Conrad Bora Bora vs St. Regis Bora Bora: Which was better?


Fair warning: this post is going to be long. After spending the past week in Bora-Bora, I can unequivocally say that it was the most stunningly beautiful place I have seen in my travels to ~60 different countries (so much so that I’ll have a separate post that is much less content-heavy and mostly full of pictures of some of the scenic beauty you can expect here). Everyone looks for something different out of their travels and Bora-Bora isn’t a one-size-fits-all vacation destination by any stretch, but I found myself completely in awe for eight nights and nine days. Of the widely popular destinations I’ve visited, Bora-Bora is without a doubt the place that most matches the hype in terms of beauty. No doubt enhancing my view of the place is the fact that I had the good fortune to spend 3 nights at the Conrad Bora-Bora and 5 at the St. Regis Bora-Bora, each among the most expensive hotels in their respective chains. Which was better? Much to my surprise, the answer is the St. Regis by a decent margin. That’s not to say the Conrad isn’t fantastic: I’d return there in a heartbeat. But after a terrific 3-night stay at the Conrad that was punctuated by some really nice touches, the St. Regis managed to up the ante. Here’s how these two resorts stacked up in my opinion.

a person in a hat on a boat overlooking a body of water
Friends asked if the water was really that blue. I told them it’s even bluer than it looks in the pics.

It’s worth noting that my expectations of the St. Regis were perhaps artificially low. As soon as I found availability at the St. Regis for 60K points per night (48K per night after the 5th night free), I pounced and made a reservation about a year in advance. Sensing a great opportunity for comparison, I then reserved the Conrad Bora-Bora, thinking that I’d likely be the first to compare the two. Then Ben over at One Mile at a Time beat me to the punch: he stayed at both resorts earlier this year and compared them in a series of reviews. His review of the St. Regis was not very favorable at all and his review of the Conrad was glowing. While I agreed with many (but definitely not all) of his praises for the Conrad, I found my experience at the St. Regis to be starkly different from his. I wonder if perhaps the St. Regis made adjustments in response to his post or if perhaps he just experienced them on an “off” day so-to-speak, because I found one thing after another to be different than what I expected based on his reviews. To be clear, that’s not to criticize Ben: I’ve long loved Ben’s writing, enjoyed his reviews immensely, and often found myself in agreement with his assessment of airlines and hotels. It’s just that in this instance, my experience was totally different.

From here, I’ll compare the two hotels based on a number of criteria with a named winner at the beginning of each section.

Elite benefits: St. Regis Bora Bora

At the Conrad Bora Bora, Hilton Gold and Diamond members get free buffet breakfast each day. The buffet is pretty sizable, particularly in terms of pastries. If breakfast at a French bakery is your dream, the Conrad Bora-Bora essentially makes that come true, with a number of other options sprinkled in as well. The croissants at the Conrad Bora-Bora may have been the best I’ve ever had.

a table with pastries and pastries

At the St. Regis, breakfast works differently for elite members. Marriott Platinum members and higher receive a choice benefit at St. Regis hotels. At check-in, I was told that I could choose between 1,000 bonus points (total), 2 St. Regis mugs, or free daily breakfast for 2. My wife told the check-in agent that those mugs sure sound tempting, but given the fact that breakfast for two would have cost us about $102 per morning (times five mornings), I quickly cut in to make sure the agent didn’t take her seriously: we’ll take breakfast, thanks. More on breakfast in the comparison between the two below.

Both properties offered an elite member welcome amenity on top of normal benefits. The Conrad Bora Bora gave us a large bottle of juice, sparkling and still water, and some locally-made truffles.

a table with a bucket of champagne and glasses

In fairness, the Conrad Bora Bora also had a huge welcome for our son. I’m not including that in this post/comparison because it wasn’t necessarily an elite benefit. I will, however, have an entire post on it coming soon as it was really impressive — though likely not as replicable for reasons to be outlined in that post.

The St. Regis welcome amenity was decidedly more generous: we were given four bottles of juice (two mango / two apple), some sort of passion fruit marshmallow treat for our son (which was delicious), a bottle of Billecart-Salmon champagne (which room service sells for $132 at the St. Regis — alcohol is really expensive in Bora Bora), four macarons, and a hollowed-out coconut full of fruit.

a table with food and drinks on it

a plate with food on it a plate of food on a table

Additionally, when we ordered our morning coffee on our first morning, the butler arrived with two bottles of local rum as a welcome amenity from the in-room dining team as a thanks for our loyalty.

a black box with white text and a white bowl on a glass table

The St. Regis also offered a 20% discount on the cocktail of the day for Platinum members, though I never did take advantage of this.

