If you’re looking for a tropical vacation then you may be trying to choose between Bora Bora and Hawaii.
I’ve been to both Bora Bora and Hawaii so I’d love to share my thoughts with you on the differences I noticed between them.
I’ll be covering things like activities, cost, location, beaches, food and more to help you decide which to visit.
Bora Bora vs Hawaii – Summary
Bora Bora is known for its luxury overwater bungalows, turquoise lagoon and epic extinct volcano, Mount Otemanu, which can be seen from all over the island.
People visit Bora Bora to relax and unwind, experience world-class snorkeling and for the breathtaking views.
Hawaii is known for its long, sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and epic volcanoes. It also has a lively capital city, Honolulu, which is fun to explore.
Spread over several islands, including Maui, Oahu and Big Island, Hawaii has so much to offer including a rich and ancient culture that really sets the islands apart from others.
In a hurry? Here’s a quick overview of the key differences between Bora Bora and Hawaii:
- Hawaii is much busier compared with Bora Bora. Fewer people visit Bora Bora every year so you’ll easily be able to find some peace and quiet.
- A vacation in Bora Bora will cost a lot more than a vacation in Hawaii (about double).
- In Bora Bora, you have the chance to stay in an overwater bungalow. There are no overwater bungalows in Hawaii.
- It will take you much longer to get to Bora Bora compared with Hawaii if you live in the US or Europe.
- Bora Bora is tailored to couples so it feels very romantic and is the ideal honeymoon destination. Hawaii is great for both couples and families.
- The best time to visit Bora Bora is between May and October however the best time to visit Hawaii is between March and September.
- You’ll find a wider range of activities, restaurants and shops in Hawaii compared with Bora Bora.
- Snorkeling and scuba diving is much better in Bora Bora and very limited in Hawaii.
- Bora Bora feels a lot more exotic and has a strong Polynesian feel compared with Hawaii which has a more American feel.
- Hawaii has a vibrant nightlife scene but Bora Bora has virtually no nightlife.
- As Hawaii is a US state, you don’t have to worry about currency conversion (if you’re from the US).
It’s really difficult for me to pick a favorite between these two as I loved them both for different reasons.
I’d probably pick Hawaii as my favorite just because there were so many different things to do from spotting turtles on the beaches to surfing and hiking up Diamond Head.
Bora Bora was amazing and I definitely don’t regret visiting but I did find that there wasn’t much to do other than snorkeling in the lagoon and relaxing on the beach.
I definitely found ways to fill my time though and loved staying in an overwater bungalow for the first time.
In the rest of this post, I’ll be comparing different aspects including hotels, cost, things to do, location and more to help you decide between Bora Bora and Hawaii.
Although many people think it is, Bora Bora is actually not a part of Hawaii. It’s a completely separate island located in a different country, over 4,000 km away.
Bora Bora is a small island in French Polynesia that is located in the South Pacific Ocean.
Hawaii is a group of islands located in the Pacific Ocean, just over 2,000 miles from the western coast of the US mainland.
Check out the map below to see the location of Bora Bora and Hawaii:
As you can see, Bora Bora is much further from the USA than Hawaii. In fact, it will probably take you at least double the time to get to Bora Bora.
Here’s the average travel time from the US mainland to each location:
- A flight from Los Angeles to Hawaii takes around 5 & a half hours.
- A flight from Los Angeles to Bora Bora takes at least 14 hours (sometimes over 24 hours).
- A flight from New York to Hawaii takes around 11 hours.
- A flight from New York to Bora Bora takes at least 21 hours (often much more).
Due to its location, traveling to Bora Bora from the US or Europe will take much longer than traveling to Hawaii.
I was flying from London and it took me over 25 hours and 3 separate flights to get to Bora Bora. It was a super long travel day and definitely took me a few days to recover.
My Hawaii flight was much shorter at just 18 hours and I only had to take 2 flights. It was still long but way more manageable than the Bora Bora flight.
💡 Quick Tip: Even though it takes longer to get to Bora Bora, this means that there’s far fewer tourists overall. In fact, Hawaii gets the same number of visitors in one weekend as Bora Bora gets in an entire year.
