If you’re looking for a tropical vacation then you may be trying to choose between Bora Bora and Aitutaki.
Both destinations are uniquely different and offer a fantastic vacation that you’ll remember for life.
This ultimate guide will highlight the key differences between them including things like activities, cost, location and beaches to help you decide which to visit.
Aitutaki vs Bora Bora – Summary
Both Bora Bora and Aitutaki are both famous for having two of the most beautiful lagoons on the planet.
Bora Bora is also known for its luxury overwater bungalows and the epic extinct volcano, Mount Otemanu, which can be seen from all over the island.
Aitutaki, on the other hand, is also known for tropical fish, coral, sea turtles and long sandy beaches.
Aitutaki is much less famous than Bora Bora however it is essentially the Cook Islands equivalent to Bora Bora. A secluded, tropical paradise ideal for a honeymoon.
Although these two paradise islands share many similarities, there are some key differences that make them unique.
In a hurry? Here’s a quick overview of the key differences between Aitutaki and Bora Bora:
- Aitutaki is cheaper than Bora Bora on average.
- You’ll find slightly more things to do in Bora Bora. They have a wider range of activities and restaurants.
- Bora Bora has a stunning mountain backdrop which Aitutaki doesn’t have.
- Bora Bora is bigger than Aitutaki. The main town is also much bigger in Bora Bora.
- Most activities in both locations are water-based including snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, diving etc.
- Bora Bora has better hiking trails.
- Both have overwater bungalows however Bora Bora has more resorts to choose from (Aitutaki only has one resort with overwater bungalows).
- Overwater bungalows are much cheaper in Aitutaki.
- Both locations have white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and palm trees.
- Neither locations have much nightlife or shopping opportunities.
- Aitutaki definitely feels less developed and less commercial compared to Bora Bora.
- Aitutaki is also much quieter and feels more secluded.
The feel of the islands are very similar and they are both very beautiful islands so it’s super hard to make a decision.
As a whole, Aitutaki is less commercialized, more unspoiled and less expensive whereas Bora Bora is super luxurious, has slightly better views and has more activities.
It really comes down to what you prefer.
If you’re looking for an island paradise that feels completely off-the-grid with undeveloped white beaches and you don’t want to break the bank then choose Aitutaki.
If you want to stay in some of the best overwater bungalows on the planet, be treated like a queen/king and have a bit more choice then choose Bora Bora.
The rest of this post will go into more detail on each aspect to help you decide which island is right for you.
Bora Bora vs Aitutaki: Location & Size
Overall Aitutaki is smaller than Bora Bora in terms of size.
Let’s take a look in more detail…
Bora Bora and Aitutaki are both located in the South Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America.
Bora Bora, which forms part of French Polynesia, lies 891 km (554 miles) east of Aitutaki, which forms part of the Cook Islands.
Check out the location of the two islands on the map below:
Bora Bora is bigger than Aitutaki in terms of size.
Bora Bora covers 30.5km2 whereas Aitutaki covers just 18.3km2 making it over a third smaller.
Check out the size difference on the map below:
Additionally, the population of Bora Bora is around 10,000 whereas Aitutaki has just 1,200 local residents.
In terms of tourist numbers, Aitutaki only gets 30,000 tourists each year. Compare that with Bora Bora’s 100,000 yearly tourists.
As a result, you’ll find that Aitutaki feels much quieter.
Aitutaki vs Bora Bora – Best Time To Visit
As Aitutaki and Bora Bora are located in the same area of the world, they experience the same weather patterns and seasons.
The best time to visit Bora Bora or Aitutaki is between the months of May and October. During these months the weather is dry and hot.
Rainy season runs from December until March when the weather is still super hot but you may experience some tropical rain showers. There is also a risk of hurricanes during this time.
Find out more about hurricane season in Bora Bora.
The rain showers tend to not last very long (no more than 30 minutes) and many people still choose to visit during this time to save some money as flights/accommodation tends to be a bit cheaper.
