When you hear the names Bora Bora and the Maldives, I’m sure your mind conjures up visions of picture-perfect turquoise water, white sand beaches, and palm trees gently swaying in the breeze.
They are luxurious beautiful islands on the bucket lists of many travelers around the globe, yet while similar in many ways, there are some vast differences. So if you find yourself trying to choose between the two, how do you decide?
This piece has been written purely on Anna Gosden-Baker’s personal experience and considers the places she visited and the accommodations she stayed in.
My husband and I have been fortunate enough to visit both Maldives for 5 nights and 4 nights on Bora Bora in the past. If you’re trying to decide between visiting Bora Bora or the Maldives, these are my experiences and observations to help with your decision, as well as how to find a great deal.
Maldives Vs Bora Bora: Location
First things first, location. The islands of the Maldives are located in the Indian Ocean below India & Sri Lanka. From Adelaide, South Australia, we flew 7 hours to Singapore then another 5 hours to the main island of Male.
The Maldives consists of almost 1200 islands grouped into 27 atolls. Approximately 200 of the islands are inhabited of which over 160 are island resorts, with more popping up every year. The islands are flat, sandy, and small. It’s the flattest country on earth, with around 80% of the nation only 1 meter above sea level and its highest point being about 3 meters.
Bora Bora is a single French Polynesian island. It’s part of the Society Islands group in the South Pacific Ocean between South America & Australia. From Australia, it’s a similar distance to the Maldives, but because of its remoteness, it requires multiple flights.
We had to take 4 flights: 1.5 hours to Melbourne, 3.5 hours to Auckland, NZ, 5 hours to Tahiti then 1 hour to Bora Bora. This small island has one main flat ring road approximately 32 km (20 miles) long that weaves its way around the spectacular 727-meter-high Mount Otemanu. A barrier reef surrounds the island, which protects the lagoon keeping it calm and safe for water activities most of the year.
The flight in and out of each of them is nothing short of breathtaking. You won’t find many other flights as scenic, and I genuinely got emotional flying into Bora Bora. The combination of its beauty and the thought that we had worked so hard to make the trip reality had me crying tears of joy.
Maldives Vs Bora Bora: Accommodations
Selecting accommodation was incredibly important to us. In Islands such as these, you tend to spend a lot of time at the resort sipping cocktails by the ocean.
The process of finding the right resort in the Maldives can be rather overwhelming. As I mentioned above, there are over 160 island resorts, so there certainly is no lack of choice. There are many details to take into account when choosing where to stay in the Maldives. Everything from what atoll to visit, traveling by boat or seaplane from Male airport, family-friendly or for couples, and whether you’re looking for something all-inclusive. The most important is how drool-worthy are the overwater villas. Costs vary significantly, and when I say significantly, I mean from a few hundred dollars a night to thousands of dollars.
After hours and hours and hours of research and scouring accommodation sites to find something with a great all-inclusive package that fit our budget, we settled on Meeru Island Resort and Spa. It had excellent reviews, many from repeat customers who keep going back. We wanted something not too far from the main island so we could just get a boat rather than adding the extra expense of a seaplane.
We also considered Club Med Kani, it looked amazing and super modern, it had a great all-inclusive package and loads of activities, but for us at the time was a bit out of budget. I would definitely consider it if/when we return one day, although by then there will be so many new resorts, there are already lots of new ones just in the last few years.
Meeru was approximately a 55-minute boat ride from the airport. I still remember approaching the island to the sound of singing and drums. It was the most stunning island we had ever seen, like a dream – clear ocean, white sand, and palm trees.
Meeru Island is 1200 meters long and 350 meters wide, you have access to almost everything except for the staff zone in the middle of the island. Despite the small size, there is plenty to keep everyone entertained, and it surprisingly never felt busy.
There are 284 rooms, 5 restaurants, 5 bars, 2-day spas, 2 pools (1 adults only), dive training, 9 hole golf, a driving range, a green field for soccer and tennis, a games room, a fitness center, land and water sports and more! Meeru is very casual, all restaurants and bars are open with sandy floors, and shoes are always optional.
We had an all-inclusive package that gave us meals, drinks, and most activities, there were only additional charges for items not included in the meal plan and things like the day spa, it was incredible value.
