Trying to choose between Bali vs Maldives?
You’ve come to the right place!
Both Bali and the Maldives are known for their paradise beaches with white sand and crystal clear waters that make amazing vacations for people looking for a mix of relaxation and adventure.
Although both Bali and the Maldives are islands in the Indian Ocean, they have a lot of different qualities that make them unique, so it can be hard to choose between the two. Your choice between Bali and the Maldives depends on the vacation you’re looking for.
Having spent extensive time in both Bali and the Maldives, I can fill you in on each of their perks, highlights, and downsides so that you can make the decision that’s best for you.
Bali vs Maldives
Both Bali and the Maldives offer a tropical vacation with sunny weather and world-class beaches. Bali is an island that belongs to Indonesia, whereas the Maldives is a country in itself.
Bali is also one sole island, whereas the Maldives is made up of over 1,000 islands, only 187 of which are habited.
Bali is close to Australia and other Indonesian islands, whereas the Maldives is kind of in the middle of nowhere. The closest country is India, which is still 372 miles (600 km) away.
Having said that, Bali is much more accessible and easy to get to and around. It’s a small island, and you can drive around it in just 3 hours. There is also an international airport right on the island, Ngurah Rai.
Plenty of taxis and other transportation options are available to bring you easily from the airport to your accommodation and around Bali.
The Maldives, however, is a little harder to get to because it often involves a longer flight with more layovers. Plus, since it’s made up of so many small islands, you would need to take a ferry or boat from the airport to the island where you’re staying, as well as boats to get from one island to another if you wish to.
Bali has a range of accommodation options, from budget to boutique to luxury, and even has cultural immersive stays, where you can live with a family. The Maldives, on the other hand, is known for its luxurious accommodation options, notably overwater bungalows. The primary focus of tourism in the Maldives is luxury.
So, which should you choose, Bali or the Maldives? Is the Maldives worth the extra mile (no pun intended) and the potential extra cost? Let’s delve into that below.
Key Differences Between Bali Vs Maldives
Let’s go over the main differences between Bali vs Maldives, such as cost, weather, food, safety, and culture, so that you can make the decision that is best for you.
Costs & Prices
Bali is generally more of a budget-friendly destination than the Maldives. There is a wide range of accommodation options, from fancy resorts to budget guesthouses, hostels, and even homestays with local families. Generally, you can spend anywhere between $300-$1,000 per month on accommodations.
There is also a range of cuisine options, from high-end restaurants to street food in Bali. Activities also have a mix of prices, but overall you could probably get by on a budget of $25/day for tours, activities, and attractions.
Since the Maldives is primarily a luxury destination, its high-end resorts and dining can both be expensive; in fact, the Maldives is home to one of the most expensive restaurants in the world.
There are some ways to travel to the Maldives on a budget; one of them is to head there during the low season, which is from May to November. But generally, the Maldives is the more costly option.
Both Bali and the Maldives have beautiful sunny weather, which is perfect for enjoying their beaches and other activities.
They both experience dry and wet seasons, which is important to note when planning your trip to either. Being islands, they can experience strong winds, storms, and heavy rainfall during the wet season.
The dry season in Bali is from April to September, and temperatures average around 86°F (30°C.) The dry season is, by far, the most popular time to visit. The wet season is from October to March, and there is a lot more rain, humidity, and a higher chance of storms throughout the day.
In the Maldives, the dry season is from November through April, and temperatures are only slightly cooler than in Bali, falling between 77°F and 88°F (25°C to 31°C.)
As you can see, the dry season for Bali and the Maldives falls during autumn and winter in the northern hemisphere and is the best time to travel to either of them.
Bali and the Maldives can be visited during the wet season, as long as you keep the potential weather conditions in mind and how that may impact some of the activities you have planned.
One upside to visiting Bali and the Maldives during the wet season is scoring good off-season discounts on flights and hotels.
The one thing Bali and the Maldives have in common is the use of seafood in many of their dishes, as access to the Indian Ocean is one of their main food sources. Aside from this one similarity, however, the cuisines in Bali and the Maldives are quite different.
Food in the Maldives has been influenced by Indian, Sri Lanka, and Middle Eastern cuisine. They use a lot of seafood and coconut in their recipes, and often these two ingredients show up together in traditional dishes. Mas Huni, for example, is a popular Maldivian breakfast dish made with tuna, onions, chili, and coconut.
