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For our 3rd anniversary, I wanted to surprise my wife with a trip to somewhere tropical and relaxing – especially as this would be our last year as a family of two!
Although we only found out about our baby-to-be a month or so before the trip, we had been hoping to start a family and were wanting to use this trip as a babymoon of sorts before my wife’s pregnancy made adventurous international travel a bit less appealing.
We had already redeemed miles and points from the best travel credit cards to visit some of the world’s top island destinations such as the Maldives, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Hawaii, and a few Caribbean islands. But for some reason, we had never truly considered a points and miles award trip to Tahiti.
Then I read about the renovation of the Hilton Bora Bora to the Conrad Bora Bora Nui – and my heart was set!
French Polynesia, which includes Tahiti, Mo’orea, and Bora Bora can be a little challenging to visit, especially with miles and points. But I’ll show you how redeeming rewards from top travel credit cards can make a luxurious vacation to Bora Bora more accessible than ever!
Booking Hotels in Bora Bora
I typically recommend that you begin searching for award trips by first looking at flights, and then securing your hotels later. But with certain exotic award destinations such as Bora Bora, the exorbitant hotel prices mean that searching for hotel award nights first can be a wise choice.
Typically, I start by looking at Awardmapper.com to learn which points hotels a specific area or region has. In the case of Bora Bora, a quick glance showed me that IHG has 2 hotels (the Intercontinental Thalasso and the Intercontinental Le Moana), Marriott has 2 hotels (the Le Meridien and the St. Regis), and Hilton has the Conrad Bora Bora Nui – the newest (or most newly refurbished) hotel in Bora Bora.
Given that I’m a points junkie, I had researched Bora Bora points hotels dozens of times, strategizing about how to visit this elusive destination while keeping costs low. But prior to the Marriott / Starwood merger, both Le Meridien and St. Regis cost ridiculous amounts under previous Starwood points pricing (the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of Marriott points today)!
On the other hand, the IHG hotels are at 2 opposite ends of the spectrum. The Intercontinental Thalasso is one of the best award redemptions in the world, because you can use 70,000 IHG points to book into an “entry level” room. But the entry level room is a 1,000 square foot overwater bungalow!
Unfortunately, award nights at this hotel are nearly impossible to find, even when trying to book a full year in advance!
The Intercontinental Le Moana has much better award availability, but some reports on TripAdvisor claim it’s on the less luxurious end. And if you plan to take a dream trip to Tahiti, I recommend you hold out to stay at a 5-star resort and truly live it up! And thanks to the newly reopened Conrad hotel, that luxury hotel stay was within reach.
Because I knew the dates for our anniversary well in advance (don’t forget, gentlemen! 😉), I started looking months ahead for available award nights. I searched on the Hilton website and noticed that the Conrad typically has decent award nights available as long as you search with enough lead time.
The Conrad Bora Bora costs a minimum of ~$600 per night at the advanced purchase, non-refundable rate. Or, you can redeem 80,000 Hilton points per night, and get your 5th night free if you have Hilton elite status! For our 5-night stay, we spent a total of 320,000 Hilton points (earned from The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card) instead of paying the cash rate of ~$3,600!
For those of you who track cents per point, that’s a whopping 1.125 cents per Hilton point – a fantastic redemption!
If you need to top off your Hilton account balance, here are even more ways to earn Hilton points!
We were so excited to be visiting such an amazing hotel, but we wanted the opportunity to stay in an overwater villa for at least a couple of nights. Although the basic room type is the King Garden View Suite, you can certainly upgrade your room by emailing the hotel ahead of time. Expect to pay ~$300 per night to upgrade to an overwater villa.
Note: The overwater villas at the Conrad Bora Bora were absolutely legendary, and I can’t recommend highly enough that you splurge for at least 1 or 2 nights to stay in a quintessential Tahitian Hut, on stilts, over the crystal clear water!
In addition to 5 nights in Bora Bora, we also needed one quick overnight near the airport in Tahiti. I had originally planned to redeem my IHG anniversary free night from the Chase IHG credit card (no longer available to new applicants) at one of the Intercontinental hotels in Bora Bora, but that didn’t work out due to award availability.
So I redeemed it for a night at the Intercontinental Tahiti, where the going rate was ~$310 per night. This hotel was fairly basic and we didn’t love it, but it was a great option for our quick layover before heading to paradise!
