Most people only consider these two exotic destinations if they’re planning an expensive, once-in-a-lifetime trip, such as a romantic getaway or a honeymoon. Whilst it’s true that both of these places are famous for this, more and more visitors are foregoing the expensive villas and resorts and opting for a regular (and cheaper!) holiday.
If luxury and over-the-top opulence is what you’re looking for, then you should definitely check out one of our guides at The Maldives vs Bora Bora, but here we’re going to compare the options for a more regular, but just as amazing, holiday in the South Pacific.
We will now go into depth, discussing the differences, similarities, questions, and misconceptions about the two popular destinations Bora Bora Vs Fiji.
Bora Bora or Fiji: Where are they?
Both of these famous resorts are in the South Pacific. Bora Bora is one of the Leeward group of Islands and part of the region known as French Polynesia. It’s a tiny island, less than 6 miles long and 3 miles across, and it’s surrounded by a turquoise lagoon and coral reef, with a twin-peaked volcano right in the middle. Its population is just over 10,000 who either follow the local Tahitian religion or are converts to Christianity. It was an independent kingdom until 1888, when it was annexed by France. The official language is French, although most locals speak good English.
The Republic of Fiji is an archipelago country formed of more than 330 islands and over 500 islets, famous for rugged landscapes, palm-lined beaches and coral reefs with clear lagoons. Its two main islands are Vanua Levu and Viti Levu, the last of which is home to the capital city, Suva. The population is just under 900,000, most of whom live on the two main islands and are mainly Christian or Hindu. The official languages are Fijian and English.
Bora Bora vs Fiji, Round 1: Accommodation
We’re starting with accommodation, because although these islands are famous for their expensive resorts, private islands and iconic overwater villas, it’s perfectly possible to book cheaper lodgings. The main proviso here is to book way, way, way in advance, as the cheap options sell out very quickly.
Bora Bora, as we’ve already said, is tiny and space is at a premium. The cheapest accommodation you’ll find is Tente Vaitea which for £25 per night gets you a large tent next to a family-run lodge. You sleep on a double mattress (under a mango tree!) and you’re two minutes away from Matira Beach, which is handy as it’s the only free beach on the island. If you don’t fancy a tent, then a basic but perfectly serviceable room in the lodge will cost about £40 per night.
Moving up in price to £80-120 per night will get you a small room in a 3-star hotel or studio apartment. Some of the hotels even offer small overwater bungalows at the same price, such as the Oa Oa Lodge above, although there aren’t too many like this. If your budget stretches to £150 per night there are better options available, and if you’re planning to spend upwards of £200 per night you should start to look at the private resorts (see our guide at The Maldives vs Bora Bora for more details).
Fiji is a lot more affordable. With so many islands available, there’s something to suit every pocket. For instance, £25-30 per night will get you a small beach bure (a traditional fiji bungalow with a thatched roof), such as the one in our picture below on Nacula Island. Move up to £50 per night and you can start looking at the seaview bures, some of which are on ‘adult only’ islands where you can be sure of some privacy to relax and wind down.
Of course opulence is available, for a price, and there are quite a few exclusive resorts that offer 5-star luxury. These include traditional apartments, such as the Ramada suites at Wailoaloa Beach, and luxurious overwater villas such as at the Marriott resort which overlooks Momi Bay.
Our opinion: If you’re looking for a full-service luxury resort then you should definitely consider Bora Bora first. But with a greater range of accommodation on offer, especially for those on a budget, we think Fiji wins this round.
Bora Bora vs Fiji, Round 2: The Dining Experience
As you’d expect, with both locations being islands, the main traditional dishes are seafood. Bora Bora is part of French Polynesia so, as you’d expect, the influence is French. Fiji, on the other hand, has some surprising Indian influences, including superb curries!
In Bora Bora the local Polynesian speciality is poisson cru which is raw tuna marinated in lime juice and coconut milk, but other local seafood worth trying includes mahi-mahi, grouper, and saumon des diex, (‘fish of the gods’) which tastes like a mixture of tuna and salmon. And pineapples, coconuts and bananas are all locally grown so they’re all wonderfully fresh.