A popular Maldivian dinner dish you’re likely to spot on menus is Mas Riha, which is a fish curry with a flavourful coconut-based sauce.
Don’t eat seafood? No worries, the Maldives has diversity in its food scene, so you will have other options. There are some pizza places and even some vegan restaurants. When eating in a resort in the Maldives, you’ll likely see a mix of Maldivian and international dishes.
Bali’s cuisine differs from the Maldives in that it’s based on Indonesian roots such as Javanese and Balinese Hindu. There are lots of spices, herbs, and flavors used in Bali cuisine, so the food in Bali tends to be spicier than Maldivian food.
However, it’s not difficult to find dishes that aren’t spicy at all; I found plenty of non-spicy dishes to eat when I traveled to Indonesia.
Nasi goreng, for example, is a popular dish that consists of rice and egg, and Mie Goreng is a stir-fried noodle dish with onions, garlic, and Chinese cabbage.
The good news is that these common dishes are very customizable, so you can request less or more spice as well as different protein options if you desire.
In addition, Bali is also well known for its vegetarian and vegan cuisine options. So, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’ll feel right at home in Bali.
The main religion in the Maldives is Sunni Muslim, and it is strictly observed. In fact, adherence to Islam is required for citizenship in the Maldives, and tourists are expected to respect and obey Islamic rules as well.
If you visit Malé, the capital, then you should dress modestly and possibly even be prepared to wear a head covering if you enter a place of worship.
According to the U.S. 2022 report on International religious freedoms, there are severe consequences that include fines, deportation, or even imprisonment for openly expressing non-Muslim religious beliefs in the Maldives.
Expect to see some celebrations and possibly some disruptions to tourist activities if you visit during Ramadan or Eid, which are important Muslim holidays.
In addition to Islamic values, traditions, and celebrations, the Maldives also traditionally practices craftsmanship, such as boat building and lacquer work. The most common boat is the dhoni boat, handmade of coconut wood.
Bali, on the other hand, has a mix of religions, including Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism, but the most common by far (90% of the population) is Hindu, Balinese Hindu to be exact. This makes them unique from the rest of Indonesia, where 85% of the population is Muslim.
Balinese Hinduism is based on a variety of belief systems that have evolved over time, and they support a variety of different deities and spirits. They celebrate Galungan and Nyepi (the day of Silence) both in March and Odalan in September.
One aspect of Balinese Hinduism is a strong connection and respect for nature and taking care of the environment. There are cultural dances, artwork, and festivities that are unique to Balinese Hindu culture.
Beaches & Landscape
Both Bali and the Maldives are home to incredibly beautiful, world-class, Caribbean-style beaches, but their beaches offer slightly different features and qualities.
The Maldives is made up of islands, so you can find beaches and breathtaking coastlines everywhere you turn. There are many private stretches of beach that belong to resorts, allowing you to have most of the beach to yourself or with very few other people around, perfect for a romantic holiday.
There are beaches in Bali too, but more of a diverse mixture. There are some luxury accommodations with private beaches in Bali; Uluwatu and Padang, for example, are known for being quieter and more tranquil.
But Bali also has bustling beaches, which are known for their ideal waves for surfing, lined with busy strips of restaurants and shops so you can grab food or shop for souvenirs right on the beach.
Bali’s beaches are often surrounded by cliffs, lush rainforests, and rock formations, whereas Maldivian beaches have more of a tropical look, with white sand and palm trees.
Bali is considered a safe place to visit. It’s safe to walk alone, even at night, as the streets are well-lit, the areas are well-patrolled, and the crime rate is also generally low. Locals are normally friendly and kind towards tourists.
Of course, it’s still possible to encounter some crimes in Bali, such as theft. Bali can also be heavily trafficked due to having a lot of people (tourists and locals on one island.)
The Maldives is also considered very safe. Most tourists stay in resorts that have a very low crime rate. The resorts are often on their own island, which makes it difficult to access them without being a guest.
However, petty crime can still be possible, such as having your items stolen if unattended.
Ultimately, you should practice the same caution in Bali and Maldives as you would at home and other travel destinations.
Bali Vs Maldives: Which is Better To Visit in 2023?
Here are the most important questions to consider when trying to choose between Bali and the Maldives.
Which Is Better, Bali or the Maldives for a Family?