Which is Cheaper: Aitutaki or Bora Bora
The cost of a vacation is often one of the most important things to consider when planning a trip.
It’s no lie that neither Bora Bora or Aitutaki are exactly cheap but one is definitely cheaper than the other.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how much it will cost to visit Bora Bora or Aitutaki:
- Aitutaki is much cheaper than Bora Bora overall.
- Overwater bungalows are cheaper in Aitutaki.
- Food, transport and activities are cheaper in Aitutaki.
- Hotels are also cheaper in Aitutaki.
- Flights to Aitutaki are more expensive.
Cost of a Vacation in Bora Bora
For more detailed information, check out my complete guide on how expensive Bora Bora is (it includes a full cost breakdown).
The average cost for a week-long vacation in Bora Bora is around $7,900 for two people.
This price assumes you stay in a regular hotel and not an overwater bungalow.
If you want to stay in an overwater bungalow then the average cost for a week-long vacation in Bora Bora is between $11,000 and $14,000 for two people.
This can easily be thousands higher if you choose one of the more premium overwater bungalows like the ones at the Four Seasons.
Bora Bora actually has some of the most expensive resorts in the whole world.
Here’s an overview of what you’ll spend in Bora Bora:
- Standard hotels in Bora Bora cost between $200 and $600 per night.
- An overwater bungalow costs between $750 and $2,500 per night.
- You’ll spend between $150 and $300 per person each day on food, transport and activities.
- Flights from the US cost, on average, between $1,300 and $2,500 per person.
- Flights from Australia/New Zealand cost, on average, between $900 and $1,400.
All prices are in USD.
Bora Bora is a super pricey location. It’s got an international reputation for being super exclusive so naturally it has prices that match.
There are definitely some ways you can save some money like avoiding overwater bungalows and dining in budget restaurants.
You could stay in a local guest house like Villa Yrondi. It’s stunning and reasonably priced.
Cost of a Vacation in Aitutaki
Aitutaki is cheaper than Bora Bora with an average vacation costing around $6,000 for 2 people for a week-long vacation.
This assumes you’re not staying in an overwater bungalow.
If you do want to stay in an overwater bungalow then it will cost around $11,000 for 2 people for a week.
Here’s an overview of what you’ll spend in Aitutaki:
- Standard hotels in Aitutaki cost between $150 and $300 per night.
- An overwater bungalow costs between $730 and $830 per night.
- You’ll spend between $90 and $150 per person each day on food, transport and activities.
- Flights from the US cost, on average, between $1,800 and $2,900 per person.
- Flights from Australia/New Zealand cost, on average, between $900 and $1,200.
All prices are in USD.
As you can see, flights are your biggest cost when visiting Aitutaki, especially if you’re traveling from the US.
I spent ages checking various dates on Kayak.com and struggled to find any flights under $2,000 per person from LA.
Prices are particularly high due to Aitutaki’s super secluded location. The island is relatively unknown and far away from most places.
💡Tip: I often use Kayak.com to find the best flight deals. They literally search the entire internet for the best prices for your trip.
Aitutaki vs Bora Bora – Things to Do
There are lots of things to do in both locations however you may find that one suits you more than the other.
Here’s a quick comparison of the things to do in both Aitutaki and Bora Bora:
- Most activities in both locations are water-based e.g. swimming, snorkeling, diving, kayaking etc.
- Both locations have amazing snorkeling with an interesting array of marine life.
- Aitutaki is better for sea turtles whereas Bora Bora is better for reef sharks.
- Bora Bora has dramatic, lush mountainous scenery which Aitutaki doesn’t have.
- Bora Bora has better hiking trails than Aitutaki but they are more difficult and take longer.
- Bora Bora has more things to do overall.
- The main town in Bora Bora is bigger and more established than the town in Aitutaki which is very small.
- There’s very limited nightlife in both locations.
- Aitutaki is quieter with far fewer tourists than Bora Bora.
