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!

Chase Reserve offering $100 Annual Fee credit

As a travel and spend has fallen dramatically in the past months, those with premium credit cards are having difficult getting enough value to help justify the fee. The Chase Reserve is one of the most popular travel credit cards and Chase has just announced that cardholders whose renewal dates fall between April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2020 are eligible for a $100 Annual Fee credit. Here’s the statement from Chase:

We recognize this is a difficult time for everyone. As a way to help, we’re providing you a one-time $100 statement credit toward the 2020 $550 annual fee on your Reserve credit card. On an upcoming billing statement (based on your renewal date), you’ll see a $550 charge for the annual fee, followed by a $100 statement credit. We will continue to bill the $550 annual fee in 2021. Because this credit only applies to open Reserve accounts, if you’ve closed your Reserve account or traded to another credit card before your renewal, you will not receive the $100 statement credit. We know COVID-19 has affected people in many different ways. Please check chase.com/StayConnected for updates and helpful ways to stay connected to your accounts.

I think this is a helpful offer and would encourage readers to take Chase up on this if they have a qualifying renewal date.

Alternatives for travelers putting off trips to Asia due to coronavirus

In my latest article for NerdWallet, I wrote about how I’m considering cancelling an upcoming trip that I have to Taipei due to concerns about the coronavirus. Right now, after discussing it with my doctor, I’m still planning to go to Taiwan (although I will keep monitoring the news and may change plans if the situation deteriorates).

That said, concerns for the coronavirus has travelers around the world re-thinking their Asia travel. While I do not think it makes sense to avoid Asia entirely, I wanted to compile a list of alternative destinations you could travel to if you were considering postponing your Asia trips.

Instead of Singapore, go to Dubai.

Both Singapore and Dubai share a passion of futuristic design, safety (at the cost of personal freedoms, but that’s for another post), skyscrapers, and cleanliness.

Dubai2

While Dubai is technically still in Asia, it’s much closer to Africa and even Europe than where the coronavirus outbreak is occurring, which is why I’ve included it on this list.

Instead of Ho Chi Minh City, go to Istanbul.

Looking for a bustling city on a river that is full of culture? Well, if you’re travel is going to take you away from Ho Chi Minh City, a good alternative would be Istanbul.

Istanbul2

Located on the Bosporus River and straddling Europe and Asia (but again, far enough away from the outbreak to make this list!), Istanbul is an affordable city with great food, wonderful people, and a rich history that makes the city worth discovering.

Instead of Koh Samui, go to Mallorca.

Thailand is one of my favorite places on the planet but, luckily, so is Mallorca. If you were planning on going to Koh Samui and are looking for crystal-clear blue water, beaches galore, warm weather, and a fun experience for either solo travelers or families, you should consider going to Mallorca instead.

Mallorca

I’d recommend getting out outside of Palma and traveling to the beach downs of either Port de Sóller or Port de Pollença.

Instead of Beijing, go to Mexico City.

If you’re looking for a sprawling metropolis with impressive man-man architecture just outside the city, you may want to consider swapping Beijing for Mexico City.

Mexico City

Mexico City is home to just about 9 million residents and just outside of the city you can find Teotihuacán, a complex of temples is known for its two massive pyramids, Pirámide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun) and Pirámide de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon)

Instead of Hong Kong, go to Rio.

There is perhaps no skyline in the world as beautiful as Hong Kong… except, maybe, Rio. I’ll just post the picture below and you’ll be able to see why Rio may be a good alternative to those looking to enjoy the city lights of Hong Kong.

Rio

At the end of the day, I’d recommend speaking with your doctor before rescheduling any travel to Asia. That said, for those who have already decide to cancel a trip or are too hesitant to book one, the cities listed above provide great alternatives for your Asia travel.