If you want to swim in every shade of blue look no further than Bora Bora. We rarely go back to the same destinations, but this was our 2nd trip to the island and we are definitely going to return again.
In 2015 we spent only our 1st night at the Intercontinental (IC) Le Moana and then went straight to the IC Thalasso. Your points get you an overwater bungalow there, so it seemed to be a much better value. While my wife preferred the Thalasso, after a couple of days there I really missed Le Moana and we even took a shuttle boat from Thalasso to spend a full day on Moana's beach.
Since then a lot of people started using their points for the IC Thalasso, lots of them just speculatively book the nights as soon as the availability appears on the IHG website a year in advance and then try to trade them later on flyertalk forum for the dates they may actually need. By the time we made up our mind to take the trip this year, we only saw 1 night available in the IC Thalasso, so it was an easy decision to just book the entire stay at the IC Le Moana.
In the morning we took a half-day snorkeling tour which takes you all around the main island. We could not find the manta rays, but saw lots of colorful fish, sharks and eagle rays. The views and all the shades of blue in the water were spectacular.
Most of the people just spend time in their bungalows or by the pool, so it felt as if we had a part of the beach all to ourselves. After watching the sunrise we would usually walk 5mins to the supermarket to buy the fresh delicious chicken and beef sandwiches, for ~$2-3 we would enjoy a very filling meal on our terrace. You can also buy huge baguettes for ~$50cents, we would kayak to the coral garden and feed them to the fish.
Proximity to Le Moana allows you to access the site without paying for a tour. By 11am there would already be a lot of tour boats so we would turn back and enjoy the lunch outside looking at the beautiful ocean.
On the 3rd day we decided to visit the IC Thalasso and spent half a day there. We arrived about an hour before the stingray feeding, something they do every day, so the stingrays usually arrive 1-2 hours early and swim near the shore waiting for their meal. It was ridiculously hot in the Thalasso, Le Moana had constant breeze so we did not even realize the sun was so strong. Views of the Mt. Otemanu are great and since it's deeper there, water has more of a deep blue shade but just as the last time after a couple of hours I was very happy to go back to Le Moana. We spent the last 2 days with more of the same - swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling or just laying on the beach and listening to the ocean. Quality of the coral at Le Moana has definitely improved since our last stay, we saw more fish and would usually see a couple of eagle rays every day.
First time we flew to Tahiti we redeemed our Alaska miles: New York to Tahiti on Alaska and Air France Business class; Tahiti to Auckland on Air New Zealand economy; we could not find availability with miles, so we purchased this flight for 344.29 euros; Auckland to Seoul on Korean Air Business class; Seoul to New York on Korean Air Business class. Total 122.5K Alaska Mileageplan miles and $86.30 tax for the round-trip flights.
These Air France business class seats (120K Alaska miles RT) are very hard to come by these days, so if you are looking to fly economy redeeming Alaska miles (all flights searchable on their website) is still a great option (80K miles RT), otherwise you will be most likely looking to fly Air Tahiti Nui which is a redemption partner of American Airlines (80K RT in economy, or 160K RT in business class, which is not as good as Air France business). The only way to search for availability is to call AA or sign up for Expertflyer.
For this last-minute trip we used 50K Alaska miles for a RT first class to Los Angeles and 50K Amex points for a $1000 RT economy fare (using 50% rebate on business platinum cards).
You cannot redeem your miles and points for the flights from Tahiti to Bora Bora and these usually cost $400-$500 for a round-trip flight. Usually everyone wants to be on the first flight there and on the last one back to Tahiti so these sell out quick, make sure not to wait till last minute to book these flights. We have also noticed that when we searched for the flights while in Bora Bora we could see the prices around $230-$300 (i even took multiple screenshots), as soon as we landed in LA I checked and they went back to the $400-$500 range. I am not an IT expert, but will be definitely looking into changing my IP address next time I am trying to book these tickets.
IC Thalasso has very little availability. When searching on IHG website I could only see a couple of rooms, and I think I was lucky. If you are really keen on staying there you should check out this thread on flyertalk. People often release the nights they do not need or trades nights there.
IC Le Moana used to have pretty decent availability, when we were booking it this time it was surprisingly available pretty much every single day for the next 12 months, and now i see there is no availability whatsoever, worse than IC Thalasso. I really hope this is some kind of IT glitch and we will go back to being able to book nights in advance pretty easily there.
There is really no point in paying ridiculously high prices for breakfast in Le Moana, the supermarket nearby has great sandwiches and choice of groceries. Prices in Le Moana are not cheap but comparable to average prices in Manhattan. In the IC Thalasso you have no other options and they take advantage of it - for a similar menu they charge you 40-60% more than in Le Moana.
If you are staying at Le Moana there is no reason to take the expensive boat transfer (~$130 RT per person). You can take a free airport boat to the island and either catch a taxi there or book your ride in advance. We booked one for ~$15usd and the drive from the pier to the hotel took only 10-15 minutes. For IC Thalasso going by boat will definitely save you time. In Bora Bora airport check-in opens only 1 hour before your flight, so there is no point in arriving there too early.
When flying to Bora Bora to have the best views you want to be on the left side of the plane, on the way back pick the right side.
We brought almost all the items you see here and found them very useful. Sun is very strong the French Polynesia, we used rashguards, but at a minimum you should have plenty of sunscreen with you. We prefer bringing our own snorkeling gear, but you could also get it for a free in the hotel by the pool.