Both properties gave us a room upgrade over what we initially booked, though I asked for a specific upgrade at the St. Regis and it could not be granted until our arrival day — though we did ultimately get exactly what I wanted (a beachside villa with pool). Our room was proactively upgraded at the Conrad before I ever emailed them. The Conrad actually upgraded us a couple of room categories from a King Garden View suite (which is in a building that shares walls with other suites and has no real view) to a King Horizon View Villa, which I’d argue is really the room you want at the Conrad. While the overwater villa may be tempting, you really wouldn’t have much of a view from one at the Conrad — the view at that property specifically is from the Horizon View villas (which I’m told will feature private pools next year — interestingly, both the staff at the Conrad and my butler at the St. Regis told me that).

Overall, the elite benefits were much better at the St. Regis. I’m a little surprised that the Conrad Bora Bora doesn’t offer something more for Diamond members; the Conrad Maldives for example offers an afternoon cocktail and appetizer hour from what I’ve read. Something like that would be a nice addition.

Best breakfast: St. Regis Bora Bora

In my opinion (as well as my wife’s), breakfast at the St. Regis Bora Bora was head and shoulders above the Conrad Bora Bora in terms of quality. That stands in stark contrast to Ben’s analogy where he said that the Conrad made the St. Regis breakfast look like a Four Points by Sheraton by comparison. I thought breakfast at the St. Regis was much better — and furthermore, breakfast at the St. Regis included made to order eggs/waffles/etc (whereas the Conrad Bora Bora charges about $12 each to add on made-to-order eggs or other breakfast dishes). While the buffet was decidedly smaller at the St. Regis, everything just seemed better presented and better quality, which isn’t necessarily captured in these photos, but here you go nonetheless:

a pans of food on a counter a tray of food with tongs and cheesea variety of pastries on a counter a display of fruit on icea waffle on a plate

By comparison, the Conrad had many types of fruit on the buffet. However, they didn’t have serving utensils in most of them (you could obviously use one from another dish, it just seemed like someone could easily put one spoon in each bowl of fruit). Further, the fruit was uncovered, which was problematic for a couple of reasons. One morning there was a hair sticking out of the fruit salad that remained there throughout our breakfast (we returned to the buffet a couple of times between the two of us). I understand that hairs happen, but with the number of staff in the restaurant, it’s a little surprising that nobody noticed it (of course, shame on us to some extent for not pointing it out I suppose). There were also a lot of flies around the fruit at the Conrad. I get that it’s an open-air tropical environment, but the St. Regis had their fruit bowls covered and they had set up Dyson fans aimed at the air around it, which I imagine was to discourage flies from settling on the fruit — and that seemed to work.

There were also a greater number of Western-style options on the buffet at the St. Regis. Some of the items on the St. Regis buffet that I didn’t see at the Conrad: bagels and Philly cream cheese, creme brulee french toast (which was awesome with the vanilla syrup!), croque monsieur sandwiches, a greater selection of cereals, muesli (on some days), and more. When you add in the ability to order Eggs Benedict with salmon or waffles with maple syrup or crepes with chocolate sauce, etc, breakfast just seemed better at the St. Regis. The Conrad had more local options, but if I were choosing between the two I’d take the St Regis buffet eight days a week.

Also, and I’ll come back to this later, kids eat free at the St. Regis — which means that our son could also get made-to-order eggs, pancakes, crepes, etc. Between the three us, that was a $36 savings each day over what we’d have paid at the Conrad for the same.

Landscaping / grounds: Conrad Bora Bora

I mean, wow. The Conrad is gorgeous. That’s not nearly a strong enough characterization, but I struggle to put it into words. Let this picture speak to the beauty of the Conrad Bora Bora’s landscaping:

a landscape with palm trees and a body of water
No filter, no editing: just a Pixel 3 XL and the Conrad’s fantastic landscaping combined with a nice sunset. This was on the walk down from a horizon view villa.

