Moorea © Bjorn Grob
Arguably the most dramatically beautiful of the
French Polynesian islands, Moorea lies only a few miles northwest
of Tahiti (10 minutes by air or under an hour by ferry from
Papeete). This little tropical island gem is characterised by
spectacular bays, white sandy beaches, and towering craggy volcanic
peaks that form a jagged central spine, reflected in the
surrounding crystal-surfaced lagoons.
About 16,000 people live happily on Moorea, but there
are no towns, or even villages, as such. Settlements offering
clusters of shops and stalls line the 40-mile long (64km) paved
road that encircles the island, giving access to a handful of
sightseeing opportunities and lovely beaches. The best beaches are
between the Moorea Village Hotel and the Hotel Beachcomber, and
near the Sofitel Ia Ora near the airport.
All sorts of water activities and excursions are
offered on the island, as well as several land-based activities
like hikes and mountain safaris. A fun way to explore the island is
to rent a scooter or bicycle, or join the locals on the 'trucks'
that form the island's public transport system, such as it is.
Must-see sights include the panoramic view of the
Cook and Opunohu bays from the Roto Nui (Belvedere) viewpoint, the
Paopao open-air market, and a distillery where exotic liqueurs are
produced from the local pineapple, vanilla, mango, and coconut
Moorea boasts some fancy luxury resorts for those
wanting to indulge but there are also more reasonably priced
options. Despite the island's great popularity with travellers,
Moorea retains an authentic, non-touristy atmosphere and provides a
good retreat from bustling Tahiti.