Bora Bora has few independent restaurants; most are part of the resorts. However, one notable exception is ‘Bloody Mary’s’, which is a bit of an institution and definitely worth a visit. It’s a no-frills, sand-on-the-floor place that’s very popular with the locals, but it’s also served quite a few celebrities – check out the wall of fame names such as Buzz Aldrin, Tom Cruise and Kim Kardashian.
The resort restaurants also serve traditional food but extend their menus to include Chinese, Italian and also typically French menus. They’ll be happy to serve you even if you’re not staying at their resort, and most will lay on a shuttle to make the round trip from wherever you’re staying. If you don’t fancy a full sit-down meal, a cheap and cheerful alternative is the roadside diners, known locally as roulottes. One we like is Aito Hot Dog, near Vaitape pier, which serves (massive!) hot dogs and possibly the best snow cones on the island.
Traditional Fijian food is based around a few local ingredients including sweet potatoes, taro (a tropical vegetable), coconuts, cassava (a type of starchy shrub) and, of course, fish. One such dish is lovo, the Fijian version of a barbecue. It’s a mix of fish, meats and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in a makeshift underground oven and then lined with coconut husks.
Roughly 40% of Fijians are of Indian descent, so there are plenty of curries, naan bread and roti available, especially in Suva and Nadi. As for local street food, the purpose-built ‘Street Foods Fiji’ project near Denarau is a collection of shipping containers turned into micro restaurants, offering traditional and Indo-Fijian snacks, Thai meals and european favourites such as pizza and pasta.
One experience you should definitely try is drinking kava, which is made from the root of the yaqona plant (a type of pepper) and strained into a large wooden bowl. The drinking of kava is very ceremonial and is traditionally a way of bringing two groups of people together, which is why you’ll probably be offered some whenever you visit a local village. We should point out that kava is a (legal) narcotic with a euphoric numbing effect, and can be dangerous if drunk excessively. If you’re at all worried, then Fiji is also famous for its Bula coffee beans, so perhaps a cup of java is a safer bet.
Our opinion: We all have different tastes, and no more so than for food. Boty locations offer high-quality restaurants, and both also offer local delicacies for the more adventurous traveller. There’s no clear winner here, and so we’re declaring this round a draw.
Bora Bora vs Fiji, Round 3: The Beaches
Ahh, the beaches. We’re not joking: every great thing you’ve heard about them is completely true. Golden sands, tropical backdrops and turquoise seas make every beach an Instagram post waiting to happen.
The beaches on Bora Bora are partly owned by the resorts and so they all charge an entry fee. Except one, and luckily it’s the best one of them all. It’s called Matira Beach and it was once voted the most beautiful beach in the world (by Conde Nast Traveller). As the only public beach on Bora Bora it does get a bit crowded, so try to get there early to stake out a good spot.
A lot of people value seclusion, and if that’s you then you should really set aside some cash and take a boat to one of the private beaches on a motu, which is the name for the tiny coral islands that surround Bora Bora. Sometimes they’re no more than a thin strip of sand and a palm tree, but for a true tropical beach experience they’re hard to beat.
In Fiji, the most beautiful beaches are typically on the outer islands, but one exception to the rule is Natadola Beach, a world-class beach that you can visit without leaving the mainland. Located on Viti Levu, it’s generally accepted as the most beautiful white-sand beach in Fiji. It’s really only accessible by taxi and you’ll need to pay about £18 to enter the resort, but you can reclaim that if you eat at one of the resort restaurants or use their spa.
Another stunning beach in Fiji is the exclusive Horseshoe Bay at the Matangi Private Island Resort. Included in Shultz’s classic travel guide ‘1,000 Places to See Before You Die’, it’s a powder-soft, horseshoe-shaped beach and an ideal location for a romantic retreat. We should also mention that the resort offers real treehouses to stay in, so you might want to consider spending a night or two for a unique Fiji experience.
