Last updated on February 20, 2023 by Wandering our World
When it comes to tropical island paradises, you can’t get much better than Fiji or the Maldives. However due to their remote nature, visiting either is costly and the airplane journey long.
Yet other than their stunning beaches, these islands are very different. Which is why making the right decision between Maldives or Fiji for your dream getaway is vitally important….
For example, if you have an image in your head of a luxury and private tropical island getaway that includes sipping cocktails from a coconut on an overwater bungalow, then the Maldives may be better for you.
However if you’re looking for sun, sea and sand, but also a bit of adventure and culture than Fiji is the right choice. This Pacific island offers more than just sunbathing, swimming and all-inclusive resorts, is brimming with culture, and is more budget friendly than the Maldives.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how these two island nations differ!
Luckily after spending time in both, we compare Fiji vs Maldives below, showing you what to expect in each.
We show you which has the better beaches, what excursions are available, compare the culture, food and more. All so you can make the right vacation decision!
- A Quick Overview & Comparison
- How Do The Beaches & Landscape Compare?
- What About The Culture?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- A Taste Of Island Life: How Does The Cuisine Compare?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
A Quick Overview & Comparison
If you want gorgeous white sand beaches, and superb swimming and snorkeling, then Fiji and the Maldives will both be perfect.
Each has an unbelievable coastline, although the Maldives probably has the better beaches (but only just!). However other than great beaches, these nations offer very different vacations.
The Maldives has over 1000 islands, but many are privately owned by a resort complex, therefore activities on the island revolve around the resort and what it offers. That also means that many of the beaches in the Maldives are not public.
Fiji has a few islands that are privately owned too, albeit there are still many public beaches to enjoy.
In fact Fiji tends to be a more local experience where you can explore the country, go on excursions away from your hotel, and interact within the community.
In contrast the Maldives – which focuses almost exclusively on luxury holidays in secluded resorts – has far less integration between the community and tourists.
Therefore think of the Maldives as a holiday destination which revolves around relaxing on a spectacular island that a resort owns. A Fiji holiday can be like that too, but it also offers opportunities to hike lush mountains and explore the local community and culture.
It’s also less commercialized than the Maldives and more budget friendly thanks to a variety of accommodation options.
The landscape in both is very different too. For an idea of just how different the geography is in each country, Fiji’s highest point is 1324 meters. The highest point in the Maldives is just 2.4 meters!
So if you’re looking for adventure activities away from the beach – like jungle trekking, wildlife spotting and swimming in waterfalls – then Fiji will be a better choice.
However in terms of underwater action, we think the Maldives has much better snorkeling.
But Fiji, as we explain later, is also a culture-packed island that has far more to offer than just adventure activities. So if you want to do more than sunbathe and swim, Fiji is probably the island for you.
How Do The Beaches & Landscape Compare?
Fiji: The Beaches & Landscape
As a general rule, the more remote you go in Fiji, the more spectacular the beach. And with many of Fiji’s islands and beaches being public (unlike in the Maldives), you really can go and discover your own slice of paradise.
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 actually 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 lapping against the sun-kissed sand there makes it the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a beer.
In fact that’s something that sets Fiji apart from the Maldives too. While you’re free to drink alcohol in a private resort in the Maldives, it’s forbidden to drink on public beaches as the Maldives is a majority Muslim nation. In Fiji, drinking is generally accepted throughout the island.
The snorkeling is fantastic in Fiji too. However unlike the Maldives – which is good for swimming practically 24/7 due to its calm water – Fiji is a tidal island. Therefore don’t expect to be able to snorkel and swim all the time.
But one of our favorite snorkeling spots in Fiji is Rainbow Reef at Taveuni. As the name suggests, expect multi-colored coral to go with the multi-colored fish you will see! Just make sure you take a great underwater camera with you – like this one.
However Fiji is also a vacation destination where there are many things to do away from the beach. This volcanic island nation has a lush mountainous interior that has to be explored.
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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. In fact as Fiji has a more wild and rugged landscape than the Maldives, you’re far more likely to spot land-based wildlife there. That’s certainly worth keeping in mind for any animal lovers!
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.
Maldives: The Beaches & Landscape
Ever seen pictures of crystal clear turquoise water, with those stunning wooden hotel huts sitting over it? That’s what you should expect throughout the Maldives, a country that specializes in up-market resorts and honeymoon vacations.
Some of the world’s best beaches happen to be in this nation too. And in our opinion we think the Maldives does have better beaches and water than Fiji.
One of our favorites is the powder white coastline at Lhaviyani Atoll where the palm tree lined beaches look like a computer screensaver. We’ve found that the west side of the atoll has wider beaches and softer sand, so is perfect for a day’s sunbathing.
But as many of the islands are privately owned by resorts, you may be limited as to where you can go on each island in the Maldives. In general, that’s not such a big issue in Fiji.
However what this means is that if you’re staying at a Maldives resort you are pretty much guaranteed to have a spectacular beach, and a coral reef for snorkeling, right beside your room. When it comes to high-end beach vacations, this country really does excel.
It also excels when it comes to snorkeling, with a spectacular colorful underwater life that can be seen easily thanks to the gin-clear water. However most snorkeling is done with a resort, due to the privately owned nature of many islands in the Maldives.
If you’re able to get out and do your own snorkeling excursion, then one of the best snorkeling spots is Manta Point, which is home to Manta Rays!
