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Maldives or Bora Bora main

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 Should you go to the Maldives or Bora Bora for your honeymoon? 

Ideally, you would want to visit both because they are very different destinations. But for most of us, making it from Bora Bora to Maldives in the same trip is out of the question because it would require too long a vacation and budget.

If you can only choose one destination, should you go to Bora Bora or Maldives?

I have visited both. I spent nine days in Bora Bora staying at two resorts in two locations and have visited the Maldives twice. Based on my experience, let me give you some insights comparing Bora Bora vs Maldives to help you make the right decision.

Summary comparison Bora Bora Maldives

FeatureMaldivesBora Bora
Getting thereFantastic seaplane options in many
Easy to reach from Asia, Europe and some parts of Africa
Great landing views
Easy to reach from Australia/New Zealand, the US and some parts of South America
PrivacySkinny dipping levelsMost resorts are not very private with speedboats passing regularly
Over the top levelVery highMost down to earth
DiningLots of extravagant, world's first options for the most intimate and amazing dining optionsSimple, farm to table style but with options to escape the expensive resorts and go local
Things to doMostly food and water based. Excellent diving, surfing and dolphin watchingLots to do including mountain adventures, water sports and swimming with sharks
Choice of resortsOver 500Less than 20
Honeymoon pamperingExtra highHigh

Getting to the Maldives or to Bora Bora

Seaplane Maldives

Seaplane Maldives

One of the considerations when choosing a honeymoon, or any trip destination, is how hard it will be to get there. Some places are remote in themselves and this puts some people off visiting. Some others are generally well connected. In the case of both the Maldives and Bora Bora, their location is rather remote but easy to reach from some main hubs. So your location will determine which one is easier to reach.

Maldives tends to be an easier-to-reach destination if you live in Europe or Asia whereas Bora Bora is more accessible from the Pacific or the US. This should not be a determining factor in your decision but if you are pressed for time or want to control the flight costs chances are the closer the cheaper. Also, jetlag will be more bearable if you stay close to your time zone.

In both cases, your journey will involve one (or more than one) international flight to the capitals, Tahiti or Male, followed by a shorter local transfer.

Whereas for Bora Bora you will simply take a relatively large (70 seater) propeller plane from Air Tahiti Nui, in the Maldives your adventure may begin from Male where you shall board a yacht, a seaplane or a domestic flight. If you can, and this depends on the resort you are staying at, choose the seaplane. Not only will you get amazing views but it is also an experience in itself and you are paying for it anyway!

In Bora Bora, the best views are on the left of the plane from Tahiti. You can see a small video I recorded on the landing.

In both cases, this last part of the journey is a great way to get in the right mood and see these beautiful places from the sky. Cameras ready!

 Maldives is closer to Europe and Asia, Bora Bora is closer from Australia/New Zealand and the US/South America 

Privacy levels between Maldives and Bora Bora

Dronie in the Maldives

Dronie in the Maldives

Competition in the hospitality business is riff in the Maldives and new resorts have sprung in the last few years bringing with them increasingly over-the-top amenities and designs that are worthy of celebrity vacations.

Most of the resorts feature villas from which you will not see or be seen by another soul. They have been designed and positioned to maximize views and privacy and you could spend your entire vacation in your villa in complete isolation. See my “dronie” above to know what I mean.

All villas have screens and structures to isolate you from the rest. The geography of atolls also helps. Each resort is located on its own private island so the possibility of spotting a passing fisherman’s boat, a yacht or someone on a jet ski is practically impossible and resort’s facilities are usually positioned in a way that they would never interfere with guest’s relaxation.

In Bora Bora new resort openings are rare and many of the over water bungalows were designed decades ago (although some have been renovated recently like the Conrad (renamed from Hilton and the Intercontinental Thalasso Spa).

This means that what you get is beautiful but does not necessarily involve private decks or over the top villas. In Bora Bora, regardless of what resort you choose, the neighbor is never too far and in fact, you can see and hear them so, if you were expecting to be lounging naked on your over water villa’s deck this is not the place for that.

 For Privacy, the Maldives wins with its secluded and protected over water villas that allow you to skinny dip in your private jacuzzi without being seen 

Additionally, because the higher end resorts are on the lagoon and the area is not that big the water is filled with other tourists on jet skis, speed boats, canoes, swimming, on a tour, etc. so even if you were on one of those villas at the end of the pontoon and facing the sea with no other villa nearby you are very likely going to be seen by the passing traffic.

