There are places that have been designed for the ultimate couples’ retreat. In fact, the movie of the same name was filmed here, in Bora Bora. You can travel to Bora Bora with your family, plenty of people do, and even with your friends, although that is less common, but going there solo can be slightly dangerous to your mental health. Flights or hotel reservations for 1 should come with a warning that reads: “Booking at your own risk“. And not just because the words Pora Pora, in the ancient Polynesian language mean “First born”.
With so much sticky-cheesy romance at every corner and honeymooners around you may have a sweet overload. Pretty much every activity can be complemented with a private photographer which comes with you under water, over water, on the beach, to dinner, on a boat…anywhere you’d like just to immortalize those beautiful moments with your just-married love. Sun bathing on your private deck? Check. Romantic dinners at the end of the pontoon? Check. Room service champagne? Check. Couple’s massage at the best spa in the Pacific? Check. Underwater wedding ceremony? Check. Sun downer sofas for two? Check. Breakfast in bed brought to you by a Polynesian girl on a traditional canoe? Check. The resorts here could also be described as Anything-and-everything-for-two. The Tourism Board page assure you that Bora Bora has been welcoming honeymooners for 40 years. That is a long time to build strong Pavlovian responses.
Love is firmly in the air on Bora Bora, especially at the uber-luxury hotels which are on the motu, namely the St. Regis, Four Seasons and Thalasso Intercontinental. Loe is also very present under water; I spotted the word Love spelled with rocks at the bottom of the ocean in two different locations.
So what happens if you plan to visit them on your own? You will wreak havoc. Literally.
I arrived on Tahiti alone and spent a couple of days, including Christmas day, by myself and that was enough to realize that trying to visit Bora Bora as a solo female traveler was going to be a mission and an absolute constant questioning of my single status.
To be fair, Tahiti was quite ok. I only had two nights and since the resort was quite large and it was Christmas day everyone was busy minding their own business and there was a lot of movement for anyone to bother noticing me. I got a couple of puppy looks from the staff but they seemed more curious than sorry. I then rented a car and toured the island. At only 120km round circumference it is a pretty good day trip. The warning signs started then.
At every stop, there was a friendly local trying to offer me a drink, chatting me up or waving/whistling/trying to catch my attention. Now, that is possibly the worst part about traveling as a solo girl: the hissing noises that follow you around wherever you stop. It is like being a dog everyone tries to get the attention of. Then the questions. Are you married? Do you have children?
After having spent 2 months alone a couple of years back in the Pacific, I was quite taken aback and surprised by this annoying behavior. I did not have this problem anywhere else so it was unexpected. It could have been a coincidence but it happened during the course of a day at 4 stops I made on the road trip so I guess I can accurately extrapolate.
Other than this annoyance, I found the majority of the locals quite helpful and smiley when they saw me driving by myself and pulling by the side of the road to contemplate the beach or the crashing waves. Tahiti is quite a rugged landscape very similar to Samoa or Hawaii so it calls for plenty of stops to wander off or just sit down on the rocks or the sand.
After the first day in Tahiti I was feeling quite ok. But then again, Tahiti is not necessarily the main destination within French Polynesia for the loved-up, the most popular islands are Bora Bora, Moorea and the larger archipelagos in the case of cruise goers. The romance and honeymooners were yet to hit me!
When I arrived in Bora Bora the picture was completely different. I had been warned by various people and statistics that Bora Bora is an eminently honeymoon destination and that over 90% of the visitors are on their honeymoon. The stares from other guests started at the airport when I checked in alone and waited by the boarding lounge with no company. You could easily tell that most of the people there had a “Jut married” sign hanging from their necks, save for a few families traveling during the Christmas season. The stares continued in the plane and at the airport upon landing. And the most common question I would hear during my time alone started: “Just yourself?” “Yes, just me”. Only one of those flower garlands please. And yes, I will be ok.
The rest of the guests were also wondering what I was doing there by myself. Why come all the way to the end of the world to enjoy it by yourself? To me it was a simple answer, “Why not?”. I was truly excited to be in Bora Bora! But I soon realized how difficult it would be not to have any company.
At the hotel, after a very swift and friendly check in by the only person who did not seem to have anything to say about my “condition”, I sat down for lunch while waiting for my divine overwater villa to get ready. Shortly after, the reality unfolded. I was given two menus, despite there being nobody next to me. I did not pay much attention at that time but the fun continued. When the waiter took my order I reiterated it was just me, but she did not remove the cutlery for the second table mat so when the next waiter brought the water and bread I was given two pieces, one in each bread plate and two glasses of water were filled. Despite my constant repetition that it was just me they looked clearly confused and just did not know how to deal with me. This type of situations carried on. It seemed that they either did not want to accept that there was nobody else joining me or that they were not understanding it, as if it was not possible that it was just me. “Surely there must be someone else?”
Later on in the day I ordered room service and the lady on the phone insisted that I join the buffet and Polynesian performance. I was pretty tired and had seen a full show the day before in Tahiti so was quite happy to stay in the room and watch the sky with my dinner but it just did not look like the right thing to do to her. I persuaded her but I’m sure she felt grudged that I did not want to sit at the restaurant with all the rest of the honeymooners. I eventually got my club sandwich and, finally, only one set of cutlery!
Breakfast the following day was much of the same. Two sets of cutlery, two order for coffee, two glasses of water…by that point I just did not care. Two of everything, just for me! bring it on.
Thankfully, on the 3rd day, I was joined by a friend so peace returned to paradise and everyone could go back to preparing everything for two.
I did learn the hard way just how hard it is to spend time at such a romantic destination on your own. No doubt, solo travelers are less common in this part of the world and even less so at the luxury resorts. However, I do not see why this has to be the case and I urge anyone wishing to come this way on their own to do it. Maybe one day, if enough travelers come, it will slowly become like any other place and be more welcoming to solo travelers. The astonishing beauty of Bora Bora should be accessible to anyone, without being judged.
As for those with a delicate heart or who do not want to be reminded of their personal choices or luck every-single-minute I suggest staying at one of the pensions or hotels on shore which are less honeymoon-prone and where you are more likely to meet other solo travelers, not to mention that they are significantly more affordable. On my dive trip, I met two Swedish students that were traveling for 4 months and surprisingly ended in Bora Bora. I wish I could have afforded 4 months of travel to incredible destinations! They were staying at a pension which was in no way overrun with honeymooners and it was located on the world’s Sexiest Beach, Matira beach. We passed their room on the way to our second dive spot and it opened right onto the lagoon. Alternatively, the Paul Gauguin cruise liner has several trips in the area visiting several islands and given its size and target market you are less likely to be the only one.
Have you experience such romantic overload anywhere else? Have you been to Bora Bora alone? Share your thoughts below 🙂