There were just no empty spaces at the Conrad and everything was well cared-for. We saw someone in the main building one day who appeared to be polishing some sort of post that looked nearly new. The St. Regis had a lot of this:

a building with grass roof and trees

To be fair, that’s not entirely the St. Regis’s fault. I imagine that the Conrad, being built into a hillside, is a natural home to more vegetation. The St. Regis, being built on what I imagine is basically a sandbar, probably isn’t meant to be as lush as it is. Still, there are small things they could do. We were told that the horizon-view villas at the Conrad are going to get swimming pools next year. I think that was why there were some random concrete columns under the deck area that weren’t yet connected to anything (they are likely the foundation that will support the pool that I expect will be added on to the deck). However, rather than have empty columns, the Conrad had potted plants on top of them. The St. Regis could probably do some more with potted plants to make the grounds look prettier. That would come at considerable cost and upkeep time given the size of the property, but it’s an example of where the property is lacking and where I think one could get the impression that the property isn’t well taken care of, especially if comparing to the Conrad (which is a much smaller property).

All that said, I didn’t see some of the deficiencies that Ben noted in his review of the St. Regis. For example, he showed a picture of a service golf cart in really poor condition. They must have taken that one out of service, because all of those carts looked great. Most things in fact seemed fairly well maintained given the size of the property and the high traffic it receives. That’s not to give them a pass: I think they could do better, but I don’t think most people would walk away thinking it was poor.

More Family-friendly: St. Regis Bora Bora

This outcome surprised me. The Conrad has a cool little kids club that was open every day during our stay and was staffed with someone who could watch and play with your kids or you were welcome to stay with your kids and play with them. I think the club officially opened at 10am, but we wandered in around 8:30am after breakfast a couple of times and the door was unlocked and we were able to play. Our son loved it.

a child sitting on a circular object

They also had a bunch of brand new kids’ bikes that I think were delivered while we were there.

a group of bicycles parked on a wood deck

The St. Regis also has a kids’ club, but it is only open by appointment (24hrs in advance) and then only in the evenings and you pay for the staff member hourly like a babysitter. That’s a bummer — we didn’t bring a lot of toys on this trip and it was nice to have a variety of stuff to play with at the Conrad.

How, then, does the St. Regis win in terms of family-friendliness? Free food. Kids under 7 years old eat free at the St. Regis Bora Bora off of the kids’ menu, which was actually really good and the portions were adult-sized. Rather than being all chicken nuggets and french fries, our son ate mahi mahi and grilled chicken and had sides like grilled vegetables and penne with sauce. Our boy has quite an appetite and couldn’t manage to completely finish one of these meals in one sitting — we brought leftovers back to the room several times. In fact, a few times we even ordered two side dishes and it was still complimentary. While I knew from my stay earlier this year at the Courtyard Hakuba that kids get free ice cream at Marriott’s Asia-Pacific hotels (in fact, that was the first time my son tasted ice cream), I didn’t realize that Asia Pacific hotels and resorts offer free buffet breakfast for children (12 and under) of Platinum members (up to 2 kids). But the St. Regis takes this a step further with free food all day for kids. In a place like Bora Bora where food is Expensive (yeah, with a capital “E”), that is huge.

But let me expand on that: our first day at the St. Regis Bora Bora, we ate dinner at the pool bar and asked for a glass of cold whole milk for our son. The waiter asked if we might like to have a larger container of milk to bring to our room. When we said sure, we definitely didn’t expect him to come back with an entire unopened carton of milk to bring back to our fridge to use over the coming days, but that’s exactly what he did. Contrast that with the nearly $8 we were charged for a single glass of milk for our son one day at the Conrad and you can see why I’d say that the St. Regis was more family-friendly. And it wasn’t that I found some fine print somewhere alerting me to the free food for kids: it was the staff in the restaurants and at the pool that were clear with me a number of times in making me aware that if our son got hungry, we could order complimentary food for him. In a place where a hamburger costs $35, getting a growing boy fed for free each day really made the sticker shock sting a lot less. One key note here: a couple of times, the waitstaff forgot to waive the charge on the kids menu items (even in one instance where the waitress had told us at the outset that it would be free). As soon as I asked about it in each instance, they apologized for the mistake and re-printed the bill. I think it was an honest mistake because they ring the food in to the register in order for the kitchen to make it — but you should definitely keep an eye on the bill so you don’t get charged.

We also got free hot chocolate (or milk) for our son delivered by the butler in the mornings. We only took them up on free ice cream for him once, but it was delicious. We actually took a video where we kept asking him if he was done with his ice cream because his “no” head shakes were so adamant that it was hilarious. I tasted it and I don’t blame him.

I also give the nod to the St. Regis regarding leftovers: at the Conrad, we had asked for a microwave to be able to heat up food for our son. Unfortunately, they do not have in-room microwaves available but said that we could contact in-room dining to heat up his food whenever we needed. In-room dining certainly did help us with that several times — but it always took about 30 minutes from the time I first called until someone picked it up and re-delivered it. After my second time calling for food to be heated at the St. Regis, the in-room dining team asked if I’d like a microwave for the room. Of course I would! Perfect.