We spent the first 2 nights in a beach villa, we were on the sand a little set back from the water, the ocean peaked through the palms, and it was very calm and shaded. The villa was beautiful, spacious, and comfortable with great amenities. Although we had neighbors we had plenty of space between us as we barely saw anyone.
On day 3 we excitedly moved to our overwater villa, we thought the beach villa was special, but my oh my being overwater was next level. The room was higher quality than the beach villa and much larger, it had a huge bathroom, a walk-in wardrobe, an outdoor spa with stairs directly to the water, and the most stunning views. We could snorkel with fish during the day and watch giant trevally and black-tip reef sharks swim past by night. The villas and facilities at Meeru had quite a traditional feel, I loved the character and serenity of the island.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when selecting to visit the Maldives is that unless you stay in a hotel on one of the inhabited islands the entire island is your resort and the only time you tend to leave is for water activities.
Bora Bora has 2 options for where to stay, on the island or on the Motus which are the outer rings surrounding the lagoon and more distant smaller islands. Accommodation on the island varies, there are a few hotels and quite a number of holiday rentals.
The airport is located on the motu, so no matter which accommodation you choose you will need to travel by boat. A free ferry runs between the airport and the main island, where you can find taxis to take you all over the island. Motu Resorts have private boat transfers at an additional cost.
Choosing where to stay was relatively easy for us. It all came down to having easy access to everything, and because of this I selected the Intercontinental Le Moana on the southern end of the main island. I did do research into staying on the motu, but I loved the idea of being able to step outside of the resort to go exploring, visit restaurants, and see what local life is like.
Many people go to Bora Bora to relax in their resorts. It’s a wonderful way to holiday and escape reality, but that’s not for us as we are more active travelers. If we’re in a new destination we like to get out and about to experience it.
Le Moana has 2 restaurants, a bar, a pool, a games room, and water sports. While it doesn’t have an on-site day spa you have access to the spa at the sister site Thalasso. To travel to the resort we chose to take the boat transfer rather than the ferry for a couple of reasons. We were flying in the afternoon and knew it would be the quickest way to get there, plus we wanted to make the experience a bit special. It was lovely to be greeted by the Intercontinental staff and be taken to the boat.
It was shared with the Intercontinental Thalasso guests so we made a quick stop there before arriving at Le Moana. Similar to the Maldives the arrival is breathtaking and you are greeted with singing and dancing. Go through the check-in process in a very relaxed way with a welcome drink in hand and get shown to your accommodation.
Set along a stretch of white sand beach the grounds of Le Moana are beautiful, meticulously kept gardens that provide much-needed shade, tropical greenery as well as privacy between villas. To the right you can see Mt Otemanu and the rest of the way all you see is a lagoon, overwater bungalows, and the motu.
As we had stayed overwater in the Maldives, we chose a beach villa in Bora Bora. The beach villas are literally oceanfront, so there is nothing other than a couple of meters of white sand between you and the lagoon, and although the beach is accessible to all resort guests I don’t remember seeing anyone walking by. It feels like your own piece of paradise.
Our villa had a traditional Tahitian feel, beautifully appointed with rich timber decor and a thatched roof, absolutely gorgeous. We were captivated when our host opened the door, where we noticed the lounging space, which included a couch, TV, desk, a large comfortable bed, the huge bathroom with plenty of space to store clothes, toiletries, and all the sunscreen we brought.
The front deck had outdoor seating and the hammock on the sand but honestly all we really absorbed was the view, from the lounge, the bedroom, and the deck my eyes were drawn to the iconic Bora Bora postcard-perfect lagoon and overwater bungalows views. Included in our stay was a daily buffet breakfast.
Maldives Vs Bora Bora: Things to do
Activities in the Maldives are all about the beach. Most people are there to relax on a sunbed by the water or get out on the water. Conveniently, everything is either run by the island or they come to you, so there is no need to organize any of your own transport.
The island runs all sorts of tours, some of which are free to all-inclusive package holders such as house reef snorkeling or a tour of a local island. Travelers can easily rent snorkeling gear, SUPs, and kayaks to explore the islands and even attend yoga classes.
They have scuba dive training with a dive pool for lessons before going into the big blue ocean to witness the sealife below. You can select from a multitude of boat tours such as sunset cruises, full and half-day sailing experiences to see dolphins, turtles, and more.
