the villa door. Our arrival host let us in with the master key. She gave us a brief tour and explanation of the room. She indicated she would be back with replacement keys but never turned up again. We ended up having to go chase some keys down; something you wouldn’t expect from a hotel commanding over $750 USD a night for a room.


The Room: Overwater Lagoon Premium Bungalow, 1 King, Sofa bed

The Le Meridien Bora Bora was one of the earlier generations of a hotel with over water villas. As a result, the room design is a little dated and classic feeling. The rooms don’t feature elaborate infiniti pools, plunge pools on the decks or massive sea facing deck spaces that you see in the Maldives or at some other newer resorts.

The villa also had swing doors that opened up to the outside, allowing for a large opening to walk in and out of the room.

A Room with Swing Doors Leading to a Compact Deck

The King Size Bed was right in the middle of the room, making it the focal point of the stay. The best part of the room was the over water window that allowed us to look right onto the lagoon. It took me a bit of time before I felt comfortable walking on it. With the window being in the center of the room, there isn’t a lot of room to walk around it so we had to get comfortable quite quickly.

A Living Space with a View to the Water
A Le Meridien King Size Bed

The room was functional and had a bit of well-integrated style to it. This included a couch built into the living space to safe on room.

A Living Space Facing the King Size Bed

There was also a rug rack on the wall to cover the floor viewing window at night for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Floor Window Covering Rack

The bathroom area was behind the television and was a separate but connected area. It featured a completely separate bathtub, shower at the opposite end of the bathroom area and two sinks. The mirrors were attached with cables, which actually shook delicately in the swaying of the villa.

A Double Vanity Sink
A Dark Soaker Tub with a Water View
Malin + Goetz Toiletries
A Tiled Compact Shower

This property participated in Make a Green Choice. Our coupons were typically not slipped under the door and delivered until well after the morning service and after the evening turn down service while we were out at dinner between 8-10 PM. On one evening, I had to chase down both the house keeping manager and the front desk in order to get the appropriate vouchers. On the second night, it became another run around situation. I went to chase it down with the housekeeping station on the over water pontoon. They instructed me to go to the “administration” at the front desk. I went there after breakfast on the last day and it turned up finally. It was another instance of chasing things down in a resort that doesn’t seem to run very smoothly below the surface.These circumstances were not always easily resolved, since everyone seemed to be pointing the finger at everyone else leading to a consistent run around.

The in room wifi was lightening fast and I discovered that we had our own personal wifi router in our room above the bathroom. I managed to look up a fix it video to my stuck camera shutter problem on YouTube and delicately fixed the mirror of my camera that somehow got lodged against the stop that was designed to stop it.

The room itself was comfortable but not super spacious by size. The inside of the room was a little dark, which was perfect for sleeping, but a little less perfect for getting ready for supper hour in the evening. It was surely the smallest most expensive room I’ve stayed in; as you can get private villas in other corners of the world for the same price point.

Despite all this, the room still offered the opportunity to get some unique and silly photographs.

Looking Into an Over Water Bungalow

Around the Resort:

The resort itself consisted of two series of over water pontoons with beautiful views of the extinct volcano Mount Otemanu, which commands a focal point high above the Bora Bora lagoon.

Walking on the Over Water Bungalow Pontoons under Mount Otemanu
Walking on the Overwater Villa Pontoons
A Series of Four Lagoon View Bunaglows
A Scenic Walk to Start any Day
Stunning Morning Views
Views of the Compact Decks on the Over Water Bungalows

Food and Beverage:

The Le Meridien Bora Bora is located out on a motu that surrounds the main island of Bora Bora. As a result, there are not many off resort dining choices. Most guests will have their meals at the hotel restaurants listed below.

Le Te Ava “Beach Barbeque”

On the day of our arrival, we had an easy dinner at the Le Te Ava “beach barbecue” restaurant. It’s an outdoor “feet in the sand” concept that has been replicated almost everywhere. Our experience tonight in the rain was a bit sad, made even more sad by the dated colours and somewhat drab atmosphere.

Views of the Le Te Ava Beach Barbeque
Dining Chairs in the Sand

The pricing for the meals were approximately 3,500 – 4,000 CFP Polynesian Francs ($33 – 38 USD) for the entrees. While it was expensive, it was not entirely unexpected given the remote nature of the resort.

The Te Ava Beach Barbecue Menu

I had pork tenderloin tonight. It was slightly over cooked (dry) and aside from the presentation, sadly almost forgettable.

A Pork Tenderloin on Special

Le Tipanie Restaurant:

The Le Meridien Resort had one other restaurant called Le Tipanie. It was the designated breakfast restaurant, was closed for lunch and was the contemporary dining location.

