Let me get this out of the way up front: there are very few cheap eating options in Bora Bora. I’ll touch on some ways to save money on food in a later post, but this post is going to focus on the eating options in the Intercontinental Thalasso. When you stay at a resort in Bora Bora – odds are you’re going to spend a lot of time eating the food there, so hopefully this will help if you’re trying to make a decision!
Meal Plan Pricing Options
Some people recommended we buy a meal plan, but we opted not to. We definitely saved money not doing that. For reference, the meal plan options are:
Breakfast: 3834 cfp (~$44 USD) plus tax
Half Board: 11,951 cfp ($138 USD) plus tax
Full Board: 16,283 cfp ($188 USD) plus tax
Half board consists of breakfast and dinner (3 courses), full board is breakfast, lunch (2 courses), and dinner (3 courses). Lunch and dinner can be taken at either of the restaurants, while breakfast is only a buffet at the Reef restaurant.
There are three restaurants in the Thalasso: the Reef Restaurant, Corail, and Sands. Reef is kind of like the fine dining option, Corail looks more like the hip lounge (but it’s closed during the low season so we never got to try it), and Sands is like the more casual restaurant by the beach. For the meal plans, dinner can be taken at either Reef or Sands, but Reef isn’t open for lunch.
We never ended up visiting the Reef Restaurant buffet for breakfast, so unfortunately I can’t really say anything about the quality of the food. We just figured at $45 a person we’d be better served elsewhere. What we decided to do instead – and we did this both on our first day and our last – was order breakfast room service and split it between the two of us.
We ordered the American breakfast which costs _____ CFP, though you can order continental only which is about 1000 CFP ($10) cheaper. Note that room service breakfast is not included in any meal plans. It’s standard stuff, you fill out a check list the night before, hang it on your door with what time you’d like breakfast to be served, and that’s it! There weren’t really any indications for how many things you could check off, so we kind of checked off everything to see how much we’d get. Haha. We didn’t get everything, but they gave us a whole lot – and all of it was pretty good. The breakfast (meant to be for one) was definitely enough food for the two of us; we had leftover both times.
For our first meal we received (I don’t remember what we ordered at this point) scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, potatoes, some traditionally prepared fish (it was kind of like ceviche), cheese, fruit, bread, croissants, cereal, milk, and french pressed coffee. Yes, it was as much food as it seems. Everything was pretty standard; I did appreciate the fish since it was different from what I would normally have for breakfast. The croissants were excellent – we kind of had to hold back so as not to eat too much of them. I’d say the only disappointing part of breakfast was the fruit – it was just okay, but I expect more of the tropics! Maybe there is some climate thing I’m not understanding, but I just figured on an island chain they should be able to grow good fruit somewhere. I bet it’s shipped from New Zealand or something, though that should be good too! Confusing.
For our second breakfast we received much of the same things, although we also got a soft boiled egg. Both breakfasts were really nice – a lot of food and satisfying. I definitely think this is the way to go eating in the hotel; you save money as opposed to paying for two buffets and it was enough food for us that we could eat a super light lunch, further saving money. It’s also nice to take breakfast in your room – the first time we ate it on our coffee table inside, while the second time we took it out on the deck. It’s definitely nicer to eat outside, should have done that both times!
When we were eating outside on the last day, we also saw some of the hotel workers paddling by with the canoe breakfast. If I remember correctly, the canoe breakfasts costs over 100,000 CFP, so more than double, the regular breakfast. I thought it sounded pretty cool because I assumed you’d get to eat your breakfast on the canoe or something. But I’m not sure about that anymore, because we saw the canoe paddling back like five minutes later – it looked like they just dropped off the food and left! What’s the point of paying extra then? If you’re interested in the canoe breakfast I’d definitely ask what the deal is before forking up the extra cash.
Lunch Option and Happy Hour – Le Sands Restaurant
There is only one lunch option (besides room service) at the Intercontinental Thalasso: Le Sands Restaurant. We only ate there once, for dinner, but the menu is pretty much the same for lunch and dinner. The best thing about Le Sands is its ambience. You can eat inside but the real treat is to eat outside facing the beach and Mount Otemanu. I think at lunch it’s not too tough to get one of the outside tables facing outwards but at dinner it seems like only people with reservations get those tables. I’ll touch more on that when I talk about dinner.
The prices are expensive, of course, but reasonable by Bora Bora standards I guess. A hamburger costs around $25 USD while entrees cost $30 – $40. Our overall meal cost about 10,000 CFP (~$115 USD). Okay when I write it like that it feels pretty expensive, haha. That was the price for two entrees (including a hamburger), dessert, and a drink.
Unfortunately, it was kind of too dark to take pictures of the food. The reality is, it wasn’t very memorable; the hamburger tasted fine and Jess’ chicken dish was good as well, but nothing was amazing really. Dessert was probably my favorite part of the meal – that’s the only thing I wish I had a picture of! If Le Sands was a restaurant in the US with US prices, I’d probably give it like a B- or something. If Le Sands was a restaurant in the US with Bora Bora prices, I’d drop it to like a D+ because the food is crazy expensive! But for a hotel restaurant, I thought it did the job and saved us a little money since we were stuck eating at the hotel a lot.
Now’s a good time to mention happy hour at the hotel – from 5 to 6 PM, after you buy your first round of drinks the second round is free. There are couches and lounge chairs set up along the beach with the same view of Mount Otemanu. One night we skipped dinner and just had some snacks at happy hour – not a bad way to save money, haha. I thought the mixed drinks were very well done, though they had no pineapple so I missed out on the hotel’s pineapple mojito. That sounded good!
Drinks were over 2000 CFP each (~$23) and the appetizer was 1100 CFP (~$12). Of course since it was buy one get one each drink was around $12, so this was one of the meals closest to prices at home! Anyway, I highly recommend happy hour when you’re at the Thalasso!
