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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!