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Bora Bora VS Maldives

While I don't consider myself bougie or high maintenance, I am definitely paradise-curious. I love the sensation of sand on the soles of my feet, long stretches of beautiful beaches, a nice warm breeze and gorgeous sunsets. 

People often ask: What's the most beautiful place you've ever been? 
It's a tough question. I see beauty in the unconventional. But traditional beauty is what most people want to know about, so I'm happy to share that my answer is typically Bora Bora. 
Photo By: Sonia Azad

The next question I get: "How does that compare to the Maldives?" 
Here's my honest opinion on which dreamy destination wins each of the following categories and why. 
Photo By: Sonia Azad

Travel Time: Bora Bora
If traveling from the U.S., Bora Bora is much closer and easier to get to. Bora Bora is an island within an island group belonging to the country of French Polynesia. It's located in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and Hawaii. The Maldives is a set of islands in the Indian Ocean, south of India and Sri Lanka. 
Photo By: Sonia Azad
My flight path to French Polynesia: 
Dallas >> San Francisco >> less than 9 hours to Papeete, Tahiti (which is where my travel around French Polynesia began). 

My flight path to the Maldives: Flight time is more than 24 hours! 
Dallas >> Doha >> Malé (main island/ airport) >> Sirru Fen Fushi (resort island via seaplane). 

Activities & Entertainment: Bora Bora

While both destinations are categorized as irresistible for relaxation, honeymooning and water sports, I found there was far more to do in French Polynesia. 
I traveled there with my dear friend, Crystal. She and I toured pineapple plantations in Moorea, took clear kayaks to check out sea turtles, swam with sharks and stingrays off the coast of Bora Bora, shopped for freshwater pearls on the mainland, enjoyed an insane multi-course meal on Taha'a and I took a personal ATV tour at sunset! Hopping islands can be done with relative ease via ferry or puddle jumper. 

In the Maldives, island hopping is more complicated. Each island essentially consists of one resort-- that's it. You could stay at a few different places for a variety of hotel experiences, but keep in mind that the seaplane rides are: weather-dependent, not cheap and may require transfers via the main airport in Malé, which extends travel time. During my stay at the Fairmont on Sirru Fen Fushi, I enjoyed: snorkeling, swimming, jet skiing, bicycle riding around the island, working out and spa services. 

*I should note: while both French Polynesia and the Maldives have amazing coral reefs, I'm not a diver, though I understand that underwater enthusiasts heavily lean toward the Maldives for some of the world's best diving.

Romantic Getaway: Maldives
Photo By: Sonia Azad
The truth is, you can't go wrong in either place. Both boast luxurious overwater bungalow experiences surrounded by turquoise waters. There are more than 500 resorts in the Maldives (not all overwater bungalows, and not all up to par based on American standards) compared to roughly 20 resorts in Bora Bora, specifically. Crystal and I stayed at overwater bungalows in Bora Bora, Taha'a and had the option to do so in Moorea as well. Resorts in the Maldives are more spread out, secluded and quiet-- so privacy is a plus, but beware: if you travel with a partner who gets bored easily, is generally fidgety or requires lots of entertainment beyond water activities, the Maldives will be challenging. This place really forces you to slow down and enjoy each other's company with little to no distraction. French Polynesia felt more family-friendly and inviting not only for couples, but also for friends or single people. 

Cost: Maldives
Photo By: Sonia Azad
This is based solely on my experience. I don't think everyone's answer would be the same. I was able to snag a fantastic Travelzoo deal for my trip to the Maldives. The hotel was half off because our North American summer is their rainy season. While we didn't experience torrential downpours every day, some days were definitely cloudy and muted. Because there was no island hopping, minimal excursions or shopping, I didn't pay for much else aside from the spa services and jet ski rental. I used miles for the flight and some of the meals at the resort restaurants were covered as part of the Travelzoo promotion deal.  
By comparison, Crystal and I used a travel agent to plan our island hopping adventure through French Polynesia for New Year. It was... not cheap. 

Culture: Bora Bora
Photo By: Sonia Azad
The Maldives is a Muslim nation. I didn't spend much time in Malé, but it's something to consider for those who are unaware of what it's like to be in a Muslim country (ie wearing a bikini and drinking alcohol may be okay at a resort but not at some offsite places). When I went there (in July for my birthday), most other visitors were from the middle east and South Asia, escaping the extreme heat of places like Saudi Arabia, India, Oman and the UAE. The resort staff was mainly local or regional, but I didn't have a chance to interact and engage with them much to learn-- or leave-- with a strong sense of their culture.  

Bora Bora is a blend of French and Polynesian (think: Hawaiian but French). This is apparent everywhere you go: in music, in food and in activities/ entertainment at resorts. Most of the travelers we met on tours were from America or from regional island nations like New Zealand.

In summary, there's no right or wrong. It really depends on what you're looking for, how far you're willing to go and how much you're willing to spend. To me, the main consideration is the weather. It's a shame to go all that way just to get rained on the entire time. 
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