Like many many others, the Maldives and Bora Bora have both been on the top of my travel bucket list for the longest time. Having been to both now, I can vouch that they are both incredible destinations and are easily in my top 5 favorite places in the world without a doubt. I have been to the Maldives twice and to Bora Bora once, and I can certainly see myself going back to both destinations again! Even though 2020 put a damper on a ton of our travel plans I am beyond grateful that we actually got to do both Maldives and Bora Bora this year! For this reason especially I have these recent memories of both these experiences very clear in my mind to share with you an honest and clear comparison of these 2 bucket list destinations.
Before I start my comparison I wanted to note that in the current pandemic climate right now, both the Maldives and Bora Bora are reopened for international tourists from all countries, but have some travel requirements and/or restrictions. For all of this and more you can check out my travel guides :
Maldives and Bora Bora are both stunning island destinations and so unique in their own way. I often get asked which one I prefer but its so hard to pick one over the other. For this reason I will be comparing the two in several categories and pick a winner that I prefer in each category. There are so many factors that go into deciding which one might be ideal for you, so going through each of these factors is great before you make a decision.
Without further adieu, here is my detailed Maldives v/s Bora Bora guide :
1 ) ACCESSIBILITY & FLIGHTS :
Maldives : The Maldives is more easily accessible from Europe or Asia. It is definitely possible to go from the US, but takes over 24-30 hours taking into account the connections and transfers. For this reason, flights to Maldives tend to be way more expensive. The best route to go from the US is Emirates and Singapore Airlines. We always go to the Maldives when we visit home in India as it is so much cheaper to fly from India!
Bora Bora : Bora Bora belongs to French Polynesia and is far easier to access from the US! There are several direct flights from LA or SF (United, Air Tahiti Nui, Frenchbee) and they are a lot more affordable Infact if you are lucky you can get RT tickets for even $600-$700! Its also way its closer than you think – just 7.5 hours direct flight to Tahiti from California + another 1 hr domestic flight to Bora Bora! Of course Bora Bora is a longer trek from Europe.
Winner : This depends on where you are flying from. If you are in the US – Bora Bora is way easier.
Flying over the Maldives
Mount Otemanu and the Bora Bora lagoon from the sky
2 ) TIME OF YEAR :
Maldives : November – April is the best time to visit the Maldives as it is the dry season. You are pretty much guaranteed the dreamy Maldives weather you have always dreamt of during this time! Both times we have visited the Maldives was during this time – first time we went in November and this time we went in February and we literally had no rainy or cloudy day ever. If you are looking to save some $$, consider going in the shoulder season (just before the start and after the end of high season); so sometime in late October or early May.
Bora Bora : High season runs from May to October and is certainly the best time to go due to less rainful and incredible weather. We specifically chose August as it is the driest month of the year (but also note that it is when the water temperatures are slightly cool and there are trade winds so it could be extra breezy). Of the 8 days we were there, we had only 1 day of rain and pretty much had incredible weather throughout! High season also means expensive rooms, flights and everything else in general. For this reason – you can also consider going in the shoulder months of April or November.
For both destinations I would avoid low season, especially if its your first time to the destination and you don’t want to take a gamble on the weather gods for your bucket list vacay!
Winner : No winner, cos this depends what time of year you are planning to travel.
Maldives in February (high season)
Bora Bora in August (high season)
3 ) GEOGRAPHY :
Maldives : The Maldives is an archipelago of 1,192 coral islands grouped into 26 coral atolls (island groups) that have 200 inhabited islands and about 97 islands with tourist resorts. Most resorts are on stand alone islands themselves!
Bora Bora : Bora Bora is just 1 island group – it has a central island in the lagoon surrounded by many small motus ! It belongs to French Polynesia which has 118 islands. Most of the resorts sit on these private islets or “Motus”. There are also some resorts and airbnb’s on the main island too.
Winner : n/a
On 1 of the 1192 islands in the Maldives!!
On an islet in the Bora Bora lagoon
4 ) RESORT CHOICE :
Maldives : There are literally a 100 resort options to choose from and there are options for every kind of traveller from families, honeymooners, couples, friends, etc. From my experience and understanding since the Maldives has so many resorts it caters to all categories too from budget to mid range to luxury to ultra luxury! So there is a ton of choice and something for everyone.
Where we stayed in The Maldives :
1 ) Hideaway Beach Resort (my fave!)
