If you’re looking for a tropical vacation then you may be considering the South Pacific paradise that is French Polynesia.
But French Polynesia is made up of over 100 different islands so it’s hard to decide where to go.
This ultimate guide will highlight the key differences between two of French Polynesia’s most popular islands: Bora Bora and Tahiti.
It compares things like activities, cost, location and beaches to help you decide which to visit.
Bora Bora vs Tahiti – 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 breathtaking views.
Tahiti, on the other hand, is known for having both black and white sand beaches, lush jungles, 2 extinct volcanoes and epic waterfalls.
People visit Tahiti to relax but also to take part in an array of activities including diving, surfing and hiking.
Although these two paradise islands are fairly similar, there are some key differences that make them unique.
In a hurry? Here’s a quick overview of the key differences between Tahiti and Bora Bora:
- Tahiti is much bigger than Bora Bora and has a large capital city, Papeete.
- Bora Bora is better for a luxury vacation as it has a range of high-end 5-star resorts with private beaches.
- Tahiti feels a bit more urban compared with Bora Bora which feels like a secluded, private island.
- Tahiti is much better for shopping and nightlife. These are virtually non-existent in Bora Bora.
- Tahiti is cheaper than Bora Bora overall with accommodation, dining and flights all being cheaper.
- Bora Bora feels a lot more intimate and high-end (but expect to pay prices to match).
- There is a wider variety of things to do in Tahiti compared with Bora Bora.
- Bora Bora is more beautiful than Tahiti. The water is also clearer and bluer in Bora Bora.
- It takes longer to get to Bora Bora compared with Tahiti (you’ll have to take an additional 50 minute flight).
- Both locations have overwater bungalows, however the ones in Bora Bora tend to have better views and are more luxurious.
- Tahiti is better for families with children as there is little to do in Bora Bora for kids.
Overall Tahiti is better for people who want to do lots of activities coupled with relaxation and Bora Bora is better for people who are looking for the ultimate, secluded getaway with incredible views.
For me, I personally think that Bora Bora is better than Tahiti as it’s ridiculously luxurious, has the best overwater bungalows on the planet, feels like you’re on your own private island and has a ton of fun water-based activities.
Tahiti just doesn’t have the same luxurious feel and the views are not quite as ‘perfect’ but it certainly would make a fantastic vacation destination if you’re looking for something similar to Bora Bora but a lot cheaper.
Is Bora Bora in Tahiti?
No, Bora Bora isn’t in Tahiti.
One major misconception that many people have is that Bora Bora and Tahiti are the same island. This is false.
The key difference between Tahiti and Bora Bora is that they are separate islands that lie 277km (172 miles) apart.
Both islands are in the South Pacific Ocean and make up part of the country French Polynesia, which is actually an overseas collectivity of France.
Another key difference is that Bora Bora is a smaller island that mainly serves as a resort island filled with fancy hotels.
Tahiti, on the other hand, is the largest island in French Polynesia and serves as the economic and political center of the country.
French Polynesia has 121 islands and atolls that stretch out over 1,200 miles with Tahiti and Bora Bora being the most famous.
Check out the handy map below to see the difference:
Some people do refer to the whole of French Polynesia as ‘Tahiti’ however, technically Tahiti is actually just the largest island.
Tahitian culture, though, is what unifies all of the islands in French Polynesia.
Bora Bora vs Tahiti: Location & Size
As a whole, Tahiti is better located compared to Bora Bora and is also much bigger in terms of size.
Let’s take a look in more detail…
Tahiti is French Polynesia’s main island and it contains the capital city of Papeete. As a result, all international flights land in Tahiti.
This means that if you are traveling to Bora Bora then you will have to get a flight to Tahiti and then a second flight from Tahiti to Bora Bora. There are no direct international flights to Bora Bora.
If you’re not a fan of flying and don’t want to mess around with multiple flights then you’ll likely find that Tahiti is much better located for you.
A flight from Tahiti to Bora Bora takes 50 minutes so you could shave this off your travel time if you opt to stay in Tahiti.
Check out my ultimate guide on how to get from Tahiti to Bora Bora for more information.
Tahiti is much bigger than Bora Bora and is actually French Polynesia’s largest island. In fact, 70% of French Polynesia’s population lives there.
Bora Bora covers just 30km2 whereas Tahiti covers 1,045km2 making it over 30 times larger in terms of size.
Check out the size difference in the map below:
When to Visit
As Tahiti 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 French Polynesia is between the months of June and September. During these months the weather is dry and hot.
The rainy season runs from November until April when the weather is still super hot but you may experience some tropical rain showers.
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.
Take a look at the weather chart below for more information:
Is Bora Bora Cheaper than Tahiti?
