Hi everyone! I’m Stefan Elmer from the Instagram page @stefan_elmer. In this travel article I would like to share with you the best things to do in Moorea – a beautiful island part of French Polynesia in the South Pacific.
I grew up (and still live) in the northwest corner of Washington State. My wife and I are wedding photographers, and as we travel for weddings, we find ourselves shooting more and more scenic photos along the way.
I remember my first camera – one of those disposable ones – and getting some really fun up close shots of some deer at Hurricane Ridge. I got super excited about those photos! From then on, photography was always something I enjoyed but never pursued until long after high school.
Nine Beautiful Days in Moorea
Moorea has been on our radar for a few years. Honestly I think we “found” it via Instagram but I can’t remember for sure. As we typically travel to Hawaii multiple times a year for weddings, we found ourselves in 2020 feeling desperate to travel. Hawaii was closed and weddings weren’t happening.
When we felt like it was the right time, and French Polynesia had been open to tourism for over six months, we grabbed a cheap flight and decided to just do it! Moorea is a small island but from what we had seen and heard, it was about as beautiful and scenic as it gets. We decided to stay on Moorea without doing any other island hopping for nine days.
We wanted to relax and see as much of the island as we could, without feeling too rushed. This turned out perfect for us! We spent every other day relaxing, enjoying a pristine beach or our villa’s backyard – and the other days exploring. Also, hiking and driving around seeing what we could of the island. Everywhere you turn is stunning, so we never ran out of eye candy.
My Favorite Place in Moorea: Motu Islands
Probably the most memorable and overall fun experience was going out to the “motu” islands (Tiahura and Fareone). We went with a local company that provided fresh poisson cru and fruit and just an incredible experience overall. Plus it was so beautiful to see Moorea from offshore in all it’s beauty!
Top 10 Things To Do in Moorea
1. Visit the Motu Islands of Tiahura and Fareone
Going out to the “motu” islands was incredible! We went with Moorea Miti Tours – a company we highly recommend. Both of these islands are paradisiacal in their own way with great beaches and snorkeling.
2. Check out Ta’ahiamanu & Temae Beaches
Both Ta’ahiamanu and Temae public beaches are gorgeous! Ta’ahiamanu Beach is a wonderful spot for all the usual beach activities like sunbathing, relaxing and snorkeling while Temae Beach is regarded as the best beach on the east coast of Moorea – and one of the best in all of French Polynesia.
3. Drive to Belvedere Lookout for Superb Views
Belvedere Lookout offers one of the most epic views you will ever see! It’s an easy drive up to the lookout. From the top you will be afforded wonderful views of Moorea’s mountains, bays and agricultural fields.
4. Hike the Three Coconuts and Three Palms Trails
Both the Three Coconuts and Three Palms Trails start from the Belvedere Lookout. On these hikes you will have incredible views and enjoy a leisurely walk (not too difficult). Go in the morning before it gets too hot though.
5. Find Fresh Fruit and Produce from Roadside Stands
Get as much fresh fruit and local produce from roadside stands as you can! Typically it will not only be way cheaper than the grocery stores, but we found it to be better quality and freshly picked from local growers.
6. Cruise around the Entire Island of Moorea
Driving around the island is a must-do. It only took us a few hours and fortunately our rental home provided us with a car for the entire trip. There are many beautiful spots to see – we kept pulling over to take photos!
7. Book a Sunset Sail with Polynesian Spirit
Definitely book a sunset sail! We booked with Polynesian Spirit and had an incredible sail around the northwest tip of the island at sunset, cruising through the blue lagoons and seeing sharks and rays below.
8. Try Local Eats at Roadside Stands and Food Trucks
Like the fruit stands, make sure to stop at the food stands and trucks that can also be found on the roadside. Some of the best food we had on our Moorea trip was at the tiny roadside stands serving up local eats.
9. Experience the Great Polynesian Night
We did the Great Polynesian Night at Tiki Village which felt a lot like a Hawaiian luau but obviously with more Polynesian influence. It was fun but I wouldn’t say it was an absolute must-do. It’s the only experience like it on the island – so do it if you want something like that during your stay.
10. Swim with the Sharks and Rays of Moorea
Most of the companies that take you out to the motus also stop and let you snorkel and swim in the lagoon. At first, we were a little nervous to get in the water with those creatures but it was so much fun and we really did end up feeling 100% safe about it. Just another unforgettable experience!
Bonus: Meet the Friendly and Lovely Locals
To be honest and I’m not just saying this – the locals are so friendly! It’s like they were not just kind people but they also embraced tourists (I guess we looked like tourists). We have visited other places where tourists aren’t especially welcomed but that was not the case at all in Moorea.
Great Food Scene in Moorea
We found some places we loved and some places we weren’t sure about. Overall there is something for everyone. We had to check which places were open and how late places were open. A lot of that uncertainty had to do with COVID and the fact that tourism wasn’t fully ramped up.
Again, our favorite spots were the roadside stands, acai bowl/smoothie stands, food trucks, etc. The best “fancy” meal we had was at the Sofitel Resort that we went to for a date night. We thought the local poisson cru lived up to the hype and we enjoyed eating it at multiple places.
Where to Stay in Moorea
We stayed at Robinson’s Cove Villas – an incredible set of rental homes on Opunohu Bay that you have to check out! There are a few big hotels with overwater bungalows, but our style is to get our own place with our own kitchen so we can cook and have privacy. There are a lot of great deals to be found on Airbnb. Our top suggestion, though, is Robinson’s Cove Villas.
Memories that will Last a Lifetime
Something that will stick with me forever in Moorea was the moment I put my snorkel mask below the surface of the water and immediately saw a handful of sharks and a few sting rays. It kind of took my breath away.
Not only because it felt a bit scary at first but it was just absolutely beautiful to see these creatures in the wild. I took it all in for a few minutes before I couldn’t resist breaking out my GoPro and shooting some photos. I ended up getting some of my all time favorite shots that day in Moorea!
Need to Know Before you Go
Something to be mindful of is all the logistics of getting to and from Moorea. You will have to fly into Tahiti – Papeete Airport – and likely spend the night there unless you get there early enough in the day. From Papeete you take a ferry (very easy walk on ferry) to Moorea. Once on Moorea, you will need to make sure you have transportation to your lodging.
So it did take a bit of planning to sort this out. Luckily, almost everyone spoke English and we had no issues or hiccups getting around. We exchanged some USD for XPF bills so that we had some walking around cash but most places take VISA. So again, we had no issues there either.
As always when you visit somewhere, respect the local land, people and culture. Be mindful and considerate of the COVID rules still in effect and tip well! Thanks for reading everyone. To see more photos and content of our Moorea trip you can follow the link here.