Fiji or French Polynesia? You’ll have heard of both and you might have a vague idea of where to find them – somewhere in the vastness that is the South Pacific Ocean. But what sets them apart and how do you go about choosing between the two when it comes to your dream vacation?
French Polynesia is an overseas collectivity of France and consists of five French-inspired archipelagos in the south-central Pacific Ocean comprising some 130 islands spread across a huge swath of ocean five times as large as France. Birthplace of the legendary overwater bungalows, French Polynesia is home to the honeymoon hotspots of Tahiti and Bora Bora as well as the islands of Moorea and Rangiroa.
Fiji is known for the friendliness of its people, its vibrant Melanesian culture and its private island resorts. A country and archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and New Zealand, Fiji comprises more than 300 islands (333 to be precise) and 540 islets scattered over 3m square kms. Of the 300-plus islands, only about 100 are inhabited.
But when it comes to the ‘wow’ factor, Fiji and French Polynesia offer it up in spades. Both offer jaw-droppingly gorgeous powder white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters and a multitude of activities to suit every type of vacation, from family adventures to romantic getaways.
To help you choose between Fiji and French Polynesia we’ve put together a guide to make your decision that bit easier.
FIJI VS FRENCH POLYNESIA: ACTIVITIES AND ADVENTURES
Thanks to its warm waters, volcanic mountains and lush rainforests, Fiji is an absolute playground for vacation adventures for every visitor – not just for those who want to lay on a sun lounger, sip on a cocktail and take it easy.
With 333 islands to explore, Fiji is the perfect place for island hopping escapades. To the west of Fiji are the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands, a stunning group of islands that are home to turquoise waters packed with marine life – think sea turtles and reef sharks – dense rainforest and the best beaches in Fiji. Plus there are traditional villages to explore with a mix of Melanesian and Polynesian culture.
If surfing’s your thing, then Fiji won’t disappoint. The Mamanuca Islands are a popular surf location and home to some of the best surf breaks in the world, including Cloudbreak, off Tavarua Island. The Mamanuca Islands are easy to reach from Nadi, which makes them a popular place to visit.
Stretched out slightly further northwest of Fiji’s main island Viti Levu are the Yasawa Islands. This group of small, volcanic islands are like something from a tropical fantasy – unspoiled, sparsely populated with no big resorts, shops or roads. Access is via boat, seaplane or helicopter and visitors are rewarded with palm-studded white sand beaches, jungle-clad hills and turquoise waters teeming with coral reefs.
Popular activities here include kayaking around island lagoons, swimming with manta rays, hiking rugged volcanic peaks, exploring the ancient Sawa-i-Lau caves and immersing yourself in Fijian culture. Snorkelers and scuba divers will be rewarded with a multitude of colorful marine life including dolphins, reef sharks and sea turtles as well as several hundred types of coral and sponges – no wonder Fiji is known as the ‘Soft Coral Capital of the World’.
Depending on which island you choose to visit in French Polynesia, there’s no shortage of activities and adventures.
The island of Bora Bora is dominated by Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia, which together form the remnants of an extinct volcano that once existed in the middle of the island. Its rugged, black face stands in stark contrast with the lush green jungles and the turquoise sea below. Visitors can hike up Mount Pahia, but it’s impossible to climb to the summit because of the brittle rock. But you can hike to the base with a guide or a on a 4×4 tour, where you’ll find US cannons from World War II.
In Tahiti some of your ‘must-see’ activities might include a visit to the Huahine Natural Aquarium, Papeete Market (Marche de Pape’ete) or the three waterfalls at Faarumai, known as the Cascades of Faarumai in the north-eastern part of Tahiti Nui. Hikers will be challenged by a trek to Aorai Mountain – Tahiti’s second tallest peak. Advanced surfers meanwhile can take on Teahupo’o – one of the most dangerous surf breaks in the world!
On Moorea, Magical Mountain is one of the highest points on the island and boasts spectacular 360-degree views of the island and clear blue waters of the surrounding lagoon and ocean. Accessible only by 4WD, the route to the top will take visitors past villages, scenic valleys and pineapple plantations.
FIJI VS FRENCH POLYNESIA HONEYMOON: ROMANTIC DESTINATION
Nothing says romance more than a South Pacific island with little to no crowds, year-round sunshine and days spent lounging on your hammock in your overwater bungalow. So whether you choose Fiji or French Polynesia you can rest assured that romance will be top of the list. Get ready to fall in love again newlyweds!
In Fiji, most newlyweds hot-foot it straight to the smaller outer island resorts – like those in the Yasawa Islands archipelago – where the beaches are spectacular, the marine life outstanding and you’ll get to experience authentic Fiji, taking part in local customs and meeting Fijian families.
