French Polynesia, who has never dreamed of it? Consisting of hundreds of islands, French Polynesia is nothing less than a paradise on Earth. Between a turquoise blue lagoon, tropical white sand beach, and lush mountains, Moorea island has everything to please. In this blog post, I share with you a full Moorea island travel guide that gathers the must-dos and how to swim with humpback whales. After reading this guide, you will have everything you need to know to organize your trip to Moorea island and enjoy French Polynesia to the fullest.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
When to visit Moorea island?
Located in the middle of the Pacific ocean, French Polynesia has two distinct seasons:
- Winter from May to October (which is the dry season)
- Summer from November to April (which is the rainy season)
During the rainy season, temperatures are very high (between 35-40 degrees celsius) with a humidity level close to 100%. Although this is the low season (and therefore making attractive accommodation prices), I strongly advise you to avoid this time of the year. Indeed, with many hours of rain per day, it will be more difficult for you to enjoy your stay on Moorea island to the fullest.
That is why I would suggest visiting Moorea island between June and October. If possible, try to avoid the months of July and August since it is the summer vacation for a large part of the world.
Moreover, if you wish to meet the beautiful humpback whales, you should come to Moorea island between September and October. In fact, humpback whales come to reproduce in the waters of French Polynesia during this period of the year, before heading North. You might have the chance to swim with them and make a dream come true (more information under the tab “What to do on Moorea Island”).
“However, don’t be surprised if you have rain showers from time to time during the winter season. Indeed, French Polynesia has a tropical climate all year round. During our time on Moorea island, we got rain pretty much every day for a few hours and we visited the island in October.”
Why visit Moorea island?
on all points, Moorea is one of the most complete islands of all the French Polynesian archipelago. As you can see below, by adding Moorea Island to your French Polynesia itinerary or by choosing Moorea Island as your only destination, you can’t go wrong and won’t be disappointed, that’s certain!
FAIRLY PRICED ACCOMODATION
Moorea island offers different types of accommodations to suit all budgets (see more details in the “Where to stay in Moorea” tab).
EASY TO GET AROUND
The roads are in excellent condition (with mainly paved roads), allowing you to move by yourself with a private means of transportation (car, scooter, or bicycle). There are even bicycle paths on a part of the main road of the island.
Only 40 minutes by ferry from Tahiti, is another positive point. No need to take a second plane to reach this small postcard setting called Moorea.
Moorea island offers lush and varied landscapes between mountains and tropical white sand beaches. As a result, travelers who don’t want to stroll on postcard beaches all day will have plenty to do with notably many hikes available. Indeed, the majority of the island is made up of lush and preserve mountains.
UNIQUE UNDERWATER WORLD
The diversity of its underwater world is incredible. You will have the opportunity to do extraordinary water activities such as swimming with humpback whales, snorkeling in coral gardens, or diving with sharks.
How to get to Moorea island?
Moorea is one of the very few islands in French Polynesia which is not only accessible by plane but also by ferry. Indeed, Moorea is located only 45 km away from its big island sister, Tahiti. Consequently, Moorea island is easily accessible for all travelers since the only International Airport of French Polynesia is located on Tahiti island.
In only 40 minutes by ferry from the ferry terminal of Papeete, you will reach the ferry terminal of Moorea (located on the East coast of the island).
There are 4 ferry companies available:
- Apethi Express
Price slightly changes depending on the ferry company but count about 12’300 xpf (US 100$) per vehicle (return) and 3’500 xpf (US 30$) per adult (return). You can either buy the tickets online or at the ticket office at the ferry terminal. Just be aware that the different ticket counters are only open for a short period of time each day and varies depending on the ferry company.
Also, there is an inter-island airport on Moorea island, giving you the possibility to get to the island by plane from Tahiti and/or continue your journey through the French Polynesian archipelago without necessarily returning to Tahiti to catch a flight to the next island.
How to move around Moorea island?
Although Moorea island is quite small (135 m2 in total), I sincerely think it will be necessary to have a private means of locomotion either a car, scooter, or a bike. Indeed, public transportation is rare (if not non-existent) on the island and not reliable in terms of time schedules either. There is only one bus that goes around the island and follows the main road.
The roads on Moorea are in excellent conditions and mostly paved. There are only a few small roads that are still dirt, but it is rare.
Renting a car while on Moorea island isf for sure a great idea. In fact, this means of transportation will allow you to visit every corner of the island without worry about the elevation road nor the road conditions.
We were lucky enough to have a car during our stay in French Polynesia thanks to our travel partner Avis Tahiti. After a great experience with them, I could highly recommend you to rent a car with Avis Tahiti while on Moorea island. They have four offices, including two on Tahiti island, and two offices on Moorea island (at the ferry terminal and the airport).
I advise you to pick up the rental car directly at the International Airport on Tahiti island to discover the beauty of Tahiti before taking the ferry to Moorea.