Things to Do in Bora Bora
Some people think that Bora Bora is boring and has little to do other than lounging around on the beach or in your overwater bungalow.
This isn’t entirely true and there are plenty of things to keep you occupied.
The majority of activities in Bora Bora are water-based and revolve around the turquoise lagoon with the towering green volcano, Mt Otemanu, sitting in the middle.
It’s truly breathtaking and you’ll not be able to get enough of it.
Top Activities in Bora Bora:
- Explore Bora Bora’s best snorkeling spots (there’s a lot of marine life)
- Swim with sharks
- Boat tour around the lagoon
- Relaxing on the beach (or on the deck of your overwater bungalow)
- Head to the spa for a massage
- Climb Mount Otemanu
There is very little nightlife in Bora Bora so you’ll find that there is little to do in the evenings. I did write a guide on the best things to do in Bora Bora at night for some inspiration.
There’s also basically no shopping opportunities in Bora Bora. If anything you’ll be able to buy a few local craft items like a pearl necklace from a small shop in Vaitape (the main town) but you’ll certainly find no shopping malls or large stores here.
What you can do though is jump into the lagoon for a swim with some fish, rays and even reef sharks (don’t worry, the sharks are friendly). You can even explore some vibrant coral reefs.
Bora Bora is largely tailored towards couples, especially those on a honeymoon. It’s super romantic and you’ll find that the peace and quiet is just what you need.
Try out a relaxing couples massage or take a romantic stroll on the beach.
Things to Do in Aitutaki
Similar to Bora Bora, Aitutaki also has a glorious crystal-clear lagoon which is teeming with marine life.
As well as the lagoon, Aitutaki is blessed with beautiful hiking trails, uninhabited islets and white sandy beaches.
You’ll generally find that Aitutaki feels less commercial compared to Bora Bora and you can really connect with nature and the beauty around you.
As less tourists visit overall, you’ll find it much quieter than Bora Bora. It feels more like a private island paradise.
Top Activities in Aitutaki:
- Lagoon cruise
- Whale watching
- Kite surfing
Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities in Aitutaki. Jump into the lagoon to meet a range of tropical fish, rays and sea turtles!
Head over to the island’s only town, Arutanga, to explore the local way of life. It’s a charming little town with tons of friendly locals.
Check out the local fruit & vegetable market and grab yourself an ice cold coconut. There’s also a charming little church that dates back to 1828 making it the Cook Island’s oldest church.
The lush Maunga Pu hills are the highest point on the island. You can even walk up one of the many hiking trails which lead to the top of the hills.
The hike to the top of the tallest hill only takes 20-minutes and you’ll be warmly greeted by panoramic views of the island when you reach the top. The views of the blue lagoon are just incredible.
Aitutaki is surrounded by many small uninhabited islets. One of the most famous ones is Tapuaetai (also known as ‘One Foot Island’) which is known for having several white sandy beaches.
If I’m being honest, Tapuaetai is probably the most beautiful island I’ve ever seen. The sand is super white and the water is crystal clear and blue.
This little islet is mostly undeveloped with just one bar where you can grab a cocktail and one place that rents cabins for anyone that wants to stay the night. It doesn’t get much more secluded than this.
Similar to Bora Bora, nightlife in Aitutaki is very limited. You will find a few bars here and there where you can grab a drink but there’s no nightclubs.
Bora Bora or Aitutaki – Accommodation
Another key thing to consider when planning a trip is where you’re going to stay as this can really make or break your vacation.
Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect from hotels in Bora Bora and Aitutaki:
- Accommodation, as a whole, is cheaper in Aitutaki including overwater bungalows which are significantly cheaper than Bora Bora.
- There’s fewer hotels and resorts in Aitutaki so you have less choice overall.
- There’s only one hotel in Aitutaki that offers overwater bungalows and they book up well in advance. They literally only have 7 overwater bungalows.
- Bora Bora, on the other hand, has several resorts with overwater bungalows.
- There are some budget friendly places to stay in both locations.