Our opinion: Whether you want romantic seclusion or just somewhere to unwind and read a good book, both islands spoil you for choice. Fiji has the greater number of beaches, but you’ll spend some time getting to them as the islands are quite spread out. Bora Bora has fewer beaches, but the variety is just as good and they’re easier to get to. So Bora Bora wins this round.
Bora Bora vs Fiji, Round 4: Experiences
Both Bora Bora and Fiji, as you’d expect, offer amazing snorkeling and diving in pristine waters with superb visibility, and hundreds of fish species. Most resorts have onsite dive shops, and there are programs for everyone from newbie to seasoned pro. The Somosomo Straits in Fiji offers arguably the world’s best soft coral diving, while the natural ‘cleaning station’ at Anua in Bora Bora is a haven for Manta Rays.
Nadi is home to many of Fiji’s Indian population, and so there’s a chance to experience the rich visual culture of Hindu temples and shrines. One not to miss is the largest Hindu temple in the southern hemisphere: the Sri Siva Subramaniya. It’s one of the newest temples in Fiji, consecrated as recently as 1994, and also one of the most colourful.
Bora Bora, as we’ve said before, is a tiny island, but this means that you can hire a bicycle, take a lazy ride along the coast road – only a 20 mile round trip – and be back before tea-time. You should take the time to stop at the sleepy little fishing villages and the ancient Polynesian temples, and also take the little trail road from Matira to the unmarked but stunningly-beautiful Paoaoa Point, which is where you’ll get the signature shot of Bora Bora.
Fiji also offers many scenic views that belong on postcards, including the majestic Tavaro Falls on Taveuni Island. Start your visit with an easy trek through the Bouma National Heritage Park to see the first of the falls, then continue through lush, tropical vegetation to the second, by way of a rope bridge. And, if your legs are up to it, you should continue to the third falls. It’s a bit of an uphill trek, but definitely worth the effort.
Before we move on, here’s a pretty Fijian Fable for you! At the very top of the Tavoro Falls trail, between October and December you might be lucky enough to see the beautiful tagimaucia flower in bloom. Legend has it that the red colour is from the tears of a young girl, who had become trapped in a vine. As she wept her tears turned to blood and, where they fell onto the vine, they stained the flowers growing there and transformed them to the beautiful red-and-white tagimaucia. The locals love this flower so much, praised both for its beauty and rarity, that they have adopted the tagimaucia as their national flower. (BTW, if you do see the flower please don’t pick it – they’re a protected species).
Once forbidden by puritanical missionaries, dancing is an integral part of Polynesian culture and the local children of Bora Bora are taught to dance as soon as they can walk. Most of the resorts put on a display of hula dancing, usually on the beach in the early evening. If you’re there in July, you’ll be able to witness the annual Heiva festival, a celebration of traditional Polynesian culture.
Our Opinion: We think the quality and range of experiences for the casual tourist are pretty-much equal. If you’re into diving and snorkelling then both islands will be great; if you prefer hiking and nature trails then, again, there’s not much to choose between the two. We think you’ll be pleased wherever you go, so this one’s a draw.
So….Bora Bora or Fiji: The Conclusion (and The Winner!)
As ever, picking a winner is tough. Each island has a distinct and unique culture and visiting either will give you memories you’ll cherish forever. The vibe is certainly different on each island: if you want a full-service resort with everything in one place, then Bora Bora should be your choice; if you want to feel like it’s just you in an unspoiled paradise, then you should definitely go for Fiji.
But there is one overriding factor that separates the two, and that’s the price. Not so much the airfare, which is very similar, but the cost of things whilst you’re there. If you’re looking at the high-end exclusive resorts then you’ll probably not be bothered too much by the differences, but if you’re on a set budget then the fact that a meal for two is almost twice as much in Bora Bora will be important. And so, with that in mind, we’re going to say that Fiji comes out ahead in our Bora Bora Vs Fiji comparison (but if the Bora Bora Tourist Board are reading this, we’ll still take the free tickets!)
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