When it comes to dream getaways, Bali and Bora Bora are two destinations that are at the top of most people’s bucket list. Both islands offer something unique to every type of traveler. From romantic getaways to an adrenaline junkie’s playground , expect unforgettable moments waiting to be had in each. However choosing whether to visit Bali or Bora Bora for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday can be exceptionally difficult.
Visiting and spending time on either Bora Bora or Bali can be expensive too, so making the right decision is utterly important. That’s why this guide exists – to help you decide which tropical island paradise is best suited to you!
Bali or Bora Bora: Stunning natural scenery
The French Polynesian island of Bora Bora is undeniably beautiful when it comes to sparkling blue lagoons, and picturesque palm trees languidly lining its sandy beaches. It’s the perfect place for an upmarket holiday where you can easily while away your time in Bora Bora’s iconic overwater bungalows on stilts, sipping cocktails on the beach. However you can also opt to trek through the island’s jungles!
For a proper beach paradise though, head to Matira Beach for white sands surrounded by greenery. In fact if beaches and crystal clear water are your priority then Bora Bora is a better choice than Bali. Although it is a far more expensive destination than the Indonesian island.
The turquoise lagoons of Bora Bora are also perfect for kayaking; you can even take time to observe the colorful marine life below. Although best known as a romantic destination, it also provides the ideal conditions for snorkeling, diving, kite-surfing and other water sports. Hikers will also revel in trying to attempt climbing Mt Otemanu. This old volcano is best scaled with a local guide. (Recommended: Hiking in Bora Bora).
Bali certainly has similarities to Bora Bora, but this Indonesian island is probably more suited to those seeking more than sun, sea, and sand.
Bali’s stunning coral reefs and sandy beaches give way to a forested volcano-sculpted inland – the perfect place to discover exotic wildlife, and go jungle trekking. West Bali National Park is just a three-hour drive from the airport, but is virtually unexplored rain-forest. Whilst Bali’s northern-central rain forests have some spectacular waterfalls – Git Git and Sekumpul are two of our favorites. (Recommended: Wildlife and nature in Bali).
If you want to stick with sand but avoid the crowds, Nusa Dua is a little-known beach that has miles of golden coastline, and is perfect for swimming, sunbathing and kayaking. In fact head to Bali’s north coast for great diving, but the south coast for superb surfing.
Bali’s natural habitats allow you to holiday in style too, with upmarket hotels deep in the jungle, yoga retreats in the mountains, as well as the usual beachside break accommodations.
However Bali also has a variety of accommodation for all budgets, so is probably better suited for travelers who are looking for the cheaper option between the two islands.
Bali or Bora Bora: Explore the sights and experience the island
The majority Hindu island of Bali has a plethora of stunning temples, from exotic beachside sanctuarys, to houses of worship hidden deep in the jungle interior. Go temple hopping around the island for a cultural experience, and a way to see Bali in it’s full glory. Tirta Empul Temple – with it’s holy water that you can bathe in which is said to clean you of your sins – is an unforgettable experience.
In fact with a population of over four million people, and huge diversity across the island, Bali is a culture-seekers paradise. We recommend watching a Balinese Gamelan show – the traditional music of the Balinese.
Rice has been cultivated on Bali for generations, and the gorgeous rice paddies that rise up into the clouds across the island are as iconic as they are important. Head to Tegalalang to see some of the most beautiful tropical rice terraces on the planet. Speak to the friendly locals in the villages about their life and work when there – you won’t regret it.
Visiting the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora affords visitors a unique opportunity to delve into the lives of early settlers and learn more about the arrivals from Europe. From the famous story of the ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ to the oral history shown through dance and song, you can learn a lot through the cultural experiences on offer here. (Recommended: Traveling to Bora Bora? Here’s the Culture Guide You Need).
Try your hand at spearfishing and learn the incredible meanings behind traditional Maori tattoos. On islands like Bora Bora and nearby Tahiti, you will also find dance performances of the ‘Ori Tahiti’, and there are also places to take lessons with locals.
If you’re traveling to Bora Bora from June to November then it’s also peak whale-watching season! Humpback whales migrate here to breed during this time, and can even be spotted while snorkeling around the island. Having a great underwater camera – such as this one – is a must.
Bali or Bora Bora: A taste of island life
With both being tropical island paradises, expect an abundance of fresh fruit, coconuts and fresh fish. Still, there are some local dishes which might surprise you!
In Bali the food is pork and chicken dominated. Order lawar, a dish that is made up of coconut, garlic, chili, and either chicken or pork meat and blood. Another traditional meaty dish is Bebek betutu, which is duck cooked with coconut inside banana leaves.
If you want to try something vegetarian, then hunt down Urab – a delicious and refreshing traditional Balinese salad that is accompanied with coconut.
In Bora Bora, the food is mainly seafood based. Try raw fish with coconut milk. Usually, this is made from tuna or bonito fish. It is sliced into cubes and marinated in coconut milk, lemon juice, onion, cucumber, tomatoes, garlic and spring onion.
With such a big Chinese-Polynesian population, there is a wonderful fusion of cuisines on French Polynesia. Chao men (fried noodles with vegetables, meat and shrimp), chicken with lemon sauce, chao chap (roasted duck), and mapo tofu are popular dishes on the islands. Raw fish is also very prominent in Chinese cooking on French Polynesia.
The French influence in Bora Bora also shines through in sweet treats such as firi firi (Tahitian doughnuts) and banana crepes. A favorite breakfast food is coconut bread!
Bali or Bora Bora: Which island to visit?
If time and money weren’t limited, then we would recommend visiting both of these island paradises. However if you’re looking for sun, sea and sand, but also a bit of adventure than Bali is the better choice. The Indonesian island offers more than just turquoise lagoons, is brimming with culture, and is budget friendly.
But if you have in your head an image of a tropical island getaway that includes sipping cocktails from a coconut, and spending more time sunbathing than anything else, Bora Bora is a better choice than Bali. The French Polynesian paradise can be pricey though – especially if you want to stay in an overwater bungalow. However it is an opportunity to experience an island, it’s people and culture, in one of the most far-flung places on the globe.
Recommended for your trip to Bali or Bora Bora
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