French Polynesia or Maldives? The most first-world question of all time quite often makes its appearance in the 10xTravel Insiders Facebook group in particular and in the points and miles community in general. Luckily, thanks to credit card rewards, I had the opportunity to visit both of these bucket-list destinations back-to-back.

I didn’t plan it that way. In fact, I like to mix up my travels either by continent, by budget or by the types of activities in each place, but after a coincidental chain of events, I ended up going to both island nations about two months apart—first to Maldives and then to French Polynesia.

Both have turquoise water, swaying palm trees and plenty of overwater bungalows. So, let’s discuss which might be a better points and miles vacation for you: French Polynesia or Maldives?

Consider the Time You’ll Spend Traveling


A travel day from the U.S. to Maldives can top 40 hours. | Photo courtesy of Anya Kartashova

Travel time is going to affect your decision of where to go in a major way. No matter how you slice it, both island chains are pretty far from the mainland United States. However, one of them is going to present less trouble in terms of travel time and cost.

French Polynesia

Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia located in Tahiti, is located about 4,000 miles from both Los Angeles and San Francisco, and about 6,300 miles from New York. It’ll take you about eight hours to reach Papeete from the West Coast by plane, which is about two hours longer than it takes to fly to Honolulu. If you live on the East Coast, you’d have to factor in additional travel time across the continent.

If you’re visiting Moorea, the island is just a 40-minute ferry ride away. Bora Bora requires a domestic flight, which takes about 50 minutes.

Not many airlines fly to Papeete, the jumping-off point to other French Polynesian islands. The following carriers operate direct flights:

  • Air France from Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles and seasonally from Seattle (SEA)
  • Delta Air Lines from Los Angeles
  • French Bee from San Francisco (SFO)
  • Hawaiian Airlines from Honolulu (HNL)
  • United Airlines from San Francisco


On the other hand, Malé, the capital of Maldives, is about 8,700 miles away from New York City and even farther from the West Coast, and no airlines fly directly between the U.S. and Maldives.

Because most people don’t stay in Malé bur rather travel to island resorts either by speedboat or by seaplane, a travel day can easily take up to 40 hours from a U.S. city to resort. Not to mention, the cost of a seaplane can be multiple hundreds of dollars.

However, you’ll have significantly more flight options traveling to Maldives than to French Polynesia. The following airlines fly to Malé (the list doesn’t include all routes):

  • Air India from Mumbai (BOM)
  • AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (KUL)
  • Austrian Airlines from Vienna (VIE)
  • British Airways from London (LHR)
  • Condor from Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
  • Edelweiss Air from Zurich (ZRH)
  • Emirates from Dubai, United Arab Emirates (DXB)
  • Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (AUH)
  • Eurowings from Frankfurt
  • Flydubai from Dubai
  • Go Air from Mumbai (BOM) and New Delhi (DEL)
  • IndiGo Airlines from Mumbai (BOM) and New Delhi (DEL)
  • Neos from Rome (FCO)
  • Oman Air from Muscat, Oman (MCT)
  • Qatar Airways from Doha, Qatar (DOH)
  • Saudia from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (JED)
  • Singapore Airlines from Singapore (SIN)
  • SriLankan Airlines from Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB)
  • Thai AirAsia from Bangkok (DMK)
  • Turkish Airlines from Istanbul, Turkey (IST)

Consider the Season

The best travel seasons in French Polynesia and Maldives are during opposite times of the year. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

French Polynesia

The time of year is also going to play a major role in terms of which island nation to pick for your vacation. For example, if you’re picking a honeymoon destination, your travel dates are likely going to depend on your wedding date or the subsequent anniversary celebrations. Same idea applies to birthdays and other special occasions, so the choice of when to travel might already be made for you.

French Polynesia

The best time to visit French Polynesia is from June to September during the dry season when it’s not too hot. If you’re a gambler, you can still get lucky with weather in May and October when the hotels are less busy.


The Maldives’ best season is actually the opposite of French Polynesia and lasts from November to April. Having said that, you can encounter rain at any time in both countries, but these are the recommended months for travel.

Consider the Number of Points Hotels in the Area

Conrad Bora Bora

Of the 114 guestrooms at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, 86 are overwater bungalows and two are presidential villas. | Photo courtesy of Anya Kartashova

Tahiti was where the idea of the first overwater bungalow came to life in the 1960s. If you have your heart set on these dreamy accommodations surrounded by the ocean, both destinations have plenty of overwater villas. Although most hotel chains categorize beach-front island rooms as “standard” rooms, you should be able to pay a cash co-pay for an upgrade to an overwater bungalow or book one outright with points at properties with overwater villas only (for example, at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa).

French Polynesia

Not only does French Polynesia have fewer properties where you can redeem points than Maldives, Hyatt is notably excluded from the available hotel options. So, you have to fight with other travelers for less available space if you want to snag a decent points rate at a hotel in French Polynesia.

