Booked: Pre-Honeymoon in the Pacific
Greetings from French Polynesia!
As I write this, I find myself a long way from anywhere, on a tiny island in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. This part of the world has been a destination that I’ve long aspired to visit, and I must say it’s quite surreal to finally be here.
While my return journey is still open-ended, I’ve managed to score some great aspirational flights and stays on this very special trip, and here’s how it all came together.
As some of you may know, 2023 is set to mark a major milestone in my life. I’ll be getting married this summer, and my partner Jessy and I have been busy making all the necessary arrangements and preparing for the momentous occasion.
The months leading up to the wedding will be very busy, and we’ve opted to front-load our travels to earlier on in the year, especially to some of the more far-flung destinations on our list.
Indeed, the unique natural beauty of Bora Bora makes it a poster child for aspirational travel, and a place that has long intrigued both of us.
With azure-blue water, coral reefs, and the ever-present Mount Otemanu towering in the background, there are many reasons why this place is known as a world-class romantic destination.
After getting engaged in the Maldives three years ago, it also seemed fitting that we’d come here to Bora Bora for a “pre-honeymoon” as we get set to embark on a bigger journey together later on this year.
As we spend time quality time together in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, it’s another stark reminder of the gift of travel, as well as the power of Miles & Points in unlocking some truly unforgettable travel experiences.
As you can imagine, there isn’t a lot of choice when it comes to direct flights from North America to French Polynesia. To further complicate matters, finding multiple seats in a premium cabin on points makes it even more difficult, but not impossible.
To get here, we redeemed 80,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles per person to fly from Los Angeles to Papeete with Air Tahiti Nui in business class. Availability on this particular route can be hard to come by, but I booked this trip almost a year out and managed to lock in the seats.
For Jessy’s return journey to Vancouver, I booked her on an outstanding, though perhaps lesser-known, Aeroplan sweet spot that leverages the distance-based pricing of the “Between North America and Pacific zones” chart.
For her flights from Papeete to Vancouver via San Francisco, I redeemed just 53,400 Aeroplan points, with the first leg in United Polaris business class and the second in Air Canada’s regional business class.
The flights measure 4,989 miles in distance flown, which comes in a very satisfying 11 miles short of crossing over into the next distance band at 5,000 miles.
Again, business class flights on this route are relatively difficult to come by, but luckily in this case, United dropped a lot of space on the Papeete–San Francisco route relatively last-minute.
While I had originally secured seats on the Air Tahiti Nui’s new Papeete–Seattle route for 80,000 American miles, I swapped it for the United routing using a lower amount of Aeroplan points as soon as it became available.
While Jessy is flying home to North America, I’ve booked myself in Air Tahiti Nui premium economy from Papeete to Auckland for 25,000 American miles.
At just five and a half hours long, it’s certainly not imperative to have a lie-flat seat on this flight, and I figured this may be a useful review for anyone headed to Bora Bora in premium economy.
I’ll be continuing my trip onwards from New Zealand, with flights, hotels, and travel plans to be shared in a separate update.
As I mentioned earlier, this is very much a “pre-honeymoon”, as it’s a big aspirational trip in advance of our wedding in the summer.
(Did I just make up the term “pre-honeymoon”? Maybe, but it seems to have gone down well among the hotels where we’ll be celebrating. )
Prior to catching our flight to French Polynesia, we’d spend a night at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, one of Los Angeles’s most aspirational hotels and one of the best-possible uses of a Hilton Free Night Award.
Then, we’ll be spending a total of two weeks in Bora Bora, divided up as follows.
Our first five nights are at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, which I had booked almost a year out at a pre-devaluation rate of 89,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
We took advantage of the Fifth Night Free benefit, and the stay totalled 356,000 points, allowing me to finally redeem a big chunk of the Hilton Honors points I had been saving up for years.
(Nowadays, the resort costs 120,000 points per night, which is a significant increase. Still, the Fifth Night Free benefit can be very helpful in scoring the best value when redeeming Hilton Honors points here.)
Points redemptions book into the base-level Lagoon View Suite, but I was upgraded to a King Beach Pool Villa prior to arrival thanks to my Hilton Diamond status from my Amex US Hilton Aspire Card.
On this trip, we’re keen to try out some beach villas after experiencing a handful of overwater villas in the Maldives on previous trips. Still, I might inquire about a further upgrade to an overwater villa here at the Conrad for one or two of the final nights for some balanced reporting.
