Glimmering like an emerald in a sapphire sea, Moorea is the crown jewel of Tahiti’s Society Islands. This French Polynesian destination has everything you need to get away from it all: volcanic mountains, pristine beaches and friendly locals.
Follow our guide to make the most of your day in this South Pacific paradise.
Take a Hike
The first thing to do in Moorea is grab a bottle of water and head to Belvedere Lookout. This majestic peak is worth the hike (or a quick drive) for its stunning view of the island’s verdant canopies and sacred Mount Rotui.
On the way up, you will see plantations, colorful Tahitian houses and the unique archeological site of Marae Ahu O Mahine.The ruins of this ancient temple are more than 1,000 years old, and while little remains of it, the historical and cultural value is priceless. Plus, you’ll likely have the site all to yourself, except for a few friendly wild chickens.It takes several hours to reach the top on foot, but there are some transport options. Rent a mountain bike for a great (and scenic) workout, or opt for a scooter or 4×4 off-road tour, if you’d rather not break a sweat. Once you’ve scaled the terrain, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of Moorea (and surrounding islands) and topaz water.
Go for a Dip
To cool off, head to one of the island’s many waterfalls or beautiful stretches of sand. There are picturesque public beaches such as Tamae and Ta’ahiamanu, but if you want to spoil yourself, get a day pass to a resort. Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa and Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort are popular spots for an afternoon of bliss. Passes here usually include lunch, drinks, towels and a cabana or deck chair on one of the most beautiful shorelines you’ve ever seen. Watersports equipment, including kayaks, snorkel gear and paddleboats, is also available for use.
Divers flock to Moorea to swim with sharks and stingrays inits crystal-clear waters. Almost every hotel and port offers not only the chance to encounter marine life but also feed the sharks. For a unique perspective, book an underwater safari with Aqua Blue at InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa. Don a yellow bubble helmet and follow your experienced guide on a tour of vibrant coral, tropical fish and maybe a resident ray or two.
Eat Your Heart Out
No matter how you spend your day, don’t miss out on Tahitian cuisine, an exotic mix of French, Polynesian and Asian flavors. Moorea takes its food seriously — even street food is held to high standards.
Stop at a stall or a local restaurant to try poisson cru, a Polynesian delicacy of raw fish marinated in citrus, coconut milk and, typically, green onions and peppers. Sashimi is also popular in Tahiti, but you really can’t go wrong with any fish dish. Fresh catches are always easy to come by.
In the evening, roulottes (local food trucks)are the best place to grab a casual bite. These roving restaurants are famous for their flavorful international plates, including pizzas, chow mein and steak frites — the Francophone dish has been adopted as one of Tahiti’s national dishes.
Grab a Souvenir
Before you leave, browse the shops and markets for keepsakes. Top buys include perfumed monoi coconut oil, pareos (a Tahitian version of a sarong) and the locally farmed black pearls. You can find these rare gems for a bargain on Moorea at $15 to $30, or splurge on an exceptional strand in the $10,000 range.
Don’t miss out on sampling local tropical fruit and fresh croissants and baguettes — the island’s French influences ensure phenomenal pastries.
The best shopping areas include Pao Pao Market on Cook’s Bay and the village of Maharepa, where you’ll find exclusive Polynesian and French boutiques. Le Petit Village is also worth a stop to browse its pearl shops, bookstore, fresh produce and fabulous restaurants and stores nearby.