Things to Do on Moorea…
Like a scene from an apocalyptic movie, bored, lost honeymooners wander around Moorea, an idyllic island in French Polynesia. When I encountered my first set of bored lovebirds I figured it was a fluke, after all how can you not have fun in such an incredible place? Then after a few conversations with fellow travelers I realized that not everyone was experiencing Moorea the way we were.
Tips For Making the Most of Moorea
Before I delve into all the amazing things to do in Moorea, here are a few general tips for having an enjoyable stay on Moorea.
Rent a Car: Don’t let the cost of a rental car or the thought of driving in a foreign country dissuade you from renting a car. Renting a car is the biggest piece of advice I would give to anyone planning a vacation to Moorea. Seriously. Many people don’t rent cars and then realize that taxis are expensive and a hassle. If you want to see the island and do stuff, rent a car.
Location, Location, Location: Moorea is a small island. It takes only about an hour to drive around the entire island, however you’ll want to stay someplace that’s close to restaurants. After all, it’s never fun to be hungry after a day of adventuring and then have to drive around looking for someplace to eat.
There are only a few main areas that have a decent selection of restaurants, with Hauru Point and Maharepa being two of your best bets for good food. Unless you want to drive to every meal or eat exclusively at your hotel, consider staying someplace close to dining options.
Plan Ahead: Sometimes it took a few days to get a response to our tour inquiry. If there’s something you really want to do, plan ahead.
Stay Someplace Fun: You don’t have to stay at a resort to have an array of interesting things to do at your hotel. We stayed at Moorea Beach Lodge and Linareava Beach Resort. Both had complimentary bikes and kayaks for guests to use, perfect for creating your own mini adventures!
Bring Your Gear: You can’t safely do a jungle hike in flip flops. And riding an ATV in a skirt isn’t the best plan. A lot of people pack really lovely outfits for their trip to Moorea. Unfortunately clothes that make your look amazing in photos aren’t always the greatest for hiking, biking, kayaking, and horseback riding. Bring some attire and gear for exploring.
Moorea Adventuring Packing List
- Hiking sneakers
- A few fast drying shorts and tank tops
- Small backpack
- Reusable water bottle
- Goggles or snorkel equipment
- Wide-brimmed hat
- Motion sickness meds (if you’re prone to being sea sick)
Adventurous Things to Do on Moorea
There’s only so much eating and sunbathing you can do on vacation. At some point you’re going to want to laugh, squeal, or sweat. Pick at least one of the activities listed below for when you get the urge for adventure while on Moorea.
There are a lot of trails on Moorea. Some are more accessible and user friendly than others.
Col des Trois Cocotiers: This is one of the easiest to find hikes on Moorea. Drive to the top of the Belvedere Lockout and you’ll find the sign for the trailhead on the right side of the parking area. The trail itself is well marked and maintained, although be prepared for mud. As you tromp through the jungle you’ll pass through a section of bamboo forest and cross a few creeks. At the top is a big view. Give yourself 2-3 hours to do this moderate approximately four mile hike.
Mount Rotui: This hike is for those who like to do dangerous, strenuous things on vacation. Moorea typically doesn’t attract these kinds of tourists which is probably why we didn’t see anyone else on the trail.
The first challenge is finding the trailhead. From the Hilton, head towards Ta’ahiamanu beach. Look for a sign with “Rotui” written in red and mounted onto the trunk of a palm tree. Walk down the dirt driveway and follow the markers/ signs to the start of the trail. In the beginning it’s not much of a trail, basically just follow the fence up a cleared, steep hill. With having to push through overgrown vegetation, clamor up boulders, navigate narrow sections of trail with deadly drop-offs, and 2,500+ feet of elevation gain, this hike is a grueling endeavor. Fortunately even if you don’t make it all the way to the top you can still get spectacular views.
Tip: Get started early before it gets too hot. Long socks or pants can help protect your legs from the scratchy foliage.
