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  • Writer's pictureJessie Ladipo

Bora Bora vs the Maldives: Which is Right for You



Do you dream of turquoise waters, white sand beaches, and unparalleled overwater villas? Both Bora Bora and the Maldives are great options. Bora Bora is a small but breathtaking island of French Polynesia. Conversely, the Maldives is a tropical country in the middle of the Indian Ocean, comprised of hundreds of tiny islands. Each is in my top 5 every year (the Maldives and Bora Bora were my second-most and fourth-most popular honeymoon destinations in 2023.) At first glance, these splurge-worthy and stunning destinations might look alike, but they are vastly different. I prefer the Maldives, but your opinion is the only thing that matters. I will compare and contrast the islands so you can pick the one that is right for you.


Weather


Each has distinct seasonality and opposite weather patterns. The islands' location determines climate differences between Bora Bora and the Maldives.


Bora Bora:

In French Polynesia, the dry season is from May to October, while the rainy season occurs from November to April. Occasionally, during wintertime, Bora Bora gets a bit cold during the evenings.


Best Time to Visit

June through September are the driest months; this is the high season in Tahiti, so it is also the most expensive time to travel to the region.


The Maldives

The dry season is from November to April, and the rainy season is from May to October. The Maldives is constantly warm day and night because it is close to the equator.


Best time to Visit

The high season is from January to April; you will find dry, warm weather and sky-high prices.




Getting There


From the US, traveling to either Bora Bora or the Maldives is a trek plan on long flights with at least one overnight flight.


Bora Bora

Bora Bora is more accessible, especially for anyone on the West Coast. If you live in the Central or Eastern parts of the US, plan to fly into LA or San Francisco(SFO) to catch a flight to French Polynesia. 


After Arriving in Tahiti

There are no direct flights to Bora Bora from anywhere in the US, but from LAX or SFO, you can get a direct flight to Papeete (PPT). Bora Bora is about an hour's flight from PPT. The Bora Bora Airport (BOB) lies on a centrally located island, and the resorts rest on islets surrounding that central island. After collecting your luggage, you will head to the arrivals lounge. Each resort has a reception area, and they will make sure you get on a speedboat to the resort.  


Please Note that you must arrive in PPT by 3 pm to catch a flight to Bora Bora. If you don't arrive in PPT in time to get a connection to Bora Bora, you will have to stay on the Island of Tahiti for the night.


The Maldives

Getting to the Maldives requires patience; you can find direct flights to the international airport in the Maldives (MLE) from London, Dubai, Doha, Sri Lanka, Istanbul, Madrid, and other major European cities. Plan a couple of days in the town if you want to break up the flights. Most people head directly to their resort rather than spend time in the capital of Male. The Maldives is a Muslim nation, and the resorts are the only places where you can find alcohol or wear bikinis.


After Arriving in Male

The resorts lie on private islands sprinkled throughout the atolls. You have three options to travel to the resort.


  1. Speedboat is an option for resorts within 15-45 minutes of Male. A boat is the least expensive option. Most speedboats will stop as several resorts are on the way.

  2. Domestic flight followed by speedboat. Some atolls have a small domestic airport. After arriving at the domestic airport, you will take a boat to your resort.

  3. Seaplanes are the best option for remote resorts.


Please note: Male arrival time doesn't matter if you take a speedboat. But if you have to take a plane, you must arrive at MLE by 3 pm. Landing areas in the Maldives do not have lights, so flights are only possible if it's light.


Resorts and Overwater Bungalows (OWB)


The Maldives and Bora Bora are famous for their lovely luxury resorts and overwater bungalows, but the Maldives has far more options from which to choose.


Bora Bora is home to four genuine luxury hotels on coral islands (motus) on the island's outer reef. I rate them as follows:

  • Four Seasons Bora Bora

  • Conrad Bora Bora

  • St Regis Bora Bora

  • Intercontinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa


There are several other hotels, but these four are more luxurious and romantic. Although the hotels are excellent, they differ from the Maldives' scale of luxury and service. When you put the Bora Bora hotels in the Maldives, they would not rank in the Top 20 resorts. Four Seasons is the exception; it is one of my Top 10 resorts worldwide.



The Maldives is home to some of the best resorts in the world. There are dozens of exceptionally luxurious hotels, most on a private island. There are hundreds of resorts with OWBs in the Maldives at many price points. Some of my favorites include:


Here are some significant differences between the resorts

  • The resorts in Bora Bora are older and last updated years ago. In contrast, most resorts in the Maldives are newer and remodeled often.