The St. Regis also had more kid-friendly activities. A couple of times a week, they have a fish feeding in their lagoonarium (an area of the lagoon where you can experience what it would feel like to swim in an acquarium — there are tons of fish) and a shark feeding by the Lagoon restaurant. The fish expert that comes in to do that answers questions about the fish and is very knowledgeable about fish and the area in general. He first came to Bora Bora in the late 1960’s and is full of interesting stories. You can jump in and snorkel with the fish and he let a couple of kids help him throw food in for the fish. You can also buy bags of fish food in the gift shop for a couple of bucks and feed the fish on your own — which our son really seemed to enjoy.

a person's hand reaching out to a group of fish in water

Complimentary pressing of 2 items for each person each day at the St. Regis extended to our son, so we got some nice family photos dressed up at dinner each night since we were all wearing freshly-pressed outfits.

There were also a lot of little things that added up to great service for kids. On our last day (as we were walking towards the front to catch the boat to the airport), a landscaper saw us with our son and called us over to break open a coconut to let our son try the coconut water. The landscaper didn’t speak much English and it would have been easy for him to just watch us pass by and leave — but he took the opportunity to do something nice for no reason other than to make a kid smile.

a group of people in hats and a stroller with a baby in a stroller
So you can’t seem him smiling in this pic, but I assure you that every time we tried to take it away, he reached for that coconut saying “Please!”.

While the Conrad catered very nicely to our son as will be shown in a future post, the St. Regis seems much more family-friendly overall.

Beach / water spots: St. Regis Bora Bora

This one was tight. Both resorts have amazing white sand beaches, though the sand at the Conrad Bora Bora felt like absolute powder between your toes. I remember the sand at the Whitsundays in Australia kind of squeaking as you walked on it because it was so fine. While the sand at the Conrad didn’t do that, it felt so nice that I noticed I was just dragging my foot through it back and forth at one point.

a sailboat on a beach
The beach at the Conrad Bora Bora.

On the other hand, the beach at the St. Regis Bora Bora had a much better view. We also saw a lot more life in the water at the St. Regis.

a hammock on a beach
This was actually the private stretch of beach in front of our beachside pool villa.

At Conrad, the overwater villas were right in front of the beach, so you were basically just looking at those.

a man standing on a beach with a straw hat and sunglasses

While the Conrad had kayaks to take out on the water, you couldn’t go too far out in front of the villas since the resort faces the open ocean. Both resorts had kayaks, but the St. Regis had more non-motorized water sports equipment. There was a pedal-boat bicycle and outrigger canoes and a greater variety of kayaks/boats. We took out snorkeling equipment on the first day at the St. Regis and were told to keep it to use for the week (which may have also been the case at the Conrad — we didn’t snorkel there). The St. Regis is a much larger resort, which likely necessitates having a lot more equipment

The St. Regis also had beach workers who were there to offer towels and to take drink orders. They constantly offered us (free) water, (free) juice shots (non-alcoholic), and asked if we needed to order any (complimentary) food for our son. My son even learned how to “cheers” with free watermelon-mango juice that was served in plastic champagne flutes one day.

a woman and a child holding drinks

Maybe it was just the stretch of beach we frequented at the Conrad, but we never saw a worker coming around with anything like that there.

Again, I thought the sand at the Conrad was downright dreamy. The sand at the St. Regis was also really nice, though more heavily trafficked and therefore a bit less powdery (though of course we’re comparing an Lamborghini vs a Ferrari here; you’re unlikely to be disappointed with either). Beach view and facilities overall have to go to the St. Regis though.

Rooms: Conrad Bora Bora

The Conrad wins here hands down. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the beachside villa at the St. Regis, but there is not even a shadow of a doubt that the Conrad has nicer rooms. Again, we’re comparing two pretty incredible properties here, but the St. Regis fell a little short.