Bora Bora is also much smaller than Hawaii in terms of size. Bora Bora covers just 30km2 whereas Hawaii covers 28,000 km2.
Best Time To Visit
If having the absolute best weather possible is important to you then it’s worth knowing the best months to travel to each location.
The best time to visit Bora Bora is between May and October however the best time to visit Hawaii is between March and September.
Best Time to Visit Bora Bora
The best time to visit Bora Bora is during high season which runs from May to October.
The weather during this time is hot and dry which is why so many tourists choose to visit during these months.
You can expect peak temperatures between 78ºF and 80ºF (26ºC to 27ºC).
Low season runs from December to March when the weather is more wet. It’s still hot during these months and many tourists choose to visit during this time to save some money.
You can expect temperatures around 82ºF (28ºC) but be prepared for the occasional rain shower.
Best Time to Visit Hawaii
The best time to visit Hawaii is during high season which runs from March to September.
This is also the dry season so you’ll get very little rain and gorgeous, blue skies most days.
During these months you can expect peak temperatures between 82ºF and 87ºF (28ºC and 31ºC).
Low seasons runs from November until March. The weather during these months is still hot but it does rain from time to time.
Tip: Hawaii’s ‘rainy season’ isn’t that much rainer than the rest of the year.
Peak temperatures average around 80ºF to 84ºC (27ºC to 29ºC) during low season.
Things To Do
I personally found that Hawaii had way more things to do than Bora Bora and by a long shot.
I really didn’t want to leave when my first Hawaii trip came to an end because I still had so many things on my list that I wanted to do and just not enough time.
I ended up booking another Hawaii trip for the following year to try a tick some more things off.
Bora Bora was really beautiful but there’s definitely less to do there. It’s ideal for couples looking to relax but I’d maybe give it a miss if you’re looking for adventure.
Here’s a quick comparison of the things to do in both Bora Bora and Hawaii:
- Overall there is a wider range of activities available in Hawaii compared with Bora Bora.
- Activities in Bora Bora mainly revolve around the lagoon so you can expect snorkeling, swimming and boat tours.
- You can do all of these activities in Hawaii too but you can also go shopping, hike an active volcano, go surfing, visit a palace and so much more.
- Shopping is much better in Hawaii than Bora Bora. You’ll find almost zero shopping opportunities in Bora Bora.
- Snorkeling and scuba diving is much better in Bora Bora as there is a huge variety of marine life. There’s few snorkeling opportunities in Hawaii.
- There is very little nightlife in Bora Bora, however you’ll find a vibrant nightlife scene in Hawaii.
- You can easily swim with turtles and go whale watching in Hawaii but this is much harder in Bora Bora. In Bora Bora, you can swim with rays and reef sharks.
Things To Do in Bora Bora
Pretty much all 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:
- Snorkeling in the lagoon (there’s a lot of marine life)
- Boat tour around the lagoon
- Relaxing on the beach (or on the deck of your overwater bungalow)
- Head to the spa for a massage
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.
I also found that there were basically no shopping opportunities. If anything you’ll be able to buy a few local craft items like a pearl necklace from a small shop in Vaitape but you’ll certainly find no shopping malls or large stores here.
I spent most of my time jumping into the lagoon and going for a swim with some fish, rays and even reef sharks (don’t worry, the sharks are friendly). You can also explore some vibrant coral reefs.
You can head out on your own or join a snorkeling tour like this one which is what I did.
I found that Bora Bora was 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.
Being completely honest, there isn’t much for kids to do in Bora Bora.
Families with children will likely prefer Hawaii however there is a really fun kids club at the Four Seasons Bora Bora.
Things To Do in Hawaii
Hawaii offers a huge range of activities from snorkeling and scuba diving to shopping and waterparks. Honestly, the list is endless.
Top Activities in Hawaii:
- Spot dolphins in Oahu
- Explore the Volcanoes National Park
- Trek through a bamboo forest
- Go whale watching in Maui
- Catch some waves and go surfing
- Hike up to Diamond Head
- Spot seals on the beaches
- Visit Pearl Harbor
- Relax at Waikiki Beach
There’s several different Hawaiian islands including Big Island, Maui, Oahu and Kauai and each has something different to offer.
