Last updated on February 16, 2023 by Wandering our World
When it comes to tropical island paradises, you can’t get much better than Tahiti or the Maldives. However due to their remote nature, visiting either is costly and the airplane journey long. So making the right decision between Maldives or Tahiti for your dream getaway is vitally important.
However other than their stunning coastline, these islands are actually very different….
For example, the Maldives is all about relaxation in world-class hotels on gorgeous private beaches, so if you want to spend as much time as possible chilling on the beach or swimming in crystal clear water, then the Maldives may be a better choice than Tahiti.
Tahiti, on the other hand, is perfect for tourists who wish to relax in stunning surroundings, but also want to do a little bit of exploring, island hopping or even hiking. It’s cheaper than the Maldives, and has more cultural opportunities too.
Of course that’s just the start when it comes to how these dream destinations differ.
Luckily, after spending time in both we compare Tahiti vs the Maldives below. We also show you which has the better beaches, culture, food, snorkeling and lots more!
- A Quick Overview & Comparison
- How Do The Beaches & Landscape Compare?
- How Does The Culture & Vibe 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
Expect great beaches and sparkling lagoons in both destinations. However personally we think Tahiti is more beautiful when it comes to the landscape, while the Maldives is more breathtaking when it comes to the sea.
In fact the highest point on Tahiti is 2,241 meters – which is also the highest peak in the Society Islands. For comparison’s sake, the highest point in the Maldives is just 2.4 meters!
Therefore a Tahiti holiday is often more than just sunbathing and swimming. It will include hiking and jungle trekking, island hopping to Tahiti’s neighboring islands like Bora Bora, and trying out the local cuisine as it’s much easier to visit local communities in Tahiti than it is in the Maldives.
That’s in stark contrast to a Maldives holiday.
The resorts in the Maldives are almost always based on their own private secluded islands. Therefore visiting other areas of the country is much harder, and interaction with the community doesn’t really happen.
A vacation in the Maldives tends to be more expensive than one in Tahiti too. The first reason for that is the Maldives focuses almost exclusively on upmarket resorts, and subsequently very few other accommodation options exist.
Second, in Tahiti it is easy to leave your hotel and look for other food and excursion options. However in the Maldives, you’re essentially stuck with the hotel and its prices as they are on their own private islands.
But at least those hotels will be the epitome of luxury, and the service will be exceptional. It’s what this country specializes in after all.
And on the subject of beaches, if your priority is the coastline and soft sand, then the Maldives is a far better choice than Tahiti.
The beaches in the Maldives are world-class, with this nation coated in soft powder-like white sand. It’s the sort of place you can walk around barefoot all day. The beaches in Tahiti, while stunning too, are not as soft. So if you have reef shoes you will use them far more in Tahiti than in the Maldives.
The snorkeling in Tahiti and the Society Islands is very good, with many opportunities to see reef sharks and other underwater life.
However the shore snorkeling in the Maldives is exceptional and unparalleled. So if you’re a keen snorkeler or diver, the Maldives is probably the better choice for you too.
In regards to overwater bungalows/villas, both the Maldives and Tahiti have them. However Tahiti’s neighbor, Bora Bora, has the most spectacular ones in French Polynesia. You can see our comparison of Bora Bora and the Maldives by visiting here.
Below we look at both destinations in more detail, before comparing the culture and food in each. Spoiler alert – they’re very different!
How Do The Beaches & Landscape Compare?
Maldives: The Beaches & Landscape
Relaxation, calm, isolation, and quiet. That’s what you should expect in the Maldives, a country that specializes in upmarket resorts and honeymoon vacations.
Some of the world’s best beaches happen to be in this nation too.
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.
Many of the over 1000 islands in this country are privately owned by resorts, so you may be limited as to where you can go on each island in the Maldives.
In general, that’s less of an issue in Tahiti and French Polynesia where it’s easy to roam.
However what you will get in the Maldives is an exceptional level of privacy (more so than in Tahiti), and a real feeling of seclusion.