3 ) Maafushivaru
Bora Bora : Since Bora Bora is 1 island it has only about 10 luxury resorts and a handful of airbnbs and smaller hotels to choose from.
Where we stayed in Bora Bora :
1 ) Four Seasons Bora Bora (my fave!)
Winner : The Maldives wins here with the variety of accommodation that can cater to every type of traveler.
Hideaway Beach Resort Maldives
Lily Beach Resort Maldives
Four Seasons Bora Bora
Conrad Bora Bora Nui
Intercontinental Thalasso Bora Bora
5 ) OVERWATER VILLA QUALITY :
Both these destinations are known for their luxurious overwater bungalows but if there’s one stark difference I found between the two it was probably this.
Maldives : The villas in the Maldives are THE BEST! On average we found the Maldivian villas to be all top notch, updated, luxurious and in overall better quality. The resorts here are much newer too. Many resorts also come with luxurious amenities like a private butler!
The other thing that I wanted to note here is that in all resorts we stayed at here the water was very shallow, super calm and swimmable from the villa. It isn’t deep enough to jump off the deck. I prefer shallow to deeper waters so this was perfect!
Bora Bora : Although we loved the villas we stayed at in Bora Bora, compared to the Maldives they seemed a little older and not as updated/trendy. Only St Regis has butler service.
In terms of water depth from the villa depth in Bora Bora I noticed the waters are usually deep like 12-25 feet from the deck of your villa. Perfect for jumping off or cannon balling 😉 but also a little more wavy and less calm than the waters in the Maldives.
Winner : Maldives handsdown! For the same price you can get a much better villa and amenities in the Maldives.
Overwater villa in Maldives
Overwater villa in Bora Bora
6 ) SCENERY / NATURAL BEAUTY :
Maldives : Maldives are an idyllic island escape and the usual scenery is unending blues on blues for days.
Bora Bora : The no 1 thing that Bora Bora is known for it is its unbeatable natural beauty! The backdrop of the iconic Mount Otemanu against the insane blues of the lagoon is seriously something out of a dream.
Winner : Bora Bora stole my heart with its epic and diverse views of the blues and greens.
Postcard views in the Maldives
Dreamy views for days in Bora Bora
7 ) BEACH / SAND QUALITY :
Maldives : I have never seen water that glows the way it does in the Maldives! The azure blues and crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean are truly unbeatable. The sand is also powdery white and super soft! Sometimes its SO white it looks like snow haha!
Bora Bora : While the waters are gorgeous and have some superb blue shades, the sand is very rough and coarse due to the coral rich lagoon.
Winner : Maldives has the best waters and best sands in the world, period.
Water that glows and white sands like you have never seen before in the Maldives
Coral rich sand and aqua waters of Bora Bora
8 ) MARINE LIFE :
Maldives : There are plenty of snorkeling and diving opportunities but usually a small boat ride from the resort. This is one of the best places in the world to see manta rays! We also saw some sharks and rays at the resorts during fish feeding time.
Bora Bora : Bora Bora is known for its incredible marine life and is a premier diving/snorkeling destinations due to its beautiful coral world in the lagoon! We saw sooo many colorful fish right outside our villa and even went swimming with sharks and sting rays in the lagoon – it was so magical!
Winner : Bora Bora wins here cos of its quantity, diversity and ease of access to insane marine life.
Sunset walks with my new sting ray friends in the Maldives
Snorkeling with fish, sharks, eels and all the marine life in Bora Bora
9 ) THINGS TO DO :
Most people go to either of these destinations with one thing in mind – relaxation! But if you are looking for things to do then you might prefer one over the other.
Maldives : If you are staying on a private island resort its usually very isolated. There are usually things to do and activities on the resort such as cultural activities, watersports, excursions to sandbanks, etc. But you are certainly limited as there is no real civilization nearby. (heaven in my books tbh!)
Bora Bora : Overall Bora Bora has a lot more things to do and you aren’t just limited to the resort. You can go out on the lagoon or take a short boat ride to the main island of Bora Bora.
Winner : Bora Bora had more things to do so this is your winner if you want diverse activities on your itinerary.
Sunset excursion on a traditional Maldivian Dhoni boat
Lagoon Excursion in Bora Bora
10 ) TYPE OF TRAVELER :
Maldives : While we did see many types of travelers here the Maldives is a little more honeymoon-ey.
Bora Bora : Bora Bora had a fair share of honeymooners, families and even solo travelers!