As soon as you entered the Horizon View Villa at the Conrad Bora Bora, it felt luxurious.

a room with wood paneling and a couch and a table

That continued into the bathroom, which featured a deep soaking tub and dual vanities opposite each other.

a bathroom with a tub and sinks

And the shower felt not-quite as cavernous as the showers at the Conrad New York, but cut from the same thread at least, with both a rainfall and handheld shower head and a full door to that shower “room”.

a shower with a bathtub and shower head

The bathroom at the St. Regis Bora Bora sucks. I’m not sure in what universe this shower design makes sense, but it’s not one in which you value not freezing while showering (assuming you’re running the AC in your villa) and certainly not one with a toddler who likes to take hold of the handheld shower head. Further, the tub was really awkward because it was so deep and the lip was awkwardly high/angled, making it harder than it looks in the picture to get in and out.

a bathroom with a bathtub and sink

I also loved the scent of the toiletries at the Conrad Bora Bora. I honestly felt like I wanted to shower three times a day just because the stuff smelled relaxing and luxurious. I personally didn’t like the toiletries at the St. Regis, but that’s surely subjective.

Both rooms featured a really comfy bed. If you’re ever seen the movie Couples Retreat, which was filmed at the St. Regis (and plays 24/7 on one of the TV channels), the rooms essentially look exactly like they did in the movie.

Another thing that I just don’t get at a luxury international property is when they do not have at least one or two multi-type outlets. The outlets at the St. Regis Bora Bora are all the European two-prong style. The hotel does provide you with one adapter in your room, but it’s only a 2-prong adapter. I have a 3-to-2 prong adapter that I keep in my backpack, so I was able to use their adapter with my laptop, but these days I expect any international-branded hotel charging north of a thousand dollars a night to have at least one outlet in the room that accepts multiple plug types. Even if they don’t want to install new wall outlets, I was at a property recently that had a box with those outlets that plugged into the local outlet — basically like a small power strip with multi-plug sockets. For the record, the Conrad had at least one outlet in the bedroom and living room that accepted all of the various plug types. For the prices being charged at the St. Regis, I consider this to be a major failure in a day and age where everyone travels with multiple electronics. I only had one international adapter in my bag because I didn’t expect to need one and as a result we couldn’t plug in everything we needed to at night.

Another thing that really surprised me at the St. Regis: many of the glass doors (like to the outdoor shower and on the sides of the villa) featured huge gaps between the doors and walls, which meant that mosquitoes / lizards / bugs could easily enter. While we didn’t have a major problem with this, we all got more bug bites at the St. Regis than at the Conrad and I think this was a factor.

a door open to a yard
Several doors in the room just didn’t seal with the walls or with the opposite side of the door.

The Conrad isn’t perfect; in a couple of places the floor boards were in poor shape already — and the rooms look fairly new. However, overall it definitely felt more luxurious. There was a bluetooth sound system both in the room and on the patio and we rocked our music more than a few times. I loved the patio view of the horizon view villa.

a deck with chairs and a body of water

That said, the backyard view at the St. Regis was nothing to sneeze at.

a pool on a beach with palm trees and a hammock
A private pool and little stretch of beach were very nice.

One day I set up an “office” on the beach side of the hammock for our Frequent Miler on the Air live broadcast / podcast.

a laptop on a table on a beach

But back inside the room, one thing that really annoyed me at the St. Regis: they block the bedroom door so you can’t close it all the way. There are sliding doors that are meant to close, but they have nailed in boards to prevent you from closing the bedroom. It’s just a louvered door, but we found that even with our son’s crib set up in the living room, we couldn’t watch a movie in the bedroom as the sound / light was enough to wake him.

Don’t get me wrong: having an entire villa is awesome. I’d go back to the St. Regis and stay in the same room tomorrow if I could. But if I’m comparing, the Conrad wins this one.

Service: St. Regis Bora Bora

Service at the Conrad Bora Bora was extraordinary from the front office team and people at the pool. Sebastian, the general manager, was highly personable and I saw him talking with many guests throughout our stay. Caroline, the guest relations manager, was fantastic. I’ll have more about her in a separate post, but suffice it to say that Ben’s review of the property is right in the sense that she is meant to be in hospitality. From the moment we arrived and were greeted by Laureen to Oliver’s sunny and welcoming attitude at the pool, there were individual people who really stuck out at the Conrad. Service in the restaurants, by contrast, was slow and lacking a bit (for example, one morning they forgot to bring our coffee at breakfast — which, at a buffet, is really the only thing the wait staff is tasked with for your table).

But the thing that really stuck out to me after five nights at the St. Regis is the fact that the staff seemed to never say no. I found myself marveling over that at some point: there just didn’t seem to be any request that was met with “no” or “we can’t do that”. I didn’t try asking for a bag filled with money, but every reasonable thing we requested was met with an affirmative response:

-Can our son get fruit on his crepes even though that’s not one of the listed options? “Of course.”

-There are no blueberries on the buffet, but I see there are some in the muesli — would it be possible to get a small dish of blueberries for him? (our son loves blueberries). “Yes, of course!”

