April 27

Unique and Fun Things to Do in Moorea (French Polynesia)

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The speck of green against endless blue grew into a coastline as our ferry approached the island. White sand rimmed the verdant jungle, which climbed over itself in a mess of foliage that smothered the island’s mysterious interior.

moorea beach

A beach can't get much nicer than this...

As we reached Moorea in French Polynesia it was hard not to appreciate the beauty of this Pacific island, perhaps the most amazing I have seen in the world (definitely much more beautiful than Vanuatu, another island country we'd visited earlier. It resembles Kauai in Hawaii, but with a much nicer ocean).

While getting there from Tahiti you can see that the water is as crystal clear as it can be, with coral reefs everywhere and spectacular sunsets put an end to every day.

Moorea fulfills all your daydreams of an island paradise, and with so many things to do in Moorea you easily spend a lifetime here and not get bored- I guess it's the reason many French nationals have moved here.

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things to do in moorea
things to do in moorea

Where is Moorea?

Spin your globe to the Pacific Ocean, roughly half way between Australia and Mexico. Squint, and you may see a handful of dots collectively labeled “French Polynesia”. One of those tiny islands is the tropical paradise of Moorea.

The island is located just next door to Tahiti in French Polynesia.

How to Get to Moorea

Don’t expect to see any direct fights to Moorea from … well, anywhere really. Remember you’re visiting one of the most remote islands in the world; if Moorea was a breeze to reach, then perhaps it wouldn’t be the secluded hamlet it is today.

Your first step to getting to Moorea is to fly to Tahiti. Almost all visitors to Tahiti come via Los Angeles, arriving at the Faa'a International Airport in Tahiti.

moorea bungalows

From there, Air Tahiti has around four flights a day to the nearby island of Moorea. However, these flights don’t always match up nicely with inbound trips from LAX, so there’s a good chance you’ll have to wait overnight in Tahiti.

If you find yourself in this situation, consider embracing it, and staying a night or two in Papeete.

The administrative capital of French Polynesia, Papeete, is interesting enough for a few days, and there are regular ferries to Moorea.

Taking the Ferry From Papeete to Moorea

moorea ferry

The view of Moorea arriving from Papeete with the ferry

Only one company, Aremiti, operates ferries from Tahiti to Moorea. The trip is only 30 minutes, and Aremiti has regular scheduled Papeete to Moorea departures throughout the day, all year round.

What’s the Best Time to visit Moorea?

The sweet spot here is to visit Moorea sometime between May and October, when the weather is mild and dry, with clear skies and gentle waters. The coolest months are June to October, which have average temperatures around 28-29 C.

MOOREA-MAIAO WEATHER

June, July and August are definitely the most popular months, though with good weather comes higher prices across the board.

Tip

Come slightly earlier in May for slightly hotter temperatures in the low 30s C, or aim for October for good weather and slightly thinner crowds.

The rest of the year can be pretty hit and miss, mostly due to storms that batter the South Pacific.

cruise in moorea

November through to April can see intense cyclones crashing into these islands. Most years, these storms are intermittent, with destructive ones being somewhat rare; though the exception is El Niño.

If you arrive during storm season in an El Niño year, you’d better be prepared for some extreme weather.

Things to do in Moorea

Once you’ve arrived, you’ll find Moorea activities range from hiking to diving, experiencing Polynesian culture at the Tiki Village and just lazing on the beach.

Magic Mountain

Get your bearings by climbing to the commanding heights of Magic Mountain, a forested hike with great views of both the sea and island.

From the trailhead, the hike shouldn’t take you more than an hour. While many visitors tackle the trek as part of an ATV tour, it’s walkable, even from the dock.

things to do in moorea

The view of Belvedere from magic mountain.

Just remember to pay the XPF 200 (US$2.50) per person at the box near the trailhead. Also, bring sturdy shoes and plenty of water; the last 15 minutes or so of the ascent are a bit rough, and the summit is fully exposed to the tropical sun.

