Bora Bora vs Hawaii – An Honest Comparison in 2024

Last Updated: April 12th, 2024

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Both Bora Bora and Hawaii conjure idyllic images of sweeping palm-fringed white beaches, lush natural greenery, and untouched volcanic landscapes rising over the magnificently blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.

While these two destinations share many similarities and top the lists of many people’s bucket lists, the two experiences they offer vary in some fairly critical ways, making them better suited for completely different types of travelers.

For this reason, and to help you get the most out of your next tropical island getaway, I have created this honest comparison of Bora Bora vs Hawaii to help you determine which slice of paradise is the perfect destination for you.

A Quick Overview and Comparison: Bora Bora vs Hawaii

Bora Bora

  • Beautiful, quiet beaches perfect for relaxing
  • Less tourism provides a more romantic setting
  • Fantastic Luxury Hotel Options
  • Better for snorkeling and scuba diving

Hawaii

  • Beautiful beaches better suited for surfing
  • Better hiking opportunities
  • More affordable accommodation options
  • A wider variety of activities and nightlife

Both Bora Bora and Hawaii boast some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. However, while Bora Bora’s coastal havens consist of vibrant blue lagoons and quiet stretches of coconut-fringed white sand beaches perfect for relaxation and aquatic adventures, Hawaii’s are a little more rugged and make for great surf spots while promising plenty of surreal beauty.

The biggest difference between these two destinations is that Bora Bora is a singular island in the French Polynesians, while Hawaii is an entire archipelago boasting a total land area nearly a thousand times larger than Bora Bora’s. As such, Hawaii promises more diverse tropical activities, including superior hiking, road-tripping, and nightlife opportunities.

Partially due to its size and more accessible location, Hawaii also hosts an annual tourism volume approximately a hundred times larger than Bora Bora, and as a result, promises a greater variety of tourism infrastructure, including more budget-friendly hotel options, making it the more affordable destination of the two.

However, Bora Bora’s more expensive cost of travel has worked to maintain the French Polynesian island’s exclusivity, making it the better of the two destinations for a luxury holiday, and is the ideal setting for enjoying a holiday to an untouched tropical island.

Bora Bora vs Hawaii: A Quick Guide to Choosing

An-Overwater-Bungalows 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)

Arguably the most beautiful island in French Polynesia, Bora Bora is the ultimate luxury island hideaway located in the South Pacific Ocean.

Internationally recognized by its fringe reefed lagoon surrounding its iconic central volcano, Bora Bora is one of the most exclusive travel destinations in the world, promising an exotic holiday filled with exploration and opulent pampering.

Bora Bora’s tropical idyllation is complete with its variety of luxury resorts and overwater bungalows, which provide unlimited and convenient access to all of the region’s breathtaking beaches, snorkeling hot spots, and untouched landscapes.

Na-Pali-Coast-Hawaii
Na Pali Coast on Kauai, Hawaii

Hawaii Mini Guide

  • Location Size – 28,313 km²
  • Population – 1.442 million
  • Rainy Season – November to March
  • High Season – December to April
  • Top Sights – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hanauma Bay, Hana Road, Pearl Harbour and USS Arizona Memorial.
  • Major Airports – Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hilo International Airport (ITO), Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport (KOA)

As a tropical destination isolated in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii promises many of the same charms and attractions as those on Bora Bora. However, unlike the French Polynesian island, Hawaii is an entire archipelago consisting of over 137 individual islands, making up a total area nearly a thousand times larger than Bora Bora’s.

Naturally, with so much more area to explore, Hawaii promises a greater diversity in both its natural landscapes and variety of attractions and activities. Of course, Hawaii is also the more accessible of the two destinations, resulting in more affordable accommodations at the cost of more tourism traffic.

The 5 Key Differences Between Bora Bora and Hawaii

1. How Do the Beaches & Landscapes Compare?

A-Sandy-Bora-Bora-Beach
Palm fringed beach in Bora Bora

Bora Bora

Boasting perfectly white sand beaches careening their way into the magnificently clear waters of the lagoon, Bora Bora’s beaches are pristine and arguably more beautiful than those found in Hawaii. They are perfect for relaxing along the sands, and the calm, life-filled waters of the lagoon are the ideal spot for snorkeling.

Meanwhile, on land, Bora Bora offers plenty of adventures through its rugged volcanic interior and lush green hillsides.

Hawaii

While it is hard to compete with the untouched natural beaches of Bora Bora, Hawaii promises some genuinely breathtaking coastal getaways in its own right, along with a greater variety of adventures and natural landscapes found within its inland destinations.

Covering far more land area than Bora Bora across its 137 islands, Hawaii is covered in diverse natural landscapes, ranging from beautiful coastal regions of white sand beaches, famous landmarks, and cliffs to its volcanic interiors of tropical forests, snow-capped mountains, and natural hot spring pools.

2. How Do the Culture and Atmosphere Compare?

A-Traditional-Fire-Dancer-In-Hawaii
Traditional Samoan dancer in Maui, Hawaii

Bora Bora

As a part of French Polynesia, Bora Bora boasts a rich Polynesian culture. Unfortunately, most visitors don’t experience much exposure to the authentic side of the island, with most cultural experiences being arranged by your resort, but include traditional dances and events.

Additionally, as a quieter island getaway, Bora Bora does not boast the same nightlife opportunities as Hawaii, with clubs and bars being limited. Instead, nightlife in Bora Bora is largely confined to resort bars.

Hawaii

Modern Hawaiian culture features heavy American influences, but the native Hawaiian traditions are still very much prevalent and accessible to tourists. Like Bora Bora, most of the islands’ cultural exposure comes from arranged events through your resort and includes Hula dances and luaus.