You can use points at the following French Polynesia resorts:


  • Conrad Bora Bora Nui
  • Hilton Hotel Tahiti
  • Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa


  • InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort
  • InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa
  • InterContinental Resort Tahiti


  • The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort
  • The Westin Bora Bora Resort & Spa


Maldives has significantly more properties that are bookable with hotel points, which gives you more choices as well as more rooms to go around. Keep in mind that award space is still a hot commodity across both island chains, and most properties set rates up the wazoo.

You can redeem points at the following Maldives properties:


  • Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
  • Hilton Maldives Amingiri Resort & Spa
  • SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton
  • Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi


  • Alila Kothaifaru Maldives
  • Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa


  • Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives
  • InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort
  • Six Senses Kanuhura Maldives
  • Six Senses Laamu


  • JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa
  • Le Méredien Maldives Resort & Spa
  • Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa
  • The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands
  • The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort
  • The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort
  • W Maldives

Do You Drink Alcohol?


In French Polynesia, you can buy alcohol at a store, but in Maldives, you can’t buy it outside of a resort. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

If you’ve given up drinking—or never started—then you have nothing to worry about. However, travelers who enjoy some giggle juice while on vacation might have to spend quite a bit in both destinations.

French Polynesia

If you’d like to indulge at a resort, booze is going to cost you half your salary. Expect to pay $8 to $10 for a local beer (more for imported beers) and $16 to $30 for signature cocktails at Bora Bora resorts. However, you can bring up to 2 liters of alcohol to French Polynesia legally, so I recommend making a pit stop at a duty-free store. Additionally, depending on the island and the resort you’re staying at, you can take a water taxi to the main town and buy liquor and wine from local shops.


Maldives is a Muslim country, and Islamic law is followed here, which means you’re not able to bring any alcohol into the country in your luggage or buy it at a local store. You’re pretty much at the mercy of your resort. Having said that, some resorts offer all-inclusive packages to make it worth your while, but even à la carte beverage prices in Maldives aren’t as bad as you might think—from $5 to $10 for a bottle of beer and from $8 to $16 for a tropical cocktail.

Do you enjoy activities?

You can snorkel and scuba dive in both island nations, but Maldives has the edge in this department. | Photo courtesy of Anya Kartashova

You can snorkel and scuba dive in both island nations, but Maldives has the edge in this department. | Photo courtesy of Anya Kartashova

Contrary to what you might believe, a beach holiday doesn’t always equal endless lounging in the sun. Having said that, if you want to impersonate a sea lion and sleep beachside with all your flippers tucked in, feel free. The point is, you’ll find lots of activity options in both destinations. However, the kind of activities does depend on which islands you visit.

French Polynesia

Hikers will enjoy French Polynesia more because there’s more elevation change across the islands. Tahiti and Moorea have lots of trails for those looking for activities other than sunbathing. Moorea also offers ATV tours to the various lookout points.

If you’re a scuba diver, head to either Fakarava or Rangiroa for some of the world’s best diving. As for snorkeling, it just depends on the property, but most likely you’ll see fewer fish and less variety near popular islands, like Bora Bora.


The highest point in Maldives is under 8 feet (2.4 meters), so it’s not going to offer much in terms of hikes, but it does provide some of the most gorgeous, soft white-sand beaches.

Most resorts have a house reef, so you’re always just a few steps (or swim strokes) away from witnessing the wonderful marine life that Maldives has to offer. There are so many fish, you’ll likely want to have multiple snorkeling sessions per day. Scuba divers will enjoy the clearest water between December and April, so again, consider the season when planning a trip.

What about cultural experiences?

cultural experiences

In terms of cultural experiences, French Polynesia has more options for travelers. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

If getting immersed in another culture is a big goal of yours, then again, one option is going to present more opportunities than the other.

French Polynesia

Although French Polynesia is an overseas collectivity of France, indigenous traditions haven’t disappeared from the islands. You can enjoy a Tahitian dance performance, take a va’a canoe paddling lesson, plant a coral in the ocean or take a cooking class to learn how to make poisson cru (raw fish marinated in citrus juice and coconut milk).


Most of the resorts in Maldives are located on private islands, which are quite isolated because of, well, the ocean. Unfortunately, unless you stay on a local island, you likely won’t have many opportunities to get immersed in Maldivian culture or interact with the people who live there. Still, if you have some free time in Malé, you can take a walking tour and visit the fish market, the first mosque and try some traditional sweets.

What Is Better: French Polynesia or Maldives?

Fantastic Experiences

When choosing between French Polynesia and Maldives, remember that both destinations provide some fantastic experiences. | Photo by Anya Kartashova

The answer to that question depends on what’s important to you. The points and miles hobby allowed me to visit these two destinations in the same year, and personally, I enjoyed them both immensely.

Each place has its pros and cons, and if you can pick only one, you must take into consideration the travel season, the activities you want to do, the points you have, and ultimately the award space availability. All I know is that if I were presented with an opportunity again, I’d hop on a plane and go to either French Polynesia or Maldives tomorrow.