This is about the ultimate paradise, the world’s most beautiful turquoise-blue lagoon: is it Aitutaki or Bora Bora? Both breathtaking holiday destinations are continuously competing for the first place. In any paradise island rating, you’ll find them ranking at the top.
We were lucky enough to experience both lagoons many times. Aitutaki became a second home to us while we lived in the Cook Islands for a couple of years, and we stopped counting how often we’ve been there. In the same way, we were always drawn back to Bora Bora for more.
Aitutaki or Bora Bora – where to travel? Both islands have a breathtaking lagoon, with one main island and many small islets, the so-called Motus. While Aitutaki is very unspoiled, laid-back, less visited, and less expensive, Bora Bora is one of the most luxurious island destinations in the world but offers more activities.
In this article, we share our insider knowledge about these two stunning islands with you. To help you to choose the perfect destination for your trip to true paradise.
Aitutaki or Bora Bora? Breathtaking Aitutaki
There is hardly any other word that describes the Aitutaki lagoon better than breathtaking. When you get there, you are overwhelmed by all the colors of turquoise and blue and glistening white sandy beaches – everywhere. You feel instantly blind if you don’t have your sunglasses on 😉
Aitutaki consists of one main island and the Ootu peninsula in the north, and 15 tiny islets, so-called Motus, that sit on the reef edge in the south and frame the lagoon. The entire atoll is not too large with just 18 kilometers2/ 7 miles2 land area, that spread across a lagoon area of 50 kilometers2/ 19.3 miles2. This makes it quite easy for you to move around quickly.
The island belongs to the southern archipelago of the Cook Islands and is 260 kilometers/ 162 miles north of the capital island. And you can catch one of the several daily 50-minutes flights from Rarotonga, with the local airline Air Rarotonga. Or come from the neighboring island Atiu, which has two weekly flights to Aitutaki.
It is one of the rare places on this planet where you can enjoy a true paradise with hardly any people around you. Aitutaki has just 2,000 residents and around 30,000 tourists annually. Each plane only carries 16 passengers, and the airfare is also relatively expensive, so not too many visitors touch ground on the atoll. And most of those come with the day tour from Rarotonga and leave in the late afternoon again.
The island offers one luxury hotel, some upscale accommodation, and various guest houses. But also spectacular overnight stays on some of the uninhabited stunning Motus that frame the lagoon. So you have the choice between accommodation in all price categories, and you can also be an adventurer and stay overnight on a lonely island.
From fast food to fine dining, you will find places to eat and drink, with the most delicious local dishes and lots of fresh fish at moderate prices. Groceries are even more expensive than on the main island of Rarotonga, as everything has to be shipped by plane or boat. As a result, there is no shopping except for souvenirs and basics, just as there is hardly any evening or beach entertainment. Good news – this gives you the chance to unwind completely.
But the place to be is the spectacular pristine lagoon of Aitutaki.
Everywhere you will find the shimmering colors of the turquoise blue sea, combined with white sandy beaches.
It just leaves you speechless.
Various local tour operators can take you into the lagoon either as a taxi service that drops you off at your favorite spot or as a tour that shows you all of the fantastic Motus and sandbanks. Spearfishing is the primary fishing method and is great fun when you try it out with a local fisher. There are amazing snorkeling spots in the lagoon where you can see tons of reef fish, eagle rays, giant clams, and lots of giant trevallies. The Honeymoon Island sandbank is a kitesurfing hotspot during the windy season from April to October.
Diving and deep-sea fishing are on offer outside the open ocean, and whale watching is possible during the whale season from July to October.
You can spend the day wherever you want in a laid-back and non-touristy breathtaking piece of nature.
The main island of Aitutaki also has incredible beaches on its western side and the southern tip of the Ootu peninsula. Besides, you can easily explore the interior by yourself on a scooter, drive along with the tiny villages over lush green hills, and get in touch with all the welcoming locals.
The temperatures are around a cozy 25°C / 77°F annual average. But just in case… for cooler evenings or windy days, bring a couple of long shirts and pants with you.
PS: We also have 12 Insider tips for you on what to do in Aitutaki.
Alors, et maintenant on-y-va à Bora Bora! Let’s go to Bora Bora now…
Aitutaki or Bora Bora? Stunning Bora Bora
Without a doubt, Bora Bora is the most famous lagoon in the South Pacific. And what a fantastic picture, if you overlook the most pristine blue lagoon with Mont Oremanu of the main island in the background.