Meanwhile, those looking for vibrant nightlife will have a much easier time finding it in Hawaii than in Bora Bora. While there are some quieter islands for those looking for a relaxing getaway, Oahu offers a great selection of clubs and bars, especially in the capital city of Honolulu.

3. What Types of Activities Do the Destinations Offer?

The-Underwater-View-Of-Bora-Bora
Snorkeling with stingray in Bora Bora

Bora Bora

A natural haven isolated in the South Pacific, Bora Bora is one of the most untouched natural paradises in the world. And despite its relatively small size, it packs a world of adventure through its biodiverse ecosystems and breathtaking natural scenery.

The island’s top tourist activities are found within its crystal clear lagoons, where vibrant sea life can be explored along a snorkeling or diving tour. Meanwhile, on land, visitors can explore the volcanic landscapes along a hiking trail or off-roading excursion.

Hawaii

While Bora Bora is surrounded by a quiet lagoon perfect for snorkeling, Hawaii is found directly in the Pacific Ocean, boasting rough waters and large waves better suited for surfing. Snorkeling spots are still present in Hawaii, but they don’t quite compare to the Polynesian island.

However, where Hawaii excels compared to Bora Bora is its abundance of on-land adventures. Home to rugged forest-covered volcanos, Hawaii promises some of the world’s best hiking trails and road trips, leading to awe-inspiring volcanic views and natural hot spring pools.

4. Which Is Cheaper?

A-Waikiki-Beach-View-Hawaii
Luxury hotels along Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Bora Bora

Home to some of the world’s most famous luxury resorts and overwater bungalows, Bora Bora is one of the most expensive destinations in the world to visit. However, its elevated prices have helped keep this island paradise as one of the most exclusive destinations on the planet, maintaining its spot atop the bucket list of many travelers.

Beyond the high prices for its luxury accommodations, Bora Bora also boasts a high cost of travel, which can largely be attributed to its remote island setting. Bora Bora is both expensive to fly to and requires importing most products, resulting in inflated prices found within its stores.

Hawaii

While Hawaii is often considered an expensive destination in its own right, it doesn’t even come close to the elevated costs that come with visiting Bora Bora. While there are several luxury resort options that will quickly break the bank, Hawaii also offers a varied selection of budget-friendly accommodations not found in the French Polynesian destination.

Meanwhile, as a part of the United States, frequent flights connect Hawaii to the continental USA, resulting in more affordable transportation options for your flight.

5. Which Is Better for Couples & Honeymoons?

A-Couple-Relaxing-On-Bora-Bora-Beach
Romantic views of Mt Otemanu, Bora Bora

Bora Bora

For those who can afford it, Bora Bora is easily one of the best destinations in the world for a romantic couple’s getaway. From its private overwater bungalows to crowd-free beaches illuminated by the starry sky, Bora Bora oozes romance through its tropical shores.

Playing into Bora Bora’s romantic reputation, many of the island’s top resorts even include honeymoon packages in their offerings, providing specific amenities and services with the visiting couple in mind.

Hawaii

Hawaii has long served as a leading destination for honeymooners, promising a great variety of activities and romantic views for visiting couples. Combining tropical paradise with nature adventures, the islands are a great place to celebrate new beginnings and promise plenty of space to call your own across its 137 islands.

With that said, Hawaii is also a much more accessible and famous honeymoon hot spot. So while there is plenty of romance to go around, you will likely find you are sharing your romantic setting with several other honeymooners and couples throughout your stay.

3 Questions To Help You Decide to Travel To Bora Bora or Hawaii

Wailua-Waterfalls-In-Kauai-Hawaii
Wailua Waterfalls in Kauai, Hawaii

1. Which Is Easier and More Affordable to Get to?

If you are still unsure, the easiest way to determine whether your holiday is better suited for Bora Bora or Hawaii is to book the option with the more accessible means of getting there.

Generally speaking, Hawaii offers more convenient transportation options, with several international flights arriving in Honolulu from numerous countries across the planet.

Meanwhile, Bora Bora currently only hosts domestic flights, with international visitors first required to land at Faa’a International Airport in Tahiti, requiring 15+ hours from Australia and 25+ hours from North America and the UK.

2. What is Your Travel Budget?

While Bora Bora offers a more exclusive tropical island getaway, it also comes with a much heftier price tag. Therefore, a great way to determine which destination to visit is to make a choice based on your travel budget.

Offering accommodations for all budgets, Hawaii is a great choice for getting the most out of your travel dollars, while Bora Bora is the easy choice for those looking for the luxury experience and have the budget for it.

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

Another important question to ask yourself before deciding to visit Bora Bora or Hawaii is how much time you would like to spend traveling once you are in the country. If you are the type of traveler who enjoys adventures and exploring new terrains, Hawaii promises a great variety of natural landscapes and activities across its numerous islands.

However, if you prefer relaxing in a single spot, not venturing far from your base, then Bora Bora is the perfect choice, offering plenty of excursions and sights within its relatively small landmass.

Bora Bora vs Hawaii: Which is the Better Choice?

A-Bora-Bora-Beach-French-Polynesia

While Both Bora Bora and Hawaii boast their own personal charms, Bora Bora promises an overall better tropical island experience. It hosts far fewer tourists, promising visitors an unparalleled sense of remote isolation surrounded by the untouched natural beauty of the volcanic landscapes.

With that said Hawaii still makes for a truly spectacular travel destination filled with volcanic adventures, rich cultural history, and white-sand beaches. However, thanks to the combination of exclusivity, untouched landscapes, and sheer luxury, a Bora Bora vacation simply can’t be beaten.

About The Author

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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Picture of 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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