Bali vs Bora Bora: An Honest Comparison in 2024

Kurt Norris
Last Updated: January 22nd, 2024

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People often compare Balia and Bora Bora as two tropical island travel destinations boasting exotic isolated cultures and world-class beaches. However, besides their warm weather conditions and abundant landscapes, the two destinations are actually very different.

Having visited both islands, I can honestly say that the two cater to entirely different types of travelers and experiences, ranging from budget travelers seeking a cultural adventure to luxury tourists seeking an exclusive getaway.

For this reason, I have created this honest comparison of Bali vs Bora Bora to help you determine which tropical retreat is best for your next holiday.

A Quick Overview and Comparison: Bali vs Bora Bora

Bali-Vs-Bora-Bora-Overview-And-Comparison

Bali List of Highlights

  • Diverse beaches and natural landscape
  • Has better hiking trails and more activities
  • Offers more cultural attractions
  • Is much cheaper

Bora Bora List of Highlights

  • Has better beaches and water activities
  • Fewer Tourists and Crowds
  • A romantic destination that caters to couples
  • Has the better luxury resorts

Bali and Bora Bora offer tropical island paradises for escaping the monotony of reality along pristine white sand beaches and palm-covered shores.

However, when it comes to exotic island getaways, Bora Bora is nearly impossible to beat, with some of the best and most beautiful white sand beaches on Earth. Surrounded by a life-filled lagoon, the volcanic island also boasts some of the planet’s clearest and most enticing waters, beckoning visitors to explore its aquatic ecosystems along a snorkeling tour.

While Bali’s beaches are not quite on the same level as Bora Bora, the Indonesian island is known to have some of the world’s most celebrated and diverse beaches, ranging from the tourist hubs of Kuta to the hidden treasures of Balangan.

Additionally, while Bora Bora offers better aquatic ecosystems and water activities, Bali boasts larger and more diverse inland volcanic landscapes, beckoning intrepid adventures along a volcano hike or river rafting.

What’s more is that Bali is much more affordable for budget travel than Bora Bora, with the French Polynesian island being reserved for more wealthy visitors who can afford its luxurious resorts and holiday spots.

With that said, due to its affordability and more accessible location, Bali does feature significantly more tourists than Bora Bora, which can often take away from the authentic isolated island setting.

For this reason, Bora Bora is the better travel destination for those who can afford it, thanks to its quiet island vibes, awe-inspiring natural landscapes, and romantic vistas and activities that make the French Polynesian island perfect for couples and honeymooners.

Bali or Bora Bora: A Quick Guide to Choosing

A-Temple-In-Bali
Pura Ulun Danu Temple

Bali Mini Guide

  • Location Size – 5,780 km²
  • Population – 4.362 million
  • Rainy Season – November to March
  • High Season – July and August
  • Top Sights – Tanah Lot Temple, Mount Batur, Tegallalang Rice Terraces, Kuta Beach
  • Major Airports – Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS)

Located on the southern island chain of the Indonesian Archipelago, Bali has attracted visitors for decades thanks to its exotic Hindu culture and breathtaking natural landscapes consisting of long strips of palm-lined beaches, jungle waterfalls, and foreboding volcanoes.

And despite being a relatively small island, Bali is home to a massive variety of activities, ranging from religious tours and intrepid hikes to exploring exotic environments of the jungle and the Indian Ocean.

Whether looking for a cultural journey, an exotic adventure, or simply some relaxing time sipping a cocktail on the beach, Bali offers the ideal holiday for everybody and is the perfect destination for any travel budget.

A-Vacation-Resort-In-Bora-Bora
An Overwater Bungalow in Bora Bora.

Bora Bora Mini Guide

  • Location Size – 30.55 km²
  • Population – 10,605
  • Rainy Season – December to March
  • High Season – May to October
  • Top Sights – Matira Beach, Coral Gardens, Mount Otemanu, Bora Bora Lagoon
  • Major Airports – Bora Bora Airport (BOB)

Home to some of the world’s most luxurious resorts, Bora Bora is one of the most exclusive travel destinations on the planet and promises a personalized holiday free of the crowding of other tourism hot spots.

And while Bali is home to some genuinely beautiful coastal destinations, it doesn’t hold a  candle compared to the pristine natural beauty of the French Polynesian island. In Bora Bora, visitors are immersed in the tropical island setting through some of the planet’s best beaches, aquatic ecosystems, and untouched landscapes.

Bora Bora is the perfect destination if you are looking for a romantic isolated island hideaway.

The 10 Key Differences Between Bali and Bora Bora

1. How Do The Beaches & Landscape Compare?

Kintamani-Region-Of-Bali
Kintamani Region of Bali Image by: Kurt Norris

Bali Beaches

Bali is internationally famous as a tropical paradise promising palm-covered white sand beaches and exotic cliffside water temples.

And while celebrated destinations such as Kuta and Seminyak tend to be overcrowded with their beach clubs and bars, the island is still large enough to maintain several untouched coastal gems, such as Balangan Beach and Suluban Bachl.

However, beyond its picturesque shorelines, Bali is an island of tropical variety and features a diverse natural landscape complete with two active volcanoes, jungle rivers, waterfalls, and sweeping valleys of rice fields.

Bora Bora Beaches

While Bali offers a diverse and adventurous landscape, the sheer natural beauty of Bora Bora is nearly impossible to compete with.

While only a fraction of the size of Bali, Bora Bora promises scenic views, breathtaking beaches, and awe-inspiring adventures aplenty, starting with the iconic twin-peak volcano at its heart and ending with the sprawling blue waters of the life-filled lagoon that trails off into the Pacific Ocean.

When it comes to a beautiful natural setting, vibrant aquatic ecosystems, and pristine white sand beaches, Bora Bora easily comes out on top.

2. How Do The Culture and Atmosphere Compare?

Kecak-Uluwatu-Fire-Dance
A Traditional fire dance in Bali.

Bali Culture

With over 20,000 temples, 650 Hindu villages, and warm and welcoming locals happy to share their traditions and customs with outsiders, Bali promises an immersion into its local cultures that few other destinations can emulate.

And despite the over-tourism that has stricken the island in the past few decades, Bali’s cultural traditions remain as unique and honored as ever, with religious and cultural events occurring on the island almost nightly, with the most important being the Gulungan and Kuningan Festival.

However, even if your visit doesn’t coincide with one of these spectacular cultural events, visitors are still welcome to explore the local traditions and religions at one of Bali’s inspiring water temples, which include the picturesque Tanah Lot, Uluwatu and Ulun Danu Beratan Temples.

Bora Bora Culture

Home to luxury resorts and a catered travel experience, tourists in Bora Bora don’t have as much opportunity to interact with the locals as in Bali, making exploring the local cultures slightly less accessible.

Still, there are ways in which visitors can immerse themselves in the local customs, starting with the traditional dances and events that most of the island’s resorts and accommodations will arrange for their guests.

Visitors can also experience a more authentic side of Bora Bora by arranging an excursion, such as spearfishing in the lagoon or taking a traditional Ori Tahiti dance lesson.

3. What Types of Activities Do the Destinations Offer?

Underwater-In-Bora-Bora
Snorkeling with stingrays in Bora Bora.

Bali Activities

An island of abundance, Bali is a destination that offers a variety of activities throughout your topical holiday, ranging from relaxing on the beach with a frozen cocktail to exploring its rugged volcanic landscapes along an intrepid hiking trail.

Travelers staying within Bali’s coastal havens can explore the island’s religious water temples, peruse boutique shopping centers, enjoy world-class surfing, or even explore the ocean’s depths along a snorkeling and diving tour, including a stop at a historic shipwreck.

Meanwhile, visitors looking to explore the picturesque natural landscapes of the island’s interior can enjoy an array of adventures, ranging from climbing to the peaks of Mount Agung or Mount Batur to rafting their way through a life-filled jungled or even biking through Bali’s iconic rice terraces.