-The hem in my wife’s shorts has come out, is there someone who can sew that to fix it? “Absolutely” (we were told it would take an hour, but I think it was done in less than 30 minutes).

-The kid’s menu indicates that the dishes come with a side; can we order a second side dish for him? “Yes, sir!”

-Butler service includes complimentary pressing for 2 items per person each day: does my 1.5yr old son count as a person? “Yes, of course!”

-Do you have any sand toys like a bucket/shovel/etc? “Yes, we’ll send some to your room!”

-We’re heading to breakfast but don’t want to miss our morning coffee (free butler coffee service is available once daily between midnight and noon), can we order two iced coffees and can the butler just stick them in our fridge so we can drink them later? “Yes, sir!”

-Is there a small cup for the free sunscreen? “Yes, of course” (which was really, “No, but I’ll fill an entire drinking cup with SPF 50 sunscreen so you can take it with you. After all, you look like Casper and surely need a lot of this”. That last part was signaled with him touching his sun-soaked arm and then pointing to mine).
a glass with food in it

-In addition to our morning coffee, can we get a hot chocolate for our son? “Yes, of course.”

I know there were many more examples. As mentioned above, kids eat free at the St. Regis and one day at the beach we wanted to order our son a meal. We weren’t hungry but thought we should order ourselves drinks. My wife had a glass of wine and I asked for a smoothie. My son ended up drinking most of the smoothie, which was no biggie to me — but the beach attendant didn’t charge me for the smoothie, just the wine.

Our butlers were also excellent. We had one butler for the first three nights and another for the last two. Ida, our first butler, was from Hong Kong and helped set us up with restaurant reservations for our whole stay (side note: you want to make reservations in advance — this is one of the few times I’d advise you to do your research in advance and respond to that email from the hotel asking for the times and restaurants you want ahead of your stay as we weren’t able to get a table before 8pm on 2 of the 5 nights of our stay). She also found the sand toys for our son and sent them to our room and surprised him with a little stuffed St. Regis turtle early on. She met us at breakfast every morning and talked with us to find out our plans for the day and remind us of our restaurant reservations. She was also waiting to give us a ride back to our villa after breakfast a couple of times.

We also had a lot of little surprises at the St. Regis: there was the champagne at the beginning and the rum on day 2, but there was also a small sea salt gift at the French restaurant after dinner and a vile of perfume given at the end of another meal. We were given a plate of free desserts (small pastries) at another restaurant. These weren’t unique to us, but rather nice little surprises that we saw them give to others as well.

The Conrad did a terrific job welcoming our son. The restaurant manager also came over to check on us at each meal and made sure we got a terrific table in the first row for the Polynesian show one night. There were bursts of greatness at the Conrad for sure. But overall, I felt like the St. Regis constantly excelled in unexpected ways.

Bottom line

Both the Conrad Bora Bora and the St. Regis Bora Bora are fantastic properties. I think it would be hard to leave paradise unhappy with a stay at either. If I had to pick only one to which I could return, it would be the St. Regis Bora Bora. Between the amazing service and larger property / more extensive facilities and better views, I just think it’s a better pick between the two. That said, if I ever get to Bora Bora again (and gosh I hope I do), I would make an effort to be sure to stay at both properties again. They each had advantages and I think they are both worth a stay if you can swing the points / free night certificates to do so. More to come on the beauty of Bora Bora and how the Conrad Bora Bora rolled out the red carpet as well as a separate comparison of food at both properties as well as how to save a bunch of money if Bora Bora is on your radar.

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We made a similar trip recently and have the same overall feeling. If we go back it will be to the St. Regis.

When I make travel arrangments I do so based on the room I’m actually booking because an upgrade is not guaranteed unless it’s paid for. We were not upgraded for free at either location.

We stayed in reefside villas at St. Regis. No upgrade was offered and we didn’t ask. We were very happy with the reefside and honestly prefer it to the lagoon view. Our welcome amenity included a delicious cake for my b-day, champagne and the coconut but the macaroons were in the coconut (the macarrons got soggy, so glad they put fruit in yours and the macaroons in front). We also enjoyed the breakfast at the St. Regis as Platinum members. We didn’t get any other freebies at any of our dinners. Personally we really liked the privacy of the reefside villa and snorkeling in the reefs was a lot of fun. I did get a bit cut up by the reef. We also took long walks on the outer beach (not in the lagoon) and took the kayak and paddle board all around. Overall we thought the service was way better at the St. Regis.