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 nor Tahiti is cheap. In fact, you’ll likely have to spend a small fortune to visit either of them.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how much it will cost to visit Bora Bora or Tahiti:
- Overall Tahiti is much cheaper than Bora Bora. You’ll likely spend around half as much money in Tahiti compared with Bora Bora.
- Flights to Tahiti are approximately $350 to $400 cheaper per person compared with Bora Bora.
- Accommodation and dining are also significantly cheaper in Tahiti.
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 $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 around $11,000 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 $300 per day on activities, food and transportation.
Of course, you can spend much less if you choose to do fewer activities and dine in budget restaurants.
Cost of a Vacation in Tahiti
Tahiti is much cheaper than Bora Bora as a whole with an average vacation costing $4,000 for 2 people for a week-long vacation.
This price includes flights from Los Angeles, a stay in a standard hotel as well as food, transport and activities.
As you can see, Tahiti is significantly cheaper than Bora Bora.
The reason for this is partly because Tahiti offers a wider variety of accommodation and dining options to suit all budgets.
Additionally, prices are particularly high in Bora Bora due to its secluded location and exclusive reputation.
Although Tahiti has a similar feel, you don’t pay as much of a premium to vacation here.
If you want to stay in an overwater bungalow in Tahiti then the average cost for 2 people jumps to $9,000 for a week-long trip.
The nightly price for an overwater bungalow in Tahiti ranges from $772 to $1,123 depending on the time of year you visit.
Another reason why Tahiti is cheaper is that it is more accessible than Bora Bora.
All international flights to French Polynesia arrive in Tahiti so if you’re visiting Tahiti then, yay, your journey is complete.
If you’re visiting Bora Bora however then you’ll have to pay another $350 – $400 per person to fly to Bora Bora (and back to Tahiti).
Bora Bora vs Tahiti – 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 Bora Bora and Tahiti:
- There is a wider variety of things to do in Tahiti compared with Bora Bora.
- Most activities in Bora Bora are water-based, however in Tahiti there’s a better range of both water-based and land activities.
- Bora Bora is better for relaxing and snorkeling whereas Tahiti is better for surfing.
- Tahiti has better shopping opportunities and a vibrant nightlife scene.
- Tahiti feels more authentic and gives you a chance to experience Tahitian culture and a local way of living.
- Tahiti has a golf course whereas Bora Bora doesn’t have a golf course.
Tahiti is hugely underrated as many people just see it as a gateway island to other French Polynesian islands like Moorea and Bora Bora and don’t actually spend much time there.
These people are certainly missing out as Tahiti has so much to offer as does 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 but you may find it a bit more limiting compared with Tahiti.
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:
- Snorkeling in the lagoon (there’s a lot of marine life)
- Swimming 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
- Hike 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 are 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 are just what you need.
Try out a relaxing couples massage or take a romantic stroll on the beach.
Being completely honest, there isn’t much for kids to do in Bora Bora.
Families with children will likely prefer Tahiti however there is a fun kids club at Four Seasons Bora Bora.
Things to Do in Tahiti
Tahiti has a good range of activities to suit every type of traveler.
As it’s a much bigger island compared with Bora Bora, there’s much more variety.
Top Activities in Tahiti:
- Kayaking in the lagoon
- Hike up to a waterfall
- Snorkel with marine life
- Explore Papeete
Tahiti is ideal for anyone who loves the outdoors. There’s a variety of interesting hiking trails, waterfalls, extinct volcanoes and more for you to explore.
In addition, Tahiti also has several turquoise lagoons that certainly give Bora Bora a run for their money. They’re all teeming with marine life so grab your kayak and get paddling!
You can also try out snorkeling to get up close and personal with tropical fish, sharks and rays.
One thing that makes Tahiti a little bit different from Bora Bora is that you’ll find an abundance of waterfalls here!
You can actually hike up to most of them. My favorite one is Fautaua Falls which is actually the tallest waterfall in Tahiti with an impressive 443ft drop!
This magnificent waterfall lies deep within the Papenoo Valley which is filled with gorgeous scenery, green peaks and lush jungle vines.
You can also hike up Tahiti’s largest mountain, Mount Aorai, which stands at 6,778ft! It’s definitely an adventure.
Tahiti’s capital, Papeete, is the place to be for nightlife, delicious food, shopping and endless fun. It’s also a great place to immerse yourself in Tahitian culture and actually see how the locals live.
My favorite things to do here are eat at an authentic Tahitian ‘roulotte’ (essentially a street food truck), explore the vibrant Papeete Market, stroll down the waterfront or grab a cocktail at one of Papeete’s many bars.