When it comes to things to do, Bali offers something for everybody.

Bora Bora Activities

Much smaller than Bali, Bora Bora doesn’t feature as diverse an array of activities as the Indonesian island, but what it does offer are some of the most awe-inspiring adventures in the world and an immersion into some of the planet’s most pristine ecosystems and environments.

Bora Bora’s most alluring activities are all found within the turquoise waters of its lagoon or scattered along the pristine white sand beaches lining its coastline. Visitors can unwind at Matira Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, or explore the lagoon’s vibrant surroundings and aquatic life along a kayaking or snorkeling tour.

Meanwhile, visitors looking for a more thrilling adventure within the island’s volcanic inland have a variety of excursions to embark on, from ATV tours to hiking to the volcanic peaks of Mount Otemanu or Mount Pahia.

4. Which Has the Better Nightlife?

A-Night-View-Of-Bali-Beach
Popular beach club in Bali.

Bali Nightlife

When it comes to nightlife, Bali promises much more vibrant and lively evening festivities than Bora Bora. With several beach bars, nightclubs, and luxury roof terraces, Bali features a venue to match any evening vibe, whether an upbeat dance club or a laid-back cocktail bar.

For the most vibrant nightlife on the island, visitors should plan to base their trip within Bali’s southern areas, with the largest variety of bars, restaurants, and nightclubs centering around the Kuta and Seminyak regions.

Bora Bora Nightlife

As a small tropical island in the middle of the French Polynesians, nightlife in Bora Bora can be a little more challenging to find, with most restaurants and bars operating on island time and closing by 10:00 pm.

Instead, Bora Bora focuses more on providing romantic quiet time for enjoying the quiet subtleties of the island’s natural environments with your loved one, with evenings filled with private dinners, beach walks, and star gazing.

However, visitors determined to get their partying fix can often find a selection of bars and events at either their hotel or a nearby resort, and if all else fails, can head over to The Rectif, the island’s only nightclub frequented by locals and promising live DJs and drinks.

5. Which is Cheaper?

Local-Balinese-Market
An open air market in Bali.

Bali Cost

As a famous backpacking destination, Bali offers a relaxing and adventurous holiday for all budgets. Those looking to visit the island for cheap can base their stay at one of the many hostels lining Canggu and Ubud, while those looking for the more luxurious side of the island should plan to stay at one of the five-star resorts found in the exclusive Nusa Dua region.

Still, regardless of your accommodation choice, your travel dollars go a lot further in Bali than in Bora Bora, with even the island’s luxury resorts often being much more affordable than similar-styled accommodations on the French Polynesian island.

Bora Bora Cost

Bora Bora is famous for being one of the most exclusive island destinations in the world and caters to luxury experiences for its affluent visitors. As such, finding budget-friendly accommodation on the island is much more challenging than in Bali, with even its cheapest hotels being comparable in price to the Indonesian island’s luxury resorts.

Similarly, as a small isolated island, many products in Bora Bora must be imported, meaning visitors should expect higher prices for various expenses, ranging from eating at a local restaurant to prices in the nearby market.

6. Which is Better for Restaurants & Eating Out?

A-Beachside-Restaurant-In-Bali
Beachside restaurant in Bali.

Bali Restaurants

As tropical islands, Bali and  Bora Bora share many similarities in their culinary traditions, but differ primarily in the way that Bali tends to favor pork and chicken within their dishes.

Some of the island’s must-try traditional dishes include rendang, barbecued beef, bebek betutu, a cooked duck with coconut, and babi guling, a suckling pig.

And while the local food is delicious, the exotic flavors are not for everybody. Luckily, as an established travel destination, Bali is also home to various international restaurants, serving everything from American food to French and even Mexican dishes.

Mozaic and Restaurant Locavore are some of Bali’s best and most celebrated restaurants.

Bora Bora Restaurants

Bora Bora features eclectic culinary traditions, which combine its tropical island setting with its French history and large Chinese-Polynesian population. As such, Bora Bora cuisine features various international influences in various unique and delicious dishes.