Over the top luxury in the Maldives and in Bora Bora

I mentioned it in the previous point but, given the rack rates and the complete idolization of Bora Bora by the media and pretty much every traveler I was expecting the resorts to be over the top, to leave me speechless. I thought Bora Bora was the most beautiful place in the world, after all, 90% of those who visit Bora Bora are on their honeymoon, the most special trip many couples will ever take.

Let me emphasize that it is not that I was looking for that, I much prefer bare feet luxury than over-the-top snobbism which always made me feel like an “octopus in a garage” as we say in Spanish, but in this aspect both destinations are very different.

Jacuzzi on the deck - Conrad Rangali

Jacuzzi on the deck – Conrad Rangali

Maldives is pure extravaganza and is sure to deliver the most over the top experience in luxury traveling.

You can go on a submarine, dine under water (<- Check out my experience dining with the sharks underwater), go clubbing under water, book the largest over water villas or challenge your personal butler to the most extraordinary request.

Villas like mine at the Six Senses Laamu, come with all possible amenities, free wi-fi everywhere, well stocked and personalized minibars, outdoor Jacuzzis, overwater bathtubs, large outdoor rain showers, sliding toboggans, chill out sections, infinity pools, pervasive sound system with your personalized playlist and all the luxuries of modern day life. You will also get plenty of free items like espresso machines, snacks, water replenished daily or room service delivery.

Bora Bora is simpler and grounded. I very much enjoyed the more traditional take of even the higher end resorts like the Intercontinental Thalasso Spa I stayed at, but it was not what I was expecting. If you prefer modern and sophisticated rooms Bora Bora is not the place. See the video I made of my stay below.

Unfortunately, given the price tag, you could argue that the villas are overpriced. You pay for the location not necessarily for the service, the food or the villas. The villas at the top end resorts are beautiful but, nowadays, $1,500 a night gets you the Moon and Bora Bora may just fall short if you look at the resorts, villas and facilities alone for this same price tag.

Maldives or Bora Bora: Dining

Dinner on a sandbank at Six Senses Laamu

Dinner on a sandbank at Six Senses Laamu

With 100 resorts to choose from food has recently become a main differentiating factor in the Maldives.

Some resorts have Michelin-starred chefs, grow their own produce, offer organic food, healthy options and even special dietary requirements. There is at least one fine-dining restaurant in the majority of higher-end resorts. Not to mention the cellars, the one at the Conrad Rangali has an impressive 20,000-bottle wine collection and an underground cellar in the catacombs of the resort, the first underground cellar ever built in the Maldives (it is below sea level!).

The F&B Manager at each resort will go the extra mile to provide innovative, unique and unforgettable dining options.

Do you want the chef to cook you a private dinner by the candle light on the sand or a private location? The Four Seasons among others, can pull this off.

Do you want a romantic dinner on the sandbank with your own seafood BBQ? A few resorts have this option but the Banyan Tree is a fabulous one I love.

Do you want the Sommelier to prepare a wine pairing dinner just for you? Absolutely, almost every resort offer this but at the Conrad Rangali you can do that in an underground cellar.

What about a zero carbon meal which does not use any energy? Right on at the eco-friendly and low impact Six Senses Laamu.

Fresh ice cream and chocolates made in-house? Straight from the ice cream parlour at the Soneva Fushi.

Overwater restaurants in the middle of the ocean only reached by boat? At the Niyama Private Islands you can do just that.

I could go on. Food is as much a part of the experience in the Maldives as the beautiful location or the facilities.

In Bora Bora the emphasis is on the natural beauty of the place and less on the luxurious accommodation, facilities or food. You did not come here to indulge in Michelin-starred food.

Food is fresh and locally sourced and so it may be repetitive after a while. Thankfully, the French influence complements the local cuisine beautifully and the dishes are fantastic. As opposed to the Maldives, you can also go to the main island and dine at the local restaurants, something that is not possible in the Maldives where you are hostage to your hotel’s dining options.

Don’t expect Michelin-starred experiences or fancy settings and definitively, no over the top dining in Bora Bora. I had the raw fish with coconut milk at least 5 times in 8 days and I loved it! But I was craving something different after a while and was surprised the “tricks” pulled in the Maldives have not yet made it to Bora Bora.