Although the Maldives is known for its honeymoon resorts, the country is also very family-friendly. There are many activities in the Maldives that families can do together, most of them water-based, such as going to the beach, going on boat cruises, dolphin watching, and of course, swimming and snorkeling.
Most of the resorts in the Maldives have kids’ clubs, so parents can get some alone time if desired while the kids can play in a safe environment and meet other kids from around the world.
Bali, with its many accommodation styles, has a variety of places for families to stay at all budget levels. Children are welcome in most accommodations. Some of the accommodations even have kids’ clubs and babysitting available.
Being surrounded by water and jungle, you can do both watersports in Bali and rainforest and cultural-based activities. Kids would love the Sacred Monkey Forest, the Bali Safari, and Marine Park, both of which allow them to see native wildlife.
So, both Bali and the Maldives are great family destinations, and the one you choose might be based on the interests of the parents as well as the ages and interests of the children.
Bali vs. Maldives for Honeymoon
In Bali, there are so many different experiences that newlyweds can have together. You can visit temples, try street food, do a yoga retreat, explore rice terraces, hike in the jungle, or go snorkeling; the opportunities are endless.
In contrast, one of the prime features of honeymooning in the Maldives is being able to splurge on world-class luxury accommodations where you can be pampered.
Couples can also enjoy many water and beach-based activities, such as cruises, snorkeling, scuba diving, and of course, relaxing on the beach. Dining at an underwater restaurant can be a unique and memorable experience.
If you’re looking for a cultural experience on your honeymoon, head to Malé to visit the bustling streets and markets, such as the Malé Central Market or the Fish Market.
For couples on a budget or seeking authentic cultural experiences, Bali is the more suitable option. However, if you’re looking for the ultimate luxury honeymoon, then you might prefer the Maldives.
Is Bali Cheaper Than Maldives?
Bali is cheaper than Maldives, largely because of its range of accommodation options. You can find places to stay in Bali for as little as $20 per night or $100 for an entire week.
In the Maldives, there are a range of accommodation prices, too, depending on which island you stay on, but the cheapest tends to start at $100 per night as a minimum. Almost nothing is available for less than $100 per night anywhere in the Maldives.
Furthermore, it’s easier and more economical to get around Bali than the Maldives; public transportation is safe, used by many tourists, and is very cheap. The activities available tend to be more budget-friendly as well.
The Maldives is made up of several islands, and getting from island to island can be costly and more complicated than getting around Bali.
Which Is Better for Tourists?
Bali and the Maldives are both great options for tourists, depending on each person’s personal preferences.
If you’re interested in being pampered in a luxury resort, water activities, and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to dine in an underwater restaurant, then the Maldives might be the best option for you.
If you prefer a trip that’s more flexible, with a large range of accommodation options and a variety of activities between beaches, jungles, and temples, then you might enjoy Bali more.
Bali: Best Things To Do
Here are some of the best things to do in Bali. Between soaking up local culture and experiencing natural beauty, there is a lot in Bali to keep any traveler busy.
Ubud is a town in south-central Bali and one of the best places to stay while you’re on the island. It’s a great place to soak up Balinese culture and get a mix of relaxation and adventure into your vacation.
Visit the Ubud Market, open from 6 am to 6 pm every day, which sells a combination of locally sourced food items, handicrafts, gifts, and souvenirs.
Take a stroll in the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, known for its conservation of the habitat of over 1,000 monkey species. There are also rice terraces, water temples in and around Ubud, and a vibrant foodie scene of Balinese and international food.
Ubud is also a well-known yoga and wellness destination, and there are several yoga retreats in the area.
Tegalalang Rice Terraces are a series of hilly rice fields famous for their beautiful green scenery. They’re also culturally significant and have been recognized by UNESCO for being an example of Bali’s traditional irrigation system.
The rice terraces can be visited in under a couple of hours. Roam through the fields as you enjoy the scenery, which holds a mix of human-made and natural beauty.
There is also a famous swing, Tegalalang Rice Terrace Swing, known for being one of the most famous swings in Bali, this swing between two palm trees allows you to get stunning views of the terrain as you swing high into the air.
Nusa Penida is a beautiful island in the southeast of Bali. Its commitment to environmental conservation means that there is a lot of natural, serene beauty.
It’s a great place to snorkel and scuba dive. Crystal Bay and Atuh Beach are known for their powdery white sand and turquoise water.
You can get a ferry to Nusa Penida from Sanur and visit in a day, but staying overnight gives you more time.
