Like all Polynesian islands, Moorea is enveloped in folklore.
Legend has it that a golden-skinned lizard abandoned by its human parents became stranded on the reef of Emeho as it swam after them. The merciful gods turned it into the island of Moorea (which means ‘golden lizard’), one of the true jewels of French Polynesia.
Only 17 kilometres from Tahiti or an eight minute flight and regarded as her sister island, Moorea is renowned for its natural beauty and tranquillity and often thought to be the inspiration for James Michener’s mythical island of Bali Hai. The island’s steep volcanic peaks rise sharply from the island’s basalt base and are best viewed from Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay.
Moorea’s laid-back atmosphere provides the perfect backdrop for relaxation but the island also has a wide variety of recreational activities to suit the most active traveller. The island is home to a third of French Polynesia’s total hotel capacity, with accommodation ranging from luxury resort over-water or beach bungalows to hotel rooms and small local-style thatched roof ‘ fares’.
One of the best ways to get to know this magnificent island is hire a car or scooter and tour the single road around the island, visiting secluded beaches, pineapple and vanilla plantations and small picturesque villages. The trip should take about four hours depending on how many stops are made along the way. Inland, lush forests cover Moorea’s mountains, which offer spectacular views of the island’s valleys as well as its lagoons and bays.
The beautiful large garden and old colonial home in Opunohu Bay at the Kellum is worth a visit, built last century and well preserved. Opunohu valley is also home to stone marae temples and archery platforms used by Polynesian royalty in pre-Christian days. Le Belvedere Lookout Point offers an unequalled panorama of Cooks and Opunohu bays, divided by the sacred Rotui mountain.
Moorea has many talented artisans whose creations are sold in boutiques around the island. Ideal for the tropical climate, handpainted pareus, sundresses, bikinis, shirts and beachwear add instant beach chic to any wardrobe or make perfect gifts.
Tahiti’s prized black pearls are available loose or set in designer jewellery from jewellers and boutiques on Moorea, while the public market in Pao Pao beside Cook’s Bay has locally made shell jewellery as well as hats, tote bags, baskets and mats woven from palm fronds, pandanus and banana plants.
Moorea plays host to a number of special events each year that are well worth attending, including the Tahitian Tamara’a Show. Visitors arrive by outrigger canoe at sunset, try foods cooked in a traditional underground oven, enjoy a spectacular Polynesian dance performance and stay for the bringue, or party, that follows.
On a South Sea island as beautiful and picturesque as Moorea, there is plenty to do on land as there is underwater. Families can embrace excitement by traversing the warm lagoon waters through snorkelling, jetskiing or diving. Shopping can take place in the form of ‘made in Moorea’ handicraft products. The island’s various resorts are set in picturesque locales under canopies of green hills and white sandy beaches and provide a host of spas in which to relax in.
The warm South Sea hospitality extends towards all its guests, young and old. The island offers a host of beautiful, scenic eateries and restaurants crafted exquisitely into the natural green landscapes overlooking picturesque spots filled with sun kissed beaches and crystal clear waters. A range of French, Italian, Chinese and Tahitian cuisines can be enjoyed in open air settings at the Le Matiehani found in Moorea’s Pearl Resort & Spa, Arii Vahine at the Sheraton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa, Fare Nui at the InterContinental Resort and Spa, or La perouse at Sofitel Moorea Beach Resort.
There is no shortage of activities to do in Bora Bora. You can explore the island or laze around the beach all day long. Hire a catamaran and select your choice of relaxing cruises. There are also adventure island tours and sunset experiences. Most catamarans have a well stocked bar, a sundeck on the roof and dining area.
There are countless land and water activities that guests of all ages can partake in together at Moorea. Families at Moorea tend to focus on the water and there are host of facilities to accommodate water loving families. From snorkeling to boating, the discovery of underwater wildlife can be enjoyed by all wishing to reconnect with nature.