Chances are that if you were asked to draw your idea of a Pacific island, you might come up with a picture that looks pretty much like Bora Bora—soaring rain-forest covered peaks, a classic lagoon of blues and greens, and a ring of coral reef and tiny islets with lovely beaches and coconut trees. The island itself can be explored in a few hours; there are sweeping beaches in the south and ancient Polynesian temples hidden in the jungle. It's populated by 8,880 Polynesians who love to show visitors their treasured lagoon and its marine inhabitants. They also love to entertain visitors with music and dance.
American writer James A. Michener, who visited more than 40 Pacific Islands during his naval service in World War II, famously called Bora Bora the most beautiful island in the world. Some say it was the inspiration for the enchanted island Bali Hai, which features in his book Tales of the South Pacific, and was sung about in the long-running hit musical South Pacific. Other sources, however, claim Bali Hai was based on an island in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) that Michener could see from his base in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu's largest island.
Whatever the real story, the island's name means "firstborn" in the Tahitian language and, as people will not tire of telling you, should be spelled Pora Pora since there is no B in Tahitian. These days few would dream of changing the popular name of a place that is already recognized globally as the ultimate South Seas paradise.