News & Reviews Rest of the World French Polynesia Review: Four Seasons Bora Bora

I can’t say I wasn’t warned.  Since my foray into luxury travel in 2013, I was almost immediately told that Bora Bora was a waste of time.  Yet sometimes there’s no better way to learn than to stick your head in an oven and decide perhaps your parents did know what they were on about.  The warnings were always there, but my common sense was not.  As we were already in the neighbourhood, I felt it appropriate to put to the test the wisdom of crowds: was everyone right?  Did Bora Bora suck?  Yes and yes.  Feel free to stop reading; the rest is just an elaboration of this truth.

The initial impressions gave us a good idea of what we were getting ourselves in for when two boats needed to take all the passengers to the Four Seasons from the airport.  On arrival, we were given a show around the property, not by a human being but by a map.  I guess with so many guests crowding in here like it’s a Black Friday sale in Walmart, you can’t blame them for the efficiency.

Now, the setting is undeniably stunning – the kind of water you see in postcards and some of the most beautiful water I’ve ever seen.  But luxury?  That’s hard to come by in a place with the crowd control of Glastonbury.

Our room, a hefty walk away, demonstrated the property’s size.  We stayed in an overwater bungalow with a pool, which would not fit my description of luxury, but at least the view was good. The room was okay, with an outdoor pool, deck, and separate living area.  The privacy is a joke – hello, nosy paddleboarders, jet skiers and neighbours!  We could hear people talking from their villas late at night, making it not quite North Island levels of discretion.

They were building a bigger gift shop, which is the most exciting thing to happen here.

They advise you to book your dinner on arrival, which doesn’t scream ‘high-end’.  They were right, though; some of the restaurants were already fully booked, not that you could tell as it could take so long to receive your order it may as well have been shut.  Lunch options are limited to one restaurant or room service; dinner isn’t much better.  Plastic cups for lunch?  Really?  We went for dinner in Sunset Bar, and it felt like TGI Friday – the same atmosphere and about the same number of people.

Service at breakfast is a disaster – wrong orders, slow service, and getting chased down to sign for a $0 bill.  The communal Polynesian dining experience felt like a tacky tourist trap.  And don’t get me started on the fine dining experience that was anything but fine.  Plus the breakfast buffet is laughably small for the price.

The service overall felt uncoordinated, inefficient, lazy and under cost control.  Requests took ages to fulfil, and their fancy FS app with a 24-hour response time seemed pointless.  When we asked for milk, they brought it in a packet, which not even an airliner would lower themselves to.  Their strategy appears to be to wait so long to do something that the guest forgets about it.  You have to book the restaurant, yet when you check in, they ask for your name/room number and allergies every time, even though they should know it.  Housekeeping removed toilet roll, then they forgot to do turndown.  They forget the basics, like restocking water and lowering the blinds.  It’s the only place I’ve been where Evian was a welcome gift.  It’s like they’re trying to see how far they can push you but still force you to come back.

The shark and stingray tour involves swimming with stingrays where they’ve cut the stingers, which is cruel.  Don’t stop an animal from doing what it was supposed to; just stop going instead.  That’s how you should feel about Four Seasons Bora Bora too.

The Good

The Bad

  • Everything

The Luxurious

  • Bora Bora




It’s a large-scale scam to bring in as much money as possible without offering anything back.  That it gets compared to the Maldives must surely annoy even the Maldives Holiday Inn.  You should visit Bora Bora because it is beautiful, because of the community, the landscapes and the pristine water; yet you should not waste your money on a luxury hotel, as you will receive nothing close to luxury.  They don’t need to care about things like guest satisfaction, as there’s clearly enough demand to keep them busy printing money.

My lasting memory is being billed $649 because I asked for a shaver, and they sent a boat to collect one without telling me.  They waived it after I complained, but it was a fitting end to a stay that was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 23rd Aug '18

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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