Last updated on February 14, 2023 by Wandering our World
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 island groups can be reached by intrepid tourists. However both are more different than many realise, which means making the right vacation decision between Fiji and Tahiti is very important.
For example, if beaches are your main priority then Fiji is probably the better choice. The white sandy stretches of coastline on this island are world class and arguably better than those in Tahiti. And as an added bonus, Fiji is an English-speaking nation that also tends to be a cheaper destination than Tahiti too.
However if you’re looking for a vacation with the ‘wow’ factor, then the spectacular backdrop of mountains beside the breathtakingly blue lagoons of Tahiti and her neighboring island of Bora Bora can provide that. This destination is expensive, but if you can afford the spectacular overwater bungalows that French Polynesia is famous for, it’s going to be well worth it.
Of course that’s just the start when it comes to how these two destinations are different.
That’s why after spending time in both, we decided to compare Fiji vs Tahiti below. We look at which has the better beaches, what excursions are available, compare the culture, food and lots more!
- A Quick Overview & Comparison
- How Do The Beaches & Landscape Compare?
- How Do The Experience & Culture Compare?
- 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: Fiji vs Tahiti
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 often they’re not as soft as Fiji’s.
In fact if you’re on the look out for a luxury beachside resort holiday, the options in Fiji are better than Tahiti in our opinion. Why? Well Tahiti’s sister island Bora Bora tends to attract the luxury market in French Polynesia, whereas Tahiti has more budget options.
In contrast, Fiji is the luxury vacation island in its part of the Pacific. The way Bora Bora is in French Polynesia.
However the other Society Islands (like Bora Bora and Tahiti) became so trendy due to their many luxurious overwater bungalows – an invention that came from these very islands. So if you’re looking to stay in these iconic wooden huts, then Tahiti may be the place to go.
However there are a few resorts in Fiji that have them too (and we recommend one later in this article).
Yet the Society Islands’ popularity due to these luxury resorts has also made the region and Tahiti quite overbuilt. In contrast, Fiji is much less commercialized, so feels a little less ‘touristy’.
In terms of expenses, 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, food, accommodation choices and more!
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 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.
However with Fiji’s highest peak standing at 1324m compared to the highest in Tahiti which stands at a mammoth 2241m, serious hikers may prefer the trails and panoramas in the dramatic landscape of Tahiti and French Polynesia more than those offered in Fiji.
Tahiti: The Beaches & Landscape
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 the reality is Tahiti is an island 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 and dramatic landscape, arguably more so than Fiji.
Recommended: Incredible Hiking Trails In Tahiti You Should Try
One of our favorite hikes is Aorai Mountain, although it’s recommended for experienced hikers only.
However throughout the island you’ll find many great trails to explore. A trip to nearby Moorea will also 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.
How Does The Culture Compare?
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 some of the cultural excursions in each island, and what you can expect if you choose to visit!
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.
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.
Tahiti: The Culture
Visiting French Polynesia gives visitors a unique opportunity to delve into the lives of early settlers and learn more about the arrival of Europeans in the Pacific.
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!
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Shoestring: Imagine your own private villa set on the beachfront, an outdoor infinity pool just steps away and free water activities like kayaking and snorkeling just outside your door.
The white sands of Fiji are the first thing you will see when you wake up, and incredibly all of this you can get on a reasonable budget when staying at the five-star Maui Palms. This resort set in Maui Bay is easily one of the best value for money hotels in Fiji. See photos and rates!
Budget: What could be better than a private villa? How about a private villa set on an exclusive private island? That’s exactly what you’ll get if you stay at Toberua Island Resort, where a 30 minute complimentary boat transfer will take you to a tropical paradise where very few on the world have been, let alone seen.
This place 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 celebrity price tag too. But if you have the money, it’s worth it. See photos and rates!
Shoestring: Just a few steps from the beach and with a dramatic jungle and mountain backdrop, Manomano Lodge gives travellers a chance to holiday in style but without the huge price tag.
The location is fantastic for activities, and the beach beside the lodge is one of the best for snorkeling on the island. And if you’re lucky, you may even get the chance to eat some of the tropical fruit grown in the lodge’s garden. See photos and rates!
Budget: Te Moana Tahiti Resort is luxury, but at a price that won’t break the bank. This gorgeous resort set right on the lagoon has an infinity pool, fantastic facilities and views across the ocean that will make anyone jealous.
It’s also well located for activities around the island, making it a fantastic choice if you’re looking for luxury tied in with adventure. See photos and rates!
Luxury: It was the Society Islands that invented overwater bungalows, and one of two resorts in Tahiti that has them is the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa.
You’ll be sleeping above the ocean with lush tropical land one way, and the distant volcanic peaks of Moorea looming ahead. Expect exceptional facilities and food to go alongside the views. 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 Tahiti as we look at the local 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.
As for what to drink, the coconut water in Fiji is delicious and refreshing – especially when enjoyed direct with a straw.
Tahiti: The Food
Unsurprisingly, 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 too.
For example, 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 Fiji 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 can be expensive, but if you can afford an overwater bungalow, it’s going to be a vacation you’ll never forget.