 For Michelin-starred, over the top dining in some stunning settings, head to the Maldives. For fresh and local delights in more traditional surroundings, you will be happy in Bora Bora. where you can also eat out. 

On-call butlers

No 4 or 5 star resort in the Maldives can do away with butlers or whichever fancy word they use to call your assigned “liaison”. I never found the value of this person very unique but was very surprised not to find an equivalent in Bora Bora. Not because I have come to expect their existence but because, from a wider perspective, I found the level and type of service a tad too relaxed in Bora Bora and you may find yourself chasing the concierge around to get things done. Again, this is not a service I particularly missed but given the rack rate I was expecting a higher level of involvement from the concierge side, and a bit more proactivity. The French laisse-faire coupled with the island way of life means that sometimes things just take longer than you would like.

I also tested this with guests from other hotels to make sure it wasn’t a fault of the two Intercontinental resorts I stayed at and they had the exact same feedback. The St. Regis Bora Bora has butlers but they are not the norm as they are in the Maldives.

 If you like your vacation to come with a side of personalised service and private butlers, the Maldives is your choice. 

Beyond the resort, things to do and places to see in Bora Bora and the Maldives

Sailing on the lagoon

Sailing on the lagoon

This is an area where Bora Bora wins hands down. There is plenty to do on the island and if you want to read more head over to my post about 13 Thing to do in Bora Bora.

What makes Bora Bora most different from the Maldives is the fact that it has a main island with a 9,000 inhabitants, a tiny town and a few dining options. There is culture, nature, jungle and mountain which means that there is a host of things to do that are simply not available in the Maldives where your interaction with the local population may be totally nil.

Your stunning out-of-a-postcard resort in the Maldives with its many dining options and water activities may not be enough to keep you busy so, if you are heading to the Maldives you may need to bring a book or watch some movies.

In Bora Bora I never switched the TV on, not once in 8 days. Some evenings there were Polynesian performances, some others I just went to bed early, other evenings you can wander into town and enjoy a drink at the Bora Bora Yacht Club There is a lot of variation in landscapes too. The sea in the Maldives is exquisite but the color and shape is likely to remain unchanged throughout your stay whereas in Bora Bora the blue is different, there is green, brown, grey and changing landscapes depending on where you look.

Polynesian dancers

Polynesian dancers

The cultural aspect should not be missed. The Maldives’ resorts do not offer much insight into the local way of life or the traditions and there is an almost clear separation between the Muslim local population and the tourist.

Bora Bora is rich in heritage and cultural traditions and you will be invited to participate. Your resort should offer pareo tying lessons, coconut husking, hat making, weaving and island performances. And by going into town you will be able to learn more about the island’s past and history.

Ray feeding

Ray feeding

If you are looking for marine life both places offer plenty of choices. You can swim with sharks and rays in Bora Bora or dive with mantas. In the Maldives, the resort you are staying at will determine your choices so search well in advance if you are interested in spotting dolphins, diving with mantas or snorkeling off house reefs. Surfing is also available in some resorts like the Six Senses Laamu.

 Bora Bora has a lot more activities and things to do on offer than the Maldives thanks to its main island, the mountainous landscapes and the rich heritage 

Choice and range of resorts in Bora Bora vs Maldives

Bora Bora from the sky

Bora Bora from the sky

Before we discuss the range of resorts, one of the question most people wonder is whether Maldives or Bora Bora is more expensive. Looking at average nightly rates does not help here. Instead, I prefer to note that there are no real budget accommodation options in Maldives.

Even the cheapest resort in the Maldives will be a few hundred dollars. Bora Bora has less choice of resorts, as we will see now, but there is a pension on the mainland and I even met two Dutch friends backpacking it. The fact that you can stay on the main island also means you can do grocery shopping and keep costs under control. Now, onto the range of resort choices in Maldives vs. Bora Bora.

By now you may have guessed it but accommodation choices in Bora Bora are much more limited than in the Maldives. You have 4 resorts on the main motu (pictured above) plus the Sofitel Private Island and the Conrad on the higher end of the scale. Then add the Bora Bora Pearl Resort and the Intercontinental Le Moana and you have all the 4 and 5 star resorts. On the affordable side, Bora Bora has a few pensions on the main island which make it accessible to everyone. Even if your hotel is basic, you can still enjoy everything that’s there to do in the area and can chill by Matira Beach, the only public beach on Bora Bora and once voted the Best in the World and still sits in the top 10.

