Maldives vs Seychelles vs Tahiti / Moorea / Bora Bora

Hilton Moorea

Introduction

I know a lot of people who have been to either the Maldives, the Seychelles, or Tahiti / Moorea / Bora Bora, but I think few people have been to all 3 places… especially over a span of 4 years.  Usually going to one of these places is enough, so I’m not quite sure why my wife and I have been to all 3.  I think we mostly did it to experience the first class flights more than the actual locations.

I’ll be comparing the 3 locations based on my own experiences at the hotels I’ve stayed at.  If I had stayed elsewhere, I think it may slightly change my view of the location, but I think for the most part, it should stay the same.  Trip reports:

  • Tahiti / Moorea / Bora Bora (sorry this was pre-blogging days so no trip report but we stayed at the Hilton Moorea and the Intercontinental Thalasso)
  • Maldives – We stayed at the Conrad Maldives as Gold members
  • Seychelles – We stayed at both the Hilton Northholme and the Hilton Labriz as Diamond members

 

Location Recognition

Out of the 3 places, I think most people would probably recognize Tahiti first.  Not many people know that Bora Bora is a short expensive (~$500) seaplane away from Tahiti; I surely didn’t before I did my research.  I’m sure no one knows where Moorea is, but I say it’s the most underrated place in the French Polynesia and I’ll tell you why later.  Plus it’s a relatively cheap 1 hour ferry from Tahiti.  After French Polynesia, I think most people have heard of the Maldives (add ~$500 for a seaplane to the fancy hotels,) and lastly, hardly anyone knows where the Seychelles is.

 

Tahiti / Moorea / Bora Bora

A quick note about Tahiti.  While we flew into Papeete, we didn’t spend the night there.  We went directly to the ferry terminal to go to Moorea for 4 days and then we took a sea plane to Bora Bora for 4 days.  If you do go to Tahiti, I HIGHLY SUGGEST YOU spend some time on Moorea.  I had read Tahiti proper isn’t the prettiest place, so I wouldn’t spend time there if you don’t have to.

The great thing about Moorea is that you have lots of things to do there.  We did a cool ATV tour while we were there.  We also did a shark / sting ray feeding excursion which was pretty cool.  We rented a car and drove around a bit on Moorea.  There are also overwater bungalows on Moorea; while they aren’t as beautiful as Bora Bora, it’s still pretty cool to stay in one of them.  You also have a lot more restaurant options on Moorea than you do at Bora Bora.  When we went in 2013, the restaurants will also pick you up and drop you off at your hotel for free!  Because you have restaurant options and not stuck on your own island, it’s probably the “cheapest” dining option.  Once you’re done exploring and doing activities on Moorea, head over to Bora Bora.

Which location is the most beautiful?  Hands down Bora Bora. If you look at the map, you’ll see that Bora Bora has a mountain in the middle and a ring of land around it.  It forms like a shallow lagoon that is just a gorgeous backdrop.  The hotels are all situated on the ring, facing the mountain, and almost all of them have the overwater bungalows.  Since you’re in the “lagoon,” there are no waves.  Just clear blue water.  It’s almost shallow enough for you to walk through the water from the mountain to the inside ring.  We took a kayak out from the Intercontinental Le Moana and went pretty dang far out and we could still see the bottom of the lagoon.  The view from your overwater bungalow, hopefully is of the clear blue water and this mountain in the background. There were times at night I would just be in awe of how gorgeous it was.

Google Maps of Bora Bora
Flying into Bora Bora
“Magic” mountain in Bora bora

In the Maldives on the other hand, while you’ll most likely have an over water bungalow, when you look out at the horizon, while you’ll still see this clear blue water, there’s no mountain there to give you perspective.  What I’m trying to say is that you can get a similar view by staring out at the ocean (minus the clear blue water.)  It’s just not as “magical.”

Sunset at Conrad Maldives

 

The Seychelles on the other hand doesn’t have over water bungalows (due to the tide and waves.)  What this means is that while you can walk out pretty far into the clear blue water, you’re not sleeping “over water.”  You can’t take a ladder from your hotel room straight down to a coral reef.  You can’t watch or feed fish from your room.  You can’t snorkel beneath your room.  The Seychelles is like a quieter, more beautiful version of Hawaii.

