Moorea is the French Polynesian island that I had always dreamed of. Lush, green mountains and hills towering over white-sand beaches fringed with palm trees. Water so clear and in so many shades of blue that it seems unreal. And of course friendly people, good food, and plenty to see. It was my first stop in my 5-week adventure through French Polynesia and quickly became the standard for what I compared all other islands against (Yes, Mo’orea is better than Bora Bora in my opinion). I absolutely loved my time in Moorea and I hope that with the help of this Moorea itinerary, you will too. So, based on my personal experiences on the island, here are my thoughts on the best things to do in Moorea.
How to Get to Mo’orea
Once you have arrived in French Polynesia, getting to Mo’orea is very easy! You have two options. The first is to fly and the second is to take the ferry.
If you are island hopping in French Polynesia like I did, then you will want to buy the Tahiti Air Pass. It’s by far the best value and will save you hundreds of dollars compared to booking each leg of your journey individually. In this case, you may as well fly to Mo’orea since it’s likely included in your air pass. The flight is a quick 10-minute hop making it one of the quickest and easiest flights in French Polynesia. Insider tip: Sit on the left side of the plane for the best views (seats are not assigned).
If you are not buying a flight pass then you may as well take the ferry! The ride is about 40 minutes long and you’ll get some gorgeous views as you come into Mo’orea. If you are incredibly lucky, your ferry ride may also offer some whale watching during humpback whale season (June to the end of October).
How Long to Spend in Mo’orea
So, how long should you spend in Mo’orea? Depends. I met a Spanish couple who loved it so much they were staying 3 weeks. I also know people who visit on a cruise and see a lot in one day. I spent 5 days and, for me, that was a perfect amount to see and do a lot without feeling rushed. That being said, it is a small island and some of the big highlights here are water activities so if you aren’t too keen on snorkeling and water adventures, then you can get by with less time.
Getting Around Mo’orea
Getting around Moorea is not easy. If you want to explore then you will need a car. Taxis are around but are incredibly expensive and there is no public transit system in place. That being said, renting a car in Mo’orea isn’t cheap either. We paid $130 USD all in for a 24-hour rental. So it may not be worth spending the money to rent the whole time, but rather rent for a couple of days then plan the rest of your time on tours that will pick you up or stay near a beach or somewhere to keep you busy.
*If you do find yourself in need of a taxi, get in touch with Mareva (+689)-87-28-65-54 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She is so incredibly kind and we used her for all our taxi needs on the island. If you do use her services, please tell her Hannah and Chantae say hello!
Where to Stay in Mo’orea
As mentioned above, there is no public transit in Moorea, so you want to make sure that you are within walking distance of places to eat. My friend Chantae and I did not factor this into our accommodation and it was hard. Most food places were a 20+ minute walk away which could get really hot really quickly. Also, many places in French Polynesia are closed for some combination of Sunday/Monday/Tuesday so we lived off of snacks for a couple of days. Learn from our mistake and do some research ahead of time to see what is nearby if you choose a guesthouse.
Additionally, make sure that you stay near the ‘top’ of the island. This means between the airport and the town of Hauru. There are some small villages around the rest of the island but there isn’t much to them. Fun to drive by and see quickly out the window but definitely not ideal for staying!
Based on our experience I would suggest basing yourself either near Tipaniers Beach or around Maharepa which is closer to the airport. These areas have the most in terms of villages (ATMs, restaurants, etc).
Some guesthouses are really nice too and more budget-friendly (though I would never say that Mo’orea is a budget-friendly destination). We stayed at a really nice one called La Maison Orange which I would recommend if you plan on renting a car. It’s a good place to stay and owned by a nice family but not near much!
Also, there are a few resorts on the island as well including three that offer overwater bungalows. The overwater bungalow experience is much cheaper in Moorea than in Bora Bora so that might be worth considering. We spent a couple of nights at Manava Resort and Spa which had a great location, fun amenities including flower crown making lessons and free SUPs to borrow. Plus, you could snorkel around the bungalows too which was a lot of fun!
Looking for some recommendations for where to stay in Moorea? Try:
Things to do in Mo’orea
Wondering what to do in Mo’orea? Yes, its a small island but there are still plenty of things to do in Mo’orea to keep you entertained and busy. Here are my top suggestions.
Swim with Humpback Whales
Humpback whale season in Mo’orea runs from July to the end of October, although the best times to see them (especially moms with their calves) is August to end of October. I won’t go into too much detail here because I have an entire blog post about swimming with whales in Mo’orea, but, if you are in Mo’orea during this time I highly recommend doing this. It’s such a magical experience and one of the most popular things to do in Mo’orea.
Tour the Island with a Local
While you can drive around most of the island on your own, I do recommend taking an island tour to learn more about the island, the culture, and the local myths and legends. Plus, there is no way in hell I’d even try to go up Magic Mountain as a non-local!
We did this tour and our guide was excellent (although he did have a risqué sense of humour so consider yourself warned!). I loved that he took the time to share local legends like the giant Octopus Opunoho Bay as well as taught us about local medicinal uses for the plants and flowers. A tour is one of the best things to do in Mo’orea because fun an easy way to get an overview of the island.
If you want a more adventurous tour, try an ATV tour of the island! Keep in mind, the ATV tours do not go to Magic Mountain.
