The Ultimate Luxury Island Getaway: Maldives or Bora Bora?

One of the questions I get most often from my audience on TikTok surrounds the battle of the best aspirational island getaway: Maldives or Bora Bora? I even ran a poll on one of my TikTok posts pitting the two against each other and with 43k votes weighing in, the collective opinion is split almost in half! Since I’ve visited both, I narrowed the comparison down to five categories. Read on if you’re having a tough time deciding!

St. Regis Maldives jetty

Ease of Access

How easy it is to get to both destinations depends on where you’re starting. Bora Bora is definitely the easier choice for my U.S.-based readers; if you’re based on the West Coast like me, Bora Bora wins by a landslide!

First, note that no matter where you’re coming from, you can’t fly directly into Bora Bora (BOB). You’ll fly into Tahiti (PPT) and connect on a short ~50 min turboprop flight via domestic airline Air Tahiti (not to be confused with Air Tahiti Nui) to BOB. Sit on the left side of the plane for amazing views of Bora Bora on arrival!

If you live in or near L.A. or San Francisco, you have nonstop options to get to PPT in ~8 hours (from LAX via Air France, Air Tahiti Nui and from SFO via United, French Bee). These nonstop flights to PPT provide an unbelievable opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful places on earth in a relatively short amount of time.

Flying from elsewhere in the US, the trip duration changes based on how long it takes you to get to LAX or SFO; for example, from NYC one can plan on a ~15 hour trip duration to PPT, including the layover in SFO or LAX.

Getting to the Maldives (MLE) for us West Coasters is much more of a trek. All flights require a connection, usually in Asia or the Middle East, and you can count on at least 23 hours of travel to get to MLE with the most efficient routing. Keep in mind this is the fastest routing; the reality will likely be a longer itinerary that requires a multi-hour layover. Similar to Bora Bora, your journey doesn’t end there; you’ll then take a domestic flight or boat to your resort. West Coasters could make Bora Bora a long weekend trip, but the Maldives requires far more time due to the travel involved.

East Coasters can get to MLE in ~19 hours (again, with the fastest routing; this could be much longer depending on flight schedules), making a trip to French Polynesia faster, but not necessarily by that much to sway your decision.

Even if it’s a longer trek, it’s worth considering your stopover possibilities when evaluating a trip to the Maldives. Flying to MLE gives you the opportunity to schedule time where you connect. This could mean enjoying an amazing city like Dubai, Doha, Singapore, or wherever else your connection options may be. It’s like two trips in one!

All this logic changes based on your departure location. From Europe, ease of access would be tilted in favor of the Maldives as it would take you more than twice as long to get to PPT! Many nonstops to MLE from various hubs in Asia also makes the Maldives an easy trip for travelers from such hubs.

Maldives or Bora Bora
Four Seasons Bora Bora
Luxury Options

Given our affinity for luxury travel, one of the easiest points of comparison between Bora Bora and the Maldives involves the luxury accommodation options available. The Maldives has dozens upon dozens of truly luxurious private island resorts to suit all tastes. Whether you’re looking for ultra-modern or a Robinson Crusoe vibe, you’ll find it there – and more open every year! You could visit a new luxury resort in the Maldives every year for the rest of your life, keeping your travels fresh and exciting each visit.

On the other hand, as unbelievably stunning as Bora Bora is, your luxury options are actually pretty limited. The truly five-star resorts can be counted on less than two hands, and when accounting for personal taste, you may only be left with a few options to choose from. Given how accessible Bora Bora is for us, I could easily see myself going back every year, but I wish I had more options to choose from for such visits rather than rotating between a select few.

Main pool at the St. Regis Maldives
Time of Year

This point of comparison is actually pretty easy! Many people who ask the Bora Bora vs. Maldives question are asking because they’re planning a trip to celebrate something momentous, like a honeymoon or babymoon. With these types of trips, the timing isn’t typically flexible (unless, in the case of a honeymoon, you’ve chosen to separate your honeymoon travels from your wedding date).

This makes choosing between Bora Bora and the Maldives pretty easy; they’re ideal at opposite times of the year!

The best time of year to visit the Maldives tends to be the January to March time frame. You’re still likely to have pretty good weather in December and April, but beyond that you get into dicey monsoon territory.

On the other hand, Bora Bora peaks between June and September, though again, the shoulder months surrounding that time frame (May and October) should still be enjoyable.

Maldives or Bora Bora
Four Seasons Bora Bora lagoon
Culture

Since Bora Bora is in French Polynesia, Polynesian culture surrounds you from the moment you land in Papeete and receive a warm greeting from Tahitian dancers right in the airport’s arrival hall. My personal experience with Polynesian culture is that it’s inviting and generous of spirit; I just feel good being anywhere within the Polynesian Triangle. Even if you’re just sticking to a touristy route, you still feel the warmth of Polynesian hospitality wherever you go.

On the other hand, those visiting the Maldives generally aren’t getting a taste of what local life is like. Alcohol and bikinis are banned everywhere except private resorts, so the experience one gets at a Maldivian resort is very much curated for non-locals. If it’s important to you to have cultural authenticity be a part of your vacation, it’s worth considering that a trip to the Maldives won’t necessarily satisfy that. Instead, you’re going for the stunning natural beauty and luxurious resort experience.

St. Regis Maldives Garden Villa
Travel Hacking

If you’re looking to stretch the budget of your trip to either destination with miles and points, you’re in luck – there are redemption opportunities in both Bora Bora and the Maldives!

To start, you’re not going to find the newest premium flight products flying to PPT in general. The cash offers to buy up to business at check in (subject to availability) usually aren’t that bad, so I don’t find it a good use of miles on your way there. An exception is if you can work the Air Tahiti Nui NRT-PPT award sweet spot into your itinerary, which is a steal using AA miles at 40k miles for 11+ hours in business.

However, once in Bora Bora, there are some great redemption opportunities for your stay! The two main point redemption opportunities in Bora Bora are the St. Regis using Marriott points and the Conrad using Hilton points. The InterContinental properties are also an option but those are usually more complicated redemptions.

Getting to the Maldives is a different story. Given you more than likely need to connect through a major hub city on the way there, your routing and product possibilities are endless. With that comes a wealth of amazing redemption opportunities!

A favorite in business is Qatar QSuites, bookable from the US for 70k AA miles + taxes and fees as low as $5.60 one way which is a total steal. One of my favorites in first is Emirates, which we flew back in 2015 using 90k Alaska miles each before that redemption was devalued (p.s.: taking a shower on a plane is otherworldly).

If you’re having a hard time finding award availability to MLE, try routing to CMB and tacking on a quick 45 minute paid flight CMB-MLE!

Once in the Maldives, your best (but not only) redemption opportunities are numerous. On Marriott points, you can stay at St. Regis, W, JW Marriott, and upcoming Ritz Carlton. With Hilton points, both the Conrad and the newer Waldorf Astoria are options. Most accessible is the Park Hyatt, which is older but a BARGAIN at 30k Hyatt points/night, transferable from Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Park Hyatt was our first Maldives redemption in 2015!

Maldives or Bora Bora
Spa at the Four Seasons Bora Bora
You can’t go wrong!

Both Bora Bora and the Maldives are amazing tropical destinations and there’s a reason many vacationers pit them against each other. You can’t go wrong with either choice, but hopefully the comparisons above help you with your decision making!

Have you been to either Bora Bora or the Maldives? What were your thoughts?

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