  • All resorts in Bora Bora feature classic Polynesian decor, which comprises dark woods and thatching, making the villas feel smaller than they are. Maldivian resorts come in various styles, most of them very contemporary. 

  • OWBs in Bora Bora are less luxurious and less spacious than their often palatial peers in the Maldives. The St Regis Maldives Vommuli has an overwater villa that is over 18,000 square feet. If you want to learn more about the most incredible OWBs in the Maldives, read my series, Part 1 and Part 2.

  • The restaurants in Bora Bora resorts are good while dining in the Maldives is mostly an extraordinarily sophisticated culinary experience from Michelin-starred chefs. For example, Soneva Fushi in the Maldives serves the best food I've ever had at a resort, with world-class restaurants, over-the-top settings, and impeccable service.


Surroundings

Bora Bora

Even though the scenery of both the Maldives and Bora Bora is stunning, there are distinct differences. Bora Bora is one of the most gorgeous islands. A splendid lagoon and barrier reef encircle the island and several motus of broken coral and sand. At the center of the main island lies an extinct volcano with two panoramic mountains, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu. Most luxury hotels give guests a complete panorama of the fantastic view.



Maldives

The Maldives does not feature mountains. It's an archipelago of around 1,200 low-lying coral islands in the Indian Ocean. Each island feels like a deserted Shangri-la, swathed with luxuriant palm trees and surrounded by a reef with a shallow lagoon. Most resorts enjoy captivating and unending views of the crystalline waters. But because the Maldives lacks elevation, Bora Bora offers more intriguing and gorgeous vistas.



Things to See and Do


Bora Bora and the Maldives are watersport utopia. Ooourtunites for swimming, diving, snorkeling, paddleboarding, etc are plentiful. But what separates the two?


Bora Bora

Bora Bora is a haven for adventurous couples. You can chase waterfalls and summit peaks, explore motus by outrigger canoe, and hit the backroads on 4-wheelers. There is a wealth of activities to enjoy outside of your resort.


My Must-Try Bora Bora Activities

  • Swim with humpback whales and sharks.

  • Have a romantic picnic on a private motu.

  • Dive for black pearls.

  • Go sailing on a sunset catamaran.




Sandbar in Maldives
Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

Maldives

Few activities exist outside the offerings of your resort in the Maldives. The islands are remote, so you will likely only leave your resort once it is time to go home. Each resort has unique activities to enjoy, but they are more limited in number.  


My Must-Try Maldivian Activies

  • Stay in a beach bubble.

  • Dance the night away in an underwater club.

  • Go fishing with Maldivian locals.

  • Get stranded on a sandbar.

  • Take in a movie at an overwater float-up theater.




Island Hopping


In Tahiti, island hopping is relatively inexpensive and easy. Larger islands have airports or helipads; if you want to hop to some of the smaller islands, prepare for multi-step journeys. For instance, to visit La Taha'a, the Vanilla Isle, you must fly into Bora Bora or Raitea and then take a ferry to La Taha'a. Are you planning on heading to Tetiaroa, home to the world-famous Brando resort? You will have to take a private Air Tetiaroa flight from Papeete. If you hop over several islands, the costs will quickly increase.


In the Maldives, island hopping is difficult logistically and price-prohibitive. Again, the resorts are remote, and there are no scheduled flights between resorts. Also, some resorts have rules on hopping that you have to follow. For instance, the Anantara Veli will not allow you to hop from their resort to another resort, but you can end your island-hopping adventure at their resort. If you want to island hop in the Maldives, you need to contact a travel consultant specializing in the Maldives, like me, to ensure everything goes smoothly!


Final Thoughts


Here is my quick rundown on the type of couples that would fit each destination.


Bora Bora:

  • Adventurous couples who want to explore outside of their resort

  • Anyone who wants to island-hop

  • People who want to dive deep into Polynesian culture

  • People who want to minimize their travel time


The Maldives

  • Foodies

  • Luxury Lovers

  • Couples that require fantastic rooms

  • Couples that desire seclusion

  • Couple that want to relax and reconnect


There is no wrong choice when the options are Bora Bora and the Maldives, but most couples gravitate to one or the other. I prefer the Maldives, but I have been to Bora Bora multiple times, and there is nothing new to discover. What about you? Would you pick Bora Bora or the Maldives?

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