Moreover, you can drop off the rental car in another office than the one you pick up the vehicle. As a result, in case you continue your journey through the archipelago after you visit Moorea island, you can drop off the rental car at the Moorea Airport office. How great is that!
“I recommend picking up your rental car at Tahiti island International Airport to experience the beauty of Tahiti before taking the ferry to Moorea island. You can drop the car off in a different office than the one where you picked it up. Therefore, if you continue your trip through the archipelago, you can drop the car off at the Moorea Airport office. How great is that!”
If you still a motorized means of transportation but want to cut the budget, a scooter rental might be the right choice. Indeed, the scooter will allow you to move (almost) everywhere and freely. Overall, it costs about US$ 45 per day of rental.
Another alternative option would be to rent a bicycle. There is a bike path on most of the main road that goes around the island). But just keep in mind that it will be difficult to reach some points of interest due to the road elevation such as the Belvedere. That is why if you absolutely want to move around by bike, the option of an electric bike should be considered. However, the prices are about the same as a scooter rental (US$ 45 per day).
Where to stay on Moorea island?
As you can see, the island of Moorea is heart-shaped.
The Eastern side of Moorea island is home to the airport and the ferry terminal, as well as the famous Temae beach. This is also where you will notamment find the luxurious Sofitel Moorea Beach Resort with its bungalows on pilotis.
SOUTH AND WEST PART
The Southern and Western parts are the least developed part of Moorea island. Indeed, the South Western part of the island is the only part of Moorea that does not have drinking water. So yes, you understand correctly the rest of the island, meaning 80% of it is supplied with drinking water.
The Northern part of Moorea island is composed of Cook Bay and Opunohu Bay. In other words, the North part of Moorea is the place to be. Indeed, you will find in this region two of the three public beaches on the island, namely Tiahura and Ta’ahiamanu. That is why I strongly advise you to stay on the Northern part of Moorea island which is also central to all other activities (trailheads, water tours, etc).
No matter where you choose to stay during your visit to Moorea, you will find different types of accommodations, from the most luxurious hotel on Pilotis (and yes, no need to go to Bora Bora for that specific reason) to the small room in a local house. In other words, Moorea is suitable for all budgets.
Here are the accommodations that I recommend for your stay on Moorea Island, :
How long to stay on Moorea island?
We had the chance to stay 3 weeks in total on this paradise island and we would have liked to stay longer!
Therefore, if you are like us and you travel in the long term, Moorea island is an ideal place to put your luggage for several weeks. Indeed, between hiking, heavenly beaches, and marine life, you will not get bored. Also, if you don’t want to do island hopping while in French Polynesia, Moorea island is the most complete island of the archipelago in terms of landscape and activities.
If your goal is to make a circuit through the different islands of the French Polynesian archipelago, I would recommend staying 5 days on Moorea island. In this way, you will be able to take advantage of all the activities that the island has to offer.
Moreover, it is interesting to note that the island of Moorea is one of the most affordable islands (with the island of Tahiti) in terms of accommodation, transport, and food.
Where to eat on Moorea island?
First of all, note that Moorea island has two famous french supermarket chains. In other words, there is a super U store located on the North of the island and a Champion store on the East side of Moorea island, near the ferry terminal. Even though the prices are higher than in mainland France and slightly higher than in Tahti island, this is a great food option for all backpackers who want to cook at home.
Of course, the island also offers various restaurant options. However, do not expect to have big restaurants lining the beaches. We are far from it (and fortunately!). Moorea island is still very wild and it is notably what makes this island so special. Also, no fast food, but only local restaurants.
Here are some restaurants you should try during your stay on Moorea island:
- Tipaniers restaurant – great food options from seafood to pizza. Payment by card is possible.
- Vincenzo’s – the best pizzas on the island. Payment by card is possible.
- Snack Mahnaha – a very popular place, you have to come early to get a table with a view of the lagoon. Cash only.
Things to know before visiting Moorea island
- Sunday is a public holiday. Supermarkets close at noon. There is only one supermarket still open on Sunday afternoons, located just after the Papeotai post office. It is a red supermarket.
- If you are looking for calm, try to skip the beach on Sunday. Sunday is the day off for most of the locals. They will then go to the beach to have a bbq with their family and friends with music.
- Mosquitoes are present all day long. I suggest you buy anti-mosquito swirls (incense that makes smoke), so you can enjoy staying on your patio without worry. You can find the anti-mosquito swirls in any supermarket, it costs about 150 xpf.
- Local fruits are sold mainly in stables on the roads. So have some cash with you to be able to buy some fresh fruits.
- The lagoon is the home of various underwater creatures such as stonefish, poisonous cones, and corals. Therefore, it is recommended to swim with snorkel shoes at all times.