Then as the sun goes down the bars light up, and most nights have some sort of party, special dinner, or live music where you can make friends from all over the world. There are a lot of things to do in the Maldives.
Unfortunately, we were unlucky with the weather during our stay, and we had a bunch of activities booked that all got canceled as the weather was too rough. We did get out to the house reef to snorkel but even that was a bit too choppy to see clearly.
We spent our days going for a leisurely morning walk, having breakfast, smashing golf balls as far as we could at the driving range until we ran out of the allocated balls (included in our package). We searched for baby sharks and stingrays along the shoreline, went swimming in the pool or snorkeling out the front of our villa, took amazing photos and met new people at the bar.
On really rainy days, we booked into the day spa and enjoyed a heavenly massage. We danced the night away at the Saturday night glow party and relaxed on our deck feeding fish under the moonlight. We were disappointed our boat trips were canceled but we did not let the weather get in the way of a good time, we had an incredible holiday, one we will never forget.
Bora Bora is fun in the sun at its finest with a hefty dose of relaxation. From the street side of the Intercontinental Le Moana, Bora Bora is at your fingertips, the friendly staff can organize a taxi, you can rent a car or scooter from a close by Avis car rental or you can rent a bike from the lovely woman running the smoothie cart at the end of the street.
From the ocean side, you can a snorkeling and jet ski adventure, SUP, or kayak to see the coral and fish at the resort or meet a tour at the dock.
The day after we arrived was our 10-year wedding anniversary, so we decided not to book any tours but instead explore the island. We slathered on sunscreen and headed out on bikes toward the main town of Viatape.
It was very hot and very sweaty but so worth it to see the island at a slower pace and on our own time. In town, we visited some souvenir stores and a Tahitian pearl store where I bought a beautiful unique pearl pendant to take home then enjoyed some locally made gelato before making our way back.
As well as seeing the sights along the way we had a meal and a much-needed cold drinks at the famous Bloody Marys bar. Renting the bikes cost us approximately $15AUD ($10 USD) each for the day, an absolute bargain. One of our absolute highlights was the tour with Lagoon Services, which I could not recommend them highly enough.
We booked a full-day group tour, pick-up was a breeze as they meet you at the hotel dock. First of all the staff are so incredibly warm, happy, and friendly, and ensure you are safe and comfortable as well as making the day a whole lot of fun.
Our first stop was swimming with the black-tip reef sharks, and it was so cool to see them up close and swim alongside them. They are very safe, just respect their space, and don’t get too close or try to touch them. We then cruised around the island getting some interesting information as we went.
The next spot was to see the sting rays. They were really cute and fun and were honestly really adorable. Not far from there was the coral garden where we had plenty of time to swim through a beautiful array of colourful fish and corals. We enjoyed a delicious local feast on a private spot on the motu, poisson cru, meats, vegetables, fruit, and desserts and then our excellent guides hosted a cultural demonstration before we headed back to our hotel. I genuinely would give this tour 5 stars.
Around the hotel, we did some kayaking and snorkeling which was not too bad, as there are some nice fish around the hotel’s coral and we followed an eagle ray on the kayaks. We went for lots of walks and visited Matira beach a few times which is a great spot to watch the sunset.
One morning we went to Matira Beach and a local canoe racing event was on which was a lot of fun to watch. It’s a real skill, and the people we watched were very dedicated and talented. We also loved watching the dogs on the beach at night trying to hunt fish. Whilst we didn’t see them catch any they were very cute to watch.
We had great weather the whole trip so the only issue we had was a canceled parasailing tour, due to a mechanical issue with the boat. Our lovely hotel staff managed to secure us a helicopter flight instead which was out of this world! Some things happen for a reason and we were so happy we ended up on the heli flight as it was unbelievably spectacular flying over Bora Bora and right alongside the mountain — wow!
There were lots of other things we could have done, like jet skis, 4×4 or ATV tours of the island, sunset cruises, and more but we didn’t want to fill our days too much as relaxation time is also very important. There will be plenty of things to do if we are ever lucky enough to return.
Maldives Vs Bora Bora: Food
When it comes to food in the Maldives, we only ate at our resort which was mostly buffet with 2 a la carte restaurants, Asian including teppanyaki and one you can cook meat on hot rocks. They are aimed at international tourists, so I don’t feel like we got a taste of what local food is.
