Best things to do in Moorea
Travel to Moorea, the magical Island of French Polynesia. The island is only 35 minutes by ferry from Tahiti. You can see Moorea from many of Tahiti's beaches, and from its capital, Papeete (a perfect sunset view !). With Tahiti and Bora Bora, it is the most famous island in French Polynesia, perfect for a family vacation, a romantic getaway, or a fun trip with friends.
Moorea has two bays, (Cook's Bay, and Opunohu Bay), many spectacular mountains (Mount Rotui, Mount Mou'a Puta - the pierced mountain, the magic mountain, etc.) with amazing views, beautiful beaches and resort hotels, camping, and B&Bs. Tahiti's sister island is perfect for adventure: would you rather swim, hike, or enjoy several boat tours? Or maybe all of those in one trip? Here is the island for you!
Beautiful, preserved, empowered by a noticeable energy with many amazing natural sites, it gives a large choice of activities to its visitors. Here is our selection of some of the most popular things to do in Tahiti’s sister island. Make a list before you travel to Moorea :
Admire the Island and lagoon from above : the views
Going from the ferry harbor of Vaiare to the coves, I suggest a quick stop at the scenic viewpoint called Toatea. It is one of the first things to do during your stay. A picture with Tahiti, the Pacific Ocean, the reef and the lagoon of Moorea in the background is a must. Across the road, you can get another picture with the map of Moorea engraved on the rock.
On the topic of scenic viewpoints, you’ll need to travel all the way up to the valley of ‘Opunohu and its beautiful road, also reachable from the Pao Pao Bay and the so called « Pineapple Road » (with a car made for rutted roads). At 240m high in the mountain, the place is called the Belvédère. Passing by wooded terrains where day-dreaming cows roam will bring a weird feeling of having suddenly left French Polynesia for a familiar environment like Europe or the States.
At the top of this road, grab some insect repellant and take some time to contemplate the two coves separated by the sacred Rotui Mountain from the Belvédère lookout : one of the most beautiful views in French Polynesia. There, you will see Opunohu Bay and Cook's Bay, the two bays that give the island its characteristic shape. The lagoon, the reef and the mountain offer you a magnificent spectacle. Many hikes start from the Belvédère lookout parking lot (hikes link). It is also a common stop for quad bike tours and guided excursions around the island.
Dive into the island’s pre-european past
After reaching the belvedere, there are many things to do while going down Belvédère's road : several stunning experiences are yet to come. One of them, the « Sentier des Ancêtres » and its historical sacred temples (marae in Tahitian) are surrounded by amazing chestnut trees (mape in Tahitian). This enchanting walk will guide you through some of the 500 archeological vestiges of the mountain, a few of them restored to show how they were used by the ancient Polynesian population. More info to visit other « marae » during your trip in our note « Around the Island of Moorea ».
Stop in Papetoai before going to the West Coast for more activities. This old mission center and its octagonal shaped temple are living proof of the island’s religious conversion in the early 1800’s, numerous legends are also attached to it.
Local products tastings
Moorea is a gourmet Island. Among the things to do on the island, be sure to treat your taste buds too! Taste the local fresh products and other goodies prepared with a lot of talent, there is something for every taste in French Polynesia.
They are perfect gifts to take back home to share.
Rotui and Manutea
Located in betweenCook’s bay and Opunohu bay, visiting the Moorea fruit juice factory, Rotui, is a must for several reasons: it is a very enlightening visit as you’ll be able to observe the local fruit juice production. This juice is very popular throughout French Polynesia. Another reason is that the delicious Manutea rums distilled there from fresh sugarcane from Moorea and Taha’a have won several Awards. It’s also interesting to try something new like tasting pineapple wine? Yes, why not. Traveling to French Polynesia is a fun tasting trip!
Going down from Belvédère of Tahiti’s sister island, you can also stop for fresh fruit juice tasting at the Agricultural High School (Lycée Agricole). You’ll find an amazing variety of locally produced jams. For more savory delicacies from Moorea, go to the Tropical Garden or the Fare Tutava stand, close to the magic mountain.
Going to the beach, swimming, and snorkeling
Travel to Moorea to discover some of the best beaches and the best trails of French Polynesia. Here, the coast has many white sandy beaches with golden tones. The reef in the distance offers a large and quiet lagoon, where you can enjoy boat rides, jet-skiing, water sports... and especially swimming along the beaches. At Ta'ahiamanu public beach or at Temae beach, the clear water and coral spats of the lagoon allow you to snorkel in the best conditions. You will be able to see many species of fish and some rays.
Exploring the best swimming and snorkeling spots is, of course, a must while visiting French Polynesia, it’s a magical discovery of amazing colorful fauna. Take boat, kayak or jet-ski tours with a guide (departing from a resort or from the beach) to reach one of the most famous snorkeling spots on Tahiti's sister island: the sandbar where many blacktip lagoon sharks and stingrays live. The sharks and rays, used to seeing humans, are very friendly and the experience of seeing them waltzing around you is unique. You don’t even have to swim here, the water is shallow. This is one of the must-do's in Moorea, especially during a family trip.