- The sun is strong in French Polynesia. Don’t be fooled while snorkeling and put on an anti-UV sweater.
- Polynesians tend to go to bed early and get up early since the sun sets between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm and rises between 5:00 am and 6:00 am.
- The local currency is the Pacific franc (xpf).
- The prices displayed in the stores are net. There are no taxes added at the time of payment.
- Credit cards are accepted everywhere except in market stalls and some of the local restaurants.
- Whale watching/swimming tours are the main activity on Moorea island between July and November. So remember to book your spot well in advance because places are limited.
- Driving is on the righthand sight and the roads are in excellent condition.
- A few classic words to immerse you in the Polynesian culture: Iaorana (hello), Mauruuru (thank you), Nana (see you soon)
What to do on Moorea island?
Moorea island is so diverse that it offers incredible resources for activities. From water activities to mountain activities, you won’t be disappointed.
swimming with humpback whales
Swimming with humpback whales had always been on our bucket list! We couldn’t have found a better place than French Polynesia to realize this dream of ours. We had the chance to swim with whales several times during our stay on Moorea island and we couldn’t be more grateful for this unforgettable experience.
Before embarking on this experience of a lifetime, it is important to know that this adventure is not for everyone. Indeed, you will sometimes be put in complicated water conditions. In other words, ocean conditions are unpredictable and can change rapidly. Moreover, you will have to swim at least several hundred meters in the middle of the ocean to be able to reach the whale (sometimes more if the whales move quickly). In fact, boats must keep a minimum distance of 100 meters for the safety of whales. Therefore, you can imagine that swimming several hundred meters in the middle of the ocean requires a great effort and, of course, to be comfortable being in deep waters.
Furthermore, you should also keep in mind that you will be in the middle of the deep ocean. Consequently, you might meet other marine life than just whales. In other words, you may have unexpected encounters with sharks for example. Don’t panic, they are not there to eat you, but it is important to know that before venturing into the waters.
There are a lot of tour operators that offer whale watching/swimming on Moorea Island. Most of the time you will have transportation included in the price of the excursion. On average, count US$ 100 per adult for a whale-watching tour. All tours are at least 3 to 4 hours long. You can then choose between a private excursion (much more expensive than you can imagine) or a group excursion (the one at US 100$ per adult). I would highly recommend Moorea Expedition. We did the tour twice with them and were very happy about how they respected the whales. Big bonus, their boat is bigger than the other providers and for the same number of persons (normally 14 people per boat).
After our four different experiences, I can honestly say that the time of the day of the expedition doesn’t matter (morning or afternoon). Indeed, the weather conditions change so quickly that it can be calm in the morning whereas the following day it will be calmer in the afternoon. So don’t worry about it because there is no wrong choice, just choose the time that suits you more. Personally, as I am seasick all the time, I preferred to go on a whale swimming tour in the early afternoon because it allowed me to eat well enough at noon so that my stomach could hold out during the excursion.
We had the chance to swim with humpback whales and their calves four different times during our stay on Moorea island. And each time it was a different and unique experience. No words are strong enough to describe what we experienced during those expeditions. One thing for sure is that these moments will always be in our minds, forever and always.
If you also want to live this amazing experience, you should organize your trip to French Polynesia between July and November. Indeed, it is at this time of the year that humpback whales come to breed in French Polynesian waters before heading North.
kayak on the lagoon
Moorea island is home to one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world. Therefore, it would be a shame not to explore it further right?
That is why I recommend you rent a kayak at Tipaniers Hotel. The prices are very reasonable (about 8 dollars for an hour of double kayak). Moreover, it is the ideal starting point to explore the wonders of the lagoon. Indeed, the beach from Tipaniers hotel is only 3 minutes by kayak from the spot of the rays and the black tip sharks.
Once you have enjoyed the spot of rays and sharks, I advise you to head to the coral garden, located on the left side of the beach from Tipaniers hotel. Count approximately 30 minutes of kayaking to reach it. In case you are not a kayak fan, you can also rent small motorboats, paddle boats, and bicycles on the water.
For the record, you will find many service providers who offer a tour of the lagoon by boat ( which includes the spot of the rays and sharks). I sincerely encourage you not to do it since most companies feed the rays to bait them.
“I advise you to go to the spot of rays and sharks at the end of the day to avoid all the big boats of the tour operators.”
Who says island, says beach, right? Moorea island offers postcard beaches. On top of that, they are all wild, meaning without infrastructure around it. A dream come true for all nature lovers! In summary, Moorea island has mainly three public beaches, all more beautiful than the others.
TA'AHIAMANU PUBLIC BEACH
Ta’ahiamanu Public Beach is filled with beautiful coconut trees along a white sand beach. In other words, this is the postcard-perfect sandy beach. The beach is located in Opnonohu Bay (on the North side of Moorea) and offers a beautiful view of the mountains (whether behind you or in front of you!).
