Bora Bora, Tahiti

Intercontinental Bora Bora – Thalasso vs. Le Moana

I had only stayed at one other Intercontinental hotel before the ones in Bora Bora and Moorea on this most recent trip, and that was at the Intercontinental in Hong Kong about 6 months prior. I was very impressed by Hong Kong, so I had high expectations in Tahiti. I think our stays in Moorea vs. Bora Bora were different and both had advantages in their own way that I’m glad we got to experience. The big question I had about Bora Bora was–which Intercontinental was better to stay at? Not an uncommon question when deciding.

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Receiving dock at IC Thalasso; every time a boat arrived, one of these guys would blow into a conch to announce your arrival and welcome you. One of these guys was also great at playing the ukelele and singing. When we were leaving the resort to go home and waiting for a few other passengers, we did some mellow duets  and it was such a memorable way to depart!

You can probably read tons of reviews on TripAdvisor for hotels you are considering staying at, and TripAdvisor is a great resource. I use it myself too but often spend way too long perusing all the reviews until my head hurts from all the good and the negative. I read different threads about the two hotels as well, contemplating if I wanted to upgrade from Intercontinental Le Moana to Intercontinental Thalasso when we booked our package. The thing that I’ve gathered from reading reviews is that a lot of factors can come into play to affect your stay. So before you get caught up in review diving, which can take hours, think about what is most important to you to have a wonderful stay. At the end of the day, if you can remember this and come to terms with it and not compare, you’ll have a blast!

We ended up staying at the Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa, so I couldn’t tell you as much detail about the Intercontinental Bora Bora Le Moana, but we did stop by there briefly to pick up other guests during our jet ski tour of the island and these are also the consensus of the multiple reviews I reviewed. I really think we would have been happy at either resort, but by a lucky fluke, we got to stay at IC Thalasso. What I could gather were these things that you can consider about what would make your stay great:

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If your location and views are important to you:

Thalasso: IC Thalasso is located along a little motu across from the dormant volcano, Mt. Otemanu, so you get views of the lagoon and the mountains. I personally enjoyed the view all around the Thalasso immensely because it combined beautiful blues and lush greens. Get the Sapphire bungalows for ocean view and Diamond bungalows for the best views of Mount Otemanu and some ocean. The Emerald bungalows have a view of the beach/resort. Check out hotel rooms map here. They’re currently also building large family bungalows with plunge pools at the ends of the pontoons.

Le Moana: IC Le Moana is located on the main island and easy access to Matira Beach, which is the only public access beach in Bora Bora. Your views at this resort are more of the open ocean than at Thalasso (horizon rooms) with Raiatea and Taha’a in the distance, or the beach (lagoon rooms), depending which way your bungalow faces. There are also bungalows along the beach. Click here to see a layout of the hotel rooms.

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Not a bad view at all. Room 134, Sapphire Overwater Bungalow. That’s Le Meridien Resort that you see ahead. If you get a room on the opposite side of the hotel, you’d see purely ocean.

If having spa treatments are important to you:

The Thalasso spa is located at the Thalasso…hence it’s in the name. There is no official spa at Le Moana, but that’s not a real problem except that you can’t just saunter over. You can book a spa treatment at Thalasso if you wish and arrange to go via the inter-resort transfer shuttle boat. Typically, the shuttle boats have a fee to go from Le Moana to Thalasso ($23, but that fee should be included in your spa treatment fee. So if you’d like to spend a day hanging out at Thalasso, you can plan to do this on the same day. There is no fee for the shuttle from Thalasso to Le Moana and back before 2pm. We had intended to try this shuttle out and check out the other resort, but we enjoyed the Thalasso so much that we didn’t have any real desire to leave.

The spa is highly recommended, but also extravagantly priced! If you’re on your honeymoon though, it may be worth the splurge as I have heard amazing things about it. We did not end up going, but even if you don’t get a massage or treatment, a day pass is only about $35/day and you can come and go as you please to use the jacuzzis, steam rooms, etc. I had contemplated it, but then I feel like I would have been obligated to hang out in the spa all day and there were too many other nice views to enjoy! Plus, it was a little too hot/humid to use a spa… The nice thing is that the toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, lotion) are all products from the spa-line which uses natural marine life ingredients, and they smell and feel AWESOME.