Around the most famous beaches and motu (islets), you will also find these, and other sea creatures: sharks, rays, turtles, fish, and even moray eels hidden in the coral.
Beyond snorkeling, Moorea also has beautiful scuba diving spots along the coral reef, and specialized operators organize whale watching tours every year during the whale season (between August and October). As you can see, Moorea is a paradise for underwater life, as much in its lagoon for sharks and fish as in the open sea for whales and dolphins.
Places to enjoy the lagoon of Moorea
Back to the shore? Rather on the water, where you rented a paddle board, you will love the lively ocean floor. Every time you row, your eyes observing the illuminated lagoon floor, you will see, off the coast of Papetoai, the Mu sculptures, laying on the white sand, protected by the stingrays.
Close to the famous sandbar of rays and blacktip sharks, you can swim with turtles until you lose track of time around Fareone motu. Daydreaming in the shade of an iron tree (aito in Tahitian) on motu Tiahura’s sandbar.
Then lunch at Coco Beach restaurant, booked a few days in advance. Here, gently rocked by the aito’s breeze, your feet soaking in the water, and with the blue sky and the mountains’ colors for your only background, you will feast on crayfish, lobsters (depending on the season), raw fish, parrot fish, or grilled octopus.
For more excellent restaurants options to enjoy during the day, the sunset, or for dinner, please see here.
You can also book one of the daily boat tours in Moorea: a fun way to enjoy the lagoon, stop at the best snorkeling spots to swim, and eat on the beach of a paradisiacal motu! From the boat, the guide will also show you beautiful views of the island : Mount Rotui, Opunohu Bay, Cook's Bay, the Magic Mountain, and the Pierced Mountain. He will also explain the legends of Tahiti's sister island, to help you better understand the culture and traditions of French Polynesia.
Staying fit while having fun on the island
It is great to relax on a beach in French Polynesia. But there are also many things to do if you want to go on a little adventure !
Hiking is perfect to explore new places. Want to go for a hike during your stay in French Polynesia? There are many hiking trails in Moorea. For example, the Magic Mountain is accessible to beginners and is quite short. For the more sporty, the most challenging and spectacular hike in Moorea is Moua Puta, the pierced mountain. You won't be disappointed by the incredible views at the top! A guide is recommended for this very difficult slope.
Hiking is therefore the first thing to try when you want to do some sport in French Polynesia. However, there are 5 other ways to spend a memorable day in Tahiti’s sister island:
- Horse riding in the center of the island, starting at ‘Opunohu Valley Ranch;
- Renting electric bikes for a hassle-free ride and access to amazing places all around and through the island
- Register at Tiki Park for an amazing zipline adventure in ‘Opunohu Valley’s Forest.
- Enjoy the thrill of skydiving in Moorea. Tahiti Skydiving leaves directly from Moorea Airport. This activity is one of my top recommendations amongst many other activities in French Polynesia. It will leave you with unique and unforgettable memories. During the ascent, don’t let stress take over and enjoy every minute of this panoramic flight and its breathtaking views.
Golfing in Moorea
Feel like golfing near the beach in French Polynesia? Remember to have enough balls as the Moorea Green Pearl Golf course, designed by the Niklaus Firm, offers many technical challenges! It Opened in 2006, located between the sea and the mountain, it is considered as part the 600 most beautiful Golf Courses in the World (out of 38000!). The numerous waterholes, the severe doglegs and over-protected greens will require a certain technical mastery. Top quality Titleist gear is available for rental in the Pro-shop, and the restaurant is ideal to enjoy your preferred drink and meal.
Shopping centers in Moorea
No way to leave Moorea without buying a nice souvenir made in French Polynesia. Shops and services are mainly gathered in two small villages located to the North (Maharepa) or West of the Island (Le Petit Village shopping center). Awesome colorful creations are sold by the local designers. Not to forget the black pearls, carefully selected by experienced jewelers to make the most beautiful ornaments for your neck, hands or ears and the perfect everlasting Polynesian souvenir.
This is also where you’ll find most of the restaurants. The food diversity and range of prices fits any taste and budget.
Explore French Polynesia with a cultural immersion
For some cultural immersion, I recommend you visit Fare Natura, the island’s eco-museum nestled in ‘Opunohu bay. Opened to the public in 2021, it showcases valuable information shared by Criobe and Universities scientists, to better understand Moorea’s natural heritage and the Polynesian Island’s culture in general.
Once it turns dark, the « Hupe » wind brings fresh air from the mountain top to the Pacific ocean, and it is time to enjoy a typical show from Moorea at the Tiki Village in Haapiti: dances, traditional hymns, and legends will transport you through the Polynesian culture. The Tiki Village is the most famous dinner show in French Polynesia. Near the beach you can enjoy island food and music after sunset.