Visit the 3 Public Beaches
Bora Bora has three public beaches for you to visit, swim, and snorkel at (without having to worry about trespassing on private property to get to them).
The first is Temae Beach which is located near the Sofitel Kia Ora Hotel. This is the most popular beach. It’s a large stretch of white sand, family-friendly, and offers beautiful views across to the island of Tahiti. There are a couple of little snack trucks around to get water or an easy lunch, public washrooms, and parking available.
The second beach in Mo’orea is Ta’ahuaman Beach. This beach is located at the mouth of Opunoho Bay and offers white sandy, some shady spots thanks to towering palm trees, and beautiful views over the water with a few boats in view. Again, there are public washrooms and parking here (across the road). In terms of scenery, this was my favourite beach.
Finally, there is the beach in front of Tipaniers hotel. You do need to park across from the hotel and walk through to access it, but you are allowed. This beach is smaller, but has great snorkeling (head left towards the channel for lots of fish and, if you are lucky, sea turtles! You can dine at the hotel restaurant here and use their bathrooms. Tipaniers beach is also a great sunset spot!
Try Pineapple Wine
Manutea Tahiti is a juice and distillery spot where you can try some locally made alcohol, iced tea, and more. We went for a tasting and ended up buying a bottle of pineapple wine (about $50USD) for a treat. It was surprisingly delicious so I definitely recommend you go and at least try it.
Take in the Views from Magic Mountain
One of the best viewpoints in Mo’orea is located at the top of Magic Mountain. But hang on, because you are in for a very steep and bumpy ride to get here! The path to Magic Mountain is through private property so there is a fee of $2USD to access it. The view allows you a lookout over Opunoho Bay and across the sea. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Mo’orea, however, I wouldn’t advise you to visit on your own. That drive up is pretty intense and most rental cars probably couldn’t handle it. Definitely take a tour for this one.
Visit the Tropical Gardens
Many of the islands in French Polynesia have tropical gardens that you can visit. The ones in Mo’orea are actually owned by a family who opens their land up to guests to come see the local fruits, flowers, and plants. There isn’t really any signage so if you go alone you probably won’t know what you are looking at unless you are a plant enthusiast, but it is a pretty place. They also have a little bar/restaurant serving up breakfast meals and delicious ice creams and sorbets. Try the taro ice cream or passionfruit sorbet!
Visit the Belvedere View Point
Another beautiful viewpoint is the Belvedere which offers mountain and bay views. This road isn’t nearly as intense as Magic Mountain and does actually have some parking at the top so you can drive it yourself. Or, if you prefer, you can choose to walk/run it. Although in the intense heat and humidity you will want to make sure you bring plenty of water!
Wander Through the Pineapple Fields
Mo’orea is known for its pineapples and in the valley of the island, you can find a big stretch of pineapple fields. It’s not really a tourist attraction- there is no shop, or signage or anything, it’s just a really pretty area with tons of pineapple plants that is worth a few photos.
Do a Photoshoot with Rays and Reef Sharks
Just off the tip of Tipaniers Beach is a small little sandbank that is home to a number of stingrays and black-tip reef sharks. Fishermen used to clean their catches in this spot, which is what originally attracted the animals, and since so many came it became a tourist attraction. You are not allowed to feed them (although it seems like some tours still do) but there are plenty of rays and sharks in the area. The sharks are shy but some of the rays like little sea puppies and will definitely come close and probably touch you.
You can take a tour here or visit on your own if you want to rent a kayak or boat from Tipaniers beach. Or, if you want some epic photos, you can reach out to local photographer (greg_fleurentin_photography on instagram) who offers early morning underwater photoshoots with them. My friend Chantae and I did this and it was one my favourite things to do in Mo’orea!
Consider Renting a Car for a day
Even if you take a tour I still think it’s worth renting a car. This way you can get to the beaches I mention above and drive around the island. It won’t take long, maybe 1.5 hours with some photo stops. But, Mo’orea is stunning and there are some incredible viewpoints worth stopping for. Again, keep in mind most cars are manual not automatic!
How Much Does it Cost to go to Mo’orea?
Mo’orea is not a cheap destination so I don’t advise coming here on a budget. That being said, I think everything that you pay for has good value. The accommodation is nice, the meals I have were delicious, and our tours were fantastic. For day tours you can expect to pay about $50 per person. Swimming with whales is about $125 per person. Meals on the cheap end will be around $15 USD each but can easily hit $30-40. Our ‘budget’ guesthouse was about $100 USD per night but prices, especially at the resorts, can easily hit $1000 per night.
Where to Eat in Mo’orea
There are plenty of places to eat in Mo’orea, but many of them are spread out. There are restaurants at the resorts but those can get pretty expensive. Instead, look for ‘snacks’ or ‘roulottes’ for more budget-friendly but delicious meals. I recommend Snack Mahana and Manuia Grill. Both have delicious food, especially fish options.
Final Tips for Your Moorea Itinerary
Mo’orea is an absolutely stunning island. I fell in love with it when I saw the green mountains and blue waters of the lagoon from the plane. After visiting several islands in French Polynesia, Mo’orea is still my favourite and I think it’s a must for anyone visiting this part of the world. Just follow my tips above in this Moorea itinerary and you will find that there are plenty of things to do in Moorea to keep you busy and entertained during your stay.
A Note on Travel Insurance in French Polynesia
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.