Hilton Labriz Seychelles

 

Best time to visit

Seychelles – April to November.   DON’T GO in December to March due to the wet season and mosquitos.  We went at the end of November and it had rained the week before, so the mosquitos were coming out.

MaldivesNovember to April.  We went around Thanksgiving and it was great.

Bora Bora / Moorea – November to April.  We also went around Thanksgiving and it was great.  I think there were a couple of days where it sprinkled but nothing major.

 

 

IC Thalasso at night

How long to stay

Seychelles – If you’re on the Hilton island, I think 4 days is about right, especially if you’re getting eaten up by mosquitoes.  You can spend a full week if you plan on doing both islands.  If I could do it again, I’d spend an extra day on Northolme and do the 1 day tour of that other island.  This assumes you’re not diving, but from what I hear, all 3 places are great diving spots.

Maldives – If you’re stuck on your own island, once again, 4-5 days tops, assuming you’re not diving.  That may be the location with the least things to do because you’re stuck at your hotel the whole time.  Plus did I mention the sun is blistering hot?  I didn’t snorkel until about 4pm every day, until the searing sun was gone.

Bora Bora – Similar to Maldives.  However, if you’re at the IC, you can at least get the free shuttle to the main island.  Other hotels may have this option too.

Moorea – This one I could stay for a week.  You get the OWB like Bora Bora (minus the better view) and you’re also on land, so lots of things to do.  Think of a smaller Maui but with OWB.

 

Oh let me walk from my room into the water @ Hilton Moorea

Getting around

Seychelles – Taxis are pretty expensive.  I know some people rode the bus from the Hilton into the downtown area, so it’s possible if you have free time.  You could also rent a car (left side driving) and drive around the island if you wanted.  If you’re at the Hilton Labriz, they have bikes you can rent but you’re not going very far (free for Diamond)

Maldives -Feet

Bora Bora – Feet, kayak

Moorea – Feet, rental car, restaurants will pick you up.  I suggest you rent a car and drive to Snack Mahana 

 

View of IC Moorea (the ones on the water)

 

Excursions

Seychelles – There are day trips to smaller islands for ~$200 a head.  There’s diving.  There’s hiking at the Hilton Labriz.  Fishing excursions too.

Maldives – Snorkel, dive, fishing excursions

Bora Bora – Snorkel, dive, fishing excursions.  Free stingray feeding at the IHG Thalasso

Moorea – Snorkel, dive, fish.  ATV excursion.

Mountaintop on Moorea
ATV tour on Moorea

Award flight availability

The Seychelles and Maldives are equally easy/hard since you’ll most likely be flying through the Middle East.  The availability from the Middle East to the Seychelles/Maldives was pretty wide open when we went; I think I saw up to 6 seats in business class on Etihad.  Thus your bottleneck will be the USA – ME longhaul flight.  If you book close to 9 months in advance, you should see 2 seats in F availability on Etihad using AA miles.  Emirates seems to open up F availability close-in, so book in business and then cross your fingers F opens up last minute and change the ticket.  One thing to point out – the Maldives is considered a part of the ME, so using AA miles on Etihad, it’ll cost you 40K / 70K / 115K per person ONE WAY to get to Male.  Seychelles is considered a part of the Indian subcontinent, so you’ll have to add an extra 17.5K / 30K / 40K. 

Tahiti on the other hand is pretty tough to get to, especially in a premium cabin.  When we went, we used AA miles on Air Tahiti and booked almost when the calendar open.  And they still only have angled seats in business!  I know some people are routing to Tahiti via Hawaiian Airlines these days, which seems to have better availability.  You could also try Air France as well.  The point is – it’s not easy to get to Tahiti in premium seats using miles.  

 

Typical view in Bora Bora

Award Hotel availability

Seychelles – I’ve talked about this before.  There’s really only 3 points hotels there – the Le Meridien and the 2 Hiltons.  Award availability is pretty open if you book far enough in advance.

