Bora Bora vs Maldives? This is a question that plagues many luxury travelers including myself. After getting engaged in Bora Bora, arguably one of the most beautiful islands on earth, my husband and I had set the bar pretty high for where we should travel to on our honeymoon. We knew that after a chaotic year of planning which culminated in a very large wedding, remote relaxation was a priority for top honeymoon destination choices. We also had been longing to visit another overwater bungalow island, and given that we wanted to travel to other countries after we rested and recharged, we decided on the Maldives as the perfect first stop to our multi-destination honeymoon. (Especially because the Maldives are rumored to disappear.) Many travelers debate whether they should go to Bora Bora or the Maldives, and after visiting both these dream-worthy destinations, I’ve formed some very strong opinions on which place to visit.
Bora Bora or Maldives
Is Bora Bora The Maldives?
This question does come up quite a bit so to start, no, Bora Bora and Maldives are two completely separate destinations. The Maldives is a set of islands in the Indian Ocean located off the coast of Sri Lanka. Bora Bora is an island within a set of islands belonging to country of French Polynesia, and is located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Australia. Both offer the water bungalow experience on luxurious island resorts spanning the clearest crystal blue and turquoise lagoons. Here are some factors that may help you decide one destination over the other.
Cost of Bora Bora vs. the Maldives
The first thing people often take into consideration when choosing between two destinations is cost. In general, Maldives is more expensive. For one, There is a 22% tax added to everything purchased there. (10% service and 12% government). This means all activities, dining, and resorts are slightly more expensive. The second thing to take into consideration is flights. Depending on which Island(s) you are closer to, flights will probably be cheaper. However, With both destinations, an extra flight (or seaplane for Maldives) is required to get you to your resort. (Tahiti to Bora Bora, and Malé to whatever island/resort you are staying on.) The seaplane transfer is around $500 in Maldives, vs. the approximate $200 flight from Tahiti to Bora Bora.
Traveling to Bora Bora vs. Traveling to Maldives
The travel time to get to Bora Bora vs. the Maldives obviously depends on your location, but for those of us in the U.S. Bora Bora is much closer. Maldives is not only far, but can be difficult to get to get to. There are no direct flights to the Maldives. To get there, you either need to take a very long flight to either Hong Kong or Dubai, and then to Malé (the main island) before taking a seaplane to your resort island. Total travel time will take more than 24 hours to get to Maldives compared to the 6 hour flight to French Polynesia. United Airlines now offers direct flights from San Francisco to Papeete, Tahiti, making it easier than ever to get to Bora Bora. That said, if you are considering traveling to other parts of Asia, or some parts of Africa or Europe, Maldives might make sense. Conversely, if you are traveling from or to Australia/New Zealand and the U.S., Bora Bora is about midway.
Another thing you may want to consider is safety. While Bora Bora and French Polynesia are considerably incredible safe, the same cannot be said about some parts of Maldives. The capital city, Malé where you will be flying into and possibly spending a night in at an airport hotel is not always considered the safest. There are also strict muslim laws that may hinder your ability to drink alcohol or say, wear a bikini on some of the public beaches (resorts are ok.) You won’t be spending much time if at all on Malé however, so you should not let this deter you.
Related: Travel Hack for Bora Bora
Overwater Bungalow Resorts and Luxury in Maldives vs. Bora Bora
There are many options for luxury overwater bungalow resorts in both Bora Bora, however there are over 500 resorts in Maldives (not all with over water bungalows) vs. the ~20 in Bora Bora with overwater bungalows. This means there are many more price points to choose from. Maldives however, has many more new resorts resulting in ultra modern bungalow experiences and the famous underwater resort of the Conrad Maldives. More resorts in Maldives feature glass bottom floors, and offer extra luxurious pampering opportunities. Many of the resorts in both Bora Bora and Maldives are on their own private islands, however the resorts in Maldives are also much more spread out. If privacy is a concern for you, you will feel much more secluded in the bungalows of Maldives where you can skinny dip in the ocean without the fear of being caught by your neighbors or a passing boat nearby.
Bora Bora or Maldives for Honeymoon or Couples, Families, or Singles and Solo-Travelers
There is no denying that both destinations are incredibly romantic and best suited for honeymooners or couples. Both places offer such a similar experience that it almost doesn’t matter whether you are a couple, family, or single. The Maldives are a perfect place for an over-the-top luxurious honeymoon or proposal (even though I loved being proposed to in Bora Bora); but with more to do and the added affordability factor, if you are single or a family, you might want to consider Bora Bora and its surrounding islands.
Activities, Entertainment and Dining in Maldives vs. Bora Bora
Both Bora Bora and Maldives do not offer much entertainment-wise beyond relaxation, and water sports and activities. (Which isn’t totally necessary when you can jump into the calm waters from your bungalow and swim amongst the many fish, turtles, and (friendly!) sharks every day.) As mentioned above, the activities (jet skies, parasailing, spa services etc.) are slightly cheaper in Bora Bora. As far as diving and snorkeling in Bora Bora and the Maldives, Both have amazing coral reefs, but if you are a diver or avid snorkeler, the Maldives is home to the most amazing and colorful coral reefs in the world, which are a must see for serious diving and underwater enthusiasts.
Something important to consider when weighing your options for which to travel to is that in the Maldives, you cannot visit any other resort other than your own (unless you want to pay another $500 for a seaplane ride.) In Bora Bora, you can take boat rides (about $50 a person round trip) to visit the other resort hotels or the main part of the island.
It is also easier to visit other islands when visiting Bora Bora due to (some-what) affordable inter-island flights. When there, you can also spend a couple nights in Tahiti and/or Mo’orea, which offer cheaper overwater bungalow accommodations and provide a unique beauty of their own. These other islands also offer many more mountain and land-based activities, offering a unique mix or inland and island experiences.
Related: Bora Bora Detailed Guide + FAQ
Maldives or Bora Bora: Where should you go?
So which one should you visit? Bora Bora and Maldives are equally beautiful in my mind and offer a similar type of experience with similar activities. My recommendation is to go to whichever is closer (for residents of the US, that would be Bora Bora.) Resorts in Bora Bora are also slightly cheaper than Maldives when comparing 4 and 5-star accommodations, but if you are planning to visit other parts of the Middle East or East Asia on the same trip, then it may be worth your while to go with the Maldives. Whether you choose Bora Bora, Maldives, or another island, staying in an overwater bungalow is an experience that should be on the bucket list of every traveler. There really is nothing like it.
Need a little more help deciding? Check out my Bora Bora drone video and Maldives drone video below: