Getting from resort to resort in exotic island destinations like the Maldives or Bora Bora is notoriously difficult, after all, it’s not like you can just walk three blocks as you can from the Conrad Midtown to the Park Hyatt New York.
Let me clarify, it is less difficult to achieve and more difficult to do without breaking the bank. After looking through the options, we ultimately decided that the best, and one of the cheapest, options was to charter a private boat and spend a few hours swimming with the Manta Rays.
This article is part of my Trip Report: Winter Holidays in French Polynesia that includes:
- Lounge Review: Delta’s New LAX SkyClub
- Inaugural Flight Celebrations on Delta LAX to Tahiti
- Flight Review: Delta Economy LAX-PPT
- Hotel Review: Hilton Tahiti Resort
- Room Review: Hilton Tahiti King Residence Suite
- Flight Review: Air Tahiti PPT-BOB
- Hotel Review: St Regis Bora Bora Resort
- Hotel Transfer: Chartering a Private Boat in Bora Bora!
- Hotel Review: Conrad Bora Bora Nui Resort
- Room Review: Conrad Bora Bora Nui Deluxe Overwater Villa with Pool
- Day of Departure in Moorea: My Thoughts
When we inquired about a direct transfer at the concierge desk from the St. Regis Bora Bora to the Conrad Bora Bora, they quoted us something in the $700 vicinity for a 25 minute boat ride. This option was very quickly ruled out purely due to price. I didn’t bother asking the Conrad about their price for such a transfer.
Additionally, I knew that in the worst case scenario I could always have the St. Regis bring us back to the Bora Bora airport before having the Conrad pick us up from there, for which I could time the transfer with my mother and brother’s arrival to the airport and all head to the Conrad together.
The issue here was that one-way transportation to and from the airport cost 7,000 and 7,500 XPF, respectively for 15 minute boat rides due to the hotel’s high pricing. For two people this would come out to 29,000 XPF, which is roughly ~$264, not too cheap.
We were out of luck, until I looked online for 3rd party options, and I stumbled upon a private boat rental service that could pick us up at our hotel, take us to several amazing snorkeling spots, and drop us off at the Conrad. Thus, after contacting the company, we found that it was completely possible to have a one-way charter leaving from the St. Regis and ending at the Conrad AND a wonderful excursion as well.
This meant that for ~$100 more than a transfer to the airport, we had a private day out on the water.
Since we needed to get to the Conrad at roughly 12:00pm, noon, we decided to start the charter at 9am. After having an amazing final breakfast at the St. Regis, our Butler picked us up from the room and whisked us to the dock where we said our goodbyes and started our excursion.
After getting on the boat, our guide, Moloka’i (I doubt I spelled that right), took our shoes and offered us some drinks. We put our backpacks in the compartment below and were on our way.
Simply cruising on the turquoise, flat water was amazing, but our first stop came quickly. We stopped to find and swim with a Manta Ray. Luckily, we found one, and it was absolutely amazing to see it swim around and do flips peacefully under the water’s surface.
Aside from drinks, the tour also included both towels and snorkeling equipment, which was perfect since we could not bring either from the hotel.
We were then back to cruising through the Bora Bora waters and seeing Otemanu from many perspectives. Knowing my interest in hotels, our guide pointed out all of the different resorts we passed along the way. Sitting on the front of the boat with the sea breeze was an amazing experience.
On the next stop we saw stingrays and sharks. We pulled into a shallow area where the water was breathtakingly clear and got to walk around as the animals swam around us.
The final stop of the trip was to see the eagle rays, which were just within sight of the Conrad. While it took us a long time to find, it was majestic to see easily 20+ of them swimming deep in the water.
After swimming with them for a while, it was time to make our way to the Conrad for check-in. We were dropped off at the pier and greeted by staff to help us check in. Perfectly timed, my brother and mother arrived on the hotel shuttle from the airport just minutes later.
I first reached out to the company we booked with Moana Adventure Tours (no sponsorship but great experience and happy to recommend) via email to inquire about the feasibility of booking a one-way transfer. They quickly responded, confirming it was possible and gave me different quotes for different party sizes and length of rentals.
Ultimately, our 3 hour charter with two adults came out to 40,700 XPF, which is about $371. I ultimately ended up booking through the link in the email, which directed me to FareHarbor where I added my information and checked out.
You can also book directly from their website, or as I learned later, through Viator, which could help you earn American Airlines Loyalty Points by checking out through the eShopping portal (or another carrier’s miles’ portal).
Further, we made sure to pay with the Capital One Savor Rewards card to earn 4x Capital One Miles (after transferring to Venture X) on this entertainment purchase. This ultimately earned about 1,484 miles, worth about $25 by my valuation, not too shabby.
The Last Point
Not only did booking this excursion solve one of the problems I faced while putting together our Bora Bora trip, it actually ended up being one of my favorite experiences during the entire trip.
It was not cheap by any means, but compared to a direct transfer or better yet, a direct transfer and a separate snorkeling excursion, this option was very attractive.
I absolutely loved getting to see some of the most beautiful parts of Bora Bora while talking to our amazing guide about life on the island. I would 100% recommend this option, and will, for sure, book this experience again next time I am in Bora Bora whether it’s a transfer or excursion.
Well played! I’ll have to remember this next time I’m out there.
Out of curiosity, was there no reasonable option to take a St. Regis Boat to Vaitape and then a Conrad boat from there? I haven’t been to FP in years, but it used to be that most hotels had fairly low-priced, scheduled boats to and from the mainland “town” of Vaitape. Of course, whether the two hotel’s boat schedules align is a roll of the dice…
Payton Turner says
Unfortunately, the Conrad charges higher costs (similar to transfer to/from BOB airport) for the shuttle from Vaitape to the Conrad on arrival/departure day. Additionally, the St. Regis drops you off on the other side of the main island (leaving you to need to take a Taxi to Vaitape) and we were told that the once daily “free” shuttle” from the St. Regis to the island would not allow us to bring luggage. All-in between the taxi and transfers it was net the same as transfers via the airport with much more effort.
Aligning the schedules would have also required quite some effort.
Ah, makes sense. Seems the hotels are doing their level best to force their overpriced transfers on guests. Which makes your strategic avoidance all the more impressive!
Payton Turner says
Exactly. It’s a good strategy and would have been even cheaper had I opted for a 2-hour charter.
Even though it was booked via 3rd party, our butler at the St. Regis still contacted the company and confirmed all the details.
How long in advance did you have to book with the 3rd party?
Payton Turner says
I booked on day 2-3 at the St. Regis, so roughly 48-72 hours in advance. Looking back I should have booked earlier to make sure it did not sell out.