Maldives – Lots of points options as well.  Most people prefer the Park Hyatt; we chose the Conrad because of the free breakfast and free Happy Hour with Gold.  The underwater restaurant was a bonus.  You don’t read too many SPG reviews from the Maldives.

Moorea – Looks like there’s only the Intercontinental and the Hilton.  I’d highly reco the Hilton just for the free breakfast with Gold.

Bora Bora – Everyone wants to stay at the Intercontinental Thalasso since that’s the best IHG redemption.  However, availability is SPARSE!  Set up alerts on Hotel Hustle and cross your fingers!  If you don’t get that, the IC Moana isn’t bad although not ideal since you can’t see the mountain in the background.  I have a friend who paid cash at the St Regis TWICE!  If I didn’t do those, the Le Meridien or the Hilton wouldn’t be the end of the world.

OWB spa at Conrad Maldives

Food expense

All three locations are pretty expensive for food since they are islands and it’s costly to get food transported there.

Seychelles – If you’re at the Hilton Labriz Seychelles, you are forced to eat at the hotel unless you want to cut up your own coconuts.  For reference, a burger was around $20.  The main dinner buffet was around $75.

Maldives – If you’re in the Maldives, most likely, you’ll be eating at the hotel as well.  The Conrad we stayed at had happy hour from 5 to 6pm every night for Gold+ members, which had free alcohol and light snacks.  We made sure to take advantage of that every day!  If we were still hungry, we went to the bar and had the Maldivian lobster dish for about $40.  We dined at a restaurant one night; while pricey, I remember it wasn’t as outrageous as the Seychelles.  Just know the champagne and snack for 2 in the underwater restaurant Ithaa was probably $150 per couple.  Definitely a YOLO moment like having afternoon tea at the Burj aj Arab.

Ithaa underwater restaurant at Conrad Maldives
$40 Maldivian lobster at the Conrad bar restaurant

Moorea /Bora Bora – If you’re in Bora Bora and staying at the Intercontinental Thalasso, you do have the option of taking the free shuttle over to the other IC and eating at the restaurants outside the hotel.  One night, we ate at Bloody Mary’s (think decent casual seafood.)  I believe they picked us up for free from the hotel.  When you’re on Moana, all the restaurants will pick you up for free, and there are over a handful of options.  We never ate at the Hilton on Moorea.  The dinner buffet at the Thalasso was close to $100 if I recall.  The restaurants on Moorea/BB were probably around $20 an entree, so it wasn’t unreasonable.  This was our first major trip, and we did bring miso soup packets from home to make for breakfast (no status back then either except IHG Plat with the card.)

 

Seychelles Hilton Northolme

 

Sunset at Conrad Maldives

Conclusion

In a distant 4th place is the Seychelles.  Too pricey.  No over water bungalow.  Not much to do.  Maybe if we did some diving, our mind would change.

The Maldives would come in third.  You get the OWB, but the problem is that you’re most likely stuck at your hotel.  Unless you are diving or snorkeling, there’s not much to see or do in the Maldives besides eat and lay by the beach.

Bora Bora would come in second.  You get the OWB and just gorgeous scenery.  But once again, there’s not much to do besides the beach.  I rank this higher than the Maldives because a) I think it’s prettier b) you at least have the option of food outside your restaurant and c) you can see and pet wild stingrays here.

First place and the one place I’d love to visit again is Moorea.  You get the OWB.  Not quite as gorgeous as Bora Bora, but I’ll trade some of that beauty for having more activities and food options.  Remember, Moorea is only a 1 hr ferry ride from Tahiti, so stop by here first and then take a seaplane to Bora Bora.  If you’re going on your honeymoon, I’d budget 1.5 weeks or so and spend 2/3 of your time in Moorea and knock out all your excursions.  Then relax for the remainder of your time in an OWB in Bora Bora.

What’s next on my bucket list?  I want to visit the Conrad Koh Samui one day.  Maybe Mauritius too.

  • Brit Meagley

    Superb review; very thorough. We are trying to decide between BB/Moorea and Maldives for our honeymoon. Both are looking for paradise, good food and fun activities. With that description which would you recommend between those options?