However, as a small island destination, Bora Bora’s authentic cuisine primarily consists of seafood, with popular dishes being peche cru, a raw fish marinated in coconut milk, and ika mata, a raw marinated fish with vegetables.

Like Bali, Bora Bora also features a variety of international restaurants for visitors less inclined to the local seafood flavors. The island’s top restaurants are the St. Regis Resort’s Lagoon Restaurant, Farniente Restaurant, and the local favorite, Bloody Mary’s  Bora Bora.

7. Which is Better for Couples & Honeymoons?

People-Jumping-In-The-Water-In-Bora-Bora
Honeymooners jumping in the water in Bora Bora.

Bali For Couples

While it can’t compete with the romantic settings of Bora Bora’s surreal island ambiance,  Bali can be a very romantic destination to spend a couples getaway or honeymoon, especially if you get away from the bustling tourist centers of Kuta and Seminyak.

As a larger island, Bali promises a varied selection of quiet settings for enjoying personal time with your significant other, whether that be in your own private bungalow atop the jungle canopies or lounging away on your own stretch of idyllic shoreline.

Bali is also the perfect option for couples looking to combine some adventure in their getaway and promises several hiking trails to secluded vistas and romantic waterfalls.

Bora Bora For Couples

When it comes to an idyllic honeymoon or couple’s holiday, Bora Bora is perhaps the most alluring destination in the world. Promising long stretches of isolated pristine beaches, vibrantly blue waters, and plenty of romantic vistas and activities, Bora Bora caters to couples.

What’s more, the island’s luxury resorts know of Bora Bora’s specific romantic appeals and even offer a variety of amenities and services specifically with honeymooners in mind.

Additionally, as a lesser-visited island, Bora Bora allows couples to escape the tourist trap and explore the island in the company of one another, be it taking a late-night stroll under the stars, frolicking at the beach, or venturing to the island’s more adventurous landscapes.

8. Which is Safer?

Lifeguard-Equipment-On-Balinese-Beach
Lifeguard stand in Bali.

Bali Safety

While both Bali and Bora Bora are known to be safe destinations for tourists, visitors should practice a little more caution when visiting the Indonesian island.

While the locals are generally very kind to visitors, scams and crimes are known to occur in the popular tourist centers.

Still, Bali is generally considered safe, but common sense should be practiced.

Bora Bora Safety

Similarly, caution should also be practiced in Bora Bora, as in any other part of the world. While crime rates are lower than in Bali, especially in violent crime, which is very rare in Bora Bora, incidents are still known to occur among locals and tourists alike, and visitors should be wary of common scams and trust their instincts.

9. Which is Easier to Get To?

Aerial-View-Of-Bora-Bora
Aerial view of Bora Bora.

Bali Travel

As a popular tourist destination in the Indonesian archipelago attracting over a million tourists annually, Bali is extremely easy to get to and features several daily arrivals from airports worldwide.

However, while it is only a short flight from Australia, visitors coming from other regions of the world should expect extended journeys, with the flight taking 17+ hours from the UK and 24+ hours if you are coming from North America.

Still, despite these extended flight times, Bali is much more accessible and easier to get to than the French Polynesian Island of Bora Bora.

Bora Bora Travel

Located within the French Polynesians in a remote corner of the Pacific Ocean, Bora Bora is slightly more difficult to get to than Bali, particularly considering the island does not feature an international airport.

Instead, visitors must first fly to Faa’a International Airport in Tahiti, where they can catch a connecting flight to the Bora Bora Airport. The travel time takes about 15+ hours from Australia, 30+ hours from the UK, and 25+ hours from North America.

10. Which is Easier to Get Around?

People-Riding-The-Scooter-In-Bali-Street
Scooter traffic in Bali.

Bali Getting Around

There are several affordable ways to get around Bali, ranging from an efficient public bus network and cheap taxis to car rentals.