Magic Mountain: Want an uphill climb and views but without the scratched up legs and possibility of death? Getting to Magic Mountain is easy, there’s a sign on the highway and a cute little jam and juice shop adjacent to the parking area. After paying a few dollars to park, begin the walk up the narrow paved road. Keep an eye out for tourists on ATV’s as you make your way up the mountain. When you get to the top of the road you’ll walk the final thirty seconds on a trail to the viewpoint. Give yourself about an hour to get to the top and a little less time to return back down.
Tip: a lot of of ATV tours go to the top of Magic Mountain. Don’t spend your time doing this hike if it’s included in your ATV tour.
“Plantation HIke”: One of my favorite hikes that we did on Moorea and I don’t even know the name of the trail! On the same road that leads up to the Belvedere Lookout there is a large parking area and trailhead before you drive up the hill to the lookout. Park and follow the trail signs towards the pineapple plantation. Walk and wander as long as you’d like through the pineapple plantation and forested trails. This section of trails is mostly trafficked by locals walking their dogs and the occasional mountain biker. While it doesn’t have the same big views of some of the other more well-known hikes on Moorea, it’s a nice area for a morning hike.
Zoom around the interior of Moorea on an ATV. More than just driving around an an ATV, you’ll learn a bit about the history and plants of Moorea and see beautiful scenery.
Tip: Bring plenty of water!
Kayak at Sunset
If you happen to be staying in the Hauru Point area you’ll be on the side of the island with the best vantage point for the sunset. And what better way to end the day then a sunset paddle?
Tip: Don’t attempt to go kayaking if the tide is really low. During a really low tide you’ll see rocks and parts of the reef sticking out of the water. When it’s like this it’s nearly impossible to paddle without scraping the reef.
Hang Out With Sting Rays and Sharks
There are plenty of tour operators who will take you to a shallow sandy-bottomed lagoon where you can stand amongst inquisitive sting rays and circling sharks. It’s definitely questionable if feeding sharks and stings rays in order to allow tourists to take pictures with them is an environmentally responsible thing to do. Nonetheless it’s one of the most popular things to do in Moorea…
Catch a Wave at Haapiti
This is not a wave for beginners and you’ll probably want to arrange for a boat to give you a ride to the break. But if you’ve brought your board and the conditions are good, there is the chance to catch a few left handers on your Moorea vacation.
Swim in a Waterfall
If you don’t mind mud, eels, and mosquitos, Afareaitu Falls is a true tropical gem. The hike itself is easy, but finding the trail to the falls is a little tricker. Once you’ve parked you’ll walk down the road until it ends at a dirt path. Continue on the path for another twenty minutes or so until you’re at the falls. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how impressive the falls were, even in the dry season. Less enjoyable was having a massive eel brush up against my leg before disappearing into the rocks. Anyways, bring your bug repellent and your sense of adventure!
Kind of like the ATV tour experience but on the ocean. We didn’t have time for jet skis, although when we talked to people who had done both ATVs and jet skis it was 50-50 on whether they liked the jet skis or the ATV better. If you really want to do both there are some tour companies that offer a combined ATV and Jet Ski package.
Take a Bike Ride
A lot of the main road on Moorea has a bike lane and even the sections without a bike lane feel reasonably safe for cycling. If your hotel doesn’t have bikes there are a few rental shops sprinkled around the island. For a bigger adventure, rent electric bikes at Ebike Moorea and cruise around with the benefit of your ebikes “pedal assist”.
Tip: My favorite time to go for a little jaunt on a beach cruiser is in the evening. During this cooler time of day locals mingle in the street and will greet you as you ride by.
Relaxing Things to Do on Moorea
Lunch on a Private Island
Just off the coast of Moorea there are two tiny non-inhabited islands. On one of these islands is the popular Coco Beach Restaurant. Make a reservation ahead of time to ensure that they’re open. The restaurant will help you make arrangements for a boat ride over. Bring your swimsuit and snorkel stuff for a post meal swim!