    • Miles per Day

      BB/Moorea hands down

  • disqust101

    Visited Moorea 25 years ago when OWB were rare to find (now they are so common they’ve lost the mystique). We loved the place – had a blast renting scooters and seeing the island with very few tourists around. Glad to see Moorea still holds up.

    I have zero point zero desire to visit the Maldives – just too far from the west coast to bother. Seychelles have same problem – Kauai is probably just as nice and relatively easy to get to.

    Koh Samui Hilton was relaxing – chilled in the bungalows with private pools for an entire week and never got bored (most private location is the first lower row – units 1-4). Had no desire to tour the island as it’s infested with cheap tourist traps. I wouldnt go back as a specific destination despite how nice the property was. If you’ve got an extended SE Asia trip and want to tack on 5 chill days, I’d recommend it. But as a destination itself I’d suggest finding somewhere else to visit. It’s a lot more expensive on points these days since Hilton devalued. Back then it was awesome value – could MS points and pay equivalent of $50/night – think it’s closer to $180/night today (rack rate pushes $1K/nt).

  • Nicholai Moguet

    Can you say, all other things aside, which location is technically the “easiest” to do on points if doing an OWB?

    • Miles per Day

      Easiest would be Maldives since flights are readily available and hotel availability is better than Moorea/Bora Bora.

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  • Mark Ostermann

    Great write up – thanks! Like Nancy we will probably end up doing Hawaii – finding someone to watch the kids that long is a real struggle!

  • Nancy Powell

    Very informative post. Bora Bora looks gorgeous. I’m not sure my family will make it to any of these, but great info.

    • Miles per Day

      Leave the family at home. TREAT YO SELF…and your husband.

  • Ryan

    Went to the Maldives last year and headed to Seychelles this summer. Do you feel like your experience in Seychelles would have been different if you weren’t tied to points hotels? Everything I’ve read seems to be the beauty of Seychelles are the smaller islands of La Digue and Praslin. We’re booked to stay 4 nights on La Digue and then 2 nights at the Le Meridien on Mahe before heading to Cape Town.

    • Miles per Day

      Yeah I think so Ryan. My taxi driver said La Digue was awesome, but I can’t imagine it being much different than the view from the Hilton. That’s why I wish I had spent 1 more day there to do a day tour of La Digue. Let me know though; now you have me curious.

      • Josh M.

        I just finished a trip to the Seychelles. We stayed in the Hilton Northolme at the end of our trip. We’ve also been to the Hilton Moorea.

        You really missed out. I mean really. Mahe and Silhouette Islands are fine, but nowhere near as nice as Praslin and La Digue. La Digue itself is the equivalent of Moorea, but has far nicer beaches (maybe some of the most beautiful beaches in the world – see Anse Marron, Grand/Petite Anse, or Source d’Argent beaches). It also offers really fun hiking, cycling, nature preserves, and tons of other activities. More activites even than Moorea, all while maintaining the same low-traffic vibe (most people cycle around the island and vehicles are less common). It’s also very easy to get from Praslin to the other nearby islands, for things like giant Tortoise interactions, snorkeling, or rare bird watching at the preserve on Cousin island.

        I’d go back to Seychelles long before I went back to French Polynesia. Also, to note, we did all of the same activities on Moorea as you, and we agree that for the price, Moorea cannot be beaten if you visit French Polynesia. But the best thing we did on our whole trip was take a full-day tour to the interior of Tahiti. It was fascinating and let you experience a completely different side of the island.

        Just my $0.02. And now that you can fly Air Seychelles/Etihad out of Dusseldorf, it makes for easier travel. We flew business for $1500/person, which is a pretty good deal considering it’s a 10 hour flight.

        • Miles per Day

          Thanks for feedback Josh. Dang I missed out on La Digue then. I knew I’d regret not spending an extra day on Mahe to visit La Digue. You don’t stay overnight there though right? It’s just more of a 1 day sightseeing trip?

          • Josh M.

            There are lots of places to stay on La Digue (though many are bungalow rentals), and it’s common to spend 3-4 nights there. Probably the nicest place to stay is Domaine de L’Orangeraie at $500-600/night. Not a lot of larger brand hotels though. The selection of restaurants and shopping is also pretty good.

