Moorea is an island in the Society Islands archipelago, only a few kilometers off the northwest coast of Tahiti.
If you are visiting French Polynesia on a budget, Moorea is the place to be. Moorea is like Tahiti but cheaper and less touristy. It's mostly rural and farming is big. There are chickens everywhere, the roosters crowing at 6AM can get old after a few days.
Mosquitoes can be a problem away from the coast. Bear that in mind when selecting a place to stay.
There are only a few banks on Moorea located in only a few of the more populated villages. All banks are closed on Sundays. You can make currency exchanges at the major hotels. But at a lower rate. Plan accordingly.
Moorea doesn't really have any "cities" although there are several towns and villages. When entering a village you will see an official road sign stating the name of the village you are entering. When exiting the village, you will see the same sign with village name. But the village name will have an "X" over it.
Take the high-speed ferry from Papeete. It's only a couple of bucks more than the slow one, takes half the time, and it's much more sea-worthy. The channel between the islands can be choppy.
Air Moorea - Ten minute flight in a small prop driven plane. Flights run back and forth between Papeete every half hour. The Air Moorea terminal (Terminal 2) in Papeete is located away from the main air terminal. Note the direction of vehicle traffic as it passes though the main air terminal. Walk in the opposite direction of the vehicle traffic until you reach the far end of the main air terminal. The Air Moorea terminal is located beyond this point. Be careful if you get airsick. The planes are small (hold about 10-12 people) and fly at a low altitude so if there is any rough weather you will feel it the whole ride over.
The roads are surprisingly good (thanks France). The main roads are all paved and quite wide. You can rent a moped for a day for about $50 USD and drive it around the island in a few hours without fear of death. If you don't know how to ride one, take it slow or you WILL get hurt. Or rent a car (expensive), or take a taxi (expensive), or Le Truck (cheap). There is also a shuttle bus service to and from the ferry terminal that goes around the whole island periodically. Hitching works with the usual caveats and risks.
Belvedere Lookout, You can see sacred Mt. Rotui, Cook's Bay, and Opunohu Bay. There's also the ruins of an ancient temple located along the road to Belvedere Lookup.
Waterfalls, There are several scattered around the island. None are very big. All require some hiking. Some you are supposed to pay a few dollars to see although there may or may not be anybody around to accept payment.
Jus De Fruits De Moorea, The pineapple juice factory and distillery. Free tours of the factory floor have been discontinued, but the gift shop remains open along with the free sample of various liqueurs.
Snorkeling, You can rent or buy snorkeling stuff but do yourself a favor and bring your own. Just about anywhere in the lagoon is pretty decent. The channel between Motu Fareone and Motu Tiahura off the northwest point is particularly nice. You can swim out to it from the beach but it's a long swim and there are strong currents in this area. Otherwise hire a boat. A good tour to take is Hiro's tour out of Club Bali. It is a reasonable price and you get to do a feeding with sharks, stingrays and also a picnic on a motu.
Surfing, Reef breaks mostly, not a good place for beginners.
Hiking, There is a pretty extensive trail network on Moorea. Bring bug spray and lots of water because it's hot and humid and buggy. It also tends to be muddy.
4x4 off-road tour, These are guided tours of Moorea's amazing interior. Trips will vary based on the tour company you choose. Most trips are about 4-hours in length and will travel to four distinct locations. Some of the locations visited are listed in the previous section. This is an easy method for visiting multiple locations in a short period of time.
Horseback riding, This is a great way to see the beautiful interior of the island. Your guide will pick fresh fruits from trees and pineapples from the ground for you to eat when you reach the high lookout point. Wear jeans and good shoes.
Tiki Village, Instead of paying for your hotel's Tahitian buffet and show, spend the money and go to the Tiki Village for a much better dinner and show. You will be shown around a replica of a traditional Tahitian village, educated about the local Polynesians' way of life, served a buffet dinner, white and red wine included, then entertained by a talented 60-person troop of dancers, singers, and musicians. Transportation and tickets arranged by your hotel activities desk.
Moorea Store (Shopping), B.P. I380/98729 Papetoai/Moorea, The Moorea Store offers many things from souvenirs, to lotions to Black Pearls. Xavier and his Partner own the store and are very friendly and helpful. Xavier had the best prices for black pearls than anywhere we visited in Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora. He was very grateful for our business and gave us many items as gifts, even a beautiful black pearl to be made as a ring. This store is located across the road and to the right of the Intercontinental Resort and Spa. *Tuatini Activities* is also operated by Xavier and his wife Taina, they provide Sunset cruises, Private tours, Motu transfers with Picnic, Motu rental, fare rental, wedding and Glass Bottom Boat. Tel (689) 74 32 50 and email Irioa@mail.pf
The humid climate can cause a decrease in appetite. Thus locals tend to have many small meals or snacks though out the day.
Poisson cru is the way to go. Food trucks (roulottes) are also present though not like in Papeete.
Dairy products - Milk is not pasteurized and thus cheeses and yogurts are more flavorful.
Across the road from the ferry station is a pizza place well worth a visit. It's run by a French couple that speaks no English, but the menu has English explanations and the ham and pineapple are highly recommended.