Le Tipanie Restaurant
The restaurant featured artificial lagoon views

We ended up visiting the Le Tipanie Restaurant on each morning for breakfast. Breakfast was included as an elite benefit for holding Starwood Preferred Guest (now Marriott Bonvoy) Platinum status. The breakfast featured a full buffet breakfast including an egg station and everything else usually found at a buffet.

A Breakfast Buffet that included an egg station
The Buffet Featured Tahitian Poisson Cru: a favorite

The Breakfast Buffet included the awesome Tahitian poisson cru; raw fish ceviche with tomatoes, cucumbers and coconut milk. The poisson cru became the highlight of my breakfasts here.

Continental Fruits
Breakfast with a View

There was only one type of cheese (the horrors) which was surprising for French Polynesia considering its French influences. Also surprisingly for a European themed country and the price point for the resort was that there was no sparkling wine on offer for breakfast buffet.

The main restaurant, Le Tipanie was set against an artificial lagoon. The lagoon was stocked with fish so that guests could get a snorkelling experience in. For the most part, the lagoon was absent of any natural coral, so it is a wholly artificial snorkelling experience. The best part is that it made for interesting breakfast viewing seeing all the fish first thing in the morning from the breakfast table.

The Artificial Lagoon at Le Meridien Bora Bora
Mini Reef Sharks
Small Reef Sharks

The Pool Bar:

During our stay, we made a reservation at Le Tipanie; the gastronomique restaurant (and the location of our daily breakfasts). I called the concierge to make a 7:30 PM booking. After taking in sunset, we went to the restaurant, only to discover it was exclusively buffet without any a la carte options. As with other times, the buffet looked quite tired and empty as we had to pass by the food in order to get to the maitre’d at reception. We aren’t really buffet people since we don’t usually like to eat heavy at night so we passed on our reservation and went back to Le Te Ava Beach Barbecue restaurant instead. It was looking a little sorry tonight as well, with only about 4 couples dining. When we arrived, we were told that it was “BBQ” tonight and a mandatory 3 course dinner for 5,200 CFP ($52 USD). Since the first course was a set tuna sashimi (something that I love but MrsWT73 wouldn’t have any part of) we ended up at the Pool Bar for the evening.

They had wonderful looking sushi last night but it was the sushi chef’s night off so that wasn’t available either. We spent the last night of our holiday having a hamburger and some tired nachos underneath the stars. It was a bit of a disappointing way to end the stay.

Burgers and Nachos: French Polynesian Style

We would end up at the Pool Bar at another night during our stay. On this occasion, it was pizza night. The pizzas were tasty but not at all memorable.

Pizzas under the Stars

I later saw a small army of guests coming back to the resort on the city boat at 8:45 PM. I suspect many multiple night guests head for dinner in town instead of staying here. This would be something that I would recommend for those staying longer than the two nights that we had at the resort.


The Le Meridien Bora Bora Turtle Conversation Center:

The resort has a turtle conversation center, which runs a feeding session every day at 10:30 AM. The turtle conversation center is reportedly “independent” from the hotel, although the hotel charges guests 1,000 CFP ($9.50 USD) per stay on their bills as a charitable donation.

The turtle feedings were at set times. We went for the 10:30 AM feeding. We were given a rules speech and a touch and feel demonstration of the sea cucumbers, star fish and various other fishes in a touch tank immediately at the reception area. We were also given an anatomy lecture about the turtle and its various life cycles. Unfortunately, the presentation was continually interrupted by other guests arriving late (joining the session) so it took well over an hour before we actually got to feed any turtles.

MrsWT73 handling the corals
Getting an Explanation of Turtle’s Biology

Once the presentation was concluded, we were led into the back and got to feed large and mid sized turtles various shrimps, baby octopus (looked like white calamari) and other sea crustaceans. Some were energetic, whereas others were more sleepy about the whole affair. MrsWT73, an animal lover at heart, loved the experience and we were among the last to leave

The Fitness Center:

There was also an air conditioned gym that was available. It was situated in a building at the back of the resort. Due to it’s location, it had no real view of anything other than other forest.

The Smaller Fitness Center contains elliptical cycles
A Few Treadmills are also on hand

The Resort & Beach Area at the Le Meridien Bora Bora:

The resort itself is quite spacious. Our particular over water pontoon was located adjacent to the arrival boat launch. The arrival boat launch commands an impressive central location between the Le Meriden Bora Bora hotel lagoon.

The Arrival Jetty on the Le Meridien Lagoon
The Arrival Jetty
Water Activities on the Le Meridien Bora Bora lagoon

Surrounding the resort property, there appear to be 84 over water bungalows and 11 villas on land. The villas on land seem to be similar in lay out to the over water bungalows. The grounds were nicely landscaped in a tropical style. It’s also worth noting that the lowest room category appears to be the 2-3 shallow over water villas that are closest to land and closest to the start of the two pontoons. During our visit, several appeared to be out of service as renovation teams were busy at work on the inside. I took a wander through the on land rooms that were available in order to get an overall feel for the resort.

