The name Moorea refers to an island and not a city. It is also
sometimes called the Magical Island. Moorea has no urban centers, but rather
it is home to a series of small
villages along its shores, such as
Vaiare, Paopao and Haapiti. The island is about 80 square miles in area and has a
permanent population of under 20,000. Typical of French Polynesia
islands, it is ringed by a low coral reef that protects the island and
creates its fabulous blue waters. The Opunohu Valley around Opunohu Bay is lush with fruits and tropical plants. A series
of mountain ridges makes Moorea picturesque when viewed from the ocean
or by 4x4 from one of the ridges. It is a much more natural and
uncluttered island than Tahiti. Typical of all of Polynesia, the cost of living is extremely
high with nearly every food except
swordfish and tuna being imported from continents far away. French
Polynesia is famous for its black pearls and there are plenty of
opportunites to purchase them.
Expect very little variation in temperatures throughout
the year. Average highs will be about 85 F (30 C) and lows will
average 75 F (23 C). The rainy season extends from November to
April. Temperatures can be slightly higher during this period,
because this area of French Polynesia is south of the equator. June through October
are the popular tourists months, because they are drier. It can
rain any time of year though and global warming influences of El Nino
bring inconsistency to weather forecasting. We think
September is a good bet for the best month to visit Moorea.
Moorea is located about 16
km (10 mi) from Tahiti and is easily accessible by air on Air
Tahiti Nui or regularly scheduled ferry service on Aremiti
The ferries both land at Vaiare and operate in a
manner that makes them seem almost like the same company. Many inhabitants of Moorea use the
ferry to reach jobs on Tahiti every day. The ferry system also
transports vehicles. Walk on passengers can leave suitcases and
packages with an attendant beside a large dolly on the dock and pick up
their luggage on the other side without ever tagging it. The road around the island has markers
at each kilometer from the airport and you need to pay attention to
whether you are going clockwise or counter clockwise. Haapiti is
the intersection of the marker systems at PK 24 clockwise or PK 37
counter clockwise. Cars are easy to rent and tour bus companies traverse the island
regularly, such as Moorea
Explorer. Local bus
service on Le Truck is inexpensive and coordinated with the arrival of
the ferry. Le Truck service around the island can be irregular at other
Things to see and do in Moorea:
Moorea is one of the best snorkelling locations in the world.
Guests at the Hilton Moorea rave about the variety of fish seen from the overwater
bungalows. Tropical fish are even visible
through glass floor sections in the bungalows. The InterContinental
Moorea has very good snorkelling too. During our Take That Vacation visit in 2015 at
the InterContinental we found that overwater bungalows on the inside
lagoon had some beautiful sections of coral teaming with smaller fish, while
the bungalows facing the sea had larger fish. We saw coris, chromis, triggers, brown clownfish, damsels, squirrelfish, bright blue parrotfish, an eagle ray, numerous varieties of butterfly fish,
reef sharks and lots of Picasso triggers. The snorkelling was excellent and occupied most of
Black tipped reef shark snorkel
The shark and stingray excursion is one of the most popular tours
in Moorea. The stingrays congregate inside the reef a short
distance from the InterContinental Moorea. The black tipped
reef sharks have learned that they can pick up bits of fish and
squid from the ray feedings, so they have moved inside the reef to
join the stingrays. Moorea is very laid back on safety.
Ensure you keep your fingers in tight anywhere near the underside of
a stingray, as they can't see what they are chomping down on as they
search for food. It's safe to touch their backs. The
reef sharks keep circling around the rays and snorkelers.
They are safe to snorkel with as long as you don't touch them or try
to feed them.
The sharks and rays can be reached by a tour from the dock at the
InterContinental or by one of their kayaks. There are also
several variations of tours by hotels and independent operators in
Moorea. Add ons include lunch on a private motu (small
island), boating through Cook Bay & Opunohu Bay, or searching
for dolphins and whales. The independents are vying for the lucrative
tour market and provide information to tourists at the ferry landing
in Papeete en route to Moorea. These operators will pick up
and drop off at resort hotels and do bookings by a local call from
your hotel. In 2015 the rate for a 6 hour tour including rays,
sharks, whales, dolphins and lunch was $55 US per person with
while the InterContinental was charging $110 US per person for the
Humpback whales migrate to the area around Moorea and Tahiti to
have their young. They are typically present from July to
October, which makes September an excellent time for viewing whales
and their newborn calves. Rules about whale watching are slack
in French Polynesia. In 2015 some excursions included
snorkelling with humpbacks and their calves. While this is an
exciting opportunity, it's not something we recommend at Take
That Vacation. Guides indicated that snorkelers
shouldn't touch the calves, but remember it's completely at the
discretion of the mother whale as to when she might decide to defend
her newborn. Also, humpbacks don't have sonar and that makes
their motions much less predictable. You
definitely don't want to be too close to a breeching humpback, as
they may not have an accurate determination of your location in the
water or even your boat's location for that matter. Humpbacks
have been known to breech and accidentally land on kayaks.
