PHOTO BLOG: 5 DAYS ON MO'OREA

 

It’s been almost 3 years since I visited the French Polynesian island of Mo’orea and sometimes I close my eyes and pretend that my ceiling fan is actually a salty tropical breeze laced with hints of frangipani. It usually doesn’t work.

Everyone knows of Bora Bora. It’s stunning, no doubt about that. Many people land in Tahiti and then immediately head over to Bora Bora. Those who skip Mo’orea are missing out on an incredible jungle paradise.

Here’s what my stay on Mo’orea looked like.

GETTING THERE

After nearly 30 hours of travel (I’m looking at you, 16 hour LAX layover) we landed in the capital city of Pape’ete as the sun rose over the horizon. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation or the 18 months of planning and waiting, but I burst into tears when the landing gear came down. We were finally in French Polynesia.

Once we cleared customs and immigration, we were met by a friendly porter who welcomed us with fresh flower leis and led us to a waiting van for the quick ride to the ferry terminal.

Exhausted but elated. Boarding the ferry to Mo’orea.

Exhausted but elated. Boarding the ferry to Mo’orea.

Leaving Tahiti behind as we zipped toward Mo’orea on the ferry.

Leaving Tahiti behind as we zipped toward Mo’orea on the ferry.

We boarded the ferry to Mo’orea and spent the next 30 minutes crossing the channel that separates Tahiti from Mo’orea. A fresh breeze and the adrenaline of finally arriving at our destination woke us up enough to enjoy the ride from the ferry terminal to the resort.

Flower-lined roads led us to the Hilton Mo’orea Lagoon Resort and Spa.

Flower-lined roads led us to the Hilton Mo’orea Lagoon Resort and Spa.

Our first view of the resort once we checked in.

Our first view of the resort once we checked in.

Toasting to our first night in French Polynesia.

Toasting to our first night in French Polynesia.

LODGING

We spent our week in Mo’orea at the stunning Hilton Mo’orea Lagoon Resort and Spa. This resort sits on prime real estate - right between Cooks Bay and 'Ōpūnohu Bay, on the northern shore of this heart-shaped island. We stayed in a cozy and luxurious deluxe garden bungalow, nestled within a floral garden on the grounds.

A drone’s-eye-view of the resort.

A drone’s-eye-view of the resort.

Views of the quiet beach and overwater bungalows.

Views of the quiet beach and overwater bungalows.

Our bungalow was incredibly secluded and featured our own private plunge pool. Once we checked in, we wasted no time adjusting to island life. Our biggest decision was whether to lay by the pool or in a hammock at the beach.

Our stand-alone garden bungalow with private plunge pool and patio.

Our stand-alone garden bungalow with private plunge pool and patio.

Hammocks at the beach provided for a comfy spot to nap in the shade.

Hammocks at the beach provided for a comfy spot to nap in the shade.

This boardwalk was a great sunset viewing point. Mountains on one side, and the Pacific on the other.

This boardwalk was a great sunset viewing point. Mountains on one side, and the Pacific on the other.

ACTIVITIES

Once we adjusted to island time, we spent our days exploring this paradise. We started off with a 4WD safari tour of the island. We traveled up steep one lane roads to overlooks, through pineapple fields, deep into the jungle to explore ancient marae (temples), and made a stop at the local distillery for samples of the island spirits.

Just starting our tour - zipping down the road to pick up other travelers for the 4wd safari.

Just starting our tour - zipping down the road to pick up other travelers for the 4wd safari.

The views as we made our way to Belvedere Lookout.

The views as we made our way to Belvedere Lookout.

Belvedere Lookout point with the two bays flanking Mount Rotui.

Belvedere Lookout point with the two bays flanking Mount Rotui.

Fields of pineapple surrounded by the mountains of mo’orea.

Fields of pineapple surrounded by the mountains of mo’orea.

FRESH COCONUTS.

FRESH COCONUTS.

A STOP TO TRY FRESH JAMS AND OTHER LOCALLY SOURCED PRODUCTS.

A STOP TO TRY FRESH JAMS AND OTHER LOCALLY SOURCED PRODUCTS.

VISITING SACRED MARAE (TEMPLES) IN THE THICK JUNGLE.

VISITING SACRED MARAE (TEMPLES) IN THE THICK JUNGLE.

When we needed a break from lounging in the sun, we left the property to walk down the road to the little convenience store nearby. We taste tested “Tahitian Cola” and other goodies, all while feeling completely safe and welcome on this little rock in the middle of the ocean.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH - A WALK ALONG THE ROAD TO THE LOCAL CONVENIENCE STORE, WITH VIEWS ALONG THE WAY.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH - A WALK ALONG THE ROAD TO THE LOCAL CONVENIENCE STORE, WITH VIEWS ALONG THE WAY.

We spent an afternoon with James, who gave me my favorite travel souvenir to date - a traditional Tahitian tatau. Read more about that experience here.

MY ONE-OF-A-KIND TATAU BY JAMES SAMUELA.

MY ONE-OF-A-KIND TATAU BY JAMES SAMUELA.

The rest of our time was spent playing in the warm crystal clear water. Incredibly blue water allowed us to snorkel right off the beach, where we found all sorts of colorful aquatic friends. Kayaks were available for our use whenever we felt the urge to paddle out and see the resort from a new angle.

FLOATING ON CRYSTAL CLEAR WATER IN THE LAGOON.

FLOATING ON CRYSTAL CLEAR WATER IN THE LAGOON.

HEADING IN FOR AN AFTERNOON SNORKEL.

HEADING IN FOR AN AFTERNOON SNORKEL.

A STINGRAY WAITING TO PLAY.

A STINGRAY WAITING TO PLAY.

FOOD

The resort, for its small size, offers a handful of delicious dining options, and we tried all of them - beachside pizzas, open air dinners under the stars, and a crêperie surrounded by curious reef sharks.

WE ENJOYED A BREAKFAST BUFFET EVERY MORNING, LOOKING OUT OVER THE LAGOON.

WE ENJOYED A BREAKFAST BUFFET EVERY MORNING, LOOKING OUT OVER THE LAGOON.

When we grew curious, we ventured off the resort to La Plantation restaurant. Owned by a local, La Plantation offered all of the classic Tahitian meals in a quaint outdoor atmosphere. And talk about service - the owner herself came to retrieve us from the resort and dropped us off once we had finished dinner.

DINNER OFF THE RESORT AT THE LA PLANTATION RESTAURANT.

DINNER OFF THE RESORT AT THE LA PLANTATION RESTAURANT.

just us and another couple dined at this quiet and quaint establishment that night.

just us and another couple dined at this quiet and quaint establishment that night.

reef sharks waiting for scraps from the crepe restaurant.

reef sharks waiting for scraps from the crepe restaurant.

THE RESORT IS JUST AS BEAUTIFUL AT NIGHT.

THE RESORT IS JUST AS BEAUTIFUL AT NIGHT.

There’s something magical about Mo’orea. Formed from volcanic activity, it’s very reminiscient of the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i - lush, green, and inspiring. A slow pace and welcoming locals make it feel like home away from home. Bora Bora might have the name recognition, but Mo’orea will absolutely add that something special to your French Polynesian itinerary.

Want to learn more about how to spend some time on Mo’orea?