The island of Moorea is a tropical paradise. (Even more so than Maui, which is one of my favorite islands.) And it looks just as amazing in real life as it does in those famous photos you’ve seen. So if your next destination is French Polynesia, here are my top 15 things to do in Moorea…experiences you won’t want to miss.
It was rainy season when we arrived at the end of our two-week New Zealand trip, but I decided to chance it since the week layover and three nights in Tahiti came free with our amazing cheap airfare to New Zealand.
The only other tropical place I’d been before French Polynesia was Hawaii.
Best Moorea Activities
Where is the island of Moorea? I’ll admit I was a little sketchy on the geography of French Polynesia before we went. So if you too could you use a refresher too, here’s the deal.
You’ve likely heard of the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora. And maybe Moorea island.
But there are actually 118 islands that make up French Polynesia. And all those islands are divided into five groups of Islands…which explains why I was so confused when I read that Tahiti and Moorea are in the Society Islands.
Just to confuse things further: The Society Islands are composed of the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands.
All you really need to know is that French Polynesia is very French. I mean…I knew they spoke French, but I was so excited to see fresh baguettes and croissants and delicious pastries everywhere and to be greeted with kisses on both cheeks.
I did not expect to find foie gras or a massive selection of French wines and cheeses in the grocery stores. So yum.
Where to Stay in Moorea
Here are two options:
1. Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa
The Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa is exactly the French Polynesia fantasy you’ve been dreaming of. Suspended above a warm and shallow turquoise lagoon, the resort offers luxe overwater and direct access bungalows.
Some include a private plunge pool and glass bottomed table so you can watch the fish swim below in the clear water. Between the spa, pool, and 3 onsite restaurants, you may never leave!
Guest review: “The overwater crêperie was a memorable dining experience.” —Todd, August 2020.
Check price and availability at Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa here.
2. Fare Marema Vacation Home
We stayed at Fare Marema and can personally recommend it. This beautiful home is nestled high into a lush hillside with unbelievable views of Opunohu Bay, Moorea.
Fare Marema is a two-bedroom home, although we found it very cozy and just perfect for us as a couple. Very centrally located too!
Check prices and availability on Fare Marema here.
Arriving in French Polynesia
The island of Tahiti is workaday French Polynesia. And Papeete, the city where your international flight will be landing, is large, industrial, and not your best bet for lush tropical memories.
However, you can also do a full-day jeep tour of the lush rainforested part on the island of Tahiti while you’re here.
You’ll see gorgeous waterfalls, Mount Marau, and the Arahoho Blowhole with a local guide. I wish I’d known about this tour when we were there as it gets great reviews!
Guest review: Beautiful rainforest excursion! Our guide Sydney stopped many times so we could get down and explore and take pics.” —Nancy
You can check prices and availability on the Tahiti tour here.
There are nice beaches on Tahiti, but with swoon-worthy islands like Moorea and Bora Bora so close, why not head to exactly the tropical beach of your dreams?
Vivid green jungles and soaring cliffs. Check.
Ferry from Tahiti to Moorea
The best way to get from Tahiti to Moorea? It’s easy and inexpensive to catch the Tahiti to Moorea ferry.
The Aremiti ferry leaves from Papeete. You can check the Moorea ferry schedule here.)
You can even take your rental car on the ferry to Moorea (but not to Bora Bora. If you’re headed there next, you’ll need to rent a car there on island.)
The fare is about $15 USD one-way or $30 USD round-trip. You can buy tickets in advance if you like, but it’s not necessary.
Arrive 30 minutes early and just get in line for tickets and boarding. (Or arrive a little earlier if you want to take your Tahiti rental car onboard.)
Are you all packed for Moorea? You can check out my Maui packing list here. It also works great for French Polynesia!
1. Explore the Lagoon in a Glass Bottom Kayak
There’s just no better way to explore a coral garden than in a transparent kayak for two! If you’re seeking unique things to do in Moorea, this is the experience for you.
Snorkeling in French Polynesia is amazing!