For example, Kauai is a nature lovers paradise and has tons of epic hiking spots and walking trails (they even filmed the old Jurassic Park movies here).
Oahu is more suited to those looking for a fantastic beach vacation and you’ll get decent snorkeling and be able to swim with turtles and maybe even dolphins.
My favorite spot for snorkeling is Hanauma Bay in Oahu where you’ll find plenty of sea life including turtles, rainbow-colored tropical fish, eels and more.
Hawaii is also home to several active volcanoes including the Kilauea Volcano which is currently the most active volcano in the whole world.
I actually got to see lava oozing out from this colossal volcano! Cool right!?
I even hiked up to Diamond Head and was rewarded with the best panoramic views of Honolulu and Oahu from above.
If you’re looking for a picture-perfect beach then Hawaii has everything you need and more. Long white sandy stretches of beach? Check!
Hawaii is famous for it’s super laid-back surfer vibe as it’s actually one of the world’s best surfing locations. Grab your surfboard and catch some waves!
If you’ve never surfed before then book yourself a surfing lesson.
If you love exploring cities, you can wander the streets of Honolulu. It’s filled with tons of attractions including the Iolani Palace where the King and Queen of Hawaii lived until the monarchy was overthrown in 1893.
If you love nightlife then Hawaii is a much better choice than Bora Bora. You’ll find nightclubs with world-class DJs, traditional Hawaiian dance shows, beach bars, cocktail lounges and so much more.
My favorite nightlife spot in Hawaii is at Waikiki Beach. You’ll see trendy bars and over-the-top clubs everywhere after dark.
Bora Bora or Hawaii for Honeymoon
Both Bora Bora and Hawaii are perfect for a honeymoon. With their picture-perfect landscapes, you’ll find romance easy.
If it was my honeymoon, I’d probably choose Bora Bora just because of how private it felt.
I loved Hawaii but found that it was super busy everywhere. You’d definitely struggle to find some peace and quiet there.
Here’s what you can expect on your honeymoon in Bora Bora or Hawaii:
- You’ll get much more privacy in Bora Bora as it’s not as busy overall.
- There are very few kids in Bora Bora so it’s easier to find peace and quiet. Hawaii is popular with families so it can be louder and busier.
- Bora Bora is more tailored towards couples.
Bora Bora for Honeymoons
Bora Bora is made for couples. In fact, you’ll find that the majority of tourists visiting Bora Bora are couples (and at least half are on their honeymoon).
This can be a benefit for couples wanting to spend some quality time together as you can relax on the beach in peace without lots of kids shouting and hitting you on the head with a beach ball.
It’s much harder to find this kind of peace and quiet in Hawaii.
One of the most romantic places to stay is in an overwater bungalow and Bora Bora has a huge abundance of these.
I mean what’s more romantic than being on a secluded, paradise island in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, right!?
I’d recommend booking one of the luxury resorts that sit on their own private islet like the Conrad Bora Bora Nui or the Four Seasons.
These resorts have their own private beaches so you’ll never have to fight the crowds to get a spot. In fact, they usually have sun loungers with fitted towels on the beach waiting for you!
You can also head over to their on-site spa for a relaxing couples massage.
Hawaii for Honeymoons
Whilst you’ll find it harder to find some peace and quiet with your new wife/husband, Hawaii is also a great place to go for your honeymoon.
If you head off the beaten track, you’ll definitely be able to find some secluded beaches perfect for romance.
If you’re looking for some privacy then head over to Lanai which has only a few hotels and few visitors. It’s ideal if you just want to rest, relax and recharge.
There’s actually only 3 hotels on Lanai including the Four Seasons Resort Lanai. This super luxurious hotel is ideal for honeymooners.
The cost of a vacation is often one of the most important things to consider when planning a trip.
I personally spent way more money in Bora Bora compared to Hawaii. Looking at the exact numbers, Bora Bora was close to double the amount!!