Winner : depends on what sort of traveler you are & who you are traveling with.
Magical moments in the Maldives
Love that we saw every type of traveler in Bora Bora!
11 ) FOOD / MEAL PLANS :
Maldives : Meal plan wise Maldives resorts are more bang for your buck cos most of them are all inclusive or have full board plans. Traditional food wise too, I prefered Maldivian food cos it was closer to Indian food.
Bora Bora : Food is super expensive on resorts and most resorts only come with half board or bed and breakfast options only. I loved the French pastries in French Polynesia and all the fresh fruit!
Winner : Maldives cos of the full board options.
Can’t beat this restaurant with a view in the Maldives!
All the tropical fruit in Bora Bora!
12 ) ISLAND HOPPING :
Maldives : Island hopping is certainly possible, but can tend to get more expensive (with transfers), time consuming and repetitive (you might get a similar vibe from different islands).
Bora Bora : While the time, effort and cost for island hopping in French Polynesia might be comparable to the Maldives ; what will win you over is the diversity in French Polynesian islands. I can only speak for Tahiti and Bora Bora since we did these two and they were SO unique in their own ways. I cant wait to go back to explore other atolls.
Winner : Island Hopping in French Polynesia will give you a much more diverse experience.
Boarding a seaplane to Island hop in the Maldives
Loved how diverse Bora Bora and Tahiti were!
13 ) OVERALL COST :
Keep in mind cost wise these are both expensive destinations. While there are ways to save up and cheaper options, overall it does not make either a “budget vacation”.
Maldives : Flights to the Maldives are expensive from the US, but I love that they have full board options at resorts as well as over 100 resorts in different budget/luxe categories to choose from. Domestic flights and transfers are comparable to Bora Bora.
Bora Bora : While flights can be cheaper from the US, we found food and activities to be way more expensive as there was no all inclusive category in resorts.
In my travel guides I have broken down costs for both as well as given tips on how to save up! If you have a lot of airline miles or hotel rewards to redeem you can consider doing so at either destination. However keep in mind that resorts at at both destinations are at the very high end of the award chart and availability can be scarce, but its totally worth checking.
Winner : A tie cos each one is expensive in different categories. Both destinations are known to be expensive in general, but on average it’s probably a little easier to have a slightly more budget-friendly vacation in Bora Bora than it is in the Maldives (if you are going from the US).
However due to a wider number resorts in the Maldives, you will find more variety and better value for the same price, especially when it comes to accommodations.
Luxury at its finest in the Maldives
Love these epic views in Bora Bora!
14 ) OVERALL VIBE :
Maldives : Being in the Maldives feels like you are deserted on the most insane luxurious private island escape, and this epic feeling is second to none! It truly is a destination like no other. I have been to over 35+ islands in my life; nothing comes close to the Maldives with regards to this.
Bora Bora : Bora Bora definitely had a more warm South Pacific island charm to it! It dosen’t feel super remote but still checks off everything else to make it a bucket list destination.
Winner : This totally depends on what sort of vacay you are going for but because I do love the feel of a remote island – the vibe of the Maldives is unbeatable in my books!
Unreal beauty in the Maldives; feels secluded, private and remote
Loved these tropical island vibes in Bora Bora
In my opinion – both these fantastic destinations should be on your bucket list! If you love private islands, picture perfect beaches, marine life and overwater bungalows – you will no doubt love both Maldives and Bora Bora.
I will 100% return back to both of them! Why?
- the Maldives has soooo many new islands to explore every single time. I have been twice already and had a different experience both times. Its also super easy to go to every time I visit family back in India; so its too good to resist !
- Bora Bora and French Polynesia is so easily accessible from California! Especially with a direct flight right from SF I am already tempted to plan a return trip stat. I can’t wait to be back to explore more of these incredible South Pacific Islands.
As I mentioned earlier, both are synonymous of being luxe expensive destinations and if budget isn’t too much of a constraint here are my thoughts on what you would prefer :
- If you are looking for a remote, secluded island escape where all you care about is relaxation and your no 1 criteria is high end luxury – do the MALDIVES!
- If you are looking for a well rounded trip that is not only luxe, but also has diverse landscapes, marine life and many other things to do – do BORA BORA!
Here are both my travel guides :
Hope this guide helps you plan your dream vacay, bucket list honeymoon, family trip or special occasion holiday to the Maldives or Bora Bora. Have you been to either ? Which was your favorite?
Thanks for stopping by. xo