- Bora Bora has more high-end 5-star options than Aitutaki.
Accommodation in Bora Bora
There is limited choice when it comes to hotels due to the small size of Bora Bora. Most of the hotels are luxury, 5 star hotels that come with a hefty price tag.
There are a few budget friendly places to stay and a few ways you can save money though like avoiding overwater bungalows or staying in a guest house like Villa Yrondi.
You’ll find that many of the hotels work hard to showcase traditional Polynesian culture in a variety of ways.
This ranges from traditional Polynesian decor and furnishings to tasty Tahitian food and even flower crown making classes.
Bora Bora is super famous for its overwater bungalows that sit within the lagoon. They usually have outdoor decks with a ladder that leads straight into the lagoon.
At certain resorts, you’ll be able to see lots of fish and other marine life right from your bungalow!
Check out my guide to the best overwater bungalows in Bora Bora to decide which one is perfect for you. My personal favorite is the Four Seasons Resort.
Whilst these overwater bungalows certainly are breathtaking and the stuff of dreams, they are also eye-wateringly expensive.
On average, one night in an overwater bungalow will cost $1,000+ (often more than $2,000 per night, especially during high season).
Also, the majority of the resorts in Bora Bora are located on private islands so you’ll have to factor in boat transfers to get to and from the island.
Accommodation in Aitutaki
There’s very limited choice when it comes to accommodation in Aitutaki.
As the island itself is very small, there’s not much room for tons of hotels. In fact, there’s only around 37 hotels in total.
Although there are few options overall, there is a nice range of hotels available at different budgets.
You can stay in a local guesthouse for less than $100 per night, stay at a mid-range hotel for around $300 or you can splurge on a luxury resort for $600 per night.
Without a doubt, the best place to stay in Aitutaki is the Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort.
This luxurious resort sits on its own private island and offers incredible panoramic views of the Aitutaki lagoon.
On top of that, this resort is the only hotel in Aitutaki that has overwater bungalows.
One bonus is that the overwater bungalows here are much more reasonably priced than those in Bora Bora.
Overwater bungalows in Bora Bora usually cost $1,000+ per night and often more than $2,000. In Aitutaki, you’ll never pay more than $800 per night.
💡Tip: The Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort only has 7 overwater bungalows so they book up fast. Try to book as far in advance as possible to reserve one.
Aitutaki vs Bora Bora – Beaches
If you are picking between these two locations then I’m guessing you love beaches. Who doesn’t, right!?
Well, you’re in luck because both Bora Bora and Aitutaki have some of the most beautiful beaches in the whole world.
I’m talking soft white sand, crystal clear waters, swaying palm trees and unbelievably blue water.
Here’s what you can expect from the beaches in Aitutaki and Bora Bora:
- Both locations have incredibly beautiful beaches.
- There are beaches both on the main island and on the surrounding islets in both locations.
- Aitutaki has more sandbars.
Bora Bora Beaches
Bora Bora pretty much revolves around the vibrant blue lagoon with Mount Otemanu standing tall in the center. There are some beaches that look out into the lagoon but not a huge amount.
Most of Bora Bora’s luxury resorts are set on private islands which come with their own secluded beach.
This means, even if the resort is fully booked, there will always be space on the beach and inviting sun loungers will be waiting for you.
Bora Bora also has a few public beaches with the most famous one being Matira Beach which is often rated as the most beautiful beach in the world.
In Bora Bora, you’ll be able to relax and find some much needed peace and quiet. The waves are super clean and very calm so they’re the ideal place to relax.
Aitutaki also has its fair share of pristine beaches.
The best beach on the main island is O’otu Beach. This beautiful white sandy beach is a great place to relax. Just sit back and listen to the water and the swaying palm trees.
You’ll be amazed at how blue the water is here! Take a swim out into the lagoon where you’ll actually be able to reach a sandbank.
You can easily spend an entire day at O’otu Beach because there’s several bars and cafes nearby for you to grab a drink or a snack.
