Our week in French Polynesia was set into motion by the announcement of the devaluation of the IHG credit card free night certificates. Previously these free night certificates could be used to book any property in IHG’s portfolio, but the devaluation capped the rewards to properties costing 40,000 IHG points or less. We immediately set our sights on Bora Bora, knowing this would offer the best redemption value for our certificates before they devalued.
Intercontinental operates two properties on Bora Bora and we were lucky to get to stay on both resorts. The Intercontinental Thalasso is generally regarded as one of the nicest properties in Bora Bora, while the Le Moana often gets a bad rap for being the lesser of the two. But is that true?
Booking and Check in
Rates at Le Moana routinely top $650 per night, so if you’re paying cash, expect to take a heavy hit to the wallet. Certain dates dip down below $500, but in my searching, most dates show $600+. If you’re using points, you can book for 70,000 IHG points per night for a garden villa, but be advised that finding availability can be tricky. The Thalasso also costs 70,000 IHG points per night, but every room there is an overwater villa so the Thalasso represents a better value in that regard.
We had spent our first night at a local bed and breakfast, where check out was at 11am. We knew check in at Le Moana wasn’t until 3pm, but not wanting to haul luggage around the island, we decided to go ahead and try to check in early, and assumed we could just lounge around the property until our room was ready.
When we arrived around noon, they promptly checked us in without any issues. We were greeted with leis and non-alcoholic beverages, and were given a tour around the property. The general manager made it a point to introduce herself and greeted us by name and as IHG Platinum members and thanked us for our loyalty.
We were offered a breakfast package for half off the regular price, which is $50 per person. We declined, having read that the breakfast buffet was far superior at the Thalasso (where we were headed next), and since there were so many local restaurants within walking distance.
When we inquired about an upgrade into an overwater bungalow, we were told we could upgrade for $250 a night. We decided it wasn’t worth it since we were getting the overwater experience at Thalasso, and because we liked the location of our garden bungalow, right on the beautiful Matira Beach.
If you google “Intercontinental Le Moana” the top result is a not-so-flattering review recently published by a major travel publication, so it seemed like Le Moana was going the extra mile to make up for service miscues that reviewer experienced. A lot of complaints the reviewer made weren’t an issue for us, at least in regards to service.
However we did agree that the property could use some renovating. Mostly just some cosmetic fixes were needed to make things feel fresh again. New tile, new decor, etc. The property was starting to feel old and some updates could help make it feel worth the price it commanded.
A concierge escorted us to the room and showed us all the included amenities. Our garden bungalow was decorated in a traditional Polynesian style with lots of woven straw accents.
The spacious living area was separated from the bedroom with sliding doors. Both areas had a large window looking out onto the beach, and the sliding door from the living room opens onto a deck and the beach. The bedroom had two double beds pushed together with the most fluffy bedding I’ve ever seen in a hotel.
The bathroom was quite spacious, and had a large tub, open shower, twin sinks, a vanity area, and toilet behind closed doors. The closet was also located in the bath area and had a security safe.
I was surprised to see that there were no espresso pods, even though there was a price list for them. I woke up very early the next day and called room service to see if they could bring me some, and they said I couldn’t order anything until 7am, so I should call back then. When I did, they brought me a pot of coffee with milk even though I thought I was very clear about needing pods for the machine. They brought them immediately and I wasn’t charged for the coffee in the end—which is good, because it cost 1000CFP (about $9)! So all was well, it was just annoying to not have coffee to start my first day off properly!
What we loved about our garden bungalow was having our own little piece of beach! Mount Otemanu was off to the left, and directly in front of us we watched the sun rise every morning with a view of the overwater bungalows. Our deck had a table and chairs, and also two lounge chairs. Then there were two more lounge chairs and a small table down on the sand. A shower was next to the deck steps so we could wash the sand off our feet before going indoors.
The slice of Matira Beach that the resort is on is quite nice. The white sand is beautiful, and the water color is unbelievable. There was some rock accumulation at the edge of the water but once past it being in the water was like being in a pool! The beach at the Thalasso was much rockier, and the sandy part much thinner. Our best suggestion: bring floaties! You can sit in an inner tube out in the lagoon and float around.
The communal areas of the property are small and easily walkable. The pool was near the garden bungalows, and the bar next the pool is also where lunch was served, on a patio with tables covered under umbrellas. Swimming in a pool seemed kind of silly with the incredible beach and water in front of us, so we didn’t even bother.
Breakfast and dinner were served in the main dining room which we never visited. Inside the bar area was a lounge with pool tables, and a shopping area which connected to the concierge and activity desk areas. The property is non-smoking, but there was a designated smoking area near the lobby.
The beach shack is where you can grab snorkel gear, kayaks and stand up paddle boards. The rental is free, just be sure to sign them out.
The resort is located at the southernmost point of the main island on Matira Beach. In the nearby area are several restaurant options as well as grocery stores that can help ease the sting of the resort food and drink prices.
Walk outside the property and you’re on a main road with a pizza place to your right. Across the street from the pizza place is a grocery store. Further down to your right are some other resorts which also have restaurants at slightly lower prices than Le Moana.
If you go to the left from the hotel, you’re in the public area of Matira Beach where some restaurants are located. Because of the options nearby, we decided not to eat at Le Moana at all while we were there, opting instead to walk to nearby restaurants for our meals.
Important: some of the restaurants don’t take credit cards, or require a minimum spend, so be sure to ask in advance, or have cash with you. We didn’t have cash, and the nearest ATM was in Vaitepe, which would have cost us about $20USD to get to in taxi fees, so it wasn’t really worth it. We had to stick to the restaurants that took credit cards!
At the nearby grocery store we stocked up on beer, snacks, fruit juice and soft drinks to go with the bottle of rum and Campari which we brought from home. They also sold breakfast croissants and sandwiches at this grocery store. The grocery store did take credit card as long as you spent more than 3000CFP, so we stocked up and bought everything for our week at once.
Twice we ate at Lucky House, a wood fired pizza joint across from the grocery store. One large pizza and two beers cost us 3200CFP (about $29). We also had dinner once at the Maitai hotel nearby, which cost 4750CFP ($45) for two pasta plates and water.
Our cheapest and possibly best meal was at Snack Matira, a favorite among locals. From the hotel, walk across the street to the public beach (you’ll see signs), and it’s about a 10 minute walk down the beach. Just beware if you’re walking during lunch hour that the sun is brutal. I think our worst sunburn came from this walk to lunch and back! I had croque monsieur, Shane had a hamburger, both came with fries and a coke, and it cost 2600 (about $24).
It’s important to note that if you stay at the Thalasso or any of the other resorts on the motus (the outer ring of small islands), then you’re stuck eating at the resort restaurants, or paying a lot of money for a boat transfer to the mainland to access restaurants there (which would negate any savings from skipping resort meals). So having all these options within walking distance of Le Moana was definitely a plus.
Le Moana offers a great experience while still being on the main island, letting you go off-resort much easier and save money at local restaurants and bars. However, the property is dated and seems a tad overpriced for what it offers. The Thalasso is much nicer, but if Le Moana is your only option, then it has plenty to offer as well.