Also known as Emas Thila, this is probably one of the best places in the world to swim alongside these gentle giants.
For a burst of color, Banana Reef is another great spot to snorkel and dive. Here you’ll see rays, sharks, and many different types of reef fish including Royal Blue Tangs. You might not have heard that name before, but you will recognize the fish if you’ve seen ‘Finding Nemo’ – ‘Dory’ was a Blue Tang!
Apart from gorgeous beaches, colorful reefs and gently swaying palm trees, the Maldives is quite limited when it comes to the landscape. However for sun, sea, sand and swimming, the Maldives really is hard to beat.
What About The Culture?
As the Maldives is more focused on resort-based holidays, interaction with the local community and culture tends to be limited. That’s unless you make a trip away from the private island resorts, and into the population centers.
The service at resorts and hotels in the Maldives 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 country’s charm.
Fiji has its fair share of upmarket resorts too, as well as more budget friendly options. However a Fiji vacation often has more of a ‘local’ feel than one in the Maldives as hotels and guest houses are more integrated into the community.
That also opens up opportunities for excursions away from the hotel, or to try out the great street food.
Below we show you a snapshot of the cultural experiences in both countries, so you can see which sounds the best to you!
Fiji: The Culture
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.
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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.
Some 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.
All in all, it’s definitely easier to experience a different culture and life in Fiji than in the Maldives. The island archipelago is more integrated and the tourist trade hasn’t completely taken over yet – especially in the more remote regions.
Maldives: The Culture
As a majority Muslim country, the Maldives is a conservative nation. Although within resort complexes you are free to act as you would in any liberal Western country.
However if you plan to make any excursions into population centers – like the capital Malé or public beaches – then be sure to dress conservatively, and avoid things such as alcohol.
The culture in the Maldives is vibrant, interesting, and definitely worth discovering though.
Bodu Beru is a traditional rhythmic dance performed by upwards of 15-20 people, and was introduced to the Maldives around 1000 years ago. It’s been a tradition ever since, and many resorts have cultural nights where dancers perform.
If venturing into Malé, a visit to the Maldives National Museum is a must. Not only does it give an insight into the history of this nation, but it also has a great collection of historical artefacts from the region, some several centuries old.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Budget: You will find plenty of private islands in the Maldives, so we’ve found you not only a private villa, but one set on an exclusive private island in Fiji too! Toberua Island Resort may be serene, but it’s also licensed to teach scuba diving so if you want some adventure, you have plenty of opportunities! Incredibly, the price tag to stay here is well within most travellers’ budgets. See photos and rates!
Luxury: If you want something extra special, then an overwater bungalow is the cream of the crop when it comes to Pacific accommodation. And you can’t get much better than the gorgeous much sought-after overwater bungalows that Likuliku Lagoon Resort have.
This adults only resort is all about luxury and relaxation, and as soon as you step through the door you will be treated like a celebrity. Of course all of that comes with a hefty price tag too. But if you have the money, it’s worth it. See photos and rates!
Budget: The word ‘budget’ is a rarity in the Maldives, but on the stunning Fonimagoodhoo Island you can find private villas at the four-star Reethi Resort at a tenth of the price as other Maldives stays.
With everything catered for, and a white sand beach on your doorstep, this resort makes the Maldives affordable to most. See photos and rates!
Luxury: At Amilla Maldives you get the opportunity to stay on an overwater villa that sits directly over the gorgeous waters of the lagoon. The sea views are, of course, breathtaking. But even more so from your own private pool.
Couple that with the world-class service and you have one of the best resorts in the world and the perfect honeymoon stay. And incredibly it’s still a lot cheaper than similar stays in the Maldives. See photos and rates!
A Taste Of Island Life: How Does The Cuisine Compare?
With both being tropical island paradises, expect an abundance of fruit, coconuts and fresh fish. Below we pit Fiji vs Maldives as we look at the cuisine on offer.
Fiji: The Food
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 (see photo below). 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.
Lastly, we’d say that the food scene in Fiji is definitely more accessible than in the Maldives. It’s easier to find local restaurants and traditional dishes, so if you’re a foodie, then we think Fiji will likely suit you more.
Maldives: The Food
Considering the first settlers to the Maldives came from India and Sri Lanka, a lot of the food here has an Indian twist too.
Curry is therefore one of the most popular dishes. We recommend trying Mas Riha. Made with freshly caught tuna, coconut, and a good number of chilies, this is a truly unique and delicious Maldivian dish.
Seafood is also popular and traditional dishes include Garudhiya (a type of fish soup) and Kulhi boakiba, which is a fish cake made from smoked tuna, coconut, ginger and rice.
As for what to drink, resorts in the Maldives have countless number of cocktails to try. However the coconut water in the Maldives is delicious and refreshing – especially when sipped direct with a straw.
Of course, as most resorts in the Maldives are on their own private island, you’re unlikely to have many options for dining out when visiting. But the resort restaurants in this nation tend to be exceptionally good, so while you may not get the chance to try street food, you certainly won’t miss out on good food.
Fiji vs Maldives: 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 adventure and culture than Fiji is the right choice. This Pacific island offers more than just turquoise lagoons, is brimming with culture, and is more budget friendly than the Maldives.
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 the Maldives may be better.
This Indian Ocean paradise – which almost exclusively centers its tourist trade on upmarket resorts – can be very expensive though. However the beaches are world class, as is the snorkeling.