Some of the limited on land bungalows at the Le Meridien Bora Bora
Views of the Le Tipanie Restaurant on the Artificial Lagoon

The beach itself at this resort is an artificial beach. Many areas of the beach are actually compacted sand, which was almost like walking on concrete as it was so packed down. As it is a Motu, there are no waves lapping against the shore unless a boat passes by on the main Motu. Many people, mostly groups, appeared to be on the beach for their day’s of sunning, instead of hanging out in their villa. The best part of the beach was the view of Mount Otemanu. I didn’t actually care much for the beach itself as I found it to be a little artificial feeling as a result of the packed sand.

The Lagoon Beach
Reclining Chairs in a Corner of the Resort
Views of the Lagoon Beach
The Lagoon Beach at Dusk
Views of the Pool Bar and the Small Hotel Pool

Sunset at Le Meridien Bora Bora:

We enjoyed some sunset views as the day light went down. Thankfully, we didn’t have a rain check for tonight and could actually sit outside on the deck with a bottle of wine. We had a nice view of the Motu as the sun slipped away.

The sunset views at this property will vary based the direction of your villa. Ours had an easterly facing orientation. As a result, our views were more of the changing colours of the sky line, instead of the sun slipping down on the horizon.

Departing the Le Meridien Bora Bora:

On our departure last day after breakfast, I stopped by the front desk to ask about a Platinum late check out; which was supposed to be available for 4 PM per the elite status level we had at the time. I received a really luke warm response about the question; indicated that they would note the request but that they were “fully booked”. I didn’t really get any answer with respect to this and I got the sense that the request was not going to be honoured. I got the feeling that they must get this request over and over again. It seemed as well that there were other guests (appeared to be without status) at the front counter around the same time that were attempting to get the late check out as well as they were on the late 6:30 PM flight back to Papeete.

We eventually got a departure letter that co-ordinated our departure transfer time. The letter indicated our villa check out time and bag collection was 15:00hrs, and our boat time as 16:50hrs for our flight at 18:25 Pm.

Departure Letter from “la Direction”

I was generally satisfied with the departure time in pursuit of the later check out and the ability to use the villa as much as possible during the time we were there. However, the co-ordination of the requests didn’t seem to be super seamless, hence the running around without getting many answers.

As it always happens, before we knew it, it was time to leave Le Meridien Bora Bora. Since we are now out of the room, and in our street clothes, it’s time for a celebratory drink at the bar. Unfortunately, the weather was turning foul again. Maybe it’s not a bad thing that we are not staying a fourth night. . .

We had some great views on the way back to the airport for our return flight to Papeete.

The Bottom Line:

Overall, I had mixed feelings about the Le Meridien Bora Bora. The view and scenery are absolutely stunning, as is the wonderful blue water. We paid super luxury style prices just to stay here, but didn’t receive super luxury type service. It was more like Jaguar style pricing and Chevrolet styled service. The service was friendly, but pretty much non existent; just a number concept comes to mind. I can’t say whether this is exclusively “French styled” or whether this is typical of the Le Meridien here. We certainly had better service at the Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort or at the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui and Park Hyatt Maldives we had previously stayed at. I recognize that these are more upscale brands than Le Meridien but overall we had paid substantially less for these properties by almost half for the Fairmont (Kea Lani) and Park Hyatt (Maldives) properties than we did at the Le Meridien Bora Bora.

The service was pleasant but very superficial; almost like a Las Vegas waitress who has all the charms, drops your drink and order and heads off, never to be seen again. In my view, you shouldn’t have to chase a late check out, room keys or Make a Green Choice coupons over an over again at an expensive resort at this price point. However, it begs the question on whether it is really worth paying more than $750 USD to stay at other more expensive over water bungalows properties on the Bora Bora lagoon (like the St Regis Bora Bora) wher you may get better service but essentially the same view of the mountain? All the resorts are lined up on mostly the same 10 km of Bora Bora motu. This lower price point makes the Le Meridien Bora Bora a better value proposition. Despite this, I am hesitant to recommend this place since our stay experience here was pretty average. The hard product is nice, but the service portion just doesn’t seem to add up and caused more overall frustration than relaxation. As a result, I have to conclude this review with a cautious endorsement that you may not get all that you paid for, and that there are better values in the paradise resorts elsewhere in the world.

If you visited Bora Bora, French Polynesia, do you find it worthwhile to pay more for a nicer hotel property?

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