We loved Meeru Island resort and the all-inclusive package was very handy as you never had to think about cost, but the food was the one thing that was a slight let down, some items were great whilst others were average at best. I guess that’s what you get at a buffet catering for a whole island.
Breakfast was good as there was a large selection plus a station for eggs cooked fresh to your liking. Most days I had fresh rye bread with mushrooms, tomatoes, and baby spinach. Quality was always good and we seemed to always be lucky enough to get a table with ocean view.
Lunch and dinner were very hit-and-miss as some of the food had that mass-produced feel, similar to a cruise ship but other things were really good. At least being buffet if there was something we didn’t enjoy we could just go and get something else. We only ate at a specialty restaurant once and we went to Asian Wok, my meal was great but my husband didn’t particularly like his.
Drinks were also included in the package, and they were generally good. Of course, it didn’t include premium cocktails and spirits but the selection was decent and we also got a free mini bar topped up daily. I can’t comment on local food or food on other islands.
Bora Bora on the other hand had a number of restaurants and eateries to choose from. We didn’t know what to expect being so remote but most was very tasty and we definitely got to try some local delights. Poisson Cru, raw tuna in freshly squeezed coconut milk and lime juice with veg and rice, who knew that combo would be so darn delicious.
We ate lots of great food but that was my absolute favorite. Their locally grown pineapple is not distributed anywhere else and they keep it all on the islands of Tahiti for themselves and it’s better than any I’ve ever had before.
We had a pizza from Lucky House, a burger, and fish tacos at Bloody Mary’s, and we chose Bora Bora Beach Club for our anniversary which was lovely and casual place perfect for us. The view over Matira Beach at sunset was stunning, the staff are friendly (like all of the locals) and the food was wonderful.
For days out exploring you can grab and go from a supermarket and they usually have a selection of sandwiches and salads. The food at our resort was quite good too. Breakfast was included daily and it has a reputation for being the best on the island, we did not have anything to complain about.
We didn’t eat from any of the food trucks on Bora Bora but we did on Tahiti and Moorea and can highly recommend them. If you see one don’t hesitate, the quality and quantity are excellent value.
There are many other Bora Bora restaurants we didn’t get to visit, including some fine dining establishments.
For those of you who enjoy having a cold cocktail or beer on the beach or by the pool, you won’t be disappointed as there is plenty to choose from. Their local beer Hinano is perfect for the hot days.
As expected being so remote prices can be high, but we were surprised at how reasonable lots of places were. If you get the opportunity definitely leave your resort and support the local vendors.
Maldives Vs Bora Bora: Beaches
If you think of those picture-perfect postcard or screensaver images when dreaming of the Maldives and Bora Bora you are not wrong. They don’t need any editing, they are genuinely that beautiful in real life.
It’s hard to compare as they both have by far the most stunning beaches I have seen anywhere in all of my travels. They’re clean with white sand, clear water, peaceful, and full of interesting sea life.
And when I say white sand they have true white sand, not the yellowy white you find at most beaches. The white sand gives the ocean that stunning clear blue look.
Fun fact, the white sand has an interesting and slightly gross story. Up to 85% of it comes from Parrot Fish eating the coral, digesting it, and secreting it out as little white grains – yep it’s Parrot Fish poop!
Parrot Fish are crucial to the ecosystem as when they eat the coral it creates space for new coral growth and cleans it helping to keep algae levels down, plus they make the sand for the islands.
On Meeru Island the sand was super soft and clean. The entire island was sand and we rarely wore shoes anywhere. It’s one of the great things about the island, shoes are optional.
We also saw amazing sea life right from the shore as we went for our daily walks like baby black tip reef sharks (so cute!) and sting rays and crabs. Snorkeling we discovered all sorts of reef fish including a very impressive lionfish, plus larger black-tip reef sharks and giant trevallies.
Bora Bora has many white sand beaches and a few have coral along the shoreline so we tended to wear water shoes a lot to avoid stepping on sharp coral. From our resort, we managed to spot a baby black tip reef shark twice and some small fish but to see the more impressive sea life you really need to get further into the lagoon.
The turquoise lagoon is where Bora Bora really shines. Being surrounded by reefs, the lagoon is generally very calm, and depending on the depth you get all the different shades of blue. As I mentioned earlier, we did the most amazing tour to see sharks, stingrays, and the coral garden. We spotted a turtle coming up for air and we truly never experienced anything like the Bora Bora lagoon. I almost don’t have the words to describe how special it is.
