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, courtesy of my Moorea travel blog!
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.
- Things to Do in Moorea
- 1. Explore the Lagoon in a Glass Bottom Kayak
- 2. Lunch at Coco Beach Moorea
- 3. Snorkel with Sharks at the Lagoonarium
- 4. Try Poisson Cru at Snack Mahana
- 5. Head to the Best Beaches in Moorea
- 6. Visit Belvedere Viewpoint
- 7. Experience a Traditional Polynesian Dinner and Dance Performance
- 8. Visit the Sea Turtles at Te Mana O Te Moana
- 9. Set Out on a Jetski Adventure
- 10. Swim with Whales, Sharks, and Rays
- 11. Sip Cocktails on the Beach
- 12. See Hidden Moorea
- 13. Check Out the Views from Magic Mountain of Moorea
- 14. Set Sail on a Catamaran
- 15. Soak Up the Sunset at Les Tipaniers Beach
Things to Do in Moorea
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 food at the two open restaurants was consistently outstanding with many creative takes on local and international cuisine. The overwater crêperie was a memorable dining experience.”
—Todd, August 2020.
2. Fare Marema Vacation Home
I 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!
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! You can check prices and availability 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.
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! Click here to check availability and prices on this tour.
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. Snorkel with Sharks at the Lagoonarium
Snorkeling in French Polynesia is amazing! However, I have irrational shark fears…which is why I really wanted to challenge myself to enjoy safe experiences with them on Moorea. After our kayaking adventure, I was feeling confident so we decided to up the ante at The Looganarium.
The Lagoonarium is a protected area of the lagoon just off the coast of Moorea where they feed the fish in the coral garden daily at 11:30 am and 2 pm.
You can stay as long as you like snorkeling, kayaking or napping in adorable little A-frame huts where you can store your things. (Stake our your hut ASAP though when you arrive or they will likely be all taken!)
While we visited on a lovely calm day, it’s important to know that sometimes there’s a strong current. However, there are ropes to hang on to should you need them. You can definitely see the Lagoonarium on your own, but if you prefer to go with a guide and enjoy a convenient hotel pick up, you can click here to check availability and prices.
You zip over during a three-minute water taxi ride for snorkeling and lunch. (We brought our own lunch, but you can buy it there as well.) There are simply stunning views of all the overwater bungalows and the Moorea coast along the way.
Trust me. You do not want to miss when they feed the fish! (And if it’s big fish you want to see, consider planning a next South Pacific trip to swim with the whales in Tonga!)
4. 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.)
5. Head to the Best Beaches in Moorea
The best beach in Moorea? 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.)
6. 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 moderate hike and mountain workout but are less sure about navigating the jungle, consider a guided hike with a local. You can click here to learn more about this adventure.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
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!
10. 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! You can check out prices on this day tour here.
11. 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.
12. 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?
You can get complete details and book this full-day tour here.
13. 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 full-day tour from a local. In fact, this tour by four-wheel drive includes a visit to Belvedere Pineapple Farm and island distillery! You can check out prices and availability on the tour here.
14. 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. You can check on prices and availability for a private catamaran sail here.
Alternatively, consider exploring Moorea’s lagoons the traditional way: by Polynesia outrigger canoe. These beautiful little boats were used (and still are) by Polynesians for fishing, navigating, and following the stars!
15. 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.