Tip: These islands are also a popular stopover for snorkel tours and local picnickers. On weekends the islands can feel busy. Weekdays have more of a deserted island vibe.
Pick Out the Perfect Pearl
There are pearl shops all over the island of Moorea. It’s like the French Polynesian version of Starbucks, there’s one on every corner. Pearls are a great souvenir, easy to pack and not terribly expensive.
Tip: If you do buy a pearl make sure they shop provides you with a certificate of authenticity. If it’s really cheap or there’s no documents, you probably aren’t getting a real pearl.
Create a Cheese Plate
Embrace the Frenchness (yes I made that word up) of French Polynesia and create your own cheese and meat plate. Most grocery stores have a good selection of cheeses and meats that are surprisingly affordable. Pair it with a baguette and a bottle of wine for a casual picnic lunch.
Sunbathe on Tamae Beach
This is the prettiest beach on Moorea. On one end is the posh Sofitel Resort but most of the beach is open and free for public use. Spending a sunny afternoon laying on the powdery white sand is exactly what you dreamed being on Moorea would be like.
Sample Local Juices at Rotui Juice Factory and Distillery
We stopped in at “Distillerie et Usine de Jus de Fruits de Moorea” on a whim and left sugared up with a handful of juice cartons and “Tahiti Drink”. The Rotui Juice Factory manufacturers tropical juices, rums, and spiked juice concoctions. It’s free to sample their creations and almost impossible to leave without buying something.
Tip: Try the Tahiti Drink! It’s about $10 for a carton and poured over ice it makes an easy DIY happy hour.
A Snorkel+Lunch Tour With Moorea Miti Tours
This snorkel tour actually doesn’t have much snorkeling. You do stop to interact with the sting rays and sharks, and you’re given about 45-60 minutes to snorkel at the Coral Gardens. However, most of the time is spent learning about Moorean history/culture/plants, making poisson cru, sipping rum punch, and eating a delicious lunch. So if you want to do a bit of snorkeling but with minimal boat time and am emphasis on relaxation, this is the tour for you!
Tips for Planning a Trip to Moorea
How long to stay on Moorea?: We were there for six nights. This seemed perfect for anyone who is somewhat adventurous and can afford to do a few tours. A lot of travelers island hop around French Polynesia and only stay on Moorea for a couple of days. To me this seems a bit rushed. With only a few days you won’t have the time to really slow down and see the different nooks and crannies of this dreamy island. Nonetheless, any longer than a week and you might be repeating some of your favorite activities. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since you can never have too many afternoons at Tamae Beach.
Make dinner reservations: It’s almost impossible to get a table at popular Moorea restaurants without a reservation. I highly recommend making a reservation at Le Lezard Jaune Cafe. The food is delicious and the service is friendly!
Watch our for dogs: We never had any issues with dogs while on Moorea. Most of the dogs we encountered were more interested in basking in the sun and chasing chickens then bothering us. Nonetheless there are a lot of loose dogs that roam around the residential streets. Use common sense and a normal amount of caution and you should be fine.
Bring a reusable water bottle: The tap water on Moorea isn’t safe to drink. Many hotels have filtered water for guests. Bring your reusable water bottle and refill your bottle with filtered water before heading out.
Take the fast ferry : There are two companies that have ferry service to Moorea from Tahiti, Aremiti and Terevau. We used both and there isn’t a big difference between the two companies. Just be aware that only certain ferries (check the schedule of both companies for up to date info) can carry cars and some are faster than others. The “fast ferry” is only about fifteen minutes quicker, however on a day when the seas are rough this is the difference between being a little green in the face and throwing up over the side of the boat.
Don’t count on the wifi: The Wifi isn’t very reliable on Moorea. Pack a book or some non-internet entertainment because there’s a good chance you won’t be able to stream your favorite show.
Remember your wall charger: The wall outlets are the same as what you would find in Europe. Bring a convertor in order to charge/use your electronics.
The Bottom Line: Rent a car, book some tours, and take a few hikes and you’ll have plenty of things to do on Moorea.