One of the most ask question I get from newlyweds or couples planning a romantic vacation or a babymoon is which island do you recommend? The Maldives, Tahiti or Fiji? And my answer is always the same. It really comes down to what you want out of your vacation.
In this post will I’ll break down each location by budget, adventure, and culture showing you which island is best depending on how you like to vacation.
If you’re looking for deep blue waters and white sand beaches, you’re going to have a hard decision to make. Each country has insane turquoise waters and perfect powdery white-sand beaches. Tahiti has a mountain backdrop with beautiful lagoons while the Maldives has a more “deserted island” feel as there is usually nothing but water on the horizon.
Before I get into which islands were my favourite and why, I thought I’d give give you a little background on each country.
If a luxury experience is what you’re after, then the Maldives offer plenty of 5-star resort options. Travel from North America is long, but I promise you, once there, it’s paradise.
Known for beautiful beaches and peaceful lagoons, the Maldives are made up of 26 natural atolls, islands and isolated reefs. It also has the lowest elevation of any country, which results in the the constant hot and humid temperatures.
The one thing to note about the Maldives is every hotel occupies it’s own island, so consider the fact that everything you do is through the hotel. Unless you’re staying on Male in more of a homestay, there isn’t much of a local experience to be had. Even the food, you’ll find something of nearly every culture, but it’s very rare to find local delicacies.
For best places to stay check out my full Maldives blog post.
Lush rainforests, volcanic views, and active marine life, French Polynesia is an adventurers dream! French Polynesia is made up of 118 islands and many more reef islets.
You’ve probably heard of Bora Bora, maybe even Moorea, infamous as “honeymoon islands”, but there are so many more breathtaking islands still untouched. Because Bora Bora is the most commonly known island, it is also the most touristic with major cruise lines docking there weekly. It is also one of the most expensive islands to visit during your stay.
If you’re looking to enjoy French Polynesia without breaking the bank, check out my How to Afford Tahiti blog post.
You should also note that French is the official language, although the Tahitian language and English are widely spoken.
Personally I would not stay in Tahiti for more than a day, it doesn’t have the magic you’ll be expecting. Get off the mainland and spend your time discovering the islands. But before you go, I would make time to visit the black sand beach and the Papeete market. If you’re looking for photo props, souvenirs or flower crowns, this is where to find them. Unfortunately I visited the market on our last day and fell in love with a traditional green flower crown. I made the most of it and shot with it as much as I could. I felt like Moana!
Famous for its warm, friendly people and for being one of the happiest cultures on earth, Fiji has something for everyone from budget beachside bungalows to luxury resorts.
The island views range from tropical beaches, waterfalls and mountainous landscapes with more than 300 islands (some very small!). It is known as the ‘Soft Coral Capital of the World’, so an underwater adventure should be at the very top of your list when visiting Fiji.
Fiji is also a top spot for a Girls Getaway. It’s an easy destination to explore for women travelling alone or in groups. I traveled with 6 girlfriends and had the best time!
Flights aside, a Fijian holiday will be much cheaper than the Maldives. It’s also a great option for a family holiday with tons of land and water based activities.
If you’re still undecided about which destination is best for you maybe these topics will help narrow it down.
Quickest flight time from North America:
If you aren’t a fan of long haul flights then French Polynesia will be the closest destination to North America whereas Fiji is about a 4 hour flight from Sydney.
Personally I like to break up the long travel with a long layover. I especially like it if I can leave the airport and stretch my legs or explore somewhere new for a few hours. If it’s an overnight, book a hotel and try to start adjusting to the time difference.
LAX to Male (29 hrs with an 8hr layover)
JFK to Male (22 hrs with a 5 hr layover)
LAX to Tahiti (non-stop 8 hrs)
JFK to Tahiti (16 hrs with a 1.5 hr layover)
FYI – there are only 2 airlines that fly into Tahiti: Air France and Air Tahiti Nui.
LAX to Nadi (17 hrs with an 2hr layover)
JFK to Nadi (31 hrs with 2 layovers under 5hrs)
** Flight lengths may vary in the coming months. This is based on November 2020 outbound flights **
If you don’t like flying in small planes
Claustrophobic? Don’t fret – all 3 destinations are still accessible to you!
To get to some private island resorts regardless of the destination, you’ll need to take a seaplane or helicopter. Luckily each destination has at least 1 alternate island accessible via ferry or speedboat.
From the mainland of Tahiti you can reach Moorea via a ferry that runs all day or a quick speedboat ride which takes about 30 mins. However, islands such as Bora Bora need to be accessed via a 50 minute seaplane ride.
For many of the properties in the Maldives, you will need to book a sea plane ride directly to the resort but there are a few properties you can access via boat. If you want to avoid flying, I personally loved my stays at Anantara Dhigu and Club Med Finolhu.
The easiest way to get around the smaller Fiji islands are obviously via seaplane but the popular areas to visit via via car/ ferry are Nadi, Mamanuca Island and Denarau Island.
