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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.