Booking Flights to the South Pacific
For our flights to Tahiti, I knew there were only a few points options available and that award seats typically disappeared quickly. For that reason, I started my search well in advance. At the time, the only reasonable points options to French Polynesia involved award flights on Air Tahiti Nui (an American Airlines partner), Air France (a Delta SkyTeam alliance partner), and Fiji Airways (also a partner of American Airlines).
Note: You can also fly Hawaiian Airlines to Tahiti, connecting through Honolulu. But this involves lots of flying, is typically quite expensive, and only operates once per week. So for most folks, it won’t be a great option.
Because we had a huge stash of American Airlines miles thanks to cards like the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® and Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, we wanted to redeem miles for the non-stop Air Tahiti Nui flight from Los Angeles to Pape’ete, the capital city of French Polynesia.
Air Tahiti Nui has the most weekly flights between the US and Tahiti, so it’s a great place to start your search!
And just recently, American Airlines added the ability to search and book award flights on Air Tahiti Nui online. This is a huge development for booking award flights to French Polynesia, and makes the search process far simpler! Here’s our complete guide to using American Airlines miles for award flights.
One-way award flights in coach from Los Angeles to Pape’ete cost 40,000 American Airlines miles plus only ~$6 in taxes and fees! The going cash rates for these flights were ~$,1400, so I was thrilled with the savings!
In total, we redeemed 160,000 American Airlines miles (instead of ~$2,800 total) for our round-trip flights to Tahiti, and we even had an empty seat between us on both segments!
Unfortunately, the journey to Bora Bora requires an additional step – a domestic flight within Tahiti on the country’s national carrier, Air Tahiti. These flights are notoriously expensive, and they cost ~$420 per person round-trip from Pape’ete to Bora Bora. That’s a chunk of change for a 45-minute, turbulent flight!
We anticipated these costs as well and had saved up Chase Ultimate Rewards points to redeem through the Chase travel portal to offset the costs. Because I hold the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I can redeem Ultimate Rewards points for 1.5 cents each through the Chase portal, so these flights cost us ~55,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. It stung to have to spend another 55,000 points, but this would be the last of our major travel expenses (whew!) and was the final component to planning our dream trip.
So… How Was Bora Bora?
I mentioned previously that I’ve been incredibly blessed and fortunate to have traveled to many far-flung resort destinations around the globe. But those 5 nights at the Conrad Bora Bora were undoubtedly our most enjoyable vacation to date.
Mount Otemanu (the mountain at the center of Bora Bora) is breathtaking, the water is crystal clear, the newly refurbished Conrad was 5 star in every category, and I even got to SCUBA dive with 10-foot lemon sharks! The people of French Polynesia were gracious and kind, and we cannot wait to return.
This vacation was not completely “free” by any means. But we got an amazing value by redeeming miles and points for flights and hotels, and had the trip of a lifetime!
You Can Visit Bora Bora With Miles and Points, Too!
Want to cross the South Pacific off your bucket list? Here are a few cards we’d suggest:
American Airlines Miles for Flights on Air Tahiti Nui:
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® – Our review of the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® – Our review of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card – Our review of the American Airlines MileUp
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® – Our review of the Citi AAdvantage Executive
Hilton Points for a Stay at the Conrad Bora Bora:
- Hilton Honors American Express Card – Our review of the Hilton Honors American Express
- Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card – Our review of the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card – Our review of the Hilton Honors American Express Business Card
Chase Ultimate Rewards Points for Transfers Between Pape’ete and Bora Bora
- Ink Business Preferred Credit Card – Our review of the Ink Business Preferred
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – Our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – Our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve
IHG Points for Stays in Pape’ete or Bora Bora
When you hear the words Bora Bora, you might already envision your bank account draining due to the prohibitive costs of flights to get there, inter-island travel, exorbitant resort fees, and even the inflated food and drink costs.
But by using miles and points we earned from top travel credit cards, we were able to save thousands of dollars and enjoy the island getaway of a lifetime. We redeemed American Airlines miles for flights on Air Tahiti Nui, Hilton points and IHG points for incredible hotels, and Chase Ultimate Rewards points through the Chase travel portal for our inter-island hop.
My wife and I were so grateful to have that time away together, and we’re feeling even more reminiscent now as we soon anticipate the birth of our baby girl! You can also make a bucket-list trip to Bora Bora happen (whether at the Conrad or another resort!), and I wholeheartedly recommend you pull the trigger.
Any questions – drop them below! Happy adventuring!