It's a question we get asked on an almost daily basis by our clients. And it's a tough call.
Both Bora Bora and the Maldives are renowned for their iconic water bungalows, but there are some key differences that you should bear in mind if you are considering whether to head to the South Pacific or the Indian ocean for the best water bungalow holiday.
A seaplane in the Maldives
The first thing to bear in mind is where you are travelling from. The Maldives is more readily accessible from Europe than Bora Bora is, but if you are based in the United States then Bora Bora is by far the best option.
The travel time to the Maldives from London is around 10 hours on a direct flight. Of course, lots of people pair Sri Lanka and the Maldives and so will fly via Colombo. Contrast this with the flight time to Bora Bora from London which can be anything upwards of 24 hours. From London to Bora Bora involves flying via Los Angeles, then onward to Tahiti before finally getting a short flight to Bora Bora.
The travel time to Bora Bora from the USA is around 10 hours - nine to get from Los Angeles to Papeete and then the onward flight to Bora Bora. Compare this with the flight time from the USA to the Maldives which is at least 27 hours. From LAX, you take a 16-hour flight to Dubai where you will change for an onward flight to the Maldives.
So if it's accessibility you're thinking about then the Maldives is easier to get to from Europe and Bora Bora is the best vacation in a water bungalow from the United States.
An overwater bungalow at Milaidhoo in the Maldives
Bora Bora is part of French Polynesia. Many of our clients will pair Bora Bora with another island in the area. Renowned for its coral-fringed lagoons, we often recommend that pairing Bora Bora with Moorea and Tahiti is an ideal combination. The properties on Tahiti tend to not be quite as luxurious as those on Bora Bora.
Scuba diving in Bora Bora is perhaps some of the best in the world and it also has at its heart Mount Otemanu, a dormant volcano. Bora Bora is different from the Maldives in that it's one island with multiple resorts. It means that although you are staying at one property, you can explore the island further, visiting other properties and dining elsewhere. You can be quite active in Bora Bora, discovering the island on a guided hike or a safari by jeep. Bora Bora water sports are popular too - jetskiing, paddle boarding, fishing, snorkelling and diving are all available and for those feeling that little bit more adventurous then you can turn your hand to shark feeding or swimming with stingray. Read more on why you should visit French Polynesia.
When it comes to the Maldives, you'll be spoilt for choice. With over 1,000 coral islands, the country is made up of 26 distinct atolls - which are rings of coral islands. For that private island feel then the Maldives is probably the ticket. Most Maldives resorts are based on their own individual island, each complete with their own iconic beaches. You don't have to go very far in the Maldives to find that beautiful sandy beach you've seen in the brochures.
Switching off and doing nothing is one of the most popular choices for clients travelling to the Maldives. You could quite easily be lying on the beach at your resort and not see another soul for an hour. Most resorts have multiple beaches and private areas. When thinking about things to do in the Maldives, dolphin watching, scuba diving and other water sports are popular choices. And then it is said that scuba diving in the Maldives is perhaps some of the best on earth - but then we said that about Bora Bora too!
If scenery is on your wish list then you may wish to consider that Bora Bora has its mountain at its centre so you will find jagged rocks and a stunning view. In the Maldives, the low lying islands mean that there's little scenery or forests to explore.
An overwater bungalow at Le Meridien in Bora Bora
In both Bora Bora and the Maldives, overwater bungalows are the dream. They understandably come with a price tag but to travel to either of these destinations and not experience that dream would be a shame. We often recommend to our clients travelling to the Maldives or Bora Bora that you should combine room categories.
For example, if travelling for seven nights we'd suggest staying five in a beach room before spending a further two in an overwater bungalow. Clearly if your idea of luxury is nothing but an overwater bungalow in the Maldives or an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora then you should absolutely stick to that dream. It's often very hard to book multiple room categories online and so that's where we can take care of those arrangements.
Both Bora Bora and the Maldives involve further travel from the international airport. In the Maldives you'll take a seaplane or a speed boat to your chosen resort. In French Polynesia you'll need to fly from Papeete Airport in Tahiti to Bora Bora on a short domestic flight with the local airline, Air Tahiti Nui.
In Bora Bora, the influence is French and so you'll find lovely cuisine and restaurants. In the Maldives, the cuisine is varied but expect to find an Indian and Asian influence.
When it comes to privacy, you may find that the Maldives offers slightly more - this is based on the fact that each resort is fairly isolated but also that the properties have been built with privacy in mind.
The construction of overwater bungalows in the Maldives compared to Bora Bora is different too. In the Maldives you'll find more modern design whilst in Bora Bora the authenticity and rustic tradition is front and centre.
Angaga Island in the Maldives
At OutOfOffice.com, we've successfully sent LGBT clients to both resorts. When it comes to choosing a destination based solely on its gay friendliness then Bora Bora and French Polynesia win hands down.
That's because the LGBT laws in Bora Bora are much more relaxed than the very strict laws in the Maldives. Same-sex couples can get married in French Polynesia and also have a wonderful beach ceremony - the actual marriage takes place at the City hall, but you can finish off the nuptials with a traditional Polynesian ceremony complete with leis on the beach.
In terms of checking into resorts, you'll have no problems enjoying a gay honeymoon in Bora Bora. The laws are favourable and gay marriage has been legal in Bora Bora and its neighbouring islands since 2013.
The Maldives are slightly trickier in terms of being gay-friendly, but that shouldn't deter you. It's illegal to be gay in the Maldives, but the reality is different. All the resorts we work with in the Maldives offer honeymoon benefits to same-sex couples. There may be hints of ignorance amongst some of the resorts' workers, but it is not usually in any way malicious. The worst report we've had from gay couples travelling to the Maldives is that their beds were regularly separated by a maid - again not because she had an issue with the couple, simply because she was ignorant and doing what she believed her job was which was to reset the room.
We understand that some clients do not wish to travel to a destination where it's illegal to be gay or lesbian and so in those cases we would say that Bora Bora and French Polynesia is your best option. But for those of you who are willing to travel to destinations where the law and the reality are slightly ambiguous then the Maldives is a great option.
No matter which destination you choose to travel to, both the Maldives and Bora Bora really are bucket list experiences and our team are on hand to help you choose the best one based on your own personal requirements.
Visiting one island is amazing in itself, but if you are looking for more to do on your holiday, then this itinerary is perfect. Stay in luxury accommodation and spend 3 nights on a private catamaran cruise where you will sail around French Polynesia, stopping at islands including Raiatea and Tahaa.
You will be staying on the islands of Moorea, Bora Bora and Tahiti. Each with their own unique charm and character waiting to be discovered. Prepare yourself for 13 days of luxury, style and unbeatable sunshine.