There’s also plenty more beaches on the surrounding islets. One of my favorites is Honeymoon Island. This island is basically all beach (I’m not joking).
It’s essentially just a slab of beach surrounded by a vibrant turquoise lagoon. It’s a hotspot for kite surfing and snorkeling.
Personally I think the most beautiful beach in Aitutaki (and probably the world) is on the Tapuaetai islet.
The whole island is surrounded with some of the whitest sand I’ve ever seen. It’s easily reachable by lagoon cruise.
Bora Bora vs Aitutaki – Food
Who doesn’t love food?
Here’s what you can expect from restaurants in both Bora Bora and Aitutaki:
- Bora Bora has more French food.
- Vegan, vegetarian and halal food is hard to come by in both locations.
- Bora Bora has more restaurants to choose from compared with Aitutaki.
- Both locations have tons of local Polynesian dishes to try.
- Food is much cheaper in Aitutaki compared with Bora Bora.
As these two islands are located in the same area of the world, the culture (including food) is very similar.
I actually wrote an entire guide on what kind of food they eat in Bora Bora for more information.
One of the most famous dishes that you just have to try when visiting Bora Bora is ‘poisson cru’.
This tasty dish is made up of raw tuna which has been marinated in lime juice and coconut milk.
You can also get this dish in Aitutaki, however it is known locally as ‘ikamata’ instead.
Here’s a bit more information…
Bora Bora Food
Food options are extremely limited in Bora Bora. This is mainly due to the size of the island, it’s super small so there’s not a lot of room for tons of international restaurants.
Most food in Bora Bora is either French or Polynesian cuisine. You can also sometimes find some Asian cuisine and the odd burger but that’s about it.
Whilst the food here is delicious, there are also very few restaurants overall in Bora Bora. Trip advisor shows just 49 restaurants in Bora Bora total.
My absolute favorite restaurant in Bora Bora is Bloody Mary’s. It’s actually pretty famous and tons of celebrities have visited over the years.
One difficulty is that if you choose to stay in one of the luxury resorts in Bora Bora, like St Regis or the Four Seasons, then you’ll find eating out extremely difficult.
This is because many of Bora Bora’s luxury resorts sit on their own private islet.
This means you can eat at the resort restaurants easily but if you want to go anywhere else then you’ll need to take a boat ride to the main island.
This can be annoying, long and often expensive so you may prefer to get a hotel located on the main island if this could be an issue (InterContinental Le Moana is a great choice).
Most of the luxury resorts do have 3 to 4 on-site restaurants though.
Food is also extremely pricey in Bora Bora. I have an entire post on restaurant prices in Bora Bora but on average you’re looking at $100 to $150 per person for dinner.
Food in Aitutaki
As Aitutaki is a very small island, there are not many restaurants at all. In fact, there are only 14 restaurants on the whole island.
The main food type here is seafood (not surprising given its location) so if you love seafood you’re in luck.
You’ll find mostly local Polynesian dishes on offer here. Crab, lemon, shellfish, coconut, tuna, papaya and mangos are common ingredients.
Vegans and vegetarians may struggle here as most dishes contain some form of meat.
One of my favorite restaurants in Aitutaki is the Bora Shed Bar & Grill which is located close to O’otu Beach. They serve a range of dishes including local ikamata.
The restaurants in Aitutaki are much more reasonably priced than Bora Bora and you’ll rarely spend more than $20 to $30 per person for a meal.
Koru Cafe is one of the best rated restaurants in Aitutaki. Their menu is a nice mix of traditional Polynesian cuisine and international favorites.
Try local ikamata or grab yourself a sandwich, cheesy garlic bread or pork slider.
If you’re staying at a resort then they also usually have a couple of on-site restaurants.
And that’s it!
Thanks for reading this post which compares Aitutaki vs Bora Bora to help you decide where to visit on your next vacation.
Both locations have so much to offer and you’re bound to have an amazing time no matter which you choose.
Still unsure of where to visit?