InterContinental Moorea overwater bungalow
Travel the 61 km (40 mi) road that circles the island
via rental car, rental dune buggy or with an excursion. It's
impossible to get lost on Moorea, as it's the only road on the island
and it always brings you back where you started.
Take an off road excursion to the Belvedere Lookout.
Near the viewpoint are ruins of the Polynesian temple of Titiroa
From the parking lot at Titiroa, a trail leads through the forest to the
at Marae Ahu-o-Mahine. Try the Moorea
Circle Tour and Belvedere Lookout or Albert
ATV Fun Tours.
Scuba diving, kayaking, rowing on an outrigger canoe, paddle
boarding, kite boarding and deep sea fishing.
Visit Opunohu Bay, Opunohu Valley and Cook's Bay
with views of Mount Mouaputa, the Shark's Tooth.
Tiki Theater Village
has a Tahitian dinner and
performance. The performance gets much higher ratings than the
dinner. Shows are not held every day, so plan
accordingly. You will also be able to buy woodcarvings,
handicrafts and black pearls. Take an outrigger canoe ride offshore.
Toatea Overlook has views of the Sofitel overwater bungalows.
Atiraa Waterfall and the unmarked Polynesian ruins of
Umarea Marae on the waterfront at PK 10, both near the village of Afareaitu.
Restaurants within walking distance of the InterContinental
Snack Mahana - this restaurant is about a 20 minute walk
to the left from the InterContinental. In 2015 it was open from 11am
to 3pm and was cash only. They served mahi mahi, tuna,
burgers, chicken and fries. The restaurant is extremely
popular with tourists, but we found the prices only slightly less
than the hotel and the quality the same.
Le Motu Pizza Grill - this restaurant is about a 30 minute
walk to the right from the InterContinental to the small village of
Hauru. It was cash only. The prices were significantly
less than the hotel and quality was fine. A burger, fries and
soda in 2015 were $11.50 US versus $28 at the hotel. For
dessert a sweet crepe and a scoop of ice cream was only $4.
The clientele was mainly local.
Taihura Restaurant - located a few steps away from the Le
Motu. Check Trip Advisor for reviews.
We enjoyed our stay at the InterContinental Moorea immensely.
Torea Nui Tours shuttled us to the hotel from the ferry landing.
Moorea Tours also provides shuttle service. The hotel is at the
northwest corner of the island, past Cook's Bay and past the Hilton.
The Good -
The overwater bungalows are very large and have a luxurious feel.
They have king beds, oversized bathtub, couch, satellite TV and a
large deck. The bathroom doesn't have a door and the shower isn't
enclosed, which is a great feature. The deck is large enough for a
table, two chairs and two lounge chairs. There is a freshwater
shower on the deck and a ladder straight into the ocean. Without the
overwater bungalow, the visit would have been a mistake.
The overwater bungalows are all connected by a short bridge and in
the middle is the dolphin center. It was popular, but we didn't
participate as it just feels wrong to see these animals in
captivity. It's presented as a research facility, but it's really a
revenue generating tourist attraction that even has a speed dial for
it on the room phone. The overwater bungalows on the outside had
much deeper water and larger tropical fish. Several people said they
had reef sharks swim under their balcony when it was feeding time at
the dolphin center. The overwater bungalows on the inside had
smaller fish and some beautiful sections of coral teaming with fish.
During our stay we saw coris, chromis, triggers, brown clownfish,
damsels, squirrelfish, bright blue parrotfish, an eagle ray,
numerous varieties of butterfly fish and lots of Picasso triggers.
The snorkelling was excellent and occupied most of my time.
The Not So Good -
The main hotel building isn't as impressive as the InterContinental
Tahiti. It's set lower down and doesn't have the expansive views
that the hotel in Tahiti does. That takes away from the ambience
greatly. The dining staff were all female here and lacked some of
the flamboyance that the male waiters at the InterContinental Tahiti
entertained us with. The meals were slightly more expensive on
Moorea (it's expensive everywhere in French Polynesia, as nearly all
the food is imported from places like New Zealand). A hamburger and
fries were $22 US here vs $19.50 in Tahiti. Bottled water was $5 for
a half litre. Some of the meals were great and some weren't. We
enjoyed samosas and pizza fenua (tuna pizza), but hated the chicken
Caesar made with fatty fried chicken skewers. The poisson cru (raw
tuna in coconut sauce) was better in Tahiti. There was also a French
dining restaurant open nightly, but it was way too expensive for us.
We went al la carte instead of the all inclusive price of $129 US
per person per day.
To save money on meals at the InterContinental Moorea, walk 20
minutes left to the restaurant named Mahana. This is a popular cash
only spot that serves from 11am to 3pm. They have tuna, mahi mahi,
chicken and burgers. Quality is ok and prices are about 25% less
than at the hotel. Alternately walk about 30 minutes right to the
small village of Hauru and you'll come upon three options in the
small town of Hanua. We enjoyed Le Motu. The served hamburger, fries
and a pop for $11.50 which is half the price of the hotel. I added a
sugar crepe and a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert for $4.
Desserts at the hotel started at $11. It's a great option for saving
money and for walking off the fries and ice cream.