Our first day at the Conrad was seriously bad. Last month while driving cross country we stayed a night in a category 1 townplace suites where half the room had no power (no outlets that worked, no tv, no lights and no clock in the bedroom portion). Honestly, it was a worse first day at the Conrad. Bad check-in process, our room wasn’t ready, when we got to the King Garden View suite there were dirty towels, the diamond welcome amenity wasn’t in the room, when they did bring the diamond welcome gift (chocolate, sparkling water and still water) they moved my wifes stuff off the table and there were no chocolates just wrappers, the loud AC couldn’t keep the room cool, we did ask about an upgrade and were told there was a possibility starting our second night for overwater villas and then we were asked how much we thought it was worth. The price is set and reported online so the only reason he would do this is in hopes of getting more than the listed $350/night. Especially since I said lower than $350 to which he came back and said it wasn’t possible. The lowest he could go is $350.

In the after stay survey I provided info on our experience and was refunded 80k. Also we ended up paying the $350/night for the overwater villa and the rest of the stay was very nice. So I would recommend the hotel if you are willing to pay 80k/night + $350, or the $1000+/night for the overwater villas. We had a sunset view villa and really enjoyed the snorkeling around all the villas (more than snorkeling at the St. Regis).


Looking forward to the post that is full of pictures, especially after seeing the first picture under Landscaping / grounds: Conrad Bora Bora. It looks like done by a professional. The beautiful ground, the sea, the cloud and the sunset! Really like it.
I was wondering how you position your mic during the podcast. Now my question is answered. It must be nice to do it in your backyard.


Nick, great review! I stayed at the InterContinental Moorea overwater bungalow in June and really enjoyed reading your experience at both Bora Bora hotels. Are you going to talk about the flights to Tahiti and Bora Bora in a separate post? Just curious how those flights were for you. Thank you!

P.S. See you soon 🙂


We only stayed at the Conrad but would return in a heartbeat. We stayed at the beginning of January and were upgraded to the Horizon Villa for our first night. We asked about possibly upgrading to an overwater villa after the first night, and about 30 minutes later the manager found us at dinner and told us we could move to a King Deluxe overwater villa that evening. We were given this free of charge and thought it was WAY better than the horizon villa. Having been to the Park Hyatt Maldives, we had originally said we didn’t care about having an overwater villa again, but I’d say the OWV at the Conrad was much better than any of the land villas.

I wouldn’t say service was bad by any means, but we didn’t feel blown away by any means. One major perk of the Conrad was being able to take the Air Tahiti boat into town from the airport and pick up snacks/drinks/ at the supermarket. This saved us hundreds of $$ alone.


Wow – you evidently stayed at an entirely different St. Regis Bora Bora than we did. We had terrible service throughout, including flat-out dishonesty from the front desk staff, and heard the word “no” continuously. In fact, the service was so terrible, and the quality of the room finishes and food was so poor, that we actually left after just two nights of our planned eight-night stay and went to a different resort on Bora Bora (I won’t say which one, as this is not an advertisement for any particular competitor, just an honest review of what was a truly terrible service experience). It honestly sounds like they knew you were a blogger/influencer and really rolled out the red carpet. We love French Polynesia and were back again this year. We had a chance to redeem points for the St. Regis, and at one point I had actually booked it, but just could not bring myself to go back to the patron saint of poor service. So, we stayed at two different resorts instead (and if you enjoyed Bora Bora, then I recommend you try Taha’a and Rangiroa next time). Happy to provide recommendations on those islands.

Erika Hamilton

I had a very similar stay to Nick’s at the St. REgis, not being a blogger and not having a “red carpet” laid out. I thought the staff provided impeccable service. I had also been really nervous due to Ben’s blog post, but, like NIck, I had a totally different experience than Ben and thought the resort couldn’t have been better.


An outstanding review Nick. I can’t comment on the St. Regis, but we did spend five nights each at the Conrad Maldives in February and the Conrad Bora Bora in March. Just a few things to add to your description (and I too read Ben’s review):

1. Didn’t that walk bother you up to your villa? I heard people complaining about the walk to the concierge, and I’m not sure I would have liked it either if I were planning to go back and forth to my room during the day.

2. Sorry but I think you didn’t fully appreciate how absolutely awesome the overwater villas are. We were in the middle of a semi-circle of villas, so we always saw things going on around us or in the water (people and boats going by). Our villa had two overwater hammocks, which were wonderful. Also the ability to just go down the ladder of your own villa into the ocean where there was some excellent snorkeling was absolutely great, and I did it several times per day. We didn’t see the point of hanging around the pool when we had that beautiful ocean directly beneath us. We also saw some young kids in other villas, although I can understand your stress factor may have gone sky high with a wondering little one and a drop off from the platform into the ocean.

