For general information about French Polynesia, see also my review of the Kia Ora Hotel, Rangiroa.
The Le Moana is on a small spur at the southernmost tip of the main island. Be aware that this is the windy side of the island; if you look south, the next stop is Antarctica, so expect there to be a cool breeze much of the time. Our over-water bungalow (74, at the end of the smaller spur and as far from the main buildings as possible) seemed to be the windiest spot on the island, and the day we arrived (27th July) it sounded as though there was a gale blowing through the wooden shutters!
Arrival was a little shambolic. We arrived with 2 other couples on the early morning flight – around 8am – as most of the guests must do. (Note that, being FRENCH Polynesia, nothing is open at Papeete airport when several hundred people arrive on the daily 4:30am flight). The hotel provided us with a non-alcoholic drink on arrival and took us on a tour of the hotel, which lasted literally 2 minutes (once you’ve seen the bar and restaurant, there’s not a lot else). They then told us (individually and with almost a smug smile) that our rooms would not be ready until 2pm. The lounge/bar is quite small and basic, we were not entitled to a breakfast as part of our package, and it seemed difficult to order up anything a la carte except cold, over-priced coffee and left-over pains au chocolat. We didn’t really relish the idea of sitting there for 6 hours, so we took up the offer of a transit room. This was the size of a large cupboard, but at least gave us the opportunity to change out of our travel clothes into something more appropriate for the (small) pool and beach. Then we were told around 12 noon that our room was ready, so we were able to settle in properly.
The water-bungalows are quite large and really nice, though designed by someone who has never stayed in a hotel before, so storage space is very limited. The bathrooms are a good size and have a full bath in them, though as a result, the shower area is fairly small and has no screen, so you can get a lot of the floor wet.
The key features are the coffee table and the 2 decks. It’s somewhat bizarre to be looking for fish under the coffee table – it sounds like something from an Alan Bennett play – but the glass gives a great view of the coral under the water bungalow (mostly placed there by the hotel) and the many colourful reef fish. If you want to get up close and personal, head down to the lower deck and down the steps into the water, which is about 2 ft deep, put on your snorkel and mask and go looking. One day we swam out along the main line of water-bungalows past all of the coral outcrops that the hotel has carefully arranged, and saw loads of different species, including small yellow morays, Picasso trigger fish, wrasse, parrotfish and many other species. We also took a kayak and our snorkel gear across to the Sofitel motu, a few hundred yards across the lagoon, where the snorkelling was some of the best we had in French Polynesia.
The Le Moana site is small – the bar/lounge and a restaurant area built in a ring around a small circular courtyard. There’s also an outdoor dining area facing the sea with a glass screen to minimise the impact of the wind. Food and drink are quite expensive – you’ll pay 600 francs (around £4:50) for a 33cl local beer (that’s around £9 a pint for UK readers), with cocktails at around 1,500 francs (£10:50), although at happy hour (5:30 until 7:30) you get a 2nd cocktail free when you buy the first. That's not the same as a 2-for-1 offer; if there are 2 of you, you each have to drink 2 cocktails. We bought beers and tonic waters from the local shop at around two thirds the price in the hotel and mixed our own G&Ts with a bottle we’d brought with us. (We understand that there’s a cheaper shop a little further away from the hotel).
The food is good, and the nightly chef’s specials are well worth trying, but the service can be a little erratic, although the Le Moana is better than some other hotels in the islands in this respect. There was a good buffet twice while we were there, both times with entertainment; the Le Moana seems to provide more of this than other hotels we stayed at. Breakfasts include a reasonably good selection of food for most tastes. We were on the half-board scheme here, so we didn’t explore restaurants outside the site, but people we met who did seemed to rate La Bounty and Bloody Mary’s.
While we were there, it was my wife's birthday. I'm also an ICH gold-card holder. However, we got only some fruit skewers in our room and a cake (in lieu of dessert) on my wife's birthday itself, and we were told that our stay would not count towards points for my card. I wanted some flowers, but as these were £65 a bunch and we would be moving on the next day, I chose not to buy any. Interestingly, at the Intercontinental on Moorea they gave us fruit and a half-bottle of champagne, just because I'm a gold-card holder. I've complained to ICH about this disparity between 2 hotels in the same group.
The hotel runs a shuttle across to the Thalasso Resort and Spa, which is free if you go in the morning, and you can stay until 10pm if you like. The Thalasso is a much larger site, with more facilities and feels more luxurious. (Oddly, the beer’s significantly cheaper and we liked the service). It’s well worth the day trip, though we found the snorkelling to be better at the Le Moana. The other excursion we took was the 4x4 trip around the island, which took us up some seemingly-impossible tracks and gave some spectacular views across the lagoon.
Overall, Bora Bora lived up to expectations, and the Le Moana is a nice place to stay. It’s small and fairly simple, as opposed to sophisticated and luxurious. One thing to be aware of is that the exchange rate for UK pounds is much poorer than for Euros (around 124 CPF to the £, vs 119 CPF to the €) – outrageous in our view. Unfortunately, you can’t get francs in the UK, and there are few working ATMs around the island. (On our 4x4 trip I finally got cash from the 3rd ATM in the main village, the other 2 being ‘hors de service’ – an expression normally accompanied by a Gallic shrug). Apparently you can get francs at LAX, or alternatively, take Euros. One thing to note is that tipping is not expected - the guy who took us to the airport seemed genuinely surprised when i gave him a tip of a couple of pounds. As we'd just travelled via LA, this was a pleasant surprise.
Our room (74) was about as far from the restaurant and reception as possible, and was the only '...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.