Most of the accommodation in will be in a Fijian villa known as a bure, which will have a traditional influence with a thatched roof, sitting alongside a beach or overlooking a lagoon. On Turtle Island Resort all guests, including honeymoon couples, are assigned their very own ‘Bure Mama’ as soon as you arrive. She’ll be your dedicated personal concierge arranging your island experiences and attending to your every whim – such is the ‘bure Mama’s’ popularity, you’ll want to take her home with you!
Many resorts in Fiji are small, accommodating anything from 10 to 20 couples at any one time, which means guests will feel like they have the resort or the island to themselves.
And as if the pristine beaches and sparkling waters weren’t enough, honeymooners will enjoy Fijian inspired spa treatments using local ingredients, and soaking up all the warmth and hospitality of Fijian culture and traditions, from eating the freshest seafood cooked in a lovo, or underground oven to lively meke performances where native stories are told through song and dance.
FRENCH POLYNESIA HONEYMOON
No honeymoon to French Polynesia would be complete without staying in an overwater bungalow. It was in the French Polynesian island of Raiatea that the overwater bungalow concept was created – stilted cottages so as not to harm the coral below and pandanus leaf thatched roof structures.
The overwater bungalow has come a long way since its revolutionary beginnings in the late sixties. Many of these seemingly floating overwater villas now feature glass bottoms revealing glimpses of marine life below, infinity pools and Jacuzzis.
As you’d expect from these French-influenced islands, the cuisine will have a strong French influence mixed with local flavours and customs, such as fresh fish served poisson cru style – raw fish cured ceviche-style in a mixture of lime juice and coconut cream.
If they can drag themselves away from the comforts of their resorts, newlyweds will be spoilt for choice with walks in lush hillsides or kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding excursions.
FIJI VS FRENCH POLYNESIA: WEDDING
For the ultimate in romance, Fiji has a number of private island resorts where you can rent your own island – ideal for a destination wedding. If you’re looking to choose between a Fiji vs French Polynesia wedding, it’s worth researching which islands can be rented and the different wedding packages available.
A Fiji resort wedding might be in a chapel or on the beach, where the arrival of the bride will be heralded by the sound of a conch shell blown by a Fijian warrior. Resorts in French Polynesia will have a range of wedding packages available, with wedding planners on hand to advise on the best locations – from a barefoot beach ceremony to an intimate service overlooking the water.
HOW TO GET TO FIJI AND FRENCH POLYNESIA?
Given their remote locations in the South Pacific Ocean, it stands to reason that Fiji and French Polynesia will take a little time to get to. However, when your plane descends over the sparkling ocean, you’ll know it was worth it.
From North America the flight time is approximately 8 to 11 hours and if you are traveling from Australia or New Zealand, the flight time is just 4 to 7 hours.
Fiji is easier to reach than French Polynesia with more direct flights from major international ports. Fiji’s national carrier is Fiji Airways which operates daily direct flights from Sydney, Auckland, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Singapore.
Visitors arriving in Fiji will land at Nadi International Airport on Viti Levu. From here, you can either stay at one of the many resorts or hotels or venture out to the smaller islands which requires another transfer either by boat, seaplane or helicopter.
Air Tahiti is French Polynesia’s national carrier and if you are traveling from Australia or New Zealand the flight time is roughly 7 to 9 hours.
Looking to visit both destinations? Then you may ask yourself how far is French Polynesia from Fiji? However as there are no direct flights from Fiji to French Polynesia, it will be a little tricky. To find out more, it’s best to check out the Fiji Airways and Air Tahiti websites.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT FIJI OR FRENCH POLYNESIA
Fiji and French Polynesia both enjoy a tropical, temperate climate with temperatures remaining the same throughout the year.
Both archipelagos have two main seasons – winter and summer – also knowns as the dry and wet seasons. Winter (the dry season) runs from May to November where temperatures range from 19°C (66°F) – 29°C (84°F). Winter (the wet season) runs from December to April and sees temperatures sitting at a comfortable 22°C (71°F) – 33°C (91°F).
COST OF FIJI VS FRENCH POLYNESIA
For travelers on a budget, Fiji offers more scope to find a deal as nightly rates can fluctuate according to the seasons, with more deals from November to March. However in French Polynesia prices tend to remain high throughout the year due to high demand and less changes in seasonality. If you had to choose between islands in French Polynesia, then rates will be slightly more affordable in Tahiti compared to the more exclusive islands such as Bora Bora.
EXPLORE TURTLE ISLAND FIJI
Turtle Island Resort offers the perfect escape for honeymooners, couples and at certain times of the year, families. With only 14 couples staying at any one time, beaches really are secluded spots of paradise. And with 500 acres of tropical lush forests and 12 private beaches for guests to explore, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve got the entire private island to yourself.
If you’re dreaming of your next tropical getaway to Turtle Island, then contact us today.