Bora Bora has twice the size of Aitutaki, with a landmass of 30 kilometers2/ 11,8 miles2. Its volcanic mainland, with the highest peak Mont Otemanu (727 meters / 2.385 feet), is surrounded by about 30 fantastic Motus in the most crystal-clear turquoise-blue ocean.
It’s also well-connected via several flights daily with Tahiti, Papeete/ Faaa Airport, which takes 50 minutes for the distance of 259 kilometers/ 161 miles. But you can also catch a flight to Bora Bora from other French Polynesian islands, such as Huahine, Raiatea, or Moorea. This saves you time and money, as you can head straight for more destinations and don’t always have to go back to Tahiti.
You can also travel by ferry boats between the Society Islands, which run several times a week. The journey from Papeete to Bora Bora takes about 13 hours, but it’s a great boat trip.
Bora Bora’s population is about 10.000, and it receives about 190.000 visitors every year and is more densely populated than Aitutaki.
Along the 32 kilometers/ 20 miles coastal road around the main island, you will find various small villages and all kinds of shops, and even art galleries.
Also, the catering for tourists is perfect, you can find a lot of places and eat, and tour operators are lining up.
Among the accommodation, you will find some of the most expensive resorts in the world. Bora Bora also has the reputation for being the islands of overwater bungalows that almost every luxury resort on the Motus lagoon offers. The ambiance and service in these hotels are exceptional, which attracts wealthy visitors worldwide. Still, you can find affordable guesthouses on the mainland, and arriving by ship is another perfect alternative to enjoy the stunning lagoon and avoid high overnight costs.
Hiking or inland cultural experiences are on offer, or you can have a spectacular view overlooking the entire atoll with a skydive. You also have a choice of water entertainment like jet skiing, parasailing, and kitesurfing, kayaking/ paddling. And in the open ocean, you can go diving, deep-sea fishing, and whale watching. So, you will never run out of ideas about what to do…
Also, on Bora Bora, the stunning, most pristine lagoon is the place to be. You can surround the mainland by boat and inhale the beauty of the atoll. The mountain range always sets an incredible background scenery, and the lagoon in front of you is amazingly inviting. When you jump into the water, you immerse into a mesmerizing aquarium of reef fish and heaps of stingrays and small (black-tipped) reef sharks.
However, you are not alone out there. Guests who live on Bora Bora and day guests who come with cruise ships and sailing boats populate the atoll. The tourist crowds are not overwhelming, but they are recognizable.
In terms of temperature, Bora Bora averages 27°C / 81°F throughout the year, with hot days and warm nights. So you do not need to worry about bringing warm clothes.
Aitutaki or Bora Bora: Which Island Is a Better Fit For You?
If you’d like to laze in an untouched paradise, with the most dazzling colors of turquoise and blue, and only with few visitors, Aitutaki is the first choice. You can spend days cruising the lagoon enjoying the Motus and sandbanks with snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, surfing, and no beach entertainment disturbs you.
Prices are lower than on Bora Bora, especially the accommodations, and you have the freedom to go anywhere – literally. Because there is a significant advantage that you have on Aitutaki: Although all land (Motus and mainland) are privately owned, all beaches are always accessible to everyone by law.
Bora Bora is your destination if you want to experience paradise in all aspects. A breathtaking turquoise blue pristine lagoon with a vibrant underwater world. But also, if you’d like to enjoy luxury accommodation and services, shopping and a range of fantastic excursions and activities, as well as a variety of evening and beach entertainment.
You have to plan on a higher budget than going to Aitutaki, and Bora Bora is both more touristy, and you will meet many more people.
A disadvantage is that, unlike Aitutaki, you cannot go everywhere. All Motus are private property, and you are not allowed to enter them. So, you usually stay on the property of your accommodation or book tours with providers who have access to other islets. All beaches on the mainland, however, are accessible to everyone.
We hope you enjoyed our article about two of the world’s most splendid places. Even better, if it helps you to decide where you want to go next, and maybe it made you curious enough to visit both amazing atolls. So if you travel, enjoy it, and it will be definitely worth it.
However, if you ask yourself the question, which is our favorite out of these two… I guess you have an idea already… Yes, it is clearly Aitutaki – a true paradise in all aspects.
You Might Also Be Interested In…
Our comparison of the two island nations Cook Islands and French Polynesia in general.
And all the details about their stunning main islands, Rarotonga in the Cook Islands and Tahiti in French Polynesia as well as Rarotonga and Moorea in French Polynesia.