Worth getting out of bed for
Free aquatic activities abound at the resort, so take your pick of swimming, snorkelling, canoeing or windsurfing. It's worth bagging a free snorkel, mask and flippers from the Activities Fare (hut) by the pool to explore the coral nursery under the Overwater Bungalows. Descend the ladder off the pontoon to check out the reef regeneration project, which includes rescued coral and clams replanted on artificial tressles. Overseen by a marine biologist, the scheme has encouraged more than 70 fish species to return to the area, and allows you to get up close and personal with Nemo and co. At extra cost, you can enjoy fishing trips, sunset catamaran cruises, jet-ski tours, waterskiing, parasailing, glass-bottom boat trips or shark- and stingray-feeding sessions (the Smith jury is out on whether encouraging unnatural behaviour is a good idea).
Beginners and certified divers are well catered for, at extra cost, with an on-site Blue Nui by Topdive shop (www.topdive.com). Experienced divers can embark on an early morning two-tank dive followed by a one-tank foray in the afternoon, with night dives on request. Two of the main sites, Teavanui Pass and Tapu, are near the hotel's motu, with a cluster of other rated sites both inside and outside the lagoon. Manta rays, turtles and lemon sharks usually make their presence felt, with possible whale sightings from August to November. Ask about package deals if you plan to dive on other islands.
Prefer to stay on dry land? Kids will love the beach and turf-based games here, with tennis, volleyball, ping pong, bocce and mini-golf all up for grabs, as well as a billiards room beside the bar. There are also a host of romantic experiences, if you're planning a proposal, honeymooning or just feeling the love, including canoe-delivered breakfast, beach lunches for two or dinner under the stars.
Spa treats more your passion? Manea Spa, set amid lush gardens and pools towards the back of the grounds, is a serene, secluded sanctuary. Striking Polynesian architecture sets the softly-lit scene, with pandanus-leaf-thatched pavilions sporting relaxing ponds. Choose the oils and fragrances you want for your treatments at the spa reception, then take your pick of hot-stone massage, reviving Vichy shower therapies or a pummelling massage harnessing 'dancing feet' rather than hands. A sumptuous couple's experience can be yours, and there's a tranquil chill-out area for coming down with a herbal tea afterwards. The hotel's own tattoo artist has a dedicated room here, if you want to commission your own Polynesian skin art.
To explore further afield, hop on one of the hotel's free scheduled shuttle boats over to Bora Bora's main island. Central 'town' Vaitape is pretty small and low-key, but offers a handy shopping fix, with a cluster of black-pearl, souvenir, tattoo and art shops, as well as local produce stalls out on the street. It also has banks, ATMs, car-hire, a pretty church and a grocer for good-value snacks. You may also spy mobile food trucks (roulottes), which pop up regularly in French Polynesia. The hotel's own boutique, beside the lobby, offers stylish local buys, including a huge selection of pareus (sarongs), shell jewellery, toiletries and postcards (plus you can pick up internet cards).
Bora Bora's best public strand, Matira Beach, is on the southern tip of the island for a cooling dip, or inland you'll find lush hiking, lofty look-outs and old World War II gun emplacements. At additional cost, the hotel can organise hikes up Mount Pahia, guided island tours to discover the cultural and natural highs, or high-octane 4WD safaris. You can also take it all in from the air if you splash out on a helicopter tour, also organised via the hotel.
Bloody Mary's (+689 66 72 86; www.bloodymarys.com), on the south-west coast road of Bora Bora's main island, is a legendary French Polynesian restaurant and bar, thanks to its borderline-kitsch tiki-chic styling, tasty lunchtime fare (spanning quesadillas, Caesar salads and mahi mahi burgers), and sumptuous seafood buffet dinners, starring copious catches-of-the-day. With a thatched roof, sand floor and coconut stools, it has attracted a rollcall of celebs since it launched in 1979, including Bill Gates, Cameron Diaz, Rob Lowe and George Michael. Sure, it's touristy and not directly on the lagoon, but it's a fun place for a feast, with tasty food and cocktails. Needless to say, the Bloody Marys rock.
For a cooler, more contemporary night out, make for Mai Kai (+689 603 800; www.maikaimarina.com), on the main island west-coast road behind the Topdive centre (at BP 162, between Faanui Bay and Vaitape). Boasting a sleek, mod-Polynesian space with a dreamy deck overlooking the marina, it feels like a slick city eatery. Neutral wood and glass rule the minimal design, with switched-on service to match. Dine on French faves (goat's cheese salad), Polynesian classics (poisson cru tuna and vegetables in a zesty broth of coconut milk and lime) or tasty mains drawn from the sea or land. Like most Bora Bora restaurants, pick-ups or drop-offs from nearby hotels are offered for free (and it's just a five-minute drive from the pontoon for free shuttle boats to Bora Bora Pearl).
Other popular pitt-stops, touting thatched roofs, sandy floors and a casual beachy-keen vibe, include La Bounty (+689 67 70 43) at Matira Point, which serves pizza, pasta and seafood, and Bora Kaina Hut (+689 67 54 06) on the west coast, dishing up fish and seafood.
On Bora Bora's central island, dinky Aloe Cafe (+689 67 78 88), tucked away at the back of Vaitape's Centre Le Pahia shopping square, is a mellow spot for a coffee, milkshake, patisserie or ice-cream (tropical mango and passionfruit flavours rule). Tahitian wine is also served if you fancy something stronger. Sit outside on the terrace, the perfect place to rest your pins after a shopping session.