Maldives Vs Bora Bora: Weather
The Maldives weather is warm year round and like all tropical locations, it does have a dry season from Dec to April and a wet season from May to November. We visited at the beginning of June and we got wet. During our 5-day stay, 3 days were rainy and 2 were beautiful and sunny.
It was so warm that we really didn’t mind. We made the most of every day and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, although I have to mention some of our tours were canceled as the water was too rough. If we went back again I would pay the extra to go during the dry season so we could get off the island to experience the boat tours we had hoped to do.
Bora Bora also has a wet and dry season, yet due to its location, the seasons are the opposite to the Maldives with the dry season running from April to October and wet from November to April.
We visited for 5 days in late March/early April and it was hot and humid. However despite the forecast predicting rain every day we barely saw a sprinkle the whole time. I had read advice on forums to ignore the rain forecast and everyone was right as we got some clouds but no rain. I assume if you visit in the peak of the wet season you might get far more rain as the jungle is so lush green it must get plenty of rain.
But I can’t imagine Bora Bora ever being bad to visit. If we couldn’t afford to go in the dry I would go in the wet season again and chance it.
Maldives Vs Bora Bora: Costs
I honestly never entertained the thought of either as I didn’t believe we could afford them. I assumed these alluring destinations were exclusive to the mega-wealthy, I mean, we’re just a normal couple from South Australia. However, after learning a friend had gone to the Maldives, I started doing my own research and found that there were ways to visit on our budget.
As for Bora Bora, we saved for a few years and decided to splurge for our 10-year wedding anniversary, although the costs for staying in Bora Bora was still significantly less than I had expected it to be.
We got an incredible deal through Agoda.com at Meeru Island Resort. I initially got a good deal to start with, but for some reason, I kept checking the costs and got very lucky and managed to snag an extra special price.
Luckily we had free cancellation so I could book at the cheaper price and then cancel the original booking. It was $2600AUD ($1753 USD) for 5 nights which included 2 nights in a beach villa and 3 nights in an overwater villa. I have been using that platform for accommodation bookings for years, I have never had any issues and always get great prices plus earn points to use towards future bookings.
The all-inclusive package included 3 meals a day, snacks, a selection of unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, a mini bar topped up daily plus activities including water crafts and much more. They really know how to make things fun and there is plenty to do for those that want to keep active. It was a steal, and I still can’t believe I found it at that price since I know it’s more expensive now.
The only things we paid extra for were the airport boat transfers, which were approximately $150pp. Additional tours and the day spa were expensive but not too bad considering the location and they often have daily specials. I think we paid approximately $200 or $250AUD for a 1-hour couples massage. The dinner at Asian Wok was very reasonable as well and costs around $30 to $40 pp. We only had mains as we are not big eaters.
The 4 nights at Intercontinental Le Moana Bora Bora in a beach villa cost us $3900AUD ($2631 USD) (see a review on the Le Moana). The breakfast was included, as were non-motorized water crafts and daily classes like learning how to make flower crowns or cooking Poisson Cru. We also received a small bottle of champagne to celebrate our wedding anniversary.
Outside of that, we had to pay for everything. This includes meals at the resort which are quite reasonable for island prices. They were anywhere between $20-$50AUD ($13-$33 USD) for main meals, and drinks were only moderately more than outside of the resort.
Tours really depended on what you did. Our helicopter was around $1000AUD ($674 USD) for 20mins, which is significantly more than we have paid elsewhere. They even charged for a taxi to transport us there when usually transport would be included. The snorkeling tour with motu lunch was $250pp. Bicycle hire from the smoothie stall was only $15 per day.
Meals at restaurants we went to were in the same price range as the hotel, but the quality was better outside. We paid $7-$12 for beers and $18-$25 for cocktails.
In our case clearly, Maldives was a lot less expensive, but we did get lucky and there are plenty of resorts at both locations that are far, far more expensive. There are also more local options like vacation homes where you can really save if you want the island experience without the high price. It all depends on budget and personal preference.
I hope my experiences shared help you plan your dream holiday and make a decision between these two magical destinations. No matter what you choose there is one thing I can guarantee you, you will not be disappointed. Follow your instincts and save hard to make your dreams come true.
”We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous