For me, food is a big part of travel. Growing up, we used to not care as much, but we also didn’t have as much of the luxury to splurge on fancy meals, especially when traveling! I remember going to New York with my family when I was 6 or 7, and we would eat instant noodles at the hotel or McDonald’s! But even then, McDonald’s felt like a luxury to me as a kid because my parents didn’t like us eating too much fast food.
Now, we are very fortunate to have the luxury to seek out nicer dining and splurge on vacation. And I’m happy to say my parents prioritize food now too to try local cuisine and things they can’t get at home. I pretty much structure my travel itineraries around good places to eat and sightseeing because these are the most important things to me during a trip. Well, I guess you could say good photos, too. 😛
But food choices in Bora Bora can be a little more limited if you are staying at a resort, especially the ones not attached to the main island. You’re pretty much forced to eat at the resort unless you make reservations somewhere else and have the restaurant come pick you up, or take a ferry to the main island to dine–all of which are extra expenses.
It was already pretty expensive to come to Bora Bora, but luckily, our travel package included breakfast and 2-course dinners at the hotel resort, with one 3-course romantic dinner that you booked with the hotel when you got there. In general, I found the food in Tahiti to be just okay. Some of the restaurants really tried to make the food fancy and good, but it just didn’t turn out quite right. I don’t know if it was not enough seasoning or flavor, but there were a few stand out dishes to note. And the menu was the same every night!
If I were to do it again, I may want to try dining somewhere on the main island and have someone pick us up. The only problem is that with a meal plan, you feel almost obligated to eat at the resort since you already paid for it! It’s a bit of a conundrum because without the meal plan, we calculated that for our 8 nights in Tahiti we would have spent about $2000 USD! And that’s underestimating some items, like the value of the romantic dinner package!
Travel Pearl: Book your romantic dinner upon arrival at the Intercontinental Thalasso if your package includes it. Just pick a date and go with it otherwise you’ll be left with very few options if you decide to book it later! (Learn from my mistake.)
We mainly ate at two of the restaurants at IC Thalasso–Reef and Sands. There is another restaurant Le Corail but it wasn’t open when we were there since it’s only open June-November (mainly the peak season!) There was one night that was a theme night and I believe Reef was your only option for a buffet while Tahitian dancers performed for you. There’s also a bar/lounge called Bubbles, and I think another South Beach Bar that opens during the summer time. Sadly, it was closed while we were there, and the hut that had signs for ice cream was never open. =(
You’re supposed to make a “reservation” each night telling them when you want to eat at each restaurant. I wasn’t sure of the purpose of doing that but maybe it’s more important when the resort is more at full capacity! Another cost to keep in mind is if you want to order bottled water. It’s said that the tap water is usually good enough to drink, but if you want to take extra precautions, it’s about $7 for a 750ml Evian at the restaurants.
I’m pretty sure I drank some tap water when the lady making pool rounds to take orders passed out water in plastic cups to all the guests, and I’m still here! But we did order the bottled water at dinner just because we did have those food/beverage credits to spend each day.
Travel Pearl: Keep in mind, tipping is not customary or expected. They certainly wouldn’t reject it, but they wouldn’t bat an eye if you didn’t tip either. All “service fees” or “tax” is included in the price of your food (and the receipt sometimes shows the breakdown) so the price you see is the price you pay!
Sands was the more casual restaurant of the two dining options located right by the pool and along the beachside for a good view of the lagoon and Mt. Otemanu. You can dine indoors or out on the beach, but we mainly choose indoors since it was cooler and less chance of mosquitos! I kid you not, the mosquitos were vicious!
Sands is open for lunch and dinner (11am -9:30pm). We ate here for dinner on our first night and also for lunch on another day. You can also order food by the pool which I believe they bring out from Sands. Drink might come from Bubbles, though. Pool food was decent–the fries were actually done VERY well! The chicken club sandwich was also not too bad and it came with the fries.
Dinner here seemed like it tried to incorporate elements of Asian cuisine and some American and Italian. It was…decent, but I think since we’re from California, we’re spoiled by our mecca of good food and it’s hard to compare the quality, especially since it must be hard to get ingredients all the way out in Bora Bora. They really did try! Since the meal plans came with 2 course meals at dinner, hubby and I would usually order an entree each and then one of us would order an appetizer and one of us would order dessert.
They always give you a bill to “charge to your room” but they waive off the items that are part of your 2-course meal and, in our case, other food credits. But this way, we always got an idea of how much food would cost if we didn’t have the meal plan. Dinners ranged from $130-$170 each night. Of course, if you didn’t order two courses and the bottled water, maybe it wouldn’t cost quite as much! But sometimes the portions of the entrees didn’t seem like too much and I could see someone who wasn’t a petite Asian girl going hungry! And then if you wanted to add on wine…well, I’ll let your calculator run wild. Our dinner receipts ran that much without alcohol for the most part (an occasional beer or juice was thrown in).
Some example of the food at Sands for dinner…
For lunch one day, we decided to try two flatbread pizzas along with the fries that we already knew were good. The pizzas really weren’t anything spectacular, especially not for almost $30!, but if you’re hungry, they’ll do the trick. The manager here was super nice though, and you just can’t be too upset when the wait staff is also trying their hardest and eagerly hoping for your approval at every turn.
Reef restaurant is located behind the concierge and Bubbles lounge and known to be the more fancy, hoity toity, restaurant with Polynesian and Mediterranean influences. It’s also the place that is open for breakfast buffet daily (6:30am-10:30am). I actually thought the breakfast at Intercontinental Moorea was a little better than here, but the price per person without a meal plan was more. I think it was a little under $50 per person for breakfast. I tried taking photos of the receipts but stopped keeping track after awhile.