There are also great pizza places just up the road from Club Bali and the Moorea Pearl Resort. Both are reasonably priced and you will get your money's worth. We hit either up when we have been in Moorea.
Baguette, The local bread. Make a sandwich with meat, cheese, etc.. Nothing fancy. Very portable. Along with a beer, this makes for good eats on the beach.
Every hotel has a bar and there are lots of little bars and restaurants around. But drinking in bars in French Polynesia is damn expensive. Your best bet is to buy some Hinano bombers at the store and drink on the beach.
You will be charged an additional 60XPF deposit fee when purchasing Hinano bottles larger than 12oz. You can redeem your deposit at any location that sells Hinano. The larger bottles are sent back to the Hinano brewery for reuse/refill.
Tabu is another local beer. Only available in 12oz bottles. Slight more expensive compared to a 12oz bottle of Hinano. Tabu is better tempered to the Tahitian heat. Unlike Hinano, Tabu is very drinkable at all temperatures. Cold, slightly chilled, room temperature.
There are only two really cheap places on Moorea and they are almost next door on the northwest corner of the island. Well there are a couple other cheap places that aren't on the beach and where you might get carried away by the mosquitoes.
Moorea Camping (Camping Moorea?), 56.14.47, 56.14.47, Tiahura, Haapiti, Cheap and right on the beach. It's a nice beach too, good sand, in the lagoon, palm trees, the whole megilla. Great reef snorkeling. Nice grounds with trees and flowers. Tent camping is available, as are dorm style, and motel style rooms. Kitchen facilities. Shared bathrooms, cold water (you won't want hot water anyway). Very basic accommodations, bring your own soap, TP, etc. No mosquitoes. Very social. Definitely the backpacker spot.
Club Bali Hai , 888-222-5406 (from USA), 888-222-5406 (from USA), Cooks Bay, Motel rooms and overwater bungalows. Very scenic location. There is only a small artificial beach here. The water is fine for swimming, warm and deep. It's not very good snorkeling though, it's not so clear and there isn't much coral. Good snorkeling can be found nearby though. There is a decent restaurant and a pool. Rooms are in good condition and have AC and some have kitchenette. Within walking distance there's only one other restaurant (Italian) and a small bodega. There's no night life. If you get an over-water bungalow, beware of the one closest to the road, it's not over very much water and it's quite close to the road. Friendly staff, decent poisson cru.
Pensions, Various locations along the main highway, Meaning
There are some really fancy hotels and resorts here although no super-resorts like on Tahiti. Club-med used to have an outfit here but it's abandoned now.
The Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa , This is the cheapest of the high end resorts. Room types range from motel rooms to overwater bungalows. The views, along with the beach, are not spectacularly and thus the most you should splurge on is the garden bungalow. This is an 80+ room resort and crowds will frequent the common areas. Mainly the pool, bar, and restaurant areas. The resort guest list is a mix of families and couples only. Snorkeling at the resort's beach is not very good. The big buffet dinners are Wednesday and Saturday nights. Wednesday (appx $63 + service fees per person) with song and dance by a local dance troupe. The Saturday buffet ($76 + service fees per person) concludes with a fire dance. Better non-entertainment dining options are available within walking distance of the resort for half the price. Within walking distance of the resort is a small village. Exit the resort to the main road, turn right, and proceed for five minutes. You will arrive at a market, bank, snack bar, and a pizza restaurant. Exit the resort to the main road, this time turn left, and proceed for ten minutes, and you will arrive at another market with better prices and greater selection. There's also a neighboring Japanese and seafood restaurants as well.
The Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort, TP Michigan 8/2008: Is quite pricey (=>$700 USD for 2 people in OW bungalow) but is a pristine, beautiful resort with fantastic staff and facilities. They had the best bungalows we saw on the islands. Reefs and coral were not as spectacular off the bungalows as they were at Le Meridien on Tahiti, but Ia Ora's has the bonus of having individual stairways to the water at each bungalow, a big plus.
The Intercontinental Resort and Spa Moorea, Also lovely and had OW bungalows, but they were built on sand/rock instead of on docks over the water, so technically they were only a little over the water. However, they offered the best variety of activities.
Everybody speaks Tahitian and French. Anybody working in tourist services will speak enough English to get by, although it's not well spoken by the general public.
Moorea has almost no violent crime. Petty theft can be an issue. Check your valuables at the desk or keep them on you. At least keep them stashed out of sight. Odd things may be taken, like the beat up old sneakers you left outside to dry the night before you are leaving, forcing you to hitch a ride to the bus stop because you have no other footwear to make the mile walk up the road and the pavement is a million degrees and there's broken glass in the margin, and then buy $20 USD flip flops to wear on the plane.
Perhaps due to its lack of reliable public transportation and its outrageously expensive taxi fares, Moorea has a serious drunk-driving problem (with both tourists and locals equally guilty). Take particular care when walking or cycling the island's only paved road after dark; it gets pitch-black and can be quite dangerous away from the main villages (where you'll also be more tempted to walk or cycle in the middle of the road due to the amount of broken glass on the shoulders).
There are a couple of islets around Moorea you can visit.
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Jason Minamora, David, Nick Roux and Jeffrey Laughlin, Inas, Texugo, Ryo-oh-ki and Tatata7
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