Bora Bora or Tahiti – 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 Tahiti:
- Tahiti has a wider selection of places to stay from budget accommodation to luxury 5-star hotels.
- Accommodation in Bora Bora is more limited and mainly consists of luxury 5-star resorts (with a few exceptions).
- Accommodation, as a whole, is more expensive in Bora Bora compared with Tahiti.
- Both locations have overwater bungalows, however Tahiti has fewer.
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 Tahiti
Tahiti has a much wider selection of places to stay that suit all budgets.
You can find a bed in a hostel for as cheap as $30 per night or opt to stay in a local guesthouse for around $100 per night.
If luxury is what you’re after then try out a 5-star resort with prices ranging from $300 to $550 per night.
Hilton Hotel Tahiti is a great choice. It’s both luxurious and affordable, which is extremely hard to come by.
Tahiti also has some overwater bungalows with prices starting at $772 per night and reaching up to $1,123 for the most exclusive and best villas on water.
There are actually only 2 hotels in Tahiti with overwater bungalows so there’s much less choice than in Bora Bora.
One of the absolute best overwater bungalows in Tahiti is at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa. The bungalows here are out of this world and look just like the ones in Bora Bora.
This property also has a large lagoon on its premises that is filled with fish that you can snorkel with. It also has not one, but two infinity pools and an extensive 25 hectares worth of tropical grounds to explore.
The overwater bungalows here are the most expensive option. You can save yourself some money by opting to stay in a regular room instead.
Tahiti 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 Tahiti 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 Tahiti:
- Tahiti has both white and black sand beaches.
- Bora Bora only has white sand beaches.
- There are more beaches in Tahiti compared with Bora Bora.
- Bora Bora only has one main public beach (and a handful of private beaches at top resorts).
- Tahiti is much better for surfing. In fact, it’s famous for it.
- Beaches in Bora Bora tend to be quieter and more secluded (mainly because they’re private beaches). Tahiti has more public beaches which also means they get busier.
- The water is incredibly clear and blue in both locations but the water is more clear and blue in 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, that 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.
Whilst Tahiti’s beaches may not be as famous as the ones in Bora Bora, they’re still definitely worth visiting.
One key difference is that Tahiti has both white and black sand beaches.
My favorite beach in Tahiti is Teahupo’o which is a black-sand beach that is a fantastic surfing spot.
They even hold an annual surfing competition each year at this beach due to its enormous waves (it’s insane how big the waves are here!).
If there’s one thing you should definitely try out whilst in Tahiti, it’s surfing. For the Tahitian people, surfing is a super ancient activity dating back to the 12th century.
To see Tahiti’s picture-perfect white sand beaches, you’ll need to head to the southern shore.
One of Tahiti’s most beautiful beaches is La Plage de Maui which sits right next to a shallow lagoon so it’s ideal for swimming, paddleboarding and kayaking.
Other beaches worth visiting in Tahiti are Plage de Toaroto and Lafayette Beach.
Tahiti vs Bora Bora – Food
Who doesn’t love food?
Here’s what you can expect from restaurants in both Bora Bora and Tahiti:
- You’ll find more high-end restaurants in Bora Bora.
- Tahiti has a wider range of restaurants and dining options to suit all budgets.
- The overall quality of the food is largely the same and is neither better nor worse in Tahiti or Bora Bora.
- Vegan, vegetarian and halal food is limited in both locations.
The food itself is also largely the same as both locations mainly serve a mix of French cuisine and traditional French Polynesian cuisine.
I actually wrote an entire guide on what kind of food they eat in Bora Bora for more information (the same applies to Tahiti).
One of the most famous dishes that you just have to try when visiting French Polynesia is Poisson Cru.
This tasty dish is made up of raw tuna which has been marinated in lime juice and coconut milk.
Other than that they serve a lot of French pastries, rice, seafood, fish and fruits like mango and banana.
Here’s a little bit more info…
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.
There are also very few restaurants overall in Bora Bora. Tripadvisor shows just 49 restaurants in Bora Bora in total (Tahiti shows 243).
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 (also often referred to as motus).
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 Tahiti
Tahiti, on the other hand, has a wide selection of restaurants to choose from. From fine dining to cheap eats, Tahiti has it all.
The restaurants here are much cheaper than the ones in Bora Bora. You’ll pay significantly less per meal.
There’s also much more opportunity to try out local street food from the many ‘roulottes’ that you’ll find all over the place, especially in Papeete.
Roulottes are essentially small street food trucks that usually come with a little bit of seating nearby.
They serve a range of tasty traditional Polynesian dishes, like Poisson Cru, for a good price so it’s a great place to try out the local cuisine.
And that’s it!
Thanks for reading this post which compares Bora Bora vs Tahiti 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 visit?