Mount Batur is an active volcano in north Bali and one of the highest peaks on the island. There are several hikes leading to its summit, which offers spectacular views of the surrounding land.
Hiking Mount Batur at sunrise allows you to watch the sky change color as you make your way to the summit, which is 5,633 ft above sea level. It takes around 2-3 hours to reach the summit.
If you love waterfalls, you’ll be in heaven in Bali; the island is home to dozens of beautiful waterfalls. The ones you visit may depend on what kind of experience you’re looking for. Some are highly accessible and close to parking lots. Others may require a bit of a trek.
Tegunungan Waterfall is just south of Ubud, is one of the easiest waterfalls to get to, and is surrounded by lush green vegetation. There’s also a large pool at the base where you can swim.
If you’re looking for a challenging trek, check out Sekumpul Waterfall, a group of 7 waterfalls in north Bali. It’s known for being the prettiest waterfall in Bali.
The Maldives: Best Things To Do
The Maldives is made up of 1% land, and the rest is water. So naturally, there are a lot of water-based activities to enjoy in the Maldives and take in the serene, tropical beauty of the Indian Ocean.
The Maldives is an ideal spot for star gazing, as its location on the equator means that you can see stars from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
Anantaara Kihavah is an overwater observatory on the roof of Sky Bar and gives you a great view and the perfect environment to enjoy the starry skies above.
The Maldives is an excellent snorkeling destination because of its shallow, clear waters bursting with live corals and marine life close to resorts.
If you’re really keen on seeing underwater life, then consider doing a snorkeling safari that takes you to different snorkeling locations around the islands and points out things that you may not have seen otherwise.
A Snorkeling Safari is a great way to explore more of the Maldives’ beautiful underwater scenery than what you’d see if you were only snorkeling close to your resort.
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is the world’s first underwater restaurant, located 16 feet (5 meters) below the surface. Ithaa means “mother of pearl” in Dhevi, the local language of the Maldives.
This adult-only restaurant is also one of the most expensive restaurants in the world, with dinner starting at around $320 per head. However, in exchange, you have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing fish and other sea creatures swimming by and stunning gardens of coral reefs from the view of your table.
You can save a little bit of money by eating at Ithaa for lunch, but the price will still be over $200 per head. Meal options include creative recipes with seafood and chicken, but vegetarian options can be requested.
Good to know: Bring sunglasses and wear sunscreen if you’re eating at Ithaa during the day, as it can still get pretty bright, even 16 feet below the surface.
A sunset fishing trip allows you to experience the stunning colors of the Maldivian sunset over the Indian Ocean.
Sitting out on a boat, waiting for the fish to bite as you watch the sunset, is a great way to unplug and connect with travel companions. It’s also one of the most romantic and peaceful things to do in the Maldives.
Afterward, you can enjoy a freshly caught dinner.
Visiting Malé offers a unique experience in the Maldives outside of the touristy resorts. Visiting the “real Maldives” allows you to immerse yourself in the locals’ culture and daily lives.
Malé is a relatively small island city with a population of around 150,000. With many busy streets, markets, and historical buildings, it has a completely different feel from the island resorts.
Malé is home to the Malé International Airport and has boats that go to Sri Lanka and India. It’s also a good hub for traveling to any of the islands in the Maldives, so it’s fairly easy to get to and return to the island where you’re staying.
You can find a lot of local food options in Malé, with Maldivian staple foods such as Garudhiya (fish soup) or Roshi, a flatbread. Check out the Malé Local Market, where you can find artisan and locally made handicrafts, gifts, and souvenirs. It’s open every day, from sun up to about 6 pm.
Seafood lovers may enjoy visiting the Malé Fish Market, open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Wrap-Up: Bali vs Maldives
Bali and the Maldives offer stunning natural beauty and the exotic vacation many tourists are looking for.
Bali, known as the “Island of the Gods,” offers a lot of cultural, spiritual, rainforest, waterfall, and volcano-based activities. If you’re looking for a mix of adventure and relaxation, then you will love Bali.
The Maldives is a tropical paradise that makes for an idyllic honeymoon and luxury vacation where you have access to exclusive hotels, beaches, and some of the best snorkeling and diving locations in the world.
Regardless of which you choose, I am certain that you will be happy with either Bali or the Maldives. Ultimately, your choice will depend on what you want out of your vacation, but neither one will disappoint.