A beginner’s guide to Moorea, the world’s “most beautiful” island

29 August 2018

With the amount of praise it gets, it’s surprising that Moorea is still as gorgeous and unspoilt as it is. Named one of the most beautiful islands in the world, here's how to experience the best of Moorea. 

Moorea bodyboarding. Photo: Tahiti Tourisme

Why You Should Visit

Prepare to be bowled over by this heart-shaped island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Moorea is a tropical paradise only a few kilometres off the northwest coast of Tahiti island. It’s a place that has to be seen to be believed, 133 square kilometres of volcanic perfection, set in a cerulean lagoon. It’s more rural and less expensive than Tahiti Island and those in the know will tell you it’s even more spectacular.

How to Get There

From the main Tahiti Island, you have a few travel options. The high-speed Aremiti Ferry makes regular trips between Papeete and Moorea. It’s inexpensive, clean and comfortable, and takes less than an hour. A return trip is approximately NZ$45 for an adult.

Speedier still are Air Tahiti flights, which leave from Terminal 2 and will get you there in 15 minutes flat, albeit at up to four times the cost of the faster ferry. Your Flight Centre consultant can help you book tickets ahead of time. 

Mount Tohivea. Photo: Tahiti Tourisme

What to Eat

Tahitian cuisine is a fabulous fusion of French and Polynesian cuisine – think seafood, baguettes, and a wealth of tropical fruit. On Moorea, there are a few extra-special restaurants worth making a particular trip for. Look for Le Mayflower, Le Mahogany or Te Honu Iti, with its sparkling waterfront location. At Te Honu Iti, you can sit so close to the ocean, guests have been known to watch stingrays swimming by from their table – dinner and a show!

Beach view, Moorea. Photo: Tahiti Tourisme

In general, most hotels and resorts can be relied upon for extraordinary dining options, with dishes to sample from all over the world. If you want to eat like a local, look to smaller, lighter options. Tahiti’s national dish, Poisson Cru, is known as E'ia Ota in Tahitian. Chunks of raw fish are marinated in a mixture of coconut milk and lime juice, which “cooks” the fish. It’s deeply flavourful, more-ish and sits easily on your stomach however strenuous your plans for the day. So-called “Snacks” are local establishments dotted around the island, with a variety of food and views. A great place to stop by for a quick bite is Snack Mahana, with ice-cold beers, sashimi and a wonderful ocean view.

Underwater stone tiki, Moorea. Photo: Tahiti Tourisme

What to Do

Between jet ski tours, reef-break surfing, snorkelling and swimming, the ocean offers an almost limitless number of options for thrill-seekers and paddlers alike. But if you want a break from azure waters, drive up to Belvedere Lookout for jaw-dropping views over the whole island. Jungle hikes to waterfalls can be customised according to your level of fitness and enthusiasm. If you fancy a tipple between tanning and afternoon snoozes, sample pineapple wine and spirits at the Jus de Fruits de Moorea distillery and juicery. Teetotallers will be similarly spoilt for choice, with juices on offer including banana and vanilla. 

Hilton Moorea. Photo: Tahiti Tourisme

Where to Sleep

Manava Resort is a fabulous option for families, especially if you’re planning to rent a car. Free kayaks are available to borrow, while some of the island’s best beaches are just a 15 minute drive away. Right on the coast, its proximity to the island’s golf course may appeal to keen golfers. Choose between a room or a garden bungalow with a private plunge pool. If you’re not planning to drive, the Hilton Moorea is a picture-perfect choice. At this lively spot, dozens of individual bungalows are right on the water, with fish visible from the your window – diving off your deck into the sea while everyone sleeps is an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

Moorea resort. Photo: Tahiti Tourisme

About 10 kilometres further west, the InterContinental is a luxury option that lives up to its five-star rating. Expect world-class amenities, views to write home about and some of the island’s best in-resort dining. Food can be pricey, but staff have no shortage of nearby recommendations – though if you’re happy to splurge, an abundance of in-house options may leave you struggling to find a reason to leave this exceptional resort.

Natasha Frost

Natasha Frost is a British Kiwi writer who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She's eaten her way around the world, from crickets in Cambodia to pastries in Paris, but saves a special place in her heart for a mince and cheese pie.