Matira Beach is simply staggeringly beautiful. This paradisiacal stretch of powdery white sand meets absolutely stunning waters of ever-changing patterns of turquoise blue and deserves its reputation as “the most beautiful beach in the world”.
It posses of a unique natural beauty and sits in the world’s most stunning lagoon. It’s at the foot of the mystical Mt Otemanu where god is said to have descended on Bora Bora atop a rainbow.
The beach is fringed by the swaying of coconuts, covered by the palm trees which offer shade, and more distant enticing motus (atolls). People who live here speak of the beach’s compelling energy insisting that there is no other place like it on earth!
How To Get To Matira Beach
Matira Beach is a public beach on the southern shore of Bora Bora, the small island northwest of Tahiti in French Polynesia. It’s actually one of the only public beaches on all of Bora Bora.
It extends about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers), starting from the Hotel Matira in the north and ending at Matira Point.
The beach is close to the island’s largest city, Vaitape, which can be reached by bicycle or taxi. Alternatively, you can drive if you’ve rented a vehicle in Bora Bora. Whichever option you choose, it’s a quick 5-mile/ 8-kilometer ride from the city center.
There is a large road near the coast that covers all of the island. Whether you’re coming in from the east or west, just take it south, and when you get to the beach, find a parking spot.
Facilities & Parking
If you elect to drive to Matira Beach, you can find parking spaces near the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort.
Aside from outdoor public showers, there aren’t many facilities. Matira is a relaxed and decidedly uncommercial beach, so there are no towels, lounge chairs, or umbrellas available to rent. You can find shade under the numerous palm trees.
That said, there’s plenty to do nearby and places to stay. For one, there are a number of resorts, including Matira House Bora Bora and Matira Beach Bungalow. In addition, the aforementioned InterContinental Resort is home to the luxury Thalasso Spa.
When you get hungry, there are several small cafes right on the beach serving quick eats like sandwiches, wraps, and smoothies. One of the island’s most popular bars, Bloody Mary’s, is just a short walk away from the beach.
Otherwise, you can walk to Le Matira Roulette for fresh Mahi Mahi or Fare Manuia for a wood-fired pizza. If you’re in the mood for something fancier, make your way to the Matira Beach restaurant for a wide selection of Tahitian cuisine.
Things To Do At Matira Beach
If laying on the beach all day isn’t your idea of fun, you can try watersports like wakeboarding, water skiing, jet skiing, and paddle boarding. There are two places you can rent gear from and take classes, Bora Bora Water Sport and Kite Surf School Polynesie.
Both companies offer similar services, except Kite Surf School provides kiteboarding and wing foil boarding lessons.
You can definitely snorkel at Matira Beach, although you might not see much sea life due to the relatively shallow waters. Although snorkeling isn’t ideal, it’s a great family-friendly beach due to the shallow waters. For parents or any traveler, placing a towel and laying on the soft white sand is just beyond relaxing.
If you want to just go for a swim, you’ll be happy to know that the waters are just like the island’s temperature, warm.
If that doesn’t deter you, we recommend going to the southernmost point on the east side of the beach. From there, swim towards the northern part of the barrier reef. There, you’ll see lots of colorful coral and tropical fish.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of the events that take place in Bora Bora tend to occur at Matira Beach. The fire-dancing spectacle above was part of a ceremony for marriage. There are also outrigger canoe races that take place, including the famous Hawaiki Nui Va’a race.
As if this gorgeous beach wasn’t enough to draw you in, the combination of the tasty nearby restaurants and exciting water activities make Matira Beach an unmissable stop on any trip to Bora Bora. If you come at the right time, the sunsets at Matira Beach give you a wonderful view you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
How Matira Beach Got Its Name
The derivation of the name Matira is shrouded in mystery & intrigue. Polynesian is an oral culture and the way forward to find the truth is always to talk with the island’s not so young.
Those living along this most breathtaking stretch of water speak of the name having been derived from the mispronunciation of the name of a whaling boat (the Mathilda) wrecked in the 1800’s.
A fact difficult to accept given the rich history and cultural heritage of these islands and of their people. Given that all consonants and vowels in the word Mathilda are clearly pronounceable by speakers of Tahitian, it’s highly unlikely that the point remained un-named for centuries until the arrival of a whaling boat!
Could the difficulty of the French in pronouncing an English ‘h’ have something to do with the spread of the rumour? Similarly the allegation that the beach was named after a certain Mathilde Bambridge can also be totally dismissed.
Mathilde Bambridge was born in Tahiti and christened Mathilde Fara Bambridge. She visited the beach in the mid to late 1900s & took the name of the beach as a nickname rather than giving the beach her name.
Of greater credence would be the argument that ‘tira’ in Tahitian means the mast of a boat. Matira Point is held to have grown wood in days gone by that was greatly prized by navigators to provide masts for their craft.
I could find no reference, however, in the Academie Tahitienne Dictionary for the word ‘ma‘ although my Tahitian wife insists it means ‘clean’. To use other than the word in full or to omit a letter or letters can, in any case, be misleading. Ma’ira, for example, is Tahitian for fishing rod (although their Maori brothers in New Zealand & many Tahitians use the actual word ‘matira’ for a fishing rod, so this may have played a role in the beach’s name).
My own extensive research, however, produced only one reference to the word “Matira” spelled correctly in its entirety, a reference in the authoritative ‘Tahiti Heritage.
There exists a large stone in the waters of Takapoto – the Tua Poto or Matira, as it is also called. It’s ‘manamana’ meaning it is charged with supernatural power, strength & authority.
Two legends and a more recent actual event tell the story:
In explaining the ‘manamana‘ of Matira the first legend recounts a battle between the warriors of Takapoto (an atoll in the Tuamotus) & Mangaraeva (an island in the Gambiers). In repelling the Mangarevian warriors, a warrior from Takapoto captured two Mangarevians.
While wrestling with one, he saw the other trying to escape on his va’a (outrigger canoe). He immobilized the first by putting his captive’s head under the Matira before intercepting the second warrior.
The second legend is a history of love. In times gone by, there was a family with a beautiful daughter living happily at the breezy pace of island life. The beautiful daughter would, in time be seduced by a handsome young man from another island, a relationship her parents would forbid.
She would fall pregnant & her parents would chase the man from the island, never to return. Love is strong & the young mother & child would wait for the young man on the stone known as Matira, where they would ultimately die.
History does not end there. A most intriguing event occurred in the 1980s. At this time during the building of the quay at Takapoto, the head of works moved the Matira so as to be able to construct the quay’s foundations.
Returning to the site the next morning, to his total dismay, he could find no sign of the substantial foundations laid the previous day but found that Matira had regained her initial place! Matira has remained in that same position ever since despite massive swells during powerful cyclones.
Not surprisingly, many on Takapoto consider Matira as the atoll’s protector.
That those living in Bora Bora would have known of Tua Poto or Matira for centuries is indisputable. The work of eminent anthropologist Dr. Yoshihiko Sinoto shows that Takapoto was a regular stop-over on the early Polynesian traditional voyaging canoe routes to Hawaii via Nuku Hiva. The routes, many of which started from the Society Islands.
Could the sense of Matira have been taken into consideration when naming the marvel of mother nature that is Matira Beach?