Moorea is the typical postcard-perfect tropical island. With its lush green forest reigned by the high Mount Tohivea, the clear crystal waters and, lively underwater world, Moorea charms every island visitor. Its raw beauty, easy access and affordability (for French Polynesian standards) contribute to making Moorea a popular stop in most holidays to French Polynesia. Also, it is very popular among Tahitians as the island is a short ferry-ride away from Tahiti. Despite its popularity, this paradise ain’t overcrowded or massively built for tourism. Quite the opposite, Moorea feels secluded and super authentic!
This was my second island stop in my French Polynesia itinerary and after four days there, I did not want to leave! I fell in love with the relaxing and friendly vibe.
As independent travellers, we rented a bike to explore Moorea in-depth. After going around the island, snorkeling, swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, cycling and walking, here are my recommendations.
SPOTS IN MOOREA YOU MUST SEE
There are two spots in Moorea you must see due to their beauty:
- Belvedere Lookout
Nestled at the top of a dense jungle, this viewpoint offers a fantastic view of both Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay and, the tropical canopy.
You can reach there on a steep hike, by bike, quad or car. There are also many tours including this lookout on their island itinerary, in case you don’t feel like driving.
- Temae beach
An insanely beautiful long beach on Moorea’s east coast. The water is sparkling light blue and abruptly changes to deep ocean blue beyond the reef. Its powder-soft white sand is fringed with tall coconut palm trees to provide a bit of shade. In case this is not enough, your eyes are treated with the best view of Tahiti’s silhouette.
The beach is public so anyone can access it (yes! Many beaches in French Polynesia are private). And it is very easy to reach by car/bike and park.
TOP 3 ACTIVITIES YOU NEED TO DO IN MOOREA
Whether you are visiting Moorea as an independent traveler or as part of an organised holiday package, there are 3 activities you cannot miss out on:
- Snorkel with sharks and stingrays
If you only have time or money to do one thing in Moorea (and I really hope this ain’t true), swimming with black-tip reef sharks and stingrays should be your top priority. It is such a wonderful and interesting experience. Leave your fear aside and jump in the water to swim with them. The water is not deep and they are used to human encounters but please, treat them respectfully.
All the major resorts and hotels in the island organize these snorkel and swimming trips, so it will not be difficult for you to make arrangements. We wanted to get as much quality time in the water as possible, so we visited early in the morning in a very small group (5 with the boat captain!). It was great to have the lagoon to ourselves! All other boats began crowding the lagoon as we were ready to leave. We booked the trip the afternoon before with Tip Nautic.
- Take a boat trip
No matter the reason for your boat trip, you need to see the island’s northern coast from inside the lagoon. You will be marbled at the water shades and clarity and, appreciate Moorea’s beauty in a different way than from land.
- Watch sunset
Sunsets in French Polynesia are gorgeous! The unpolluted skies turn from pretty pastel hues into vibrant fire colour. As you see the sun setting over the South Pacific Ocean’s horizon, you can have a drink or dinner at one of the many nice sunsets spots. Some of the prettiest views coupled with nice ambience are Moorea Beach Café by Bruno Jamais, Hilton Moorea or Intercontinental Resort. If you prefer to watch it by the beach, any quiet spot you see along Tiahura and Hauru’s coast will do!
ADDITIONAL FUN OPTIONS
Besides the 2 must-see spots and 3 must-do activities just mentioned, there are many things to experience. My pick is:
- Driving around the island
- Scuba diving outside the lagoon
- Kayaking to Motu Tiahura
- Visiting the Tiki Cultural Centre
PUBLIC BEACHES IN MOOREA
There are not many public beaches in Moorea as the few sand strips are taken by hotels or private properties. Among the ones I visited, these were my favourites:
- Temae Beach
- Ta’ahiamunu Park
WHEN TO GO TO MOOREA
Moorea has a tropical climate with warm temperatures all year round but with 2 well-defined seasons: a dry one (May to October) and a wet one (November to April). These seasons coincide with the high and low tourism periods, respectively. So, you can imagine accommodation and flight prices are reflections of these marked seasons. Hence, if you want a drier beach holiday, be prepared to pay more. I went at the beginning of May and the weather was perfect!
WHERE TO STAY IN MOOREA
There are different accommodation options to suit different travel budgets. The most luxurious resorts are Sofitel, Hilton and the Intercontinental Hotels, offering first-class location and facilities. There are few mid-range hotels/resorts, guesthouses and cosy “fares” (typical Polynesian house).
We were lucky to find a great AirBnB on the northern coast with an amazing french host. We had a mini bungalow with an outdoor shower and basic kitchenette, located adjacent to the host’s house. Although the place was basic, it was perfect for our stay and incredibly cheap for Moorea (under $100 a night). Unfortunately, the family moved out of Moorea this year, so the place ain’t available for renting anymore.
If I were to visit Moorea again without the means or will to stay in one of the top resorts, I would probably stay at: Anapa Beach Guesthouse (located on the left side of Temae Beach), Moorea Sunset Beach or Hotel Les Tipaniers (both located at Tiahura beach).
PRO TRAVEL TIPS
If you are anything like me that enjoys customised experiences and runs away from mass-tailored tours, then play it by the ear in Moorea. The locals and foreigners residing in the island are the best source of information and contacts. You will not leave Moorea broke and will probably discover this paradise more in-depth.
These items should be with you at all times:
- Sunscreen (preferably, biodegradable so the marine ecosystem is better preserved).
- Mosquito repellant – they grilled me every evening!
- A Hat – the sun is very strong and there is little continuous shade
- Snorkel – so you can admire the seafloor from any of the public beaches without having to rely on an organised tours
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