Belvedere Lookout

Another great option for Moorea hiking, Belvedere Lookout is a bit of a drive, but has panoramic views of the island’s interior.

hiking moorea

Be careful on the trail, however; it’s quite thin, and frequented by ATVs. Many visitors also do the lookout as park of a 4x4 safari day tour of the island.

Moorea Lagoonarium

If you want to go diving in Moorea the easy way, then beeline straight for the Moorea Lagoonarium. From the ticket booth on shore, it’s a three minute water taxi ride to an island surrounded by waters reserved for this unique lagoon experience.

moorea diving

 The Lagoonarium staff will do everything for you; from guides to safety ropes to protect you from being pushed out to see by the currents. Scuba and snorkel gear aren’t included in the price, but can be hired.

moorea snorkeling

This is definitely one of the best opportunities for some Moorea snorkeling, with sharks, rays and countless varieties of tropical fish coming out during the Lagoonarium’s twice-daily feeding events.

Try your hand at ray feeding, or just gawk at the reef sharks as they descent on the food frenzy.

Opunohu Valley

The scenic Opunohu Valley is both good for hiking and for getting up close to some of French Polynesia’s best preserved marae.

Once serving as communal meeting centers for pre-colonial Polynesians, marae can be found throughout the valley, along with other remnants of the ancient civilization that once thrived here.

moorea

Opunohu Valley was densely populated for around 600 years, from roughly the 13th to 18th centuries. Since excavations began in the 1960s, over 500 pre-colonial buildings have been identified, some of which can be observed by hikers.

Start your archaeological adventure at the Lycee Agricole, which occasionally hosts a small market of local produce. Take the uphill road towards Mount Tohiea, and follow the trail to the imposing Marae Titiroa. This enormous marae is just the first, with two more smaller ones being found further along the trail.

A six hour, round trip hike that takes in all the major ruins starts and ends at the Lycee Agricole, and is suitable for anyone of moderate fitness.

Opunohu Bay

The nearby Opunohu Bay offers visitors panoramic views of the lush island interior in one direction, and the calm, mirror-like waters off the shore. Worth the pit stop, especially if you have a kayak or two handy.

moorea kayak

Tiki Village

After visiting the ruins at Opunohu, your interest in the authentic Polynesia should have been perked a little. To see a bit of traditional Tahitian culture, visit the Tiki Village for one of its famous shows or cultural events.

moorea beach

Just look at the ocean. Wow.

Along with the dance show and signature Tahitian feast nights, the Tiki Village also offers demonstrations of Tahitian tattooing, flower crown making, pareo painting and more.

Book in advance, and they’ll even pick you up from your hotel.

Moorea Dolphin Center

If you’ve spent some time in the South Pacific, then you’ve probably seen your fair share of mediocre aquariums – this is not one of them. The Moorea Dolphin Center has just one, clear cut raison  d'être; it’s all about swimming with dolphins.

shark swim moorea

On arrival, you’ll receive a 15 minute educational course, before being tossed in the water with a friendly dolphin. The dolphins seem to love human interaction, and will let you swim alongside them (we swam with dolphins in Oahu, Hawaii).

Transfers from your hotel are available for additional cost.

The Best Beaches in Moorea

You could rush to hit up the sights, sweat up the mountain and get stuff done on your vacation; or, forget it all and just whittle away the days on one of the world’s most stunning beaches.

If you opt for the latter, then these beaches are good starting points for enjoying Moorea’s coastline.

moorea ocean

Most of Moorea’s best beaches are located on the northern face of the island. These are mostly swimming and diving beaches, rich in sea life that flocks here to feed off the fertile coral reefs that ring the island.

Due to these reefs, surfing is mostly pretty bad, though that doesn’t mean there aren’t some serious currents around.

Stay safe, and be aware of your surroundings.