Dinner Options – Le Sands or Reef Restaurant
So what became a running joke during our stay was the inevitable 330 PM call each day asking if we wanted to make a dinner reservation. The Intercontinental Thalasso, like all hotels in Bora Bora I’m sure, works very hard to try to keep you at the hotel for dinner. Aside from the daily reservation call, the shuttle to the main island also starts costing money after 2:15 PM (about $10 per person), so they really want you to stay. Since Bora Bora is not a place where you do things on the spur of the moment, I’d actually recommend making a reservation if you plan on staying at the hotel. People who make reservations get the best tables – the best views of Mount Otemanu at Le Sands and more private tables on the edge of the patio at Reef. The latter tables compose the “front row” at the Reef Restaurant when there are cultural shows (Mondays and Fridays).
On cultural show nights, Reef generally runs a buffet that costs ~$90 USD, but the Friday night we tried to go it was only their a la carte menu. So in the end, we just ended up having Reef’s a la carte menu twice, which worked out just fine for us. We didn’t go to Reef until later in our stay, so I was actually surprised by the prices – it’s not that much more expensive than Le Sands. Le Sands entrees cost around 2800-3500 CFP ($30-$40), while at Reef entrees are more like 3200-4000 CFP ($35-$45).
As you can see from the menu (or maybe not it was pretty dark), the Reef Restaurant aims to be a more upscale, fine dining type option. For my money, I think it’s worth the slight premium; you’ll pay a little more but the food is definitely better. The first night I had an appetizer, entree, and a dessert. Oh and don’t be fooled, there’s something called the “tourist menu” that offers 10% off if you get all three courses but that’s only for non-guests (like from cruise ships).
I started with a kind of egg roll with duck inside, which I thought was really good. Jess was given a split pea soup as an appetizer even though she didn’t order anything – I wonder if we both would have gotten it if I hadn’t ordered an appetizer.
For our entrees, Jess went simple – she ordered the roasted Mahi-Mahi. It was a tiny bit overcooked but I thought the sauce was good. I ordered the guinea fowl supreme with roasted polenta. I definitely thought my entree was better and it went well with the wine we had ordered. Oh speaking of which, they have a ton of French wines, because, French Polynesia! I thought it was a pretty good selection though I don’t know much.
The second night I ordered the “vegetable soup of the day”, which changes daily. The soup I had was…tomato I think? Sorry, I can’t remember, but it was good! Jess was given the split pea soup again. That night we enjoyed our entrees much more – I ordered the filet of beef and Jess ordered the duck breast. I thought both these entrees were very well done and I’d recommend them.
Oh yeah, one note on how the food didn’t fit the description exactly sometimes. My guess is, either something was lost in menu translation, or they cook according to what is locally available. I already mentioned how there was no pineapple at the hotel, we also discovered while we were there that there was a bit of a lettuce shortage island wide. So my guess is maybe the cooks just work with what they have. I don’t know that for a fact though.
Anyway, we had two desserts on our two nights. Here’s the dessert menu:
The most “interesting” looking dessert is the Cheeseburger Sucre – we saw some people get it, it really kind of looks like a cheeseburger. No idea how it tasted though. The first night got ice cream: the Tiare flavor was unique and good (it’s a flower). We also ordered the “Chocolate Lover’s Confidences” dessert – don’t ask me about the names of these desserts – which was also good. The second night we really wanted the poached pear but it ran out. We should have ordered dessert at the beginning to prevent that from happening – next time. Instead, we got the “Raspberry and Chocolate Love”. It was good, but I have to say the poached pears definitely looked better.
Overall, dinners cost us around 12,000 CFP on average (~140) not including drinks. Pricey, but like I said, still not as much of a jump from Le Sands as I had expected. And the food was definitely much better.
Entertainment at the Reef Restaurant
On Monday and Friday nights, Reef has a cultural show. The shows are different so that if you go twice in a week you won’t watch a repeat (like I said, they want you to stay). We skipped the Monday night show though we did see it from a distance – there seemed to be a lot of fire spinning around and being eaten. Making a reservation for Friday night (and the other night we ate as well) gave us seats on the edge of the patio – front row.
One issue I have, with both restaurants, is that when you are outside there are a few mosquitoes. You may remember we have a hate/hate affair with mosquitoes, but alas, what else can you do on a tropical island. But bring some repellant if it bothers you. Anyway, we got to see some (I assume) traditional dancing which I thought was fairly entertaining. My favorite part though was the music, I tend to forget that French Polynesia and Hawaii are relatively close to one another (compared to the mainland), and so the music definitely had similar undertones. I really enjoyed it. The band was off to the side though so I didn’t really get to see them.
Things got really intense, however, when it started pouring. These kids who were dancing (the males looked like they were high school age) were real pros about it – they did not skip a beat. I mean, we’re talking sheets of rain, and they just kept going and the band got louder and really it was an awesome sight to behold. The leader even stood in the rain and thanked us for watching after it was all over. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by the entertainment, I didn’t think I’d enjoy it at all but it was good even before the tropical storm which made it great.
The Lonely Planet guide said the quality of a hotel’s food depends on who the executive chef is at the time, which makes sense. Supposedly these chefs move around a lot. At the time of the book’s writing (2013), the Intercontinental Thalasso was one of the recommended hotels to eat at. I’d say the food was good, but not spectacular by any means, but I didn’t really eat in any other comparable hotels so I don’t know the baseline. I would say that expect to eat in the hotel as a matter of course – it’s just too expensive or too much of a hassle to do otherwise. We were pleasantly surprised with our experience (we actually had only planned to eat at Reef once), and while the price was high, that’s Bora Bora for you!
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