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Spa bungalows have sections of glass floors so you can see all the fish in the lagoon below. This jacuzzi spot probably has the best view as there are a few other next to it that are sheltered by vegetation and you can’t see the lagoon or mountains as easily.

If having a variety of food options are important to you:

You’ll have more choices if you stay at Le Moana because it is attached to the main island of Bora Bora, and you can more easily seek out more food options (for cheaper too) on the island if you’re tired of eating at the resort. If you’re at the Thalasso, there are two main restaurants you can eat at (Reef for breakfast and dinner only; Sands for lunch and dinner) and Bubbles–a bar area to hang out. You can also order at the pool. There is another fancy restaurant not included in meal plans that just screams overpriced for what it is, and I’m not sure I ever saw it open while we were there because you have to book reservations there. Well, technically they say to make reservations for dinner anywhere you eat in the resort, but I’m not sure why since the restaurants were never full when we were there! Maybe during high season it’s more important.

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From the buffet night spread. You can never go wrong with the tropical fruit here!

If luxury is what you are seeking:

I’ve read in many reviews that Thalasso has more modern amenities and decor. Looking at pictures of both resorts, they both look pretty nice to me. The Thalasso bungalows are more rectangular and the rooms are pretty easily sectioned off–living room/office by the entrance, bedroom, closet, bathroom, and the decor is sleek, modern, clean, and chic. The Le Moana bungalows look more like a square but you have the same similar spaces provided. I don’t think there is a window by the bathtub, though. I thought our bungalow was very spacious and way more space than we needed–super luxurious. The Le Moana bungalows look more traditional Polynesian, still grand, but more homey and kind of more like our bungalow in Moorea. So if you’re more of a luxury traveler, Thalasso is probably for you, while the Le Moana is still excellent for a more traditional feel. 

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Bathtub views. But if you can see them, they can probably see you too.

If you want to snorkel right outside your room:

Le Moana will offer better snorkeling outside the bungalow and in their lagoon as the water there is much shallower and you can even stand up in and wade to shore. You can tell by how light the water color is, whereas the bungalows in Thalasso are further out in the water and the water color is more aqua. Thalasso seems to have less coral in the water so there are less fish, but occasionally we would see some through the glass under our coffee table in the room. But really, nothing as interesting as the marine life we saw right outside our bungalow in Moorea.

The coolest thing that really showed up under our bungalow was probably my giant unicorn :P! I did see some people swimming from the Emerald rooms to shore and standing up near their bungalows as the waters there ARE more shallow. The Sapphire and Diamond rooms you can totally jump into the water and swim around, so if you prefer being able to canonball into the water, Le Moana waters may not offer that!

Unicorn under my bungalow!
Just a note: it is NOT easy to get giant floatie to float where you want it to go, especially under your coffee table under your overwater bungalow! It took an army to achieve this picture!

 If costs are a concern:

Thalasso is in general more expensive. When I asked about upgrading to Thalasso, the Costco Travel agent said it would be about $1500-$2000 (!!) more depending if we wanted the Emerald vs the Sapphire, and I didn’t even ask about the Diamond rooms. But surprisingly, when I’m looking right now on the websites for travel next April (2018), some of the overwater bungalows at Le Moana are more expensive than at Thalasso if you use an IHG Rewards Member discount! And it doesn’t look like it costs anything to sign up to be a member. When we were booking the package, I had taken a peek at the hotel rates too and found a bigger price difference then. So go ahead and check both hotels for pricing, and try to book early!

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Bubbly for me? Don’t mind if I do!

Verdict?

There really is none. I personally really liked the Thalasso and our Sapphire overwater bungalow, and I can’t compare properly without haven’t stayed at Le Moana too. But the great thing about staying at either Intercontinental is that you can visit the other one, and that in itself already lends you to have a little more options and flexibility in getting around Bora Bora without having an excursion pick you up! So how did we end up at the Thalasso? Remember I mentioned that fluke? Read on…!

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