Temae Plage Publique

Comprising of much of the northern coast of Moorea, Temae Plage Publique is a seemingly endless stretch of white sand bordering unbelievably electric blue waters. In the distance, Tahiti can be seen on clear days.

moorea beach

The beaches in Moorea are perhaps the nicest I've seen anywhere.

Mareto Plage Publique

Sandwiched between Cook and Opunohu bays, Mareto features coconut groves that make for some great photography. Often visited on jet ski tours.

Ta'ahiamanu Plage

One of the best activities in Mooea is snorkeling, and Ta'ahiamanu’s clear waters are perfect for some fish watching. Consider Moorea snorkeling tours around here.

moorea snorkeling

Where to eat in Moorea?

K Restaurant is often considered the most prestigious restaurant on the island, specializing in multi-course extravaganzas that can last for hours. Bring insect repellent.

Meanwhile, local favorite Le Lezard Jaune Cafe does some of the freshest fish anywhere on Moorea.

For cheap eats, consider Pizzeria Manoarii. Finally, our favorite brunch spot was A L’Heure du Sud, a trendy little shack serving up ice cold juices and crunchy baguettes and mountain views.

Where to stay in Moorea

Moorea resorts clearly tend towards the expensive side, with many aimed specifically at honeymooners.

Best Budget Accommodation in Moorea

However, if on a budget look no further than Camping Nelson- it's located in the north side of the island right by a superb beach- just check these two pictures I took while I was there.

camping nelson moorea
camping nelson moorea

Tent sites cost 14€/night per person and dorm rooms cost 18€/night per person, although the dorms are actually two person cabins which means that you’ll be sharing it with one other person at most.

With plenty of space and good facilities you don’t really need anything else (check this budget tent guide by Globo Surf).

On the other hand, if you’re looking for Moorea island resorts, then the unique experience to go for here are overwater bungalows.

Find Accommodation
in Moorea

moorea overwater bunglaows

Most accommodation is expensive, but there are some good options at affordable rates. This is paradise!

Moorea Overwater Bungalow Options

One of Moorea’s signature sights is the iconic overwater bungalow. It’s simple: picture a thatched roof bungalow in all its timber glory, now imagine it’s perched over azure waters off the coast of a verdant Pacific island.

moorea overwater bunglaows

These overwater bungalows definitely represent the best way to stay in Moorea, and can be more affordable than you think – especially during low season. A few good picks include:

Sofitel Moorea Ora Beach Resort -These bungalows are situated over colorful reefs bustling with tropical fish. At night, enjoy views of nearby Tahiti. *Check Rates*

Manava Beach Resort and Spa - Also offering reef views, Manava’s claim to fame is as the first place in the South Pacific to experiment with overwater bungalows.*Check Rates*

moorea overwater bungalows

I took this picture of the Manava Beach Resort right before heading out on the shark and stingray swimming tour.

InterContinental Moorea ResortOne of the largest resorts on the island, the InterContinental’s overwater bungalows are somewhat more affordable and have a convenient location. Extremely popular among honeymooners. *Check Rates*

beaches moorea

A Bora Bora Sidetrip?

The jewel of French Polynesia, Bora Bora, is less than an hour by plane from Moorea, making it a tempting side trip for many visitors. Direct flights are available with Air Tahiti, though prices can be pretty high.

Expect to pay somewhere between US$700-1000 for a return trip between the islands.

Things to Do in Bora Bora

Like Moorea, Bora Bora has options for hiking, diving and more.

Mount Pahia

Avid climbers must hit Pahia, the second highest mountain on Bora Bora and one of the most impressive anywhere in the Polynesian islands.

bora bora day trip

It’s a tough but short 1 hour scramble to the summit, and best done with a guide. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with clear, 360 degree views of the island below.

Bring all the things you’ll need for a day trip, including plenty of water. Worth doing on all Bora Bora vacations.

Visit Mount Otemanu

Bora Bora’s tallest peak, Otemanu is 2,400 feet above sea level. Unfortunately, the peak isn’t accessible for travel, though numerous operators run tours along the mountain’s flanks and forested surroundings.

