Hotel Review: Conrad Bora Bora Nui

A few days before boarding my flight to the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, I knew that I was about to experience something truly special.

My personal butler reached out to introduce himself and to find out more about me – he wanted to know if I was celebrating a special occasion, what type of activities I was interested in while on the island, and even asked me about my favorite fruit and drink to make sure both were waiting for me when I arrived.

While there are many luxury properties to choose from on Bora Bora, and in French Polynesia in general, the butler’s personal touch assured me that I picked the right resort for me.

About the Conrad Bora Bora Nui

The Conrad Bora Bora Nui is located on the southwest end of Motu To’opua, a private island with views of Mount Otemanu.

While the resort feels entirely remote – at times as if you and the hotel’s guests and gracious staff are the only people on all of Bora Bora – the hotel is only a 10-minute boat ride from the airport and about the same distance from the mainland.

Accommodations

The Conrad Bora Bora Nui offers a variety of suites and villas, both overwater and on land for those who would prefer a more traditional stay. Many of the villas offer private infinity pools and, if your budget allows, it’s worth the indulgence – some of my most memorable moments were by myself in my own pool, staring at the crystal-clear blue water across the way.

Each room comes with a Bluetooth sound system that you can easily pair with your phone, so you can listen to your favorite music while you soak up the sun, enjoy coffee from your room’s complimentary Nespresso machine, or soak in your oversized bathtub washing off the sand that you’ve no doubt accumulated on your body throughout the day.

Although every villa and suite is designed for comfort, if you’re looking for a truly luxurious experience be sure to inquire about the hotel’s Presidential Overwater Villa – French Polynesia’s only 2-story overwater villa and a frequent accommodation for celebrities.

Resort Grounds

Although you may be tempted to spend most of your day in your lavish suite or villa (and there were a few days where I did just that!), when you do leave your room you’ll be rewarded. The Conrad Bora Bora Nui’s property, through its picture-perfect architecture and lush tropical landscaping, is designed to give guests a feeling of bliss and relaxation.

At the center of the resort is an infinity pool that that at times matches the blue of the ocean it looks out into. While water, be it the ocean or the resort’s many pools, takes center stage at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, there are also many on-land amenities for guests – including tennis, biking paths, a state-of-the-art gym, and a hiking trail up to the luxurious Hina Spa. 

Food and Drink

The hotel has 3 restaurants: Iriatai, an innovative take on French cuisine with a breakfast buffet each morning; Banyan – elevated Chinese food under the hotel’s banyan tree; and Tamure Beach Grill, offering all-day casual dining.

In addition to these restaurants, the hotel offers around-the-clock room service, which you can get either by calling or texting your butler, the latter being especially helpful if you’d like to order food while on your way back from an excursion.

If you’re looking for a drink, the hotel has 2 dedicated bars – the Upa Upa Lounge Bar, which has glass floors so you can enjoy views of the majestic coral reef while you sip your locally-inspired cocktail, and the Tarvara Pool Bar which guests can swim up to while enjoying the resort’s infinity pool.

Your butler will also let you know each day when there’s a special dining experience, such as a fire show or a ukulele player with traditional dancers.

Activities

The resort offers a host of activities that you can book through your butler or the concierge, including:

  • Private sunset champagne boat ride.
  • Jet-skiing.
  • Swimming with manta rays and sharks.
  • Paddleboarding.
  • Snorkeling and scuba diving.
  • Hiking.
  • Sailing.
  • Romantic private island lunches and dinner.

While you might think that an isolated tropical island could be a bit sleepy without much to do, after 9 days I barely cracked the surface of everything that I wanted to experience.

The Service

What stands out most about the Conrad Bora Bora Nui is the service you’ll receive from the dedicated staff. From the moment you arrive, you’re greeted by members of the staff singing and welcoming you to the resort and making you feel right at home – and that feeling sticks with you for the entire trip.

No ask is too big or too small for the staff, and they go out of their way to anticipate your needs.

To give you an idea of how attentive the staff is, when my butler asked me my plans for the first night and I told him I wanted to watch a movie but forgot my HDMI cable, he dropped by with his own cord for me to use. Another example is when I booked a private sunset champagne boat excursion but the weather wasn’t cooperating – when I went to the concierge to rebook it for the next day, she told me that she already had and even looked into the next day’s forecast to ensure that I’d have a wonderful view of the sunset.

By anticipating my needs and going out of their way, and always with a friendly smile, the staff turned an already incredible experience into something truly remarkable.

The bottom line

How can I say for certain that the Conrad Bora Bora Nui is a magical property that offers its guests world-class service, top-notch restaurants, and unforgettable experiences? I booked another stay while on the boat ride back to the airport.

My 2021 travel goals

Given all of the uncertainty around travel, it seems silly to even think of travel goals for 2021. Reflecting back, I was only able to hit one on my list for 2020 (and I’m thankful for being able to go on that trip — a nearly week-long surfing expedition). It’s a tradition of mine to draft up a list of travel goals for the upcoming year, though, and I wanted to get 2021 started with what I’m sure will turn out to be unrealistic optimism.

