As a child, there were always a few places that seemed impossibly far away. Fiji and Tahiti – two paradise islands in the Pacific Ocean – were exactly that. Luckily, these islands can be reached by intrepid tourists, but as both are quite different, making the right decision between Fiji and Tahiti is very important.
Having spent time in both, we compare Fiji vs Tahiti below, showing you what to expect in each, and some of the best places to visit. We look at which has the better beaches, what excursions are available, compare the culture, food and more!
Fiji vs Tahiti: A Quick Overview
As vacation destinations go, you can’t get much better than either. However if you’re looking for spectacular scenery then Tahiti wins over Fiji. The dramatic mountain peaks on Tahiti and its gorgeous turquoise lagoons are breathtaking – even more so on neighboring islands like Bora Bora. It’s romantic, and the perfect honeymoon destination.
But if beaches are your priority, then Fiji would be the better choice. Fiji has countless soft white sand beaches, many of which have a real deserted island feel to them. That’s especially true of the beaches that exist on Fiji’s remote outlying islands. Tahiti has some great beaches too, but they’re not as soft as Fiji’s.
Tahiti and the other Society Islands (like Bora Bora) became so trendy due to their many luxurious overwater bungalows – an invention that came from the islands. So if you’re looking to stay in these iconic wooden huts, then Tahiti may be the place to go. Although there are a few resorts in Fiji that have them too. The Society Islands’ popularity due to these luxury resorts has made the region quite overbuilt though. In contrast, Fiji is much less commercialized.
Tahiti is a far more expensive destination than Fiji too. Therefore if you’re traveling on a budget, you will find many more affordable accommodation options in Fiji. Food also tends to be cheaper in Fiji as well.
In reality though, both Tahiti and Fiji can be done on a budget. You can find rooms in guest houses in both for 50-100 USD a night – albeit far more exist in Fiji. Some will have communal kitchens so you can cook. There are also food trucks in both islands that have affordable options when it comes to eating out.
Below we look at both islands in more detail, before comparing Fiji vs Tahiti in terms of culture!
Fiji vs Tahiti: Stunning Paradise Islands
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 sun-kissed sand makes it the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a beer.
One of our favorite snorkeling spots 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 destination where there are many things to do away from the beach too. This volcanic island nation has a lush mountainous interior that is 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.
Often underrated, Tahiti is seen as the gateway or launchpad to the rest of the Society Islands such as Moorea and Bora Bora – which is well renowned for its tropical allure and luxury hotels. But this is an island – and region – that’s perfect for tourists looking for luxury interspersed with a bit of adventure.
Tahiti has some wonderful beaches, and one of our favorites is Plage de Toaroto. This gorgeous stretch of white sand is a perfect place to relax for the day. The water at this beach is also calm, and a great spot for swimming and snorkeling.
A quirk of Tahiti is the island’s many black sand beaches – a byproduct of volcanic activity. Lafayette beach is one of the best on the island. The sand is soft and comfy, and the beach a real sight to behold.
Tahiti is also well-known for Teahupoo Lagoon, where the world’s most prolific surfers come to test their skills on the island’s famous sharp reef breaks.
However like Fiji, Tahiti has much to offer away from the coast. This volcanic island is perfect for jungle trekking, hiking up mountains, and swimming in waterfalls. It’s a spectacularly beautiful landscape. (Recommended: Walking and hiking in Tahiti).
One of our favorite hikes is Aorai Mountain, although it’s recommended for experienced hikers only. However throughout the island are great trails to explore. A trip to nearby Moorea will expose you to countless waterfall trails too. One of the best is the beautiful Afareaitu Waterfall (Vaioro Falls) which is tucked behind lush mango trees and ferns.
Back on Tahiti, make sure you visit the mysterious Mara’a Grotto, a cave with a rock pool. The cave seems like it rains on the inside, which is the water seeping through from the mountain above.
Fiji vs Tahiti: Explore the Sights and Experience the Island
You will find a friendly welcome in both Tahiti and Fiji, and both are culture-rich regions.
French is the official language in Tahiti, although some people do speak English. However a language barrier will likely exist outside of your hotel or resort. In Fiji, English is the official language and therefore it’s a very easy country to navigate for English speakers.
Expect good service in Tahiti but it can also be a little abrupt. In Fiji you’re guaranteed a smile everywhere, but be aware that ‘Fiji time‘ exists! 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 Fiji’s charm.
Below we look at the culture in each island, and what you should expect if you choose to visit!
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.
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.
Visiting French Polynesia affords visitors a unique opportunity to delve into the lives of early settlers and learn more about the arrival of Europeans. 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 in French Polynesia.
On this island you can try your hand at spearfishing and learn the incredible meanings behind traditional Maori tattoos. You will also find dance performances of the traditional ‘Ori Tahiti’, and there are places where you can take lessons with locals.
Tahiti is awash with museums, including the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands which focuses on the island’s Polynesian history.
The James Norman Hall House – the house of the island’s most famous author who co-wrote Mutiny on the Bounty – has a 1920’s garden tea-room and library that’s worth visiting too.
For a glimpse of the oldest Catholic church in Tahiti, visit the Notre-Dame Cathedral in the capital Papeete. This is an example of the old colonial-style architecture that came with the Europeans.
While in Papeete, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Papeete Street Market. It’s the perfect place for picking up souvenirs!
Fiji vs Tahiti: 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 Tahiti as we look at the local cuisine on offer.
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.
As for what to drink, the coconut water in Fiji is delicious and refreshing – especially when drunk direct with a straw.
In Tahiti, 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 in 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 in French Polynesia.
A notable French influence in Tahiti also shines through in sweet treats such as firi firi (Tahitian doughnuts) and banana crepes. A favorite breakfast food is coconut bread!
Fiji vs Tahiti: Which is the Better Choice?
You’re guaranteed a memorable vacation in both Fiji and Tahiti, but if beaches are your priority then Fiji is the better choice. The white sandy stretches of coastline in this island are world class, and it also happens to be a cheaper destination than Tahiti.
However if you’re looking for a vacation with the ‘wow’ factor, the spectacular backdrop of mountains beside the breathtakingly blue lagoons of Tahiti and Bora Bora can provide that. This destination is expensive, but if you can afford an overwater bungalow, it’s going to be worth it.