When it comes to tropical island paradises, you can’t get much better than Bora Bora or Fiji. However, other than their stunning sun-kissed beaches and turquoise lagoons, these islands are very different. So making the right decision between Bora Bora or Fiji for your dream getaway is vitally important.
Having spent time in both, we compare Fiji vs Bora Bora below, showing you what to expect in each, and some of the best places to visit.
We show you which has the better beaches, what excursions are available, compare the culture, food and more!
Bora Bora vs Fiji: A Quick Overview
If you want gorgeous white sand beaches, and crystal clear swimming water then Bora Bora and Fiji will both be perfect. Each has an unbelievable coastline, however they also offer quite different vacations.
Bora Bora specializes in upmarket resort holidays, and has become an exceptionally trendy destination in recent years. The scenery and lagoons on the island – and in French Polynesia in general – are spectacular, and we believe they are better than what you get in Fiji.
However as such a popular destination, Bora Bora has become quite commercialized and overbuilt with resorts. And the overwater bungalows that it’s famous for (see picture above) are incredibly expensive. The cheapest often cost around 500 USD a night. The more expensive, upwards of 2000 USD a night.
Fiji is much cheaper, and not just in regards to its own upmarket resorts and overwater bungalows. It also has many different types of accommodation options – such as guesthouses – which makes it far more budget friendly. That’s not a huge surprise considering the population of Bora Bora is around 10,000 people, compared to nearly 900,000 in Fiji.
Because of that, Fiji tends to be a more local experience where you can explore the island, go on excursions away from your hotel, and interact within the community. That’s in contrast to Bora Bora which is very expensive as it focuses almost exclusively on luxury holidays in secluded resorts. Subsequently, there’s less integration between the community and tourists.
In terms of snorkeling, the sites in Fiji are world class, and from our experience they are slightly better than in Bora Bora.
Both islands also have a lush hilly interior which opens up hiking and walking possibilities too. Fiji’s highest point is 1324 meters, nearly twice the height of Bora Bora’s highest peak (727m).
Below we share some of our favorite places on each island, before comparing the culture in both and the hotel service you should expect. Spoiler alert – they’re very different!
Bora Bora vs Fiji: Stunning Paradise Islands
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.
For one of our favorite beaches though, head to Matira Beach for white sands surrounded by greenery.
Although best known as a romantic destination, the turquoise lagoons of Bora Bora provide the ideal conditions for kayaking, snorkeling, diving, kite-surfing and other water sports.
One of our favorite areas is Bora Bora Lagoon. This colorful reef is a great snorkeling spot to watch rays, reef sharks, and countless multi-colored fish!
If you want a break from the sea, you can also opt to trek through the island’s jungles! Hikers will revel in climbing Bora Bora’s highest peak, Mt Otemanu. This old volcano is best scaled with a local guide, but it will be well worth it. The dramatic volcanic peaks on this island – and French Polynesia – are breathtaking, and the views unmatched. (Recommended: Hiking in Bora Bora).
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.
As a general rule, the more remote you go in Fiji, the more spectacular the beach. Some of our favorite beaches are on the dreamy Mamanuca Islands. This group of 20 outlying islands has a real castaway feel to them, and no wonder – it’s here that the U.S. television series Castaway was filmed. Just be careful, as seven of the islands are covered by water at high tide!
There are beautiful beaches on the main island too, like the one at Natadola Bay. The crystal clear water here lapping against the soft powder-like sand makes it the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a beer.
The snorkeling is fantastic in Fiji too. One of our favorite snorkeling spots is Rainbow Reef at Taveuni. As the name suggests, expect multi-colored coral to go with the colorful reef fish you will see!
However Fiji is also a vacation destination where there are many things to do away from the beach too. This volcanic island nation is full of mountains, hills and rainforests that are begging to be explored. (Recommended: Are There Snakes in Fiji).
On Taveuni, hike through the rainforest at Bouma National Park and head to the towering Tavoro Falls. This group of three waterfalls have pools that are perfect for swimming, all within a spectacular forest backdrop. While there keep an eye on the trees – Fiji is home to many colorful species of parrot.
Feeling energetic after a few days resting on the beach? Then tackle Fiji’s highest peak Mount Tomanivi on Viti Levu. The hike can be tough going, but the panoramic views across Fiji and the Pacific from the top are just breathtaking.
Bora Bora vs Fiji: Explore the Sights and Experience the Island
As Bora Bora is more focused on resort-based holidays and the local population is very small, interaction with the community and culture tends to be limited. That’s unless you make a trip away from the private island resorts, and into nearby population centers in French Polynesia.
The service at resorts and hotels in Bora Bora is exceptional though – it’s their specialty after all.
Expect good service in Fiji too, but ‘Fiji time‘ does exist. This is a laid back nation, and things can move a bit slow. Expect waiters to take their time, and buses to arrive late. It’s all part of this island’s charm.
Below we look at the culture in each island, and what you should expect if you choose to visit!
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’ performed at resorts, and there are also places to take lessons with locals.
A trip to Bora Bora’s only town, Vaitape (pop: 5000) is worth it in order to experience some of community life. Although the town is focused on the tourist trade, a visit here will give you the chance to try out local cuisine. Some of which we recommend later in this article.
Multi-ethnic and multi-religious Fiji has a fascinating culture, some of it stretching back many centuries. One of their ancient traditions is fire walking, which originated on the island of Beqa. The locals on this island still ceremoniously walk across hot coals, making Beqa a must visit for culture aficionados. (Recommended: The Ultimate Guide to Fiji Culture).
This culture rich country is a place where many superstitions still exist – such as believing that coconuts choose who to fall on! But it’s also an incredibly friendly and warm nation, where tourists are encouraged to intermingle with locals.
Girls are still taught from a young age to weave baskets and bags, and boys are taught to make bowls, spears and even ‘cannibal forks’ – a fork that was used to eat the flesh of enemies! Thankfully they’re just made as tourist items now, and you can buy them and many other crafts at the Handicraft Market in Nadi.
Fiji is home to a sizable population of Christians, Hindus, and Muslims. The largest Hindu temple in the Southern Hemisphere, Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple, can also be found in Nadi. This ornate colorful building should be on your list of places to visit as you temple hop around the island.
Bora Bora vs Fiji: A Taste of Island Life
With both being tropical island paradises, expect an abundance of fruit, coconuts and fresh fish. Below we pit Fiji vs Bora Bora as we look at the cuisine on offer.
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.
A notable 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! (Related: Exceptional Restaurants in Bora Bora).
Fiji’s cuisine has been formed though a mix of indigenous and Indian influences due to a sizable population with Indian roots.
Freshly caught seafood is popular throughout Fiji, and fish curry – made with coconut milk – is often on the menu. Another fish dish to try is kokoda -this is a raw fish salad that is commonly served in a coconut shell!
If you get invited to a lovo say yes straight away! This traditional Fijian banquet involves cooking a large amount of meat (chicken or pork), fish and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves and then baking it in an oven dug in the ground. It’s a real community affair, and the food’s delicious.
Bora Bora vs Fiji: Which is the Better Choice?
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 culture and world-class snorkeling than Fiji is probably the right choice. This island offers more than just turquoise lagoons, is brimming with culture, and is far more budget friendly than Bora Bora.
If you have an image in your head of a tropical island getaway that includes sipping cocktails from a coconut, and spending more time sunbathing at a high-end resort than anything else, then Bora Bora may be better.
This French Polynesian paradise – which almost exclusively centers its tourist trade on upmarket resorts – can be very expensive though. However this island may be the world’s most beautiful, and the hotel service you receive will be exceptional.