Bora Bora may be the perfect place for a beach vacation, but there's so much more to see and do. With everything from historic ruins to jungle hikes on offer, you'll want to explore the rest of the island – unfortunately, this tropical escape does not have much in the way of a public transport system.
The local bus service known as "Le Truck" is no longer operating due to COVID-19, so how can you get around Bora Bora to get the best out of this idyllic tropical island? Here's what you need to know about renting a car, cycling, walking, taking boats and taxis and more.
Exploring Bora Bora by boat
One of the first things you'll notice when you arrive in Bora Bora by plane is that the airport is set on its own island. But worry not – you won’t have to pay a small fortune for a boat to the main island. There's a free ferry that runs from the airport to the main town of Vaitape, scheduled to coincide with arriving and departing flights, and the ride only takes about 30 minutes each way. Your luggage will be stored by the crew, and you have the option of sitting below deck or riding on top in the open air where you can take in the views.
If you are staying at a private resort, your resort will handle the airport transfer for you. Most resorts send a private speed boat to meet guests off their flights; a resort representative will welcome you as you arrive at the airport before whisking you away to your resort. These transfers may be complimentary or the cost may be added as an additional charge to your bill, depending on which resort you are staying in.
The same goes for resort shuttles during your stay. Since many of Bora Bora’s resorts are located on their own private motu (islets), the only way to get around is by boat. Some resorts have complimentary shuttles that run to the main island at a set time each day, open to all guests. Other resorts offer island shuttle services at an additional cost.
If your resort doesn’t offer complimentary shuttles, it's worth inquiring about private transfer boats. These may be a more affordable option, depending on what the resort charges.
Renting a car or scooter
If you want the freedom to explore on your own, one of the best options is to rent a car, scooter or motorbike. Renting a car is the most expensive option, so unless you are traveling as a group and can split the cost, or are traveling with small children, it might be better to look at renting a scooter or motorbike instead.
The main roads around Bora Bora are paved and in good condition. However, if you want to get up some of the steep hills to hillside viewpoints, you will need a 4x4 or an ATV. It may be easiest to take a tour; local operators run guided trips by 4x4 where you ride in the back of the truck, and ATV trips where you drive yourself.
Bora Bora is small so you can tour the island in a day, which will save you money. There's no need to rent a vehicle for the entirety of your stay, so long as you are staying in a central location near to restaurants, food trucks and grocery stores.
Parking is not typically something you need to be concerned about. There's plenty of parking in front of the shops and restaurants on the main island and the majority of guesthouses and hotels offer free parking (although it’s always best to double-check with the property when you book).
If you are going to rent a car in Bora Bora (or anywhere in French Polynesia), note that almost all cars are manual; it is very difficult to arrange for an automatic car anywhere on the island.
Bora Bora by bike
If you enjoy being active, why not rent a bicycle and pedal around the island? Bike rentals can be arranged through many of the same places that rent cars, and also from many resorts (some even offer them for free for guests).
It's a journey of around 31km (19 miles) to loop right around the coast of Bora Bora; there are a couple of small hills, but these are definitely manageable by pedal bike. While it will take longer than driving, you'll have more freedom to stop as you please to take in the views and snap photos – something you’ll end up doing quite a bit as the scenery is stunning!
As well as bicycle rentals for the main island, some of the larger resorts also have bikes available for guests to get around the grounds, including the St Régis Resort.
Bora Bora on foot
While Bora Bora is a small island – just 10km (6 miles) long – it’s not always the easiest place to walk around, especially in the heat and humidity. However, most touristy areas of the island are pedestrian-friendly; this includes the main town of Vaitape and the most popular beach on the island, Matira Beach.
You can easily walk the length of Vaitape in about 15 minutes, and Matira beach is only 1.6km (1 mile) long, with the option to walk barefoot along the sand or follow the road behind the beach. With a local guide, you can also hike along trails inland, visiting local caves and 619m (2031m) Mt Ohue and 661m (2169ft) Mt Pahia.
Insider tip: The streets of Bora Bora can be dark at night; make sure your phone is charged so you can use the flashlight app!
Getting around Bora Bora by taxi
Taxis are available in Bora Bora but there are a limited number of taxi companies and rides tend to be quite pricey, especially if you need transport after 7pm. Your resort can help you book a taxi. Be sure to pre-arrange any rides ahead of time; Uber and other car-share services are not available on the island.
It's also possible to arrange water taxis to motu out in the lagoon, or from resorts to island beaches. Again, your resort can advise.
Resort and restaurant shuttles
If you choose to do your daytime exploring by renting a bike or car, or joining an island tour, the only thing you'll need transportation for is getting to and from your resort, and heading out for dinner at one of the island’s restaurants, and you may not need a taxi for either.
Guesthouses and hotels will happily arrange transfers to your accommodation if you request this in advance, and pick up and drop-offs are often included in room rates. The majority of restaurants on the island also offer free shuttle services during dinner hours; these usually start at 5pm but the hours of operation can vary by restaurant.
When you call to make dinner reservations, just mention you would like a shuttle and a pick-up will be arranged. Restaurants that offer this service include the Bora Bora Yacht Club, Bloody Mary’s, Restaurant Matira Beach and Restaurant Le St James.
Note that if you are staying at a resort on a private motu, you'll need to make arrangements to get to the main island first before you can take advantage of these free shuttles. Restaurants don’t have water shuttle services.
Tips for accessible transit in Bora Bora
At first glance, Bora Bora doesn’t seem like a very accessible destination for those with limited mobility, specifically for wheelchair users, as getting around involves plenty of boats and smaller vehicles. Bigger, newer resorts, on the other hand, will often have wheelchair-accessible rooms.
If you are concerned about accessibility issues your best bet is to get in touch with the resort you are staying with and have them prearrange transfers and tours for you, rather than trying to arrange them on your own. For more information on accessible travel, see Lonely Planet's Accessible Travel Resources page.