Toilets and showers are available. The free parking lot opens from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm (there is a gate). Therefore, if you wish to watch the sunset, you will have to park your car outside the parking lot on the side of the road. There is plenty of room to do so, although it is not explicitly stated that this is allowed. You will also find a food truck in the parking lot that sells takeaway food (pizza, French fries, etc.).
“For shade, sit on the right side of the beach. There are several trees (other than coconut trees – watch your head) that will give you shade. It is also this side of the beach that will be spared from seaweed if there is any after a tide.”
tEMAE PUBLIC BEACH
Temae public beach, also known as Toata beach, is the longest sandy beach on Moorea island. Lined with palm trees, it is an ideal place to enjoy the translucent waters of the lagoon. However, it will be preferable to have snorkeling shoes because the beach is covered with coral corpses.
Free parking opens 24/24h, but not supervised. Please note that you will have to take a dirt road to reach the parking lot (300 meters from the main road).
tIAHURA PUBLIC BEACH
Moorea island is mainly covered with lush and green mountains. Therefore, this island is the perfect place to hike some beautiful and wild trails with awesome views.
3 cocotiers trail
The “3 cocotiers” hiking trail offers a marked trail through a lush forest. Even though the positive difference in altitude is about 300 meters, I advise you to take your hiking poles with you (it can be very slippery at any time, so that will help). Once arrived at the pass of the “3 cocotiers”, you will have a 360-degree panorama of Cook and Opunohu Bay.
The trailhead starts from the parking of the belvedere (free one, not supervised). You will notice different colors of signs at each intersection along the trail. Follow the blue signs for the “3 cocotiers” hike. The best thing to do is to take a picture of the hiking trail map. You can find one in the parking lot. Each trail is represented by a color.
Count about 3 hours round trip to complete the trail.
Col des 3 pinus trail
The “col des 3 pinus” trail also starts from the parking of the Belvedere. The hike is without particular difficulty and shorter than the “3 cocotiers” trail. In fact, it will take you about 1h30 to complete the hike.
At the top, you will also have a very nice view of Cook Bay and Opunohu Bay. There is even a small swing to admire the view. What more could you ask for?
Just like the “3 cocotiers” hike, I wouldn’t recommend hiking the trail after a rainy day. The ground can be very slippery in some places, even if the difference in altitude is less important than the previous trail (only about 150 meters).
Magic mountain trail
The magic mountain summit offers a breathtaking view of the lagoon of Moorea. You have only two possibilities to reach the summit:
- Either by foot. The path is steep and on a semi-tarmac road. This is not a proper hiking trail.
- With a tour operator who offers a 4×4 tour (see below). Indeed, you will not be able to take the road that leads to the summit with a rental car as the road is too steep.
In addition to hiking trails, beautiful beaches and incredible water activities, Moorea island offers awesome experiences on land too.
Rotui juice factory & distillery
You will have the opportunity to visit the production of Rotui fruit juice as well as its distillery. The visit is self-guided and free. Afterward, head across the street from the factory to the store for a juice and rum tasting. Free parking.
As you have noticed, Moorea is quite a small island. It is therefore easy to do the tour of Moorea island in one day. Of course, you can do it in different ways:
- By renting a car
- By scooter
- By bike
- By electric bike
In case you don’t want to do that, you can book a 4×4 tour with one of the providers. They will bring you to most points of interest. Count approximately US 50$ per person.
“However, if you have time on Moorea, I strongly recommend that you do the tour of Moorea island by yourself so that you have time to enjoy each place at your own pace.”
The “Lycée agricole” is a great place to stop after hiking one of the trails mentioned above. They offer good artisanal ice creams and fresh fruit juices.
Free parking & toilets available.
As soon as you disembark the ferry and take the road to the North of the island, you will get the most spectacular views of the island.
Toatea Belvedere offers an amazing view of Moorea lagoon with its incredible Hotel on Pilotis. You might think that this kind of view is only found in movies, but well it is real. Enjoy!
Opunohu Belvedere is the most famous place on Moorea island. In addition to being the starting point for several hikes (see above for details), it offers a breathtaking view of Cook Bay and Opunohu Bay.
Free parking, with 10 spaces available.
Te Mana O Te Moana - turtle clinic
Moorea has a turtle clinic to care for injured turtles. You can visit them every Tuesday and Saturday. Reservation is required and it costs US$ 8 per person. Simply send them an email to book your spot.
To sum up, Moorea island is the perfect place to enjoy postcard-worthy beaches, lush and green mountains, and amazing flora and fauna. On top of that, this is one of the only places in the world where you can swim with humpback whales. What a dream!
I sincerely hope I have inspired you to add Moorea island to your bucket list. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I would love to share more with you.
Anyway, don’t forget to check out all my posts related to French Polynesia to get more inspiration!
Sending you lots of love,