Bora Bora

This is my first trip planned for 2021 and I’m really excited about it. I’m currently set to spend 7 nights at the Conrad Bora Bora, booked entirely with Hilton points. This hotel is usually very hard to book on points (I had been trying to find availability for years), so when COVID restrictions started going into effect, I began looking for availability and dates here and I was lucky enough to find an opening in early February.

Sri Lanka

Thanksgiving is usually my big southeast Asia trip. In 2020, I was supposed to go to Bali (my 3rd trip there) and to Sri Lanka for a few nights after. Unfortunately that didn’t pan out, but I’ve already booked my flights and hotel to Sri Lanka for Thanksgiving 2021. I’ll be flying there and back on the Qatar QSuite (70,000 American miles each way) and will be staying for 5 nights at Ceylon Tea Trails, which is supposed to be a truly luxurious all-inclusive experience, including each room having its own butler. After Ceylon Tea Trails, I’m considering staying at either Cape Weligama or Amangalla, although am also considering a few more budget-friendly options.

Switzerland

In early April of 2020, I was supposed to fly to Milan on Emirates First Class, but as Milan closed off due to being the center of the pandemic, I rescheduled my flight to Switzerland in August 2020. Unfortunately, the 2nd trip didn’t happen either, so I rebooked and am now set to visit Switzerland in June 2020. I’ll be flying there on Swiss business class (booked with 55,000 Aeroplan miles from my Capital One Spark Business card) and flying home on Emirates First Class (booked with 85,000 Emirates miles from my Chase Preferred Business card).

I’ll be staying 2 nights in Bern followed by 7 nights in Wengen, Switzerland, high up in the Swiss Alps. My plan is to spend my days hiking and going down Swiss mountain coasters and then working remotely from the late afternoon until later in the night.

Dubai

Part of my big trip to Switzerland includes 2 nights in Dubai. Since I’ll be going in June, it may be too hard to do too much outside, but if the weather is bearable, I’m hoping to go on a 4×4 Jeep ride in the desert dunes and possibly do a sandboarding excursion.

Big Island, Hawaii

I have 5 nights paid for at the Hilton Waikoloa through a Hilton Grand Vacation timeshare offer. Through the offer, I paid $699 for 5 nights and will receive 50,000 Hilton points (valued at $300) provided that I attend a timeshare presentation. Originally I was supposed to go in May 2020 and then rescheduled for January 2021, which I recently canceled. I haven’t decided when to rebook for, but I’m hoping to get there before the end of 2021.

Tallinn, Estonia

Air Canada’s Aeroplan, one of my favorite loyalty programs, recently devalued its points and I wanted to book as many flights as I could before the devaluation took effect. One of my favorite Aeroplan redemptions is Swiss Air business class (which was previously only 55,000 points between LAX and Europe, although now is at least 70,000 points). A few days before the devaluation occurred, I booked my flights flying to Tallinn, Estonia and back from Naples, Italy on Swiss Air.

Tallinn, which is a remote work haven, has been a dream destination of mine for years and I’m really excited to finally visit.

Helsinki, Finland

After Tallinn, I’ll be hopping on a boat and crossing Baltic to spend 2 nights in Helsinki. I’m especially excited to be visiting in August, as the capital city of Finland can get quite cold and I’m not great in that type of weather. Although I don’t have much planned for the trip, particularly since it’s during the week and I’ll be working remotely at night, I am hoping to get out on the water and stroll the city streets.

Amalfi Coast

While I’m excited about both Tallinn and Helsinki, they are both relatively flat cities and, from a photography aspect, I can’t say that I’m especially thrilled about either (although hope to be pleasantly surprised). So, I decided to add a topographically beautiful destination to my August jaunt through Europe and am guessing that the Amalfi Coast will more than meet my expectations. I currently have an Airbnb booked in beautiful Positano.

Taipei

Taipei is the first trip that I had to cancel in 2020 due to COVID. I was set to visit in February 2020 and, although travel was still allowed, there was an outbreak of the virus in China and I didn’t want to have to face a 2-week quarantine when I returned (little did I know that it would be January 1, 2021 and I’d still be mostly quarantined, but I digress….). This is the only trip in my list that I don’t have booked yet, but I am hoping to make it a reality as I would love to see the stunning skyscrapers of Taipei juxtaposed against the mountains.

Final thoughts

While it feels odd to write a list of 2021 travel goals, I wanted to keep up my annual tradition and I had fun dreaming of visiting these incredible destinations. Do you have any 2021 travel goals? Let me know in the comments!

How hiring an assistant can help freelancers travel more

We could all probably use an assistant. But when you’re a freelancer running your own business, hiring an assistant can often be a practical way to increase both your revenue and quality of life (including your ability to travel more).

Let’s use a hypothetical freelancer, “Sally,” to illustrate this point. Sally is a freelance consultant who charges $80/hour for her services. She just started her business last year and spends roughly 10-15 hours per week on administrative tasks, like data entry, qualifying leads, and scheduling calls.