            We enjoyed our stay at Hilton Northolme and actually preferred the resort and staff to the Hilton Moorea due to its low traffic and excellent staff, but most of the fun we had in Seychelles was on Praslin and La Digue. You should definitely go back to check it out!

  • ucipass

    Big fan of your blog and this was probably the BEST review so far. I guess I am not going to the Seychelles ;-). (first time commenting…)
    I was at the Conrad Maldives 2 years ago as a gold on points and it was beautiful and definitely would like to go back. One note on Koh Samui which I also visited is that there are a ton of things to do on Koh Samui with a lot of other hotel options and you should visit the close by islands and the marine national park. So….not sure how much time you will be spending at the actual hotel. Perhaps good for a couple of days to help with the jet lag.

    • Miles per Day

      I feel like Koh Samui will be my next Thanksgiving trip. Thanks for the tip.

    • disqust101

      Odd. We had opposite feeling. Conrad Koh Samui is a really nice property/location but a bit far away at the tip of the island (45 minute taxi ride IIRC). Once we arrived we didnt even want to leave the property – views across the water were great and we were treated to lightening storms every night in the distance. Weather was sunny in the 90s and quite humid – Great place to honeymoon or reconnect with your spouse…not a place for children. But wasnt impressed with Koh Samui itself – overrun by cheap tourist traps that infest too much of the world. The nearby parks did interest us but honestly not enough to lure us from the property – we were both exhausted from work and doing nothing for 7 nights was pure luxury.

  • Tim

    Great summary of all 4. I echo your feelings about Bora Bora and Moorea. I would love to see a post about all your bucket list locations.

    • Miles per Day

      it’s actually pretty short – Easter Island, Mauritius, Machu Pichu, and Koh Samui. Here’s an odd one – the Marshall Islands. I have a friend who is actually from there. It’s mid way between Hawaii and Tahiti. Definitely no points hotels since it’s so small. Oh Antarctica one day too. Maybe I should keep a list…

      • Tim

        And I thought I was the only one with Antarctica on my bucket list. Machu Pichu and Easter Island could be done in the same trip if you have the time. Not a lot of hotel options on points in any of those three locations unfortunately 🙁

      • disqust101

        Go to Machu Pichu and hike the Inca Trail. I liked MP so much I went twice last year (second time to go back and hike the trail). Do the 5 day hike – 95% do the standard 4 day and it’s a bit of a zoo. 5 day gets better camp sites after 2nd night (everyone else is ahead of you so much more enjoyable pace – also get to visit more sites that others dont have time for). Can recommend a company called Tours By Locals. Run by a guy who’s hiked the trail hundreds of times – his cook does magic with just a pot and a burner! Dont bother bringing any snacks – you wont need any. Book at least 6 months in advance as permits get snapped up.

        If you dont do the Inca Trail, go off peak – MP is getting overrun now. Went late March and it wasnt busy. Went back in Oct and there was 1.5 hr wait to get the bus back down the mountain!

        Pro tip – stay up top in the Belmond Santuary Lodge. Pricey but worth every penny as you’re literally 100 steps from the entrance to MP – views are surreal – and you avoid the zoo trying to get up the mountain in the morning. Book the more expensive patio rooms otherwise your room will overlook the parking area where all the buses stop.

        MP is definite bucket list. Strongly recommend hiking the Inca Trail (stay last night in the Belmond after hiking the trail) – MP is a place you will never forget.

        Besides a safari, MP is the only place I’ve been that exceeds the hype. Koh Samui is nothing by comparison…

  • Prashant Satpute

    Nice review. Great comparison with pictures. I loved the rating and recommendation at the end.

  • Ken

    Conrad Koh Samui? On our list too. Make sure to use free nights from the Citi Reserve card, otherwise awards are very expensive here.

    • Miles per Day

      Hmmm 80K pts a night. I was expecting 95K or whatever the highest tier is. Now to pick a time to go…

      • Ken

        Looks like May-July, September, and November is 80k and the rest is 95k or more if they don’t have a standard room available.