The most popular trip is a tour by foot/jeep to sights around the island, including caves and rusting World War II relics. These relics date back to the months after the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, when the US was scrambling to protect its vulnerable Pacific islands.

bora bora

Under a secret plan, Bora Bora was designated the primary supply depot for US forces in the South Pacific, and heavily fortified in preparation of a expected Japanese invasion.

The assault never came, and today the forests around Otemanu are riddled with forgotten bunkers, anti-air guns and other bits and bobs that will impress anyone interested in military history.

One fun activity is to hunt for the eight 7"/44 artillery pieces scattered across the wilderness.

At the time, these were some of the heaviest caliber rapid fire armaments available to the US military, and today remain quite the experience to see.

Plage Matira

Bora Bora’s most famous beach snakes around the island’s eastern and southern coasts, and has views of offshore islands like Raiatea and Tahaa.

bora bora beach

Bloody Mary’s

This iconic bar is best known for its flavorsome cocktails and meals of fresh caught fish.

After a day of exploring Bora Bora, settle down under the thatched roof and enjoy the views of sailboats in Powai Bay over a daiquiri or two.

FAQ

What to do in Moorea when it rains?

What’s the best time to visit Moorea?

What are the best beaches in Moorea?

What to pack for Moorea?

Things to do in Moorea from cruise ship stops

How long is the ferry from Papeete to Moorea?

Are there any free things to do in Moorea?

Plan Your Moorea Trip

Accommodation in Moorea

Booking.com has over 100 hotels in Moorea including apartments and resorts. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee. Check prices.

Don’t forget Airbnb for your home rental stays.

Flights to Moorea

Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

The DollarFlightClub.com is an airline deals service that sends you emails with ultra low/error/hack fairs to pre-selected airports of your interest or more. Get warned whenever a massive deal to Moorea appears!

Rental Cars in Moorea

RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, and Alamo. 


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  1. i´ll never forget polynesia, even if the mosquitoes ate me alive!! best beaches ever and the water…it´s like swimming in an aquarium. expensive, yeah, but sooo worth it!

  2. Thanks for the tips. I’ve always thought of the South Pacific as $1000+ per night kind of vacation. You’ve proven otherwise.

    1. You’re welcome Jen! Tahiti is well worth considering as a vacation spot if camping is OK with you. It’s an unreal place that you should not miss- if you can get there.

      Federico

  3. Wow, these pictures look stunning! I’ve only been to Fiji in terms of South Pacific Islands. It was pricey, but like you prove, there are always budget options available.

  4. My parents spent some time hitchhiking here with me as a one year old and then (after many years of Scottish camping) took me back at the age of 17- I spent a month in Tahiti, huahine and moorea. We were lucky enough to have a French friend living there, but headed out to some of the islands for a life of cheap camping, 6 am beach swims, rotisserie chicken and a few nights in a dilapidated but amazing wooden house. My favourite place in the world, even if it has been a good 14 yrs since my visit. If employment wasn’t such an issue I would be there right now! 🙂

    1. Hey Amytiare, I can relate to your love for the island! It is paradise indeed, specially when away from Papeete. Any plans on returning some day even if for a visit? 🙂

  5. Definitely paradise on Earth! Exactly how you describe it – what you see in the photos is real. So crystal clear. I also thought it would be expensive and kept me away. Was only until I received an email with flight specials from Air Tahiti Nui that got me thinking about it again. I’m from Melb, Aus. I’m not one for camping but stumbled across a self-contained private bungalow which accommodated my family, also with it’s own beach right next to the 5 star hotel on Temae Beach 😀 What a bargain compared to the resorts!! We stayed 10 nights in Sept 2013 plus the obligatory overnight stays in Papeete. We also took the ferry over to Moorea. I have the Moorea bug and need to return. I miss the rays and reef sharks. Oh and the wonderful people 🙂 My permanent gift from Moorea is a gorgeous tattoo, drawn free-hand by a local tattoo artist.

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