If you want adventure
Feeling adventurous? Choose Tahiti
If you’re looking for adventures on land, both Tahiti and Fiji have plenty to offer. In French Polynesia, you’ll find that Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora offer adventures like hiking, waterfall rappeling, and 4X4 excursions to the volcanoes and islands’ lush interiors.
If you want to work on your swing, Tahiti has two golf courses, one on Tahiti and one on Moorea. Fiji, however, is home to about a dozen, including three championship courses on the main island of Viti Levu.
And if you want some underwater adventures, French Polynesia is full of activities for the adventure spirit with lots to do from ATV tours, snorkeling with rays and sharks, surfing, and swimming with whales.
If you want to scuba dive
Padi Certified? Choose Fiji
Each destination will not disappoint from incredible snorkel experiences and both Tahiti and Fiji offer pristine diving conditions with superb visibility and tons of marine life. But Fiji does have a slight upper hand. As I mentioned, Fiji is known as the “soft coral capital of the world”.
If you want to do something good for the environment, you can help rebuild the marine eco system through coral gardening. Coral forms a key foundation of the marine ecosystem. You can contribute to restoring it by planting healthy coral fragments back onto the reef. Tahiti was the first place I saw this being done but since then many hotels in the Maldives also offer this.
But if you want the ultimate underwater adventure, you need to visit Tahiti, specifically Moorea to swim with sting rays and reef sharks. Swimming with them has always been at the top of my list and the experience was a huge highlight for me. Depending on the time of year you can also swim with humpback whale sharks that migrate from Antartica.
If you want a cultural experience
Want a local experience? Choose Fiji
Many resorts feature Fijian cultural night with traditional “lovo”-style barbecue accompanied by Fijian “meke” music & dance. A “lovo” refers to an underground oven that dug in the ground and used to cook a feast. It is often reserved for special occasions and is a key part in local dishes.
We were really lucky to have been able to experience a cultural night during our stay at the Sheraton Tokoriki. It was one of the things I was looking forward to most. The local food is amazing and we danced all night long with the locals learning traditional dances.
One of the most unique experiences I had in Tahiti was meeting Mrs. Tahiti and getting to visit a local costume maker who makes traditional Tahitian outfits called, Le Grand Costume (as seen above). It was so special to be able to wear this and learn some traditional dance moves.
Unfortunately this kind of local experience is more difficult to find in the Maldives. As I mentioned earlier, each hotel occupies it’s own island, resulting in a more Americanized experience. Some hotels may offer classes on making a flower crown or coral planting but I personally didn’t leave the Maldives having learnt more about the people and their culture, something I typically look forward to.
However, if you stay on the mainland of Male in a homestay accommodation, you may be able to find more local culture.
If you want an All-Inclusive
Want to relax at no extra cost? Choose Fiji or Maldives
Well you’re in luck because there’s even an all-inclusive resort in the Maldives. Yes even the Maldives, and guess what – it’s amazing!!
Club Med actually owns 2 properties in the Maldives (only a 10 minute speedboat ride from one another). Club Med Kani is the family-friendly resort while Club Med Finolhu caters to couples. We stayed on the adults-only island targeted for honeymooners. It was the perfect way to kick off our trip, especially because we were two couples. The men were able to go off and drink while the girls were able to relax on the beach and we all came together at nights for dinners and drinks.
In Fiji I would check with your accommodations, but I found many of Fiji’s private-island resort are partially all-inclusive meaning meals are included but not drinks. However, they may offer all-inclusive packages offered as an add-on.
In researching, the only resort in French Polynesia I found that offered a full-all inclusive package was Le Meridien Bora Bora. To my understanding the resort itself is not an all-inclusive but they do offer an all-inclusive package (meals and drinks included).
If you want an overwater bungalow experience
Want to ball out? Choose Maldives or Tahiti
The obvious choice is the Maldives, but it isn’t the only place that offers water bungalows. Both the Maldives and Tahiti offer this unique experience.
In Tahiti I would recommend looking into a stay at The Conrad, The Intercontinental or The Sofitel on either Bora Bora or Moorea for an overwater experience. In the Maldives, I can almost guarantee that every resort will offer rooms over the water as well as some beach front properties.
An overwater bungalow experience is something everyone should experience but don’t be fooled that it is the best room. In the Maldives, we loved the bungalows for photography but actually preferred the beach villas to stay in at The Conrad. The beach villas had just been fully redone plus they were closer to the restaurants and bars.
Best place for Honeymoon or Babymoon
Any destination will be the perfect backdrop to a relaxing or romantic holiday, so don’t think you can make a wrong decision here. One thing to note is some of the resorts are adult-only making them the perfect place to relax and truly enjoy your time before the baby comes.
I hope this post helped you understand a little more about each island and help you find he right destination for you. If you found it helpful or if you have any personal recommendations, please leave a comment below!
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