Having the option of going to the main island also means alternative dining options which are more affordable and varied.

At the Maldives, because you are exclusively staying at the resort of your choice, staying at a cheaper resort may limit your activities, food options and generally the quality of your stay so you tend to splurge more because you don’t want to miss out.

Let me also mention that choosing the right resort in the Maldives can become a true nightmare. Hotels Combined lists over 500 hotels available in the Maldives vis a vis 15 in Bora Bora. It is almost impossible to know which resort is the best for you because there are too many and they all look fabulous. My guide to the best resorts may help.

 For choice of resorts, Maldives wins. However, there are not a lot of affordable options to enjoy the beauty of the atolls whereas Bora Bora has some affordable pensions on the main island. 

My selection of the Best Resorts in the Maldives

Conrad Rangali Island

Six Senses Laamu

Gili Lankafushi

Cheval Blanc Randheli

Conrad Rangali is my all time favourite resort in the Maldives. Admittedly, I have not stayed at all of them but what I love about the Conrad is quite unique: it has two islands one of which is reserved for couples only and comes with over water villas with outdoor jacuzzi. But that is not all. The Conrad is home of the first underwater restaurant, it has an underground cellar for wine pairing dinners and even a tepanaki under the stars. One of the most fabulous resorts I have ever stayed at. Check out more photos, latest rates and availabilities here

I loved the Six Senses Laamu and it was a very close second to the Conrad Rangali because of its more casual take on luxury and its organic approach to fabulous food. Those overwater villas are simply stunning and some of the largest in the Maldives. They are so fantastic that you would not want to leave them. And let’s not talk about the great manta diving nearby, the dolphin cruises, the private sandbank BBQ dinners or the surfing on the resort’s break. Check more photos, latest prices and availability here

Gili Lankanfushi was chosen the Best Hotel in the World by tripAdvisor in 2016 and with reason. The hotel’s stand-alone villas, only reachable by boat, are the most luxurious hotel rooms in the world and have been featured by many publications. Even on the “main” resort area, the villas shine for their Robinson Crusoe feel and extra-large size. Check more photos, latest rates and availability here.

Cheval Blanc Randheli is the Maldives most stylish and elegant resort. From the France’s most exclusive brand comes the Maldives most chic, modern and sleek resort. Clean lines, floating pool villas and exceptional cuisine. Cheva Blanc is so private the resort is possibly the Maldives best kept secret. Check more photos, latest prices and availability here.

Maldives or Bora Bora: Honeymoon treats

Both Maldives and Bora Bora have mastered the art of honeymooning. And you can’t go wrong with either of the two. There are specifically designed activities to enjoy as a couple and build lifetime memories on. For example, in Bora Bora you can go to a coral reef and build your names on the sand with pebbles. In the Maldives, well, I have mentioned enough dining over the top options to keep you busy every evening.

While the Maldives is more accessible and a favourite for families, Bora Bora is the exclusive paradise of couples. The islands have been welcoming honeymooners for decades and 90% of the visitors are starting their journey of a lifetime together.

If you want to immortalise your time there, make sure to book one of the photographers that all resorts at either Bora Bora or the Maldives have in-house. Or enlist the help of the Instagram butler at the Conrad Rangali.

 I cannot honestly say which one of the two would be better for all those extraordinary requests but I trust that in both destinations you will be catered for by the experienced teams. 

Choosing between the Maldives and Bora Bora for your honeymoon

Infinity pool - Conrad Rangali

Infinity pool – Conrad Rangali

After looking at the pros and cons of the Maldives and Bora Bora as honeymoon destinations, we can finally answer the question. If you are looking for over the top luxury which involves you lazing around in beautiful surroundings and getting everything sorted at the raising of your hand the Maldives is for you.

If you are looking for a more rounded experience that also requires a bit more involvement and offers more than just beach, head to Bora Bora.

And for the luckiest among us who don’t have to compete in the Maldives vs Bora Bora debate, check them both up and see for yourself what these two breathtaking destinations have to offer. There is always a time and a place for everything, you just need to be in the right frame of mind.

 Have you been to both? Anything you would like to add to the debate? 

This article was originally published on January 28, 2015 and updated on October 16, 2017.

This would fit great in your #honeymoon or #islandlife Pinterest boards

The Best Honeymoon Destination Maldives or Bora Bora