You could tell which guests had been at the resort for a few days already because their breakfast plates probably had the least amount of food due to knowing which all the best foods were after one or two days of trying! I found their hot/savory foods to be slightly disappointing, but pastries and fruit to be good. By the last day, my typical breakfast consisted of coffee, fruit juice (tropical mixture), an almond or chocolate croissant, a waffle stick, followed by papaya, cantaloupe, kiwi, and orange. I actually thought the papaya in Moorea was better! But in general, I’m not a huge papaya fan at home. In Tahiti, OH MY GOD, why was papaya so much better here?!
One morning we were even pleasantly serenaded by a Polynesian singer accompanied by a ukelele player. She was absolutely marvelous! Voice of an angel 🙂
Dinner at Reef is served from 6:30pm – 9:30pm, and again, reservations were recommended for some reason. Items on the dinner menu here try to be elegant and upscale. Some worked and some really just didn’t. Sometimes, the wait for the food would take way too long as it felt like only one or two people were waiting on the whole restaurant! Granted, there weren’t too many people at the resort to begin with, but one night we waited almost an hour for our food! But again, it was hard to be too upset when the servers were still so nice and friendly and trying their best.
Some example of the dinner food…
Honestly, the only thing I would really recommend were the lamb and that nut encrusted fish. The other good entree we had was during the “romantic dinner,” and the best meal we had was still during our private motu picnic. I dream of lobster..mmm….
For the romantic 3-course dinner, the menu is usually pre-set. I don’t know what they’d do if you couldn’t eat anything on the menu, but I’m sure they’d accommodate allergies or food preferences (e.g. vegetarian or no beef). You have one dedicated server all night and someone will pick you up from your bungalow in golf cart and drive you to your romantic dinner spot.
There’s only probably 3 spots or so in the resort. One was pictured above, directly on the beach under a little open thatched hut. My parents got this spot and it must have been nice! But wear bug spray!! The second spot was by the lagoon near the lobby and private check-in lounge area. It’s under open sky and they usually light the path down the sand with these flares at night that probably also have anti-bug properties (hopefully).
And the third spot was the spot we got. I honestly thought the whole resort and vacation was romantic enough that I didn’t care that we didn’t sit out on the beach on the sand, etc. In fact, we were actually kind of glad our spot was covered under a thatched roof, on solid rock ground, with a fan to cool us down, and less chance of mosquito bites! This location can’t see the beach as well, but is still nice to have to yourself. But as I said earlier, book your dinner early on if you can. I don’t know if you have an option or choice of where your dinner is held, but maybe you can request it!
I think the reason we ended up sitting where we did that night is because there was actually a live band performing music sitting under the thatched hut on the beach! It was actually an AMAZING singer and musician playing covers of songs we knew well and the sounds of it carried over to our dining hut. I was okay with that!!
The food was actually pretty good for this dinner. You are given a bottle of wine with your dinner, as well as bread of course. Bread was standard for every meal but win was always extra except for this dinner where it was included! Since my parents also did this on a different night, we learned that the appetizers/salads change night to night, but the rest of it is the same. Our appetizer was some sort of eggplant and bell peppers.
The entree is a steak, and it was probably one of the best entrees of the trip in comparison to some of the other things, even though the dish was plated plain and simple. The meat was cooked and seasoned well, even if it was plain. Sometimes simplicity is the best!
The dessert was a “romantic dessert” of a sorbet and strawberry shortcake in coconuts.
On one of the nights when we were there (I think it was a Thursday), Reef restaurant was closed for service and there was only a buffet option because they were having a performance night. You still had to “make a reservation” and one of the housekeeping staff that was delivering items to a room told us to request a table closer to the front of the stage so we could see it better. We were on the side of the stage, but I didn’t really want to be front and center anyway because the drums got loud!
The buffet was decorated VERY beautifully, but I found all the food to be quite lacking. This is my general opinion of course, but as I’m Asian, I didn’t find the Asian food very appealing or even to Panda Express level. The flour taco tortillas were a bit stale and my husband wasn’t a fan of the taco that he had high hopes for.
To be honest, I think I grabbed a little of everything but nothing really made an impression minus perhaps the tiramisu dessert in a little shot glass. It was more liquid than anything, but at least it tasted okay! I was a little disappointed by the buffet but this is a complaint here. I’m just simply telling you that the food wasn’t great!
The show was nice to watch some of the Tahitian hula dancers and the guys on the drums! I think the fire show in Moorea was a little cooler, but I could tell the performers worked pretty hard on their sets. At one point, the Tahitian men actually came into the audience to grab ladies onto the stage and the women grabbed men onto the stage to dance with them!
My husband and I were both forced to go up and it was kind of embarrassing, but at the same time, it was all in good fun! Some women danced individually with a dancer and then went off stage. I’m not sure how I ended up in the position as the LAST female guest on stage, but by then, I had 5 sweaty, half-naked and fit male dancers that surrounded me and were dancing around me in a circle. I laughed nervously and looked over at my husband to see his reaction, wondering if he would be jealous, but he was taking a video and just positively cracking up at MY reaction!
So, all in all…I think I’d love to try some more of the food on the local island next time! Notice how I’m saying this as if there IS a next time ;)…and in my stubborn mind, YES, there will be a next time! Even though I love good food, not having it won’t prevent me from going back to Bora Bora or keep it from being one of my most favorite places I’ve been! The best meal we had was probably still the one from our private motu picnic, which just goes to show that locals just do it right! 🙂
And…that’s most of our Bora Bora trip! Lots of eating, chilling, swimming, snorkeling, and soaking in the pure Tahitian magic!