Having a resort on a private island also means that you are 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 crystal-clear water.
However most snorkeling is done with a resort, due to the privately owned nature of many islands in the Maldives. So you may be limited about where you can go.
If you can choose where to snorkel, 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. Just make sure you take a great underwater camera with you – like this one.
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!
Recommended: Snakes and Sea Snakes in the Maldives
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 this is an island – and region – that’s perfect for tourists looking for luxury interspersed with a bit of adventure. It’s a place where you can hike jungles in the morning, relax with a cocktail on a white sand beach in the afternoon, and then explore the local cuisine scene by evening.
Budget travelers will also find options in French Polynesia, with Tahiti offering some backpacker guesthouses with cheaper dorm rooms. S
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. So if you’re a surfer, then you’re going to love this destination.
However what really sets Tahiti apart from the Maldives is the landscape away from the coast. This volcanic island is perfect for jungle trekking, hiking up mountains, and swimming in waterfalls.
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, as we’ve written about before.
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. That’s another fun aspect of a vacation to Tahiti, the option to explore fascinating neighboring islands which have plenty going on too.
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 just the water seeping through from the mountain above.
How Does The Culture & Vibe Compare?
As the resorts in the Maldives are more isolated and secluded than in Tahiti, mainly due to how spread out the country is among so many islands, there’s less chance to interact with the local community.
That means getting a taste of the local culture in the Maldives, as well as joining events and excursions happening outside of your hotel, is typically a little difficult.
In Tahiti it’s much easier to explore the local community, try street food, visit museums and experience the culture.
So if you’re looking for some cultural immersion when on vacation, then Tahiti will be a great option. However there’s definitely plenty to discover in both island groups, as we show you below.
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 make sure to dress conservatively, and avoid things such as alcohol.
From what we’ve discovered though, the culture in the Maldives is vibrant, interesting, and definitely worth seeking out.
For example, 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 here 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 artifacts from the region, some several centuries old.
Tahiti: The Culture
Exploring French Polynesia can be daunting for English-speaking tourists considering the official language is French, but those who leave their resort and venture into the communities will be richly rewarded.
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 Tahiti, and bring back memories of a lifetime in the process.
On this island you can try your hand at things like spearfishing, or learn the incredible meanings behind traditional Maori tattoos (and maybe get one yourself!). You will also find dance performances of the traditional ‘Ori Tahiti’, and there are places where you can take lessons with locals.
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 its capital Papeete which 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!
Tahiti is awash with museums too, which include the Museum of Tahiti and Her Islands, which focuses on the island’s Polynesian history. So if you’ve a curious mind, then Tahiti could be a great destination for you.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
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 a lot cheaper than similar stays in the Maldives. See photos and rates!
Budget: Te Moana Tahiti Resort feels like 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. Still, there are some local dishes which might surprise you!
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.
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 enjoyed direct with a straw.
Tahiti: The Food
In Tahiti the food is, of course, mainly seafood based. And the great thing about this island is you can find plenty of local restaurants to try out the cuisine. Not only will that food be far cheaper than what you’d get at tourist places, but you’ll also get the opportunity to talk to locals and really delve into the food scene.
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 as well.
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 Tahiti also shines through in sweet treats such as firi firi (Tahitian doughnuts) and banana crepes. A favorite breakfast food is coconut bread!
Maldives Or Tahiti: Which Is The Better Choice?
The Maldives is all about relaxation and the sea, so if you want to spend as much time as possible on the beach and in the water then the Maldives would be a better choice than Tahiti.
The landscape isn’t as breathtaking as French Polynesia, but the beaches and snorkeling are world-class. The resorts in the Maldives are some of the best on the planet too, but they’re also some of the most expensive!
Tahiti is perfect for tourists who wish to relax in stunning surroundings, but also want to do a little bit of exploring and island hopping.
With the resorts and hotels in Tahiti being more integrated into the community than the Maldives, it’s also possible to eat out at different restaurants, or go on a variety of excursions.