3. We loved the Conrad Bora Bora but there were a few small annoyances at the Conrad Bora Bora that were easily fixable that didn’t exist at the Conrad Maldives. First, at the Conrad Maldives, we could use points to directly book an overwater villa, while at the Conrad Bora Bora, there was an upcharge that was pretty significant (because the concierge told us almost everyone there wants overwater). The upcharge cut into the value of the redemption. Second, at the Conrad Maldives, there were two free receptions aggregating 90 minutes for Diamond members, and we didn’t miss them–started out with afternoon tea and then went into cocktails, with some food as well. We also met so many of the managers of the resort there. Wonderful. Nothing like that in Bora Bora. Third, the $12 upcharge for breakfast ala carte is silly. There is plenty on the main buffet, including hot items, and I can’t believe that charge was necessary (we never did it). No upcharge in the Maldives. Fourth, the minimal charge for guests to take the boat into town ($15-$20 per person) was also silly since the boat was running anyway for staff and it cost the resort nothing to add a few guests. We did take the boat twice and glad it existed, but were surprised that it was really the staff boat and not primarily for guests.
Fifth, the Conrad Maldives refills water in the rooms daily, but the Conrad Bora Bora would prefer to charge you for water (hint–fill up your bottles in the health club). These are all nits, but I can’t believe they bring in any significant revenue for the resort while reminding guests about the money.

4. We were surprised a bit at the Conrad Bora Bora that English was actually an issue at all levels below the hotel staff who regularly mixed with guests–in other words, cleaning staff, guards, etc. Not a big deal, but a bit of a surprise and some trouble communicating.

5. Completely agree that the grounds at the Conrad Bora Bora are spectacular, the views are great, the rooms are so modern and functional, and the experience would be tough to beat. Those views at night with their lighting system–OMG gorgeous, We would gladly return. But, Ben’s review was a bit more glowing than our recollection.


How are the conditions for snorkeling and local reefs comparing between Conrad Bora Bora vs Maldives?


Really interesting question. Conrad Bora Bora was excellent. Conrad Maldives was different depending on where you were–off the beach, it is great (I went twice and loved it). However, off our overwater villa, the reef is basically dead. Really unfortunate–I understand it happened a few years ago. As a result, I was snorkeling all the time in Bora Bora off our overwater villa, but only once off the overwater villa in the Maldives (when I saw loads of coral, but it was all bleached white).


Just reviewed my pix. Tons of fish, including a few rays by the villas as well as one turtle, during the day at the Conrad Bora Bora–some I saw while snorkeling and some I saw while just standing on the bridges to the overwater villas. There is also a light by the ladder going into the water at each villa and at night, you can stay completely dry on the porch in back of your villa and just look down into the water by the light and see a whole aquarium!


Thanks for the response, Nick. Really looking forward to your remaining articles on your trip (and I’m sure your other readers are as well).

My wife reminded me that we too received two bottles of water per day. We also had saved up some of the plastic bottles earlier in the trip and refilled those but, unfortunately, the maid found them in a closed drawer in the closet and threw them out (guess she thought they were trash, but still not appreciated). Also, I think there are two overwater villas at the Conrad with a view of Mount Otemanu. I asked for one of them based on Lucky’s write-up but they both were full (the resort was at 100% occupancy while we were there, so no upgrades for us).

in your many years of travel coming up, I do hope you try an overwater villa somewhere. I used to think they were a gimmick but I don’t any longer. We have stayed in three–Conrad Bora Bora, Conrad Maldives and Marriott Fiji Momi Bay (JT over at TPG reviewed his stay at Momi Bay, but he didn’t stay overwater). People can have differing views but to me, it changes the whole experience. Normally, I spend my time all over a resort but when we are staying in an overwater villa, I spend most of the time on the back porch over the water in a state of complete relaxation.

Matthew Harlan

Nick, excellent comparison.

Did you by chance try using a Marriott gift card to pay at the St. Regis? I’m wondering if that is an issue at this property.

Erika Hamilton

I was there in May and used Marriott gift cards with no issue. THey will even preload to your account before you stay.


Nick – Welcome back. I just want to let you know how much I enjoy your writing. I scan most of the relevant travel blogs on a daily basis and you consistently hit the mark in terms of content, style and value-add. Your efforts are greatly appreciated…time to ask for another raise.