I never normally spend that much on a vacation (and probably won’t for a long time) but just this once I wanted to splurge and I’m glad I did as Bora Bora was glorious.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how much it will cost to visit Bora Bora or Hawaii:
- A vacation in Bora Bora will be much more expensive than a vacation in Hawaii.
- Bora Bora is much more luxurious which means that it also costs a lot more to stay there.
- If you’re traveling from the US then flights will be much cheaper to Hawaii than Bora Bora.
- On average, you’ll spend half as much money if you visit Hawaii instead of Bora Bora (if you’re traveling from the US or Europe).
Cost of a Vacation in Bora Bora
For more detailed information, check out my complete guide on how much a trip to Bora Bora costs (it includes a full cost breakdown).
The average cost for a week-long vacation in Bora Bora is around $11,000 for two people.
The above price includes a stay in an overwater bungalow.
If you stay in a regular hotel instead then the average cost drops to around $7,900 for two people.
These estimates also assume that you’re traveling from the US (it will be much cheaper if you’re in Australia/New Zealand and a bit more expensive if you’re in Europe).
The average nightly price for an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora is between $750 and $2,500.
You can significantly reduce this cost if you stay in a more basic hotel and don’t stay in an overwater bungalow.
For many people the cost is worth it as it’s a once in a lifetime kinda vacation.
Most people spend around $200 per day on activities, around $150 on food and around $50 on transportation. These estimates are per person.
Of course, you can spend much less if you choose to do less activities and dine in budget restaurants.
Cost of a Vacation in Hawaii
The average cost for a week-long vacation in Hawaii is around $4,500 for two people.
Most people spend around $60 on food and around $30 on transportation every day. These estimates are per person. You’ll also likely spend a few hundred dollars on activities too.
The average price for a hotel in Hawaii is $350 per night. A great hotel around this price is the Hilton Waikiki Beach Resort which is ideally located close to all the action.
Prices can go up to over $1,000 per night for super fancy hotels like the Four Seasons Resort Lanai or the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort.
There are lots of budget friendly places to stay too from hostels to cheap hotel rooms.
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 Hawaii 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 Bora Bora and Hawaii:
- You’ll find more peace and quiet in Bora Bora as the beaches are more quiet than Hawaii.
- The water is much calmer in Bora Bora compared with Hawaii.
- Hawaii is much better for surfing compared with Bora Bora.
- Both locations have stunning beaches but most people rate Bora Bora’s as more beautiful.
- There are more beaches in Hawaii compared with Bora Bora. You’ll also find much longer stretches of beaches in Hawaii.
- The water clarity is outstanding in Bora Bora, it’s probably the clearest water you’ll ever see. The water is still pretty clear in Hawaii but not quite as good as Bora Bora.
Bora Bora Beaches
Bora Bora does have some very beautiful beaches but they are limited and often fairly small.
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.
I stayed at both the St Regis and the Four Seasons and ended up spending most of my time on their private beaches.
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.
I spent an entire day relaxing on Matira Beach and really enjoyed it. It definitely had a more local, authentic feel compared to the private beaches at the resorts.
You also won’t find any annoying people on the beach trying to sell you stuff whilst you’re trying to relax.
One thing is for sure, Hawaii doesn’t have a shortage of beautiful beaches. There’s so many to choose from and each offers something different to travelers.
All of the beaches come with soft, white sand and crystal clear waters. They look like something straight from a travel brochure.
Hawaii has some wonderful beaches but one thing to note is that they do often get very crowded so it may be difficult to find a spot to yourself.
As Hawaii is a super popular destination, it can be hard to find a quiet beach at all.
Quiet beaches do exist though but they are usually on the more remote islands like Lanai which can be difficult and expensive to get to.
Hawaii is also super famous for being one of the world’s best surfing locations and is known to have huge, spectacular waves. Book a surfing lesson if you’ve never tried it before.
One of my favorite beaches in Hawaii is Lanikai Beach which is located in Oahu. This beach offers miles of white sand and calm waters.
You can take part in a range of fun activities on the beaches in Hawaii including windsurfing, jet skiing, bodysurfing, parasailing, snorkeling and more.
You can even book a swim with turtles tour in Hawaii!
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.
