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Moorea, French Polynesia
Oceania | Romantic | Sun | SCUBA | Horseback
|Moorea, French Polynesia|
|Where: South Pacific Ocean|
- Tropical luxury
- Beach vacation
- Beautiful tropical island
- Jagged mountains covered by tropical rainforest
- Overwater bungalows over turquoise lagoon
- One of the most developed nations in South Pacific
- Polynesian culture
- Healthy protected marine life
- Long flight
Why visit Moorea in the Pacific Ocean?
French Polynesia is a perfect destination for luxury tropical vacations and honeymoons. There are also less expensive options, but most people come with expectations of luxury. Initially we visited Bora Bora because of its fame, but fell in love with the country and came back to visit Rangiroa, then Moorea. Every time we have a big birthday or anniversary the first thing pops in our minds is French Polynesia. It is the only tropical destination we came back twice and hope to come again. What makes the place so special is a perfect combination of the natural beauty of turquoise lagoons, jagged mountains, crystal clear waters teeming with marine life, Polynesian culture and modern luxury with the overwater bungalows.
As there are many islands, some tour operators offer island hopping, usually combining Bora Bora with Moorea and other islands. If you do combine islands, stay at least 5 days at each, otherwise you will be exhausted moving around. As we normally have vacations in two-week blocks, we prefer to stay at one place, enjoy it and then come back to another island some other time. Remember that first few days are spent flying and adjusting to jetlag.
Where in the world?
Moorea is an island in French Polynesia, Oceania. Many people know Bora Bora, the iconic island of this island nation. The country consists of over 100 islands scattered over a large area in the tropical South Pacific. The main island is Tahiti with the capital Papeete. Moorea is the closest large island next to Tahiti, easily accessible by a ferry from Papeete.
Due to its popularity and administrative ties with France several airlines fly to Papeete's Faa'a International Airport (PPT). As it is pretty much in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there is usually a stop at a closer hub such as Los Angeles (LAX), Vancouver (YVR) or Tokyo (NRT). Air Tahiti Nui is planning a non-stop flight from Paris which will be about 16 hours. Presently it takes 10 hours from Tokyo or Vancouver and 8 hours from Los Angeles.
The easiest way from Papeete to Moorea is via a ferry. Taxis are running between the airport and the ferry dock. There are two companies running the ferry route at the time of writing Aremiti and Terevau. We did not buy fare beforehand, just came to the ticket window and bought tickets for the first available ferry. The dock is in the city center and you can spend some time in the city, to buy that last pearl on the way back or just stroll around. On arrival at Moorea there are plenty of taxis. Frequently, people buy an "island hopping" package and the logistics becomes all-inclusive.
The power supply in French Polynesia is 220 Volts 60 Hz, European plug with two round prongs. Some hotels may have additional 110V with North American plugs, but do not count on it, assume it will be 220V with two round prongs.
Official language is French but most people speak English as well, especially on the islands with large tourist flows. We have not encountered a person who did not speak at least some English in Moorea.
The currency is the Comptoirs Français du Pacific, or French Pacific franc (CFP). It has a fixed exchange rate relative to Euro. 100 CFP = 0.838 Euro or 1 Euro ~ 120 CFP.
Vaccination and infections
According to CDC no vaccination is required in addition to the routine vaccination established in most countries (subject to your country of origin and your personal vaccination). Typhoid and hepatitis vaccines are recommended. There is NO reported risk of malaria in the country. Prevent yourself from insect bites to avoid insect transmitted infections (dengue, zika, west Nile etc.). Yellow fever is required for entry if you come from an endemic area. Please see updated information for health at CDC site or health authority in your country.
Residents of EU are exempt from visa. For most other countries visa is not required for stays of less than 90 days. The list of exempt countries is here. If you require visa, Schengen visa is not a substitute. Please check updated information from your country of origin and time of travel.
When to go?
Temperatures are almost the same all year round, 24-30 degrees Centigrade. There is only a slight dip by 2 degrees during the southern winter, June through September. These are also the drier months. It can rain more in November through March. We have been to French Polynesia in April and June. Contrary to the averages, April was drier for us, but we cannot compare it with the statistically rainier period of December - February. It seems that April through October are the better months to visit South Pacific.
Where to stay?
Moorea does not have a coral atoll that would shelter a large lagoon like in Bora Bora. It is a heart-shaped island. There are lagoons that are sheltered by the bays and shallow waters, but they are not as large. Therefore, opportunities for overwater bungalows are limited. At the time we went there, there was only one resort with bungalows stretching far from the shore - Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa. There were other resorts with overwater bungalows but the bungalows were close to the shore.
Our experience at the Hilton was exceptional. Our bungalow was facing sunset. We would watch sunset every evening sitting on the deck and sipping bubbly wine. The views were breathtaking as that side also faces the jagged mountains of Moorea. Please watch the video above. The restaurants were good, with a Polynesian French blend. One is in the middle, between the overwater bungalows. They make full meals out of crepes. As it is overwater itself you can watch sharks and small fish cruising under you. There were Polynesian shows every other night which were of decent quality. On free nights we would venture to the outside restaurants. We would recommend visiting those as they offer different experience. All restaurants are seaside.
What to do?
The main activity at a luxury resort is relaxation. Enjoy the view, swim in crystal clear waters, and absorb the tranquility. Snorkeling can be done right in front of your bungalow. There is abundant marine life. For honeymooners or those who celebrate anniversaries the resort offers Polynesian wedding ceremonies. There are a spa and a small gym at Hilton.
SCUBA diving was easy and suitable for novice divers. There were no currents, the dive profiles were shallow, and the water was warm with good visibility. Although there was representative at Hilton, the dive shop itself was at another resort, 10 minute drive away. As anywhere in French Polynesia there were abundant reef sharks and other marine life. Coral is mostly hard, like in most other islands of French Polynesia, and we did not see any bleaching. Our overall impression was of easy diving with very healthy coral and marine life. Did we mention abundant sharks?
One day trip that is suitable for everyone is the stingray feeding area. The stingrays can be brought on your chest by feeding them. The activity usually attracts several boats and a good number of people. Bring your own mask and snorkel, you do not need fins since you will be standing in chest-deep water. Be careful with your fingers if you feed rays. They do not have teeth but their jaws are strong. They can squeeze hard! The overall experience was a bit surreal. A crowd of people with a crowd of rays and occasional small sharks all in quite excitement and action. After feeding rays the tour operators usually take tourists to a nearby island for a lunch. You can also try to attract the rays at the island. They cruise around hoping to be fed again. Bread or fish leftovers may attract them.
We frequently ride horses during our vacations. It gives you a different perspective, seeing the countryside from a horse. Modern developments follow roads, while horse trails are away from it. You can see real country. You also see what type of horses are bred in the area, how they are cared for, and what tack is used. While riding in Moorea, we realized why it is called "Pineapple Island". There are vast pineapple fields. The views were quite unusual, lush tropical vegetations with red soil and a background of jagged mountains. The horses behaved well, almost too well as they did not want to move a foot from the trail or change pace, very safe for non-riders or younger tourists.
We have no affiliation with any booking agency/site, attraction companies or resorts. We simply share our experience and opinions. Some information may be outdated, please check with primary sources.