On our half-day adventure—after paddling across Moorea lagoon—we anchored boats and snorkeled with sharks!
Yes, really. So many stingrays and black-tipped reef sharks that I couldn’t believe it.
The tropical fish were so adept at ingenious camouflage among the dark coral and clear turquoise water. The innate intelligence of nature is always miraculous to witness in person.
Midway on your kayak tour, you’ll anchor off some rocks poking up in the middle of the lagoon for a rest served up with a rum cocktail in a coconut.
You can reserve this kayak tour as a half-day adventure, a two-hour sunset cruise, or a romantic private tour. It’s completely up to you!
Guest review: “Mind-blowing kayak tour! We had 2 sharks and a number of large sting rays around us with lots of fish. We stopped at a small island on the way back and our guide had fresh muffins, tropical juice and fresh coconut for us.” —Judith
2. Lunch at Coco Beach Moorea
Have you heard of Coco Beach Island? It’s actually a “motu”, or a tiny island.
We took a water taxi over to the motu we’d seen for lunch at Coco Beach after the tour was over. This is one of the best things to do in Moorea!
If you’ve ever imagined yourself stranded on Gilligan’s Island, perhaps sipping on an inventive cocktail under a palapa with Ginger or Marianne, the Coco Beach restaurant is just your spot!
How to get to Coco Beach: It’s easy to grab a water taxi just down the road from the ritzy Intercontinental Hotel. It’s a ten-minute speed boat ride.
Then, wade ashore, find a shady picnic table and place your lunch order!
(Call ahead for a reservation at the restaurant, but no reservation needed for the water taxi. Credit cards accepted at the restaurant.)
It’s true that Moorea restaurants are super expensive. We shopped and ate in at our vacation rental except for one or two splurges.
But when is the last time you ate an incredible French meal in your bathing suit contemplating a warm clear sea? I thought so.
3. Try Poisson Cru at Snack Mahana
Whatever you do…don’t miss tasting “poisson cru”, which is roughly translated as raw fish, in Moorea. It’s not fancy, but I think Snack Mahana is one of the best restaurants in Moorea to try it.
This isn’t your typical ceviche, however. Poisson cru is served throughout French Polynesia. It’s essentially “sustainable eating” as all the ingredients are readily available on the islands.
First, ahi tuna is briefly marinated in lime juice. Then a little coconut milk is added, along with cucumber, carrot, and tomato.
Here’s an easy recipe if you’d like to bring a taste of Tahiti to your table soon. (I made it with fresh halibut which was awesome too.)
4. Head to the Best Beaches in Moorea
The best Moorea beach? It’s impossible to choose! If you’re not staying at a resort, head directly to one of the beautiful public beaches. You can choose from:
You can park in front of the little hotel and head directly to the beach or out into the shallow reef for snorkeling.
Join the locals on the dock for a scenic sunset or dive into the beach bar for a coffee or a beer to wait out a thundershower.
Right by the Sofitel hotel is another gorgeous beach for both swimming and Moorea snorkeling.
It’s about a 30-minute drive from Les Tipaniers or 20 minutes north of the ferry terminal. It too offers great snorkeling.
You’ll navigate an easy dirt road through a forest to the parking lot here. Just keep heading towards the water.
This a public beach located about halfway between the two beaches above. Easy street parking, public showers and picnic benches (no restrooms though). A nearby mini-market is convenient, too.
This one is close to Les Tipaniers. This is a tiny, narrow white-sand beach located inside a park with free showers, toilets, and fewer beachgoers. (Just wave to the friendly security guard.)
The park does close at 5:30 pm, however, so there’s that. Not as great for snorkeling.
If you plan to do some snorkeling on Moorea, bring your gear from home! It was harder than I expected to rent gear on the island of Moorea.
The only place I found was a beach shack at Les Tipaniers, but there was no affordable rental rate beyond a half-day rate.
And don’t forget the aqua socks to protect your feet. The reef is rocky! (You can grab a pair on Amazon here.)