If Sally were able to take the 10-15 hours per week that she was spending on these non-revenue earning tasks and focus the time on working with clients and growing her business, she could increase her revenue by around $800-$1,200 per week. Assuming Sally pays $15/hour for an assistant (because Sally knows that everyone deserves a living wage), Sally would still be earning an additional $650-$975 per week.

Additionally (and, for purposes of this blog post, more importantly), hiring an assistant can help freelancers travel more. In addition to being able to take the increased revenue and use it for trips (both for business and fun), hiring an assistant makes it easier to work outside of your “home” base.

The reason for this is that even though the world is becoming increasingly digital, there are still reasons that freelancers may be tied to a specific location. In my own freelance business, a pain point I’ve faced is that I will sometimes need to get mail or mail documents out (yes, snail mail!), which can make it hard to plan trips that last more than a week or so. But by delegating these tasks, where possible, I’m able to extend my trips and worry less.

It’s often the case that if you’ve just started your freelance business, the last thing you want to think about is bringing on an assistant. Likely, you’re still trying to figure out if it’s a sustainable business and you want to keep every last penny of revenue that comes in (which is something I can totally relate to). Also, hiring an assistant sounds like something more “successful” people do.

But once you’ve established your business, and particularly if a goal of yours is to use your freelance business as a catalyst to travel more, it’s a step that’s definitely worth considering.

When you’re at the point where you’re ready to hire an assistant, there is great recruiting technology available to help make the process seamless.

Are you a freelancer who has used an assistant to help your travel more? Let me know in the comments!

Digital nomads: What to do if your parent is facing a terminal illness

I started this travel blog, in part, to counter the sad and depressing stories that were overwhelming my news feed. Because of that, I’ve been hesitant to write about some pretty intense stuff that I’ve been dealing with over the last year – mainly, my father being diagnosed with a terminal, aggressive form of cancer.

It’s, of course, never easy when a parent receives a diagnosis like this. And while a lot of your energy may go to helping your parent and other family members out, it’s also completely normal to be concerned about how a diagnosis like this could affect your work.

For digital nomads, there are unique concerns. For example, some digital nomads only plan on living that lifestyle temporarily before having a family and settling down, so even taking a year or two away from that could change their career trajectory and life experiences entirely.

Below is a list, based on my experience, of some tips that I hope will help fellow digital nomads who have a parent that is facing a terminal illness diagnosis:

1) Talk openly about it with your parents and family members

Because you are able to work from anywhere in the world, you may decide that it’s best to move back home to help take care of your parent. Alternatively, the freedom to work wherever you want may make you feel even more guilty about not returning home.

For those who want to continue traveling, the truth is that it’s unlikely that your parent would want you to stop living your life because of a diagnosis like this. It’s worthwhile to have an open, honest conversation with your parent about your plans, get their thoughts, and also discuss it with other family members who may be helping provide care for your parent. It’s also important to think about if you’d regret not spending the limited time with your parent.

Based on the conversations you have, and your own personal reflections, you can update your travel schedule accordingly.

2) Make the city your parent is based a travel hub

My father lived in Philadelphia, which is where I grew up and went to law school. Before my dad was diagnosed with cancer, my plan was to never visit Philly again. But with the diagnosis and my dad’s limited ability to travel, that plan went out the window.

One positive that came from flying to Philly often was being able to use it as a travel hub, particularly as it’s a big American hub and I had a significant number of miles to spend. As I’m based in San Francisco, traveling to Philly made Europe much more accessible, and there was even a direct flight to Budapest from there.

Despite all the bad stuff that was going on, I was able to go on some adventures that I otherwise would have missed thanks to using the city as a travel hub.

3) Set clear limits on when you’ll be working when you go back to visit

Some people assume that being a digital nomad is the same thing as being on a permanent vacation. But the reality is that digital nomads, particularly those with a side hustle, are often always working.

This presumption that digital nomads don’t really work can make visiting a parent more difficult. If you are freelancing, it’s important to explain to your parent that you don’t have paid time off, and that you need to ensure you’ll maintain a steady income. If you are an employee with PTO, it’s still okay to let your parent know that while you’re in town, there are days that you will be working and times that you won’t be available.

4) Book refundable tickets and hotel rooms

If the prognosis is bad, you may need the ability to change your travel plans on a whim. As a result, when looking into airfare and lodging, you may want to prioritize reservations that are fully refundable, or that can be changed for a small fee.

With the airfare, because refundable tickets can be quite expensive, the best thing to do is to book travel using miles, which can usually be redeposited into your account for a fee (ranging from $50-$200+).

For lodging, there are tons of hotels and Airbnb’s that have very reasonable cancellation policies.

5) Use points for business class flights to visit 

I hate, hate, hate spending points on domestic travel. For most airlines, the redemption value on domestic flights is very low, particularly compared to international awards. So, it goes without saying that I especially hate using my hard-earned points to book domestic business class flights.

That said, traveling home to visit a dying relative is very stressful on its own, so if you have enough points, it’s definitely worth considering using them to book business class flights home, to make the journey a bit less stressful.