Review: Intercontinental Thalasso, Bora Bora

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Our week in French Polynesia was set into motion by the announcement of the devaluation of the IHG free night certificates. 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, first spending two nights at the Le Moana and then transferring over to the Thalasso for three nights. We were impressed by Le Moana but the Thalasso absolutely blew us out of the water. Read on to find out what made it stand head and shoulders above the rest.

The majestic view of Mt Otemanu towers over the property

Booking and Check in

Let’s get this out of the way: Thalasso is an expensive af property. If you’re booking cash, one night will cost you $950 in low season. We stayed using our IHG free night certificates, an option which is no longer available for this property. You can still book with points, but it will set you back 70,000 IHG points per night. Not to mention, Thalasso is located on its own motu, which is like a tiny island a boat ride away from the main island. There is literally no where else to go on this motu—it’s just the resort. No grocery store to stock up on snacks, no restaurants to grab a cheap bite. Everything you eat and drink is going to be from the resort, which is expensive. We have some tips on that below, but first, let’s talk about check in.

Boat ride from Le Moana over to the Thalasso
We were greeted as Reward Club Members and given Vanilla Iced Tea, an island specialty.
Priority Check-In Area
They took our photo at check-in and gave us a printed copy at the end of our stay.

IHG runs two properties on Bora Bora, and a shuttle boat runs between them multiple times a day. Having spent two nights at Le Moana, we were able to checkout at 11am and take the 11:30am shuttle over to the Thalasso. The shuttle transfer was arranged by Le Moana and added to our final bill at $25USD. We were greeted as IHG club members and ushered to a priority check-in area with vanilla iced tea, a Polynesian specialty. A staff member took our photo in front of Mount Otemanu and they gave us a print of that photo a few days later at checkout. At this time, they offered us a breakfast package for half off the regular $50 per person per day price. We took advantage of that since there are no other restaurant options on this motu! Check-in at the Thalasso wasn’t officially until 3pm, but we walked around the property a bit and hung out on the beach until our room was ready. Already, we were coming under the spell of Mount Otemanu, an awesome presence that is visible from every spot.

Not complaining one bit about the wait for our room to be ready!

Room

A concierge picked us up at the hammocks when our room was ready and shuttled us all around the property in a golf cart for a little tour, and finally all the way out onto the deck to the door of our overwater bungalow to show us all the included amenities. As soon as she left we both started screaming and jumping up and down because this room was so amazing.

Our Thalasso bungalow was decorated more modernly than Le Moana with its traditional Polynesian straw. The rooms were large with high ceilings and fans. The living area had an entry table, a desk, a minibar area with a Nespresso machine and small fridge. A really fun part is the glass bottom coffee table, so you can see the water underneath your bungalow. The glass top even slides open so you can feed the fish right from your living room! Fish food is available at Reception or at the beach boys shack.

They drove us in a golf cart to our room, out on the right side of the property.
View of the bungalow from the front door.
The glass coffee table slides open so you can feed the fish below!

The bedroom was the best part because it had a huge window that looked straight out into the water! And there were blackout curtains, of course, but let’s be honest we kept those curtains wide open the whole time we were there. We kinda hated that there was a tv in the corner of the bedroom, because it obstructed our view of the water!

Hello bedroom! Sliding doors open to the bath, which you can see on the right. The closet door is behind the bed, and to the left of the closet is the toilet.
A desk behind the bed had lots of electric outlets and storage.
View from the bed! That’s the real color the water! Honestly the only thing we didn’t like was the tv encroaching on our view!

Behind the bed was a large walk in closet with plenty of space for luggage. The toilet was in its own little closet next to the clothes closet. Pocket doors allow you to close off the closet, the bathroom, and the bathtub areas. The bathroom had a double vanity, a large bench with amenities like aloe vera sunburn gel—VERY appreciated by me! The tub sat in front of another large window, but another window to the left looked straight onto the bungalow walking path which is a high traffic area, so we kept those blinds shut. The shower had a bench which us ladies love to use to shave our legs!

Bathroom was very spacious

The spacious living area opened up to the double deck, which had a covered area and a lower level with no shade. A ladder goes down into the water which was about 5′ deep at our bungalow. They did warn us that during this season there is an algae that grows on the ladders that gives you a little tiny sting if you step on it. Shane noticed it but I didn’t. Our deck faced the beach, but it was so far away that you really couldn’t make out details, and you’ll see that the neighboring decks have privacy screens, so privacy really wasn’t a concern for us on the upper deck. People floating around in the lagoon or cutting through the property in boats is the only thing to be on the lookout for!

We loved that the water was shallow enough to walk to the beach right from our bungalow! Many times, Shane set off from our deck to go get a kayak or stand up paddle board from the beach shack. Only thing we regretted was not bringing some tube floaties! We saw a couple who brought some with them hanging out in the water with a beer and thought that was pretty smart of them to have brought. Although, you could probably buy some in the gift shop.

Our deck! As you can see over at our neighbor’s deck, all the decks have screens on the right side, so it’s quite private. In the morning, the sun was on our top deck, so we sunbathed here in privacy.
Panorama taken from our private deck.

