MOOREA | The Enchantress
Moorea is everyone’s dream of a spectacular Polynesian paradise. Often believed to have inspired the mythical “Bali Hai” from James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, it is a magical island of savage yet captivating beauty; a land where emerald mountains rise from sandy shores and tower over pineapple plantations, ivory beaches and shady lagoons.
Here, life moves at a much slower pace. Beyond the hands of time, a carefree existence prevails, where the dream of walking barefoot in the sand for hours on end and basking in the glow of the warm, tropical sunlight can become an instant reality. It is this carefree lifestyle, coupled with its close proximity to the island of Tahiti, that makes Moorea a favorite among Tahitians and visitors alike. And the locals – just like the lagoon that surrounds the island they call home – are extremely warm and inviting to all arriving guests. This relaxed, friendly atmosphere, set amidst the island's rare, natural beauty, is what gives Moorea her unique charm.
Along Moorea's waterfront road lie her quaint villages with their many boutiques, restaurants and hotels. These establishments are interspersed with uninhabited beaches and secluded coves, maintaining a perfect environment for complete solitude and relaxation. A journey to the interior part of the island reveals cascading waterfalls and amazing panoramic views of Cook’s and Opunohu Bays, whose midnight blue waters are dotted white with yachts resting peacefully at anchor. To explore her pristine landscape and witness her alluring splendor is to discover what many artists and travelers have seen before your time: Moorea’s timeless beauty and virtually untouched scenery.
LEGEND | The Pierced Mountain
According to ancient myth, Hiro, god of thieves, had plotted to steal one of Moorea’s three mountains, Rotui, and take it to Raiatea. When warned of Hiro’s evil intent, Pai – who was half god, half man and known to have incredible strength – decided to keep close watch from Point Tata’a on Tahiti. When the thieves attempted to steal the mountain, Pai threw his spear through the top of Mount Mouaputa, awakening the roosters who sounded the alarm and drove away the unwelcome visitors. However, the thieves still managed to steal a piece of Mount Rotui and with it, some toa trees, which can be found isolated on a mountain on Raiatea. And to this day, Mouaputa still has the needle hole from Pai's spear.
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Located only ten nautical miles from Tahiti, Moorea is easily accessible by ferry or plane from Papeete. This proximity, coupled with the island's receptive and neighborly nature, makes Moorea a favorite destination for couples, families and even locals. Still, Moorea has managed to maintain its small island feel despite this popularity and the presence of a few internationally branded resorts.
The attraction toward Moorea comes as no surprise; the island is a geographical marvel. Eight voluminous mountain peaks rise from its translucent lagoon, creating a distinctive and rugged silhouette visible from the western coast of Tahiti. Splitting the northern shore are two symmetrical bays: Cook's (Paopao) and Opunohu Bay. The island is roughly shaped like a heart from overhead; and in the theme of love and romance, Moorea is one of the top honeymoon destinations in Tahiti—second only to Bora Bora.
This unique landscape gives Moorea a reputation for being one of the best islands for adventure and activity—both on land and on the water. This means that, newlyweds aside, a Moorea vacation is ideal for families, too. Many resorts on the island offer kids programs and amenities, free meals and fun activities suited for children of all ages.
Popular lagoon excursions include snorkeling, paddle boarding, cruising and fishing. During mating season, August to October, we highly recommend a whale watching tour with resident marine biologist Dr. Michael Poole. Another incredible experience is an encounter at the Moorea Dolphin Center, the only natural refuge where you can swim and play with dolphins. For complete exhilaration, try parasailing or skydiving and enjoy unforgettable panoramic views of the island.
On land, you can discover quaint villages and beaches along the waterfront, or abundant pineapple plantations at the interior. It's very easy to rent a car and drive or even bike around the island in a day. You can also explore the scenic hillsides by Jeep, ATV or on foot. There are a variety of hiking trails suitable for everyone from the casual walker to the high intensity hiker. Regardless of how you prefer to get there, plan to see the view from Belvedere Lookout.
Other activities include golfing at the Moorea Green Pearl Golf Course, the only course in French Polynesia next to the Olivier Bréaud Golf Course in Tahiti; or visiting Moorea's Tiki Village for a traditional feast and authentic Polynesian dance show.
Moorea resorts offer a diverse selection of overwater bungalows and garden villas. These four- and five-star accommodations include everything from the world-class Hilton, InterContinental, and Sofitel, to the more boutique Moorea Pearl. There are also a few small hotels and private guesthouses known as pensions available throughout the island.
Moorea is the pride and joy of French Polynesia. She may be considered Tahiti's little sister, but she steals the spotlight every time. The island is a true reflection of the laidback Tahitian lifestyle and the warm, welcoming character of French Polynesia and its people.