In Bora Bora, I stayed at both the St Regis and the Four Seasons and adored both resorts. They were very pricey but offered a luxurious experience that I’ve personally never had before!
I’ve visited Hawaii a couple of times now and stayed in many different hotels on many different islands. On my most recent trip, I really loved staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki.
Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect from hotels in Bora Bora and Hawaii:
- In Bora Bora, you can stay in an overwater bungalow. There are no overwater bungalows in Hawaii.
- In general, hotels are much more expensive in Bora Bora compared with Hawaii.
- Bora Bora hotels showcase more local culture than Hawaii (there are some exceptions though).
- There are no all inclusive resorts in Bora Bora however you will find some all inclusive resorts in Hawaii.
- There is a wider range of hotels at all levels to choose from in Hawaii. There is a very limited range of options in Bora Bora.
- You’ll need to book more in advance for Bora Bora, however you can easily book last minute for Hawaii.
Hotels 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 you can save money by 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 was the Four Seasons Resort as their villas were really big and well put together. I loved sitting out on my deck and just jumping straight into that turquoise lagoon!
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).
As there are not many hotels in Bora Bora, they book up quickly so you’ll need to book well in advance to get a satisfactory room.
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.
Hotels in Hawaii
Overall you’ll find that Hawaii has a wide range of hotels that suit all budgets.
From basic guesthouses to mid-range hotels and 5-star hotels too. You’ll have plenty of choices even if you’re booking pretty last minute.
You’ll be glad to know that Hawaii has its fair share of luxurious hotels. Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort in Kauai is breathtaking and should definitely be on your bucket list.
This resort, which is surrounded by gardens and lagoons, sits right on the beach itself. It feels much more Hawaiian than other resorts with white marble tiles and traditional Hawaiian prints everywhere.
My favorite thing to do there is float down the lazy river pool where you’ll pass by lava rocks and waterfalls. It’s bliss!
The Four Seasons Resort Lanai is another great one as it’s super luxurious and sits on a cliff top just above the secluded, serene Hulopoe Beach.
The grounds of this resort are filled with waterfalls, gardens and streams. It’s so refreshing to get lost in nature.
I had some amazing meals in both locations but my favorite by far was definitely Hawaii.
As a vegetarian, I did struggle a bit finding tasty meals in Bora Bora.
The chefs were usually happy to remove meat from dishes to make it veggie for me but I often found that they lacked flavor.
Here’s what you can expect from restaurants in both Bora Bora and Hawaii:
- Food is much more limited in Bora Bora compared with Hawaii where you can get pretty much any type of food.
- There are less restaurants to choose from in Bora Bora.
- Food in Bora Bora is also generally more expensive than the equivalent in Hawaii.
- It’s much easier to eat outside of your hotel or resort in Hawaii.
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.
Find out more about what kind of food they eat in Bora Bora.
There are also very few restaurants overall in Bora Bora. Trip advisor shows just 49 restaurants in Bora Bora total (Oahu alone has over 2,800!).
Bora Bora isn’t great for anyone with special dietary requirements. For example, it’s hard to get vegan/vegetarian food.
One other 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 food & restaurant prices in Bora Bora but on average you’re looking at $100 to $150 per person for dinner.
Food in Hawaii
Top cuisines in Hawaii include Hawaiian, American and European. You can easily get things like pizza, pasta, burgers, chicken (and pretty much anything else you can think of).
As Hawaii is a super popular tourist destination, they cater well to all types of travelers so you shouldn’t have difficulty finding something you like.
Overall, you’ll find that the food is very international in Hawaii but you will be able to find some local dishes like poke which is cubed pieces of raw fish (usually tuna), soy sauce, onions and seaweed.
If you’re looking for some authentic, Hawaiian dishes then make sure you head out of the resorts and main tourist areas. That’s where you’ll find the real good stuff.
My favorite dessert in Hawaii is shave ice. I mean…did you even go to Hawaii if you didn’t have shave ice?
Shave ice is basically an ice-based dessert made up of, you guessed it, ice, syrup and other flavorings.
And that’s it!
Thanks for reading this post which compares Bora Bora vs Hawaii 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 not sure where to go?