The heart-shaped island of Moorea is the closest neighbour of Tahiti, located only 30 minutes away by boat. One of the Society Islands, it’s a breath-taking mix of pearly beaches, lush mountains and bright lagoons.
Being so close to Tahiti, Moorea is popular for its white sand beaches, exciting activities and friendly locals. It’s the perfect destination for travellers looking to combine total relaxation with a taste of remote adventure.
Moorea is one of the most popular islands to visit in French Polynesia, as it is so easy to reach. It is connected to Tahiti by a 30-minute ferry. It’s easy, quick and cheap – I highly recommend the ferry as a way of getting to Moorea.
However, you can also fly. If you are coming from Bora Bora, Huahine or the Tuamotu Islands then you will arrive on a plane. Paul Gauguin’s ‘Tahiti & the Society Islands’ cruise stops at Moorea as well. This is a great alternative way to see the island if you are short on time.
There’s a wealth of accommodation on the island, ranging from tiny locally run pensions to mid-range boutique resorts, as well as some beautiful and luxurious hotels. Your choice will be influenced by your budget, but there’s more choice than you might imagine. Here are some of my suggestions.
This lovely property sits in the north of the island, set between the blue lagoon and green mountains. All the garden bungalows here have little plunge pools. This means whether you stay in one of those or in an overwater bungalow, you’ll always be close to the water. Between July and November, you can often see whales breaching in the ocean from the balconies of the overwater bungalows. Just incredible.
One thing I loved at the Hilton Moorea is the crepe bar that sits on the stem of the overwater bungalows. You can enjoy a delicious crepe while watching the black tipped reef sharks come and go through the water. It’s sure to add something a little different to your stay.
I really loved the Sofitel Moorea. The overwater bungalows are lovely, with gorgeous décor and comfortable beds. Located on one of the most beautiful beaches in Moorea, it’s a real slice of paradise.
The best thing about the Sofitel Moorea is the coral garden. Not all overwater bungalows in French Polynesia have coral and tropical fish so close by. This is a real treat and a huge highlight of staying at the Sofitel. The food is also genuinely spectacular, combining French influences with Polynesian ingredients. Think tuna tartare with creamy avocado and fresh roasted fish with spicy sauce. Delicious.
Tucked away on the west coast, Moorea Beach Lodge has quite a Cape Cod feel to it. Think white shutters on the windows, lots of calming blue walls and a very relaxed vibe. Far more affordable than the classic resorts, it’s a wonderful low-key option without unnecessary frills.
The kitchen and bar are both open to guests, so you can cook your own food to save on costs. It’s a magical setting to whip up a meal and eat dinner on the beach. A huge palm tree bends lazily over the sand. Grab a cup of homemade tiare flower ice-cream from the kitchen and watch the sunset into the ocean! There are also kayaks and bikes for you to use at your leisure.
Green Lodge is a beautiful little pension (Tahitian guesthouse) located quite close to the airport. Don’t let that put you off! Polynesian-style bungalows surround a little swimming pool and you can see the ocean through the verdant foliage. The food is also fabulous and the Mahi Mahi in vanilla sauce is to die for.
Small but perfectly formed, Green Lodge is very popular. It’s a great option if you’re looking for boutique beach break with real local flavour and a sense of simplicity. If you hope to stay here, be sure to contact us a good few months before you travel. They book up very early.
Thanks to its lagoon, Moorea offers some of the best snorkelling in French Polynesia. Moorea Lagoon has nine ocean passes, where cold sea water floods into the warm lagoon. This deep ocean water has a lot more oxygen in it, which keeps the coral here healthy and colourful!
Almost every tour in Moorea will include some snorkelling, so you’ll have plenty of chances to discover the coral. However, if you’re really interested in exploring the underwater world, it’s best to book a snorkelling tour that will take you to the very best areas around the island.
Moorea is a great place to go jet skiing because the calm lagoon is huge. I had never been jet-skiing before and was nervous but after five minutes I got the hang of it. The trick is to sit in the wake of the person in front of you. Don’t turn too quickly or you’ll fly off!
We headed off into the lagoon and rode all the way to a tiny island. Here there were huge stingrays in the shallow water, only about 6 inches deep in places! Next, we zipped over into the middle of the lagoon where we spotted more rays and lots of blacktip reef sharks. It was a fantastic day.
Between July and November, the waters around Moorea are home to humpback whales, travelling up from Antarctica to breed. In Moorea, it is possible to enjoy a whale watching tour, with the chance to swim alongside the whales. To share the water with these magnificent animals is a joy – a real once in a lifetime experience.
The whale watching companies that we work with are all committed supporters of the conservation of whales. Any interactions with the animals are strictly controlled and only go ahead if deemed safe for both the whale and you.
Moorea is a paradise for hikers. You’ll find lush green hills, adventurous trails and excellent hikes around the island for all skill levels. Trek up to the summit of Mount Rotui and you’ll be rewarded with views over the twin bays of Moorea.
The Three Coconuts Hike is one of the most popular on the island. This pretty walk takes you through deep forests of spindly trees and giant bamboo. Most of the hikes on Moorea are self-guided and your hotel concierge can help you decide which trail is right for you.
If you want to explore but hiking isn’t your thing, a quad biking tour could be just the ticket. Whizz up to Ōpūnohu Valley to enjoy the views from Belvedere Viewpoint. Spend the day zooming through the tropical plantations scattered around the island. It’s so much fun and a great way to explore the island quickly.