5. Visit Belvedere Viewpoint
Belvedere Lookout in Moorea offers some of the most striking views of Opunohu Valley and Cook and Opunohu Bays. You can drive up the dirt road to take in the view.
Or, park at the top and hike Three Coconuts Pass. But bring lots of water and plan on two to three hours round-trip. For best views before the clouds move in, go mid-day.
If you love the idea of a strenuous hike and mountain workout but are less sure about navigating the jungle, consider a guided hike with a local.
One popular day trip, for example is a half-day guided hike to the Afareaitu Waterfall where your guide will also share Polynesian legends as he shows you around the remains of ancient Polynesian temples.
You can check price and availability of the guided hike to Afareaitu Waterfall here.
Guest review: “Five stars+! Yvette and Tracy made this hike to the Afareaitu Waterfall so much more than we could have ever imagined. They taught us all about the island, from its flora and fauna to its rich cultural traditions and history, from its geology and archaeological past to its modern abundance and preserved harmony. We felt so welcomed and safe in your care. What an honor :)” —Mike M.
6. Experience a Traditional Polynesian Dinner and Dance Performance
Another must-do in Moorea: Moorea’s Tiki Village Cultural Center offers a memorable evening exploring the traditions and lifestyle of French Polynesia.
You’ll see demonstrations of stone carving as well as painting and weaving.
But the highlight is the evening dinner and show that’s offered here. You’ll hear the strains of ukelele as you arrive and see your dinner cooking deep in the ground covered by banana leaves and hot volcanic stones.
Your traditional Tahitian dinner is served buffet-style.
After that, it’s on to a traditional dance performance, where beautiful dancers tell the story of how Tahitian warriors journeyed to Hawaii, Samoa, and ultimately New Zealand in search of pearls. You can opt for dinner and the show, or the show only.
7. Visit the Sea Turtles at Te Mana O Te Moana
Te Mana O Te Moana is a center for rescuing sick and injured sea turtles that is accessible to the public and it’s a truly unique thing to do in Moorea.
Located within the Intercontinental Resort, volunteers care for more than 500 sea turtles, including hawksbill sea turtles, olive ridley sea turtles, green sea turtles, and loggerhead sea turtles.
Unfortunately, more than half of the turtles who arrive here have been wounded due to fishing nets, speargun hunting, and other human activity.
The good news is that about half of them are able to be released back into the wild to enjoy a happy sea turtle life in the warm waters of Moorea.
The volunteer team makes a presentation to interested visitors Monday through Friday. Contact Te Mana O Te Moana for current times.
8. Set Out on a Jetski Adventure
Get to know beautiful Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay with a local guide on a jet ski tour!
It’s an exhilarating way to see more of the island and spot turtles, dolphins, stingrays and sharks with someone who knows where they’re hiding.
(If it’s big fish you want to see, consider planning a next South Pacific trip to swim with the whales in Tonga!)
This three-hour jet ski tour is well-loved due to its small groups, hotel pickup and drop off and personable, knowledgeable guides. Many describe it as the highlight of their trip to Moorea!
Traveler review: “The best jet ski tour in Moorea. Three hours of non-stop fun. Very professional guided tour. Wonderful Tahitian guide.” —James N.
9. Swim with Whales, Sharks, and Rays
If you’re in Moorea between July and November, it’s a great time to see humpback whales…not to mention the dolphins, grey reef sharks, black reef sharks, pink whip rays, and leopard rays that you can find here all year round.
Heading to the best spots with a local guide in an intimate group setting makes it easy!
Guest review: “Swimming with the sting rays and sharks was amazing. The singing the male does under the water is an awesome sound.”— Katie T.
You can check out the price and availability on this day tour here.
10. Sip Cocktails on the Beach
Need a mid-day break and refreshment? Even if you’re not staying at a resort, you can enjoy some of the best amenities like private beach access and dining practically on the beach.
Wifi is free to guests only, which is a bit of a bummer since reliable Wifi can be elusive on Moorea.
11. See Hidden Moorea
Looking to maximize limited time on island? One of the best ways to see the best of the island in a short time is once again, with a local.
In this full-day tour, you’ll see Moorea off the beaten path with fewer tourists.
Relax on a private beach in Temae and swim in a pristine lagoon. Hike to a secret waterfall! Unlimited alcoholic (and non-alcoholic) beverages and fresh fruit provided. What more could you ask for?
Guest review: “Worth it! This tour was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to Mo’orea. The waterfall was breathtaking (as was the hike to it lol). I couldn’t recommend this tour enough.” —Jordi
You can get complete details and book this full-day tour of hidden Moorea here.
12. Check Out the Views from Magic Mountain of Moorea
From the top of Magic Mountain, you’ll enjoy an incredible, sweeping view of the island’s coastline, including the coral reefs! It’s the perfect spot for epic photos…or even a picnic!
If you’d rather leave the driving to someone else, consider a half-day tour from a local. In fact, this tour by four-wheel drive includes a visit to Belvedere Pineapple Farm and island distillery!
Guest review: “Breathtaking. Our guide Ron was great, he spoke 4 languages. Amazing views. The pineapple farm was very interesting. Love the tasting at the juice factory.” — Katie T.
13. Set Sail on a Catamaran
No trip to Moorea would be complete without time on a sailboat! How about a private two-hour sunset cruise on the lagoon as the water catches the reflects from the puffy clouds rolling by?
Or early morning snorkeling with all of the tropical fish as you dive off the bow? It’s totally up to you!
Round-trip hotel transfers, snorkeling equipment, fruit juice, and mai tais included.
Guest review: “Great experience! Super fun snorkeling with the sharks and stingrays and over the tikis! Very relaxing and enjoyable. Highly recommend!!” —Robyn R.
You can check on prices and availability for a private catamaran sail here.
Alternatively, consider exploring Moorea’s lagoons the traditional way: with a tour by Polynesia outrigger canoe. These beautiful little boats were used (and still are) by Polynesians for fishing, navigating, and following the stars!
Guest review: “Great experience for my son and I. We learned much about the islands history and the wild life. Our tour guide was fantastic. I would highly recommend!” —Sandra P.
14. Soak Up the Sunset at Les Tipaniers Beach
The best end to a perfect day of island adventure? A Moorean sunset, of course. Join the locals on the dock at Les Tipaniers to watch the show.
15. Head Out on a Half Day 4×4 Safari
Take a guided tour of this gorgeous island in a 4×4 safari tour.
Over 4 hours, you’ll try local jam and pineapple, see a colorful coral garden, visit the Tahitian temple, and take in the panoramic views from Belvedere lookout point.
Then you’ll check out the fruits, flowers, and vanilla orchids at the Tropical Gardens. Visit Magic Mountain for even more epic views!
This tour also includes hotel pick up and drop off. You can check price and availability on the 4×4 island safari tour here.
16. Try Out a Sea Scooter
The best way to access underwater sites in Moorea? A sea scooter.
Basically, you’ll push a button and then enjoy your scooter pulling you along up to 3 mph, which is faster than most people swim when sprinting.
This enables you to see more while snorkeling and avoid ending up with sore legs if you’re not an experienced swimmer/snorkeler.
This tour guides you through remote coral reefs—you might see and hear humpback whales if you’re lucky— and provides a thorough safety demonstration before heading out.
Guest review: “This was hands down the best activity we have done in French Polynesia. The sea scooters are a blast. The staff were very courteous and knowledgeable. And he photos and video they take of the adventure are top notch and well worth the price.”—James
17. Rent an E-Bike
Rent an e-bike for either a half or full day and tour the island at your own pace on your own itinerary. Your bike rental comes with an illustrated map of Moorea, helmets, ad bike locks.
Plus, locals will share their top tips for best restaurants, favorite beaches, and other insider tips before you go.
Guest review: “We enjoyed taking the ebikes and riding through the bays, eating on a roulotte and having a swim in the amazing Temae beach.” —Jordi