When it comes to bucket list destinations, some of the first things that come to mind are fancy bungalows perched above idyllic waters. Two very comparable options are Bora Bora (part of French Polynesia) in the South Pacific, and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to take the trip of a lifetime, many people find themselves tuck choosing between these two beautiful destinations. How can you decide which one is the better choice?
Within the last two years, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit both, and I’m here to help you decide. Now bear in mind that these are the types of destinations in which the experience relies very heavily on the resort you choose. Except for the occasional excursions you might take, you’ll rarely leave the resort. For Bora Bora, I stayed at the Four Seasons and in the Maldives, I stayed at the Conrad on Rangali Island.
Maldives vs. Bora Bora: The Food
I would say the food at Conrad Maldives wins hands down. Every meal I had there was absolutely amazing and not only that, but there were so many restaurants with amazing settings. An underwater restaurant, a restaurant with panoramic views of the azure waters, a restaurant that offers spectacular sunset views…and so on. While the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora had great food as well, there wasn’t anything that stood out to me in particular, and the restaurant ambiance wasn’t nearly as impressive. But let’s talk pricing. While both were expensive, the Conrad Maldives was just crazy expensive. We skipped meals, hardly drank alcohol, and still managed to spend about $2,500 in food in just five days.
Maldives vs. Bora Bora: The Activities
The Conrad Maldives seemed to offer a lot more variety in terms of off-island excursions, including unique activities like whale shark snorkeling. The Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, however, seemed to offer a lot more complimentary activities on-site, such as stand-up paddleboarding. Regarding the Conrad’s neat activities, buyer beware: Joe and I booked the whale shark snorkeling excursion for a whopping $200 per person with the false promise that we would definitely be seeing whale sharks. We did not. It wasn’t until after we returned (and wasted a lot of time and money) that we were told that the whale sharks haven’t even been spotted for a long time. Say what!? I wish someone told us this before we left and while we still had a chance to cancel. But they didn’t, which brings me to my next point…
Maldives vs. Bora Bora: The Properties
The actual properties themselves are stunning. It took me a while to come to this conclusion, but I finally decided that the Conrad Maldives beats out the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora. However, the people running the Conrad Maldives kind of put a damper on the experience. The service, for the most part, is not good. Restaurant service was extremely slow at most places. I felt that all they cared about was getting you to spend money (as if you’re not spending a lot already), and we were constantly getting bombarded with phone calls (and even approached in person often) with requests to make extremely expensive dinner and activity reservations, and when we’d say no thanks, they’d keep pushing. It was really annoying — not to mention that the whale shark experience left us feeling bamboozled. The staff at the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, however, was very nice and hospitable, without being overbearing.
Maldives vs. Bora Bora: The Rooms
We stayed at the least expensive overwater bungalows at both the Four Seasons in Bora Bora and the Conrad in Maldives. Without a doubt, the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora wins by a landslide. In fact, the room at the Conrad Maldives wasn’t that nice in general, and the only thing going for it was that it was an overwater bungalow. And the base rooms at Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora are a lot cheaper, too. My advice if you’re going to stay the Conrad Maldives: Either spring for the fanciest overwater bungalows, or opt for the beach suites.
Maldives vs. Bora Bora: Freebies
Aside from non-motorized water sports, both resorts offered other free things that I thought were nice and worth mentioning. Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora provides free shuttle by boat to the main island, which is great if you want to explore the local area a bit more. And the Conrad Maldives has a free happy hour each day, which includes complimentary alcohol and canapés, with a lovely view of the beach.
Maldives vs. Bora Bora: Surroundings and Natural Beauty
This was another tough one, and it’s kind of a tie. The water color at both is spectacular, but, it is definitely better at the Maldives–the most gorgeous water I’ve seen so far in my travels. However, the Maldives is missing something that French Polynesia isn’t–those amazing mountains. Because of this, I’d say that Bora Bora is much prettier.
Maldives vs. Bora Bora: Getting There
Getting to Bora Bora and the Maldives from the United States is a pain in the ass, but I felt that the Maldives was slightly more stressful. We flew direct from New York to Qatar, switched planes and then flew to Sri Lanka (approximately $1100 per person r/t). We then flew to the Maldives from Sri Lanka (approximately $200 per person r/t) and then had to take a 30-minute seaplane to the Maldives (a shocking $500 per person), which I hated. The plane was tiny, cramped, and on the way there, the flight wasn’t even direct! Nobody mentioned that, and for the price you’re paying and the mere 30-minute flight time, you’d think everyone on this teeny plane would be going to the same resort. Nope.
When it was time to leave the Conrad Maldives, we were instructed to wait at the resort’s “lounge” by the dock (a small, cramped area with no restrooms), about an hour before our departure time! Um, what? This isn’t a real airport we’re talking about here. There was no security. Our bags were already waiting for us. To be blunt, it’s pretty stupid that they make you do this. When you leave Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, you can just arrive at the dock a few minutes prior to departure.
Getting to Bora Bora involved a direct flight from New York to Los Angeles, and then from Los Angeles to Tahiti (approximately $2500 per person r/t), a separate flight to Bora Bora (direct and not on a seaplane, $400 per person r/t) and then a very short boat ride to the resort (approximately ($150 per person r/t). You can fly direct from LAX through a couple different airlines, including Air Tahiti and Air France.
The journey to French Polynesia was about double the cost than to the Maldives when I went, but everything in Bora Bora seemed to be a lot cheaper than the Maldives. Overall, the Maldives seems to be more suited for someone who is Oprah-rich, whereas Bora Bora is much more affordable.
Maldives vs. Bora Bora: The Winner
Essential Travel Planning Information
Flights: A few different airlines will fly to Tahiti. If you’re flying from (or connecting in) Paris or Los Angeles, you can fly directly to Tahiti through Air France. You can also compare routes from various airlines with one of my favorite booking tools, Cheapflights.com, which helps you to find the best and lowest airfare available for your travel dates.
Hotels: I personally to prefer to book my hotels directly through Expedia and you can book both the Conrad Maldives on Expedia and the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora on Expedia. I like to stick with one program so that I can rack up points for free and discounted travel. You can also compare prices from major booking engines (Expedia, Travelocity, etc.) by doing a search through HotelsCombined.com
If you’ve been to both Bora Bora and Maldives, which did you prefer and why? Where did you stay at both locations?