Many tourists to the island opt to rent a scooter to get around. However, with its busy island roads and ill-defined rules of the road, I highly suggest avoiding this method of transportation if you don’t have prior experience riding a scooter in Southeast Asia.

Instead, the best way to get around is by arranging for a private or shared taxi, which often features very affordable rates, or booking with a rideshare app, such as Grab or Gojek.

Bora Bora Getting Around

As a much smaller island, only a fraction of the size of Bali, Bora Bora is much easier to get around and features only a single island road looping the coastline that takes about 45 minutes to drive.

While transportation to popular attractions can easily be arranged, most landmarks and hiking trails are only a short walk from tourist centers, making exploring the island on foot extremely accessible.

For added excitement, visitors can also arrange to navigate the island along the teal waters of Bora Bora Lagoon by renting a kayak, Jet Ski, or canoe.

3 Questions to Help You Decide to Travel to Bali or Bora Bora

White-Sand-Beach-Bora-Bora
A white sand beach in Bora Bora.

1. What is Your Travel Budget?

One of the surest ways to determine if you should visit Bali or Bora Bora is to look at your travel budget. If you can afford a luxury vacation, then Bora Bora offers the best experience of opulent water top bungalows and resorts with a breathtaking natural landscape and world-renowned beaches.

However, if you are looking for a tropical island paradise on a budget, Bali is the best bet for hosting your vacation. While more affordable, Bali offers plenty of beautiful landscapes and white sand beaches to explore while getting much more value from your hard-earned travel dollar.

2. Do You Want to Explore a Lot or Minimize Travel?

Another great way to determine whether you should visit Bora Bora or Bali is by looking at the travel you would like to have after arriving on either island.

Depending on where you are coming from, both islands can require long-haul flights, and many visitors would prefer to simply sit back and relax during their holiday. In this case, Bora Bora would be the better option to visit, as its small landmass means its popular attractions can all be reached within an hour from the tourist centers.

Meanwhile, in comparison, Bali is huge and features a landmass almost 100 times larger than Bora Bora. And while the island can still be crossed from one end to the other in under three hours, visitors should expect more travel time when visiting certain attractions.

3. What Types of Experiences do You Prioritize

Something that should always be considered when determining where to go for any holiday is the types of experiences you would like to have on vacation.

If you prioritize breathtaking white sand beaches, an isolated tropical island setting, and crystal clear waters teeming with sea life and colorful ecosystems, then Bora Bora is definitely your destination.

However, if you desire a variety of activities ranging from a cultural exploration to hiking through a jungle-covered volcanic landscape, then Bali offers the diversity and adventure you would like in your holiday.

Bali or Bora Bora: Which is the Better Choice?

Bora-Bora-Sunset-View

Both Bali and Bora Bora make for fantastic travel destinations. However, if you don’t have the limitation of money, then Bora Bora is easily the better of the two destinations.

Featuring far less tourism traffic than Bali, Bora Bora is one of the most romanticized islands on the planet, thanks to its majestic volcanic landscape surrounded by the translucently clear waters of its lagoon.

It promises long stretches of untouched white sands perfect for a stroll with your loved one while its inland and aquatic environments beckon an adventure through exotic biodiversity and beauty.

However, if the luxury resorts of Bora Bora are outside of your travel budget, Bali is still a beautiful destination promising a more immersive cultural exploration of its local traditions combined with some truly spectacular beach getaways and hiking trails.

About The Author

Kurt Norris

A Canada-based freelance writer, Kurt acquired his bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. Upon graduating, Kurt left the courtside media desk behind and began venturing the globe. Throughout his journeys, Kurt enjoys partaking in slow travel and loves to explore the histories and cultures of each destination, which he shares with others through his writing.

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Kurt Norris

Kurt Norris

A Canada-based freelance writer, Kurt acquired his bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. Upon graduating, Kurt left the courtside media desk behind and began venturing the globe. Throughout his journeys, Kurt enjoys partaking in slow travel and loves to explore the histories and cultures of each destination, which he shares with others through his writing.

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