Property

This is quite a large property and you’ll see the staff driving around on golf carts. If your bungalow is at the far end of the peninsula, it’s gonna be a little bit of a trek to the restaurants and beach, so make sure you have everything with you when you leave your bungalow! Ours was about halfway down the peninsula, so that’s why Shane usually opted to swim to the beach. The deck flooring was not so hot barefoot, but the sand on the beach was nearly unbearable in some areas, so you really can’t walk around barefoot. There are plenty of spots to hang out on the beach, and as we visited in low season, we almost felt as if we had the whole place to ourselves. But this is a favorite resort for weddings, and even in low season we did see one wedding photo session happening. There is even a “Garden of Love” behind the reception area, where couples can leave a lock, throwing the key into a tiki’s mouth for safe keeping.

Seemingly every spot has a perfect view of this majestic mountain.
There is usually something happening on the beach in the evenings. We enjoyed some live ukulele music this night.
Traditional Polynesian night at the Sands Bar.
Plenty of spots to hang out at the beach bar!
This was a nice spot!

The pool was usually empty, and had plenty of shaded lounge chairs for a nice place to read. Staff were always on hand to offer drink menus if they saw you hanging out. Another place to swim was a lagoon in front of the wedding chapel where they are growing coral in artificial reefs to create a habitat for the fish. This is the best spot for snorkeling as you can see so many types of fish and coral!

Pool area, which was almost always empty.
This pretty average pizza and hamburger, with water, cost us 7090CFP at the Sands Restaurant. That’s $66.
Behind the pool here is the bar, which serves lunch, and off to the right is the Beach Boys Shack, where you can sign out snorkels.
Kayaks and stand up paddle boards are available for free as well, and the booth is unmanned, you just need to sign your name on the sheet.
Every day at 2pm the staff feed stingrays at the beach.
This inlet was a great snorkeling spot as you can see the coral they are growing hosts tons of beautiful fish!
And the wedding chapel looks over this inlet.
This is an ice cream bar that was on the beach, but it was closed. I’m guessing they keep it manned during high season. Those prices tho!

There are three restaurants on this property, and the main restaurant shares a building with the Bubbles Champagne Bar, which has a nice lounge area and billiards. This is also where the concierge desk is located. The main restaurant, called the Reef, serves the breakfast buffet and dinner. Another option for dinner only is Le Corail, which is a little more exclusive. The only option that is open for lunch is the Sands Bar, which is also a third dinner option. Once a week they have Polynesian barbecue night here with live music and dancing. If this is a super special trip for you, you can also reserve a candlelight dinner on the beach, or have breakfast delivered to your bungalow in a canoe!

The Bubbles Champagne Bar had a mid-century modern vibe.
A billiards and lounge area separates the champagne bar from the main restaurant.
This is also where the concierge desk is located.
The Reef restaurant is where breakfast is served, and they also serve dinner.
The breakfast buffet was incredible!
This section of the breakfast buffet always had island specialties, like this tuna dish called Poisson Cru.
We filled up on breakfast buffet!
We also enjoyed dinner at the Reef restaurant and tried local beers. We ordered some of the cheapest items on the menu and it still cost us 10,000CFP (about $93).

So here’s how we navigated the meal situation: we brought ramen, beef jerky and granola bars with us from home, as well as a bottle of rum and a bottle of Campari. We bought fruit juice and beer at a grocery store on Bora Bora before riding the shuttle over to the Thalasso. While at the Thalasso, we absolutely stuffed ourselves on the breakfast buffet so that we wouldn’t be hungry again until dinner. The first night, we splurged at the Reef restaurant, the second night we ate ramen and jerky in our room, and the third night we ate at the Sands Bar. The Sands Bar usually had live music during dinner, which we could still hear from our deck, so we didn’t really feel like we missed out on anything when we cut out meal short to have drinks back at the room! Another tip is to refill your water bottle in the gym to avoid paying for extra water, although a large bottle was refreshed in our room every day.

When the room is free but a hamburger costs $30. Ramen in your room ftw!
The gym, which is almost always empty.
Tip: free water and fruit at the gym!
Deep Ocean Spa is in the same building as the gym.
The love garden, where couples can leave a lock.
And then throw the key inside the tiki’s mouth!
Chess between the restaurants and wedding chapel.

Location

As we’ve mentioned, this resort is on a motu. If you want to eat at a local restaurant on the main island or visit a grocery store, you’re going to have to pay about $25USD per person round trip to take the boat shuttle, so it is absolutely imperative that you come prepared with all the snacks and beer that you’ll want! If you’re coming straight from the airport, you won’t have the opportunity to stop anywhere before getting to the resort, so you’ll need to bring everything with you from home or from Tahiti.

Unbelievable colors in the sky, morning and evening.
Evening sky was beautiful even on cloudy days.
Some of the sunsets were absolutely breathtaking.
It was very overcast on the day we left, but we still couldn’t stop taking photos of Mount Otemanu as the clouds just swirled around the peak.
Panorama from the beach.

Conclusion

Ultimately we enjoyed the Intercontinental Thalasso a lot more than Le Moana, and would recommend it for an unforgettable romantic vacation. However, having the option to eat meals outside of the resort makes Le Moana a much more affordable option for budget travel. Be sure to also read our review on the Le Moana so you can decide for yourself!

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