After the Conrad, we’ll spend three days and two nights at the St. Regis Bora Bora. For this stay, I did a Cash & Points booking for 120,000 Marriott Bonvoy points + 40,000 XPF ($480 CAD) per night for the St. Regis’s Beachside Villa.
Unfortunately, the resort’s base-level Garden View Villa wasn’t available on points; however, this redemption also locks in our preferred room type without any need for “suite-talking“. In fact, the Beachside Villa actually looks a bit better than the Overwater Villas at this resort, so I’m quite pleased with the outcome.
We decided to spend just two days at the St. Regis because, to be frank, the property looks a little bit outdated. As a fan of the brand, I still wanted to see what it was like, and I hope that it exceeds our expectations.
Both the Conrad and St. Regis come with additional boat transfer fees of about 7,500 XPF ($90 CAD) per person per direction, which is thankfully a fair bit less than the Maldives’ seaplanes.
Our stays at the Conrad and St. Regis allow me to check out the best of Bora Bora’s resorts that are bookable on points. However, for the remainder of the trip, I’ve splurged on a few world-class properties that are only bookable with cash.
For our final five nights, we booked two properties with cash. We’ll spend three nights at the Four Seasons Bora Bora, widely considered to be the best property on the island, as well as two nights at The Brando, a luxury resort on its own private island of Tetiaroa that’s often heralded as one of the best and most exclusive resorts in the world.
To give you a sense of the price range, public rates at the Four Seasons Bora Bora start at $2,500 (USD) per night. Meanwhile, The Brando’s rates can be found in their brochure, starting at €2,900 per night for the “Villa & Breakfast” rate, or €3,900 per night for the all-inclusive rate.
Now, even though I managed to score some travel industry rates for these aspirational resorts in support of our travel agency, I wouldn’t exactly call them cheap. In fact, these are easily the highest amounts I’ve ever spent per night for accommodations in my life so far.
No doubt, I’m definitely very fortunate to be in a position to pursue these experiences in service of both personal and business goals, and I’m very much looking forward to fully indulging in the experience.
At the Four Seasons, we’re very keen to fully immerse ourselves in true five-star luxury. The resort’s overwater bungalows and beachfront villas have recently been renovated, which will give us a sense of the modern direction the idyllic resort is headed.
We’ll be sure to marvel at the island’s natural beauty from the exquisite comfort of our One-Bedroom Mountain View Overwater Bungalow, gazing out at Mount Otemanu during the day and losing ourselves in the unspoiled Tahitian sky at night.
Our stay at The Brando will be the second we’ve had on a private luxury island, following Calala Island in Nicaragua. Calling this resort upscale is definitely an understatement, as it’s actually an atoll composed of a dozen small islands surrounding a marvellous lagoon.
To further add to its allure, the island may only be accessed by private plane, which is sure to provide us with a sense of seclusion and exclusivity in one of the world’s most beautiful locales. Once more, we plan to fully immerse ourselves in the experience as we relax on white-sand beaches and soak in the resort’s unique flora and fauna.
To access all of these experiences, I’ve needed to book inter-island transportation between Tahiti and Bora Bora, which can only be booked with one of two airlines (Air Tahiti or a new startup airline Air Moana), or via a ferry service that unfortunately didn’t line up with my dates.
Flights with Air Tahiti cost about $400 (USD) per person round-trip, which isn’t entirely unreasonable, though is certainly another layer of cost to consider when it comes to planning a trip to French Polynesia.
I’ll be sharing a future article about the logistics and costs involved in a Bora Bora trip, as well as comparing our experience here against what’s offered in the world’s other premier destination for aspirational overwater villas, the Maldives.
In advance of getting married this summer, my partner Jessy and I have embarked on an aspirational “pre-honeymoon” trip to French Polynesia, where we’ll live in the lap of luxury over the course of the next two weeks.
As one of the world’s most iconic destinations, Bora Bora is on the top of many bucket lists, including our own. At this time, I feel particularly grateful to be in a position to combine a personal and a business trip out to this part of the world, while spending some quality time with Jessy ahead of our wedding.
Booking flights to this part of the world and accessing some of its more luxurious properties definitely came with some extra legwork, including planning this trip almost a year ahead of time, which is sure to be worth the price of admission.
In addition to the customary flight and hotel reviews (of which I expect the word counts to be quite extensive), I look forward to offering some further insights about the logistics, pricing, and overall planning process for a trip to Bora Bora as part of this trip collection, to help those of you who are thinking about a similar once-in-a-lifetime trip make it a reality.
The post Booked: Pre-Honeymoon in the Pacific appeared first on Prince of Travel by Ricky Zhang.