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britman Moorea - A travel report by Brit
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Moorea,  French Polynesia - flag French Polynesia
12406 readers

britman's travel reports

Moorea –the most beautiful place on earth?

  28 votes
Page: 1 2
Many tropical islands claim to be the prettiest, the classiest, and the ultimate, perhaps even the most exclusive. All declare that they are the next best thing to paradise, heaven, nirvana - call it what you will. So long as the tourist sales teams have painted a picture that compels you to visit them next – they win. But will that trip really live up to their claims and more importantly, your expectations? Or, will your “Fantasy-Island” turn out to be just another over hyped touristy marketing dream? No worries here – Moorea genuinely is the most beautiful place on earth - even though it relies completely on tourism for its income.


Bora Bora (shown) also claims the best Society island title
Bora Bora (shown) also claims the best Society island title
Neighbouring Tahiti and Bora-Bora frequently lay claim to being the world’s best island, as does almost every other island from Aruba to Zanzibar. The simple truth is that Moorea is far more laid back than its two beautiful neighbours and so it achieves the label of being that ultimate tropical vacation location! It is believed that this island, which many describe as the most beautiful place on earth, was the basis for James Michener’s fairy-tale Bali-Hai portrayed in the “South Pacific” story. Moorea pronounced MOE-oh-ray-ah, has a population of just 12000 and lies some 9 miles (16km) off the North West coast of Tahiti in the French Society group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. There are no towns here; the people live in small settlements around the 60 mile coastal fringe of the island. The language is French, as are its cafés which serve real French style coffee, baguettes and pastries. Relaxation is what Moorea is about, no need to dress up here, be cool, just go barefoot or wear flip flops, t shirt and shorts and you immediately unwind; now your dream vacation begins.

Favourite spots:
Ferry towards Moorea from Tahiti
Ferry towards Moorea from Tahiti
OK I admit it is touristy thing to do, but you do have to see just one Tahitian dance. Whilst watching these sensual dances, laid on for me and my fellow tourists at the Tiki Village near Haapiti, I recalled that it was Captain Wallis’s sailors in 1767 who were first lured by beautiful Tahitian ladies trading their love for a previous unknown commodity here - nails.
Two years later, Captain Cook’s own crew arrived, mutinied and jumped ship, again enticed by more Polynesian beauties. They reckoned a life here would easily beat a dreary English existence or a hard shipmate’s life. Here was a true paradise, nirvana did exist after all. Much later in 1891, Paul Gauguin, the French Impressionist painter came here, similarly he was mesmerised and inspired to stay in Tahiti and enjoy its splendours whilst painting them too. Time for me to stop dreaming, the sensual swaying, the evocative dancing and the South Sea lullabies had stopped and I had a return ticket and a mortgage to pay back in Blighty!


What's really great:
The dance that seduced the sailors
The dance that seduced the sailors
The whole island of Moorea is really great, it’s so compact, almost triangular in shape, just sixteen miles across and 51 square miles in area with 60 miles of coast. It is scenically, stunning. Firstly, it really is the best kept secret of French Polynesia. It’s exclusive; simply because it is so far away from most of the rest of the world; as a result it is very expensive and inconvenient to get there from almost anywhere! The upshot is that only a few people ever get to visit it at once. It also gets less publicity than its glossier neighbour Tahiti, just a forty minute ferry-ride away or its sister East Polynesian island of Bora-Bora. Secondly, it is truly a most visually spectacular island, with its 6 giant serrated volcanic mountains covered by lush green tropical vegetation. These jagged peaks dominate, like giant sharks teeth over this small island. Beaches with white sand, beaches with black volcanic sand, pale sapphire blue seas, sunny blue skies, with the merest wisp of cloud, all make this a true photographer’s dream, with views to make even Hollywood producers drool. (In 1983 Dino DeLaurentis remade “The Bounty” here with Mel Gibson and Sir Anthony Hopkins) Thirdly, its climate is typically tropical, hot but comfortable all year round. There are two main seasons: Hot, a bit sticky and wetter between November and April, whilst the rest of the year is just slightly cooler and drier. Don’t be fooled by that summary – Moorea still gets an average 7 to 8 hours of sunshine hours daily, between 11 and 13 hours daylight and rainfall that is usually a sharp shower in the afternoon. Refreshing, cooling breezes from the trade winds on all but the stickiest of days are the norm.

Sights:
Is this Bali Hai from The South Pacific?
Is this Bali Hai from The South Pacific?
Things to do:-
Absolutely nothing! Go barefoot - find a decent beach, many white pure sand ones. (The best beaches are Hauru Point (great for snorkelling) in the north west corner, Teavaro Beach on the east coast or over to the west to Haapiti beach). Oh the local beer is Hinano it’s also cool when it has chilled too!

• More exhilarating, try walking or go further and progress to hiking the mountain trails, maybe even try a spot of climbing. Car hire is available from the wharf where the ferry arrives. Plentiful tourist options abound from bike hire, boat hire, bus tours; round island trips even 4 x 4 Safaris. The must see on Moorea however is the magnificent view from the Belvedere Lookout where you look over the twin bays of Oponohu and Cooks Bay both separated by the giant jagged peaks of Mount Rotui.
• I also visited the historical octagonal church located in the northern coastal village of Papetoai. It is only significant because it’s the oldest European building in use in the South Pacific. It was established by the London Missionary Society in 1822, but the church is nothing exceptional and you don’t miss too much by excluding it from your round island trip.
• Shoppers will be quite disappointed here – beside the usual tourist artefacts the only real genuine buys are black pearls – be warned they cost a fortune but are authentic and hugely prized. Better to visit Moorea’s interesting Pearl Farm and just gloat! In Pao Pao you will find Moorea's market selling locally made handicrafts from shell jewellery, bags, baskets, through to hats and mats woven from palm fronds and banana plants.
• Every conceivable thing to do on, in or near water is available; including Sailing, Scuba-diving, Snorkelling, Surfing, Swimming, Waterskiing and Windsurfing. Fishing both deep-sea and sport is also catered for. Humpback Whales and Dolphins can be seen with “Dr Poole’s unique Marine Excursions”. If you wish, you can get (I really mean buy) the chance to swim or paddle alongside dolphins at Dolphin Quest in the InterContinental, Beachcomber Resort. See (http://dolphinquest.org/destinations/moorea
• Those who want to see the kind of dancing that swayed bygone sailors to mutiny should head for the Tiki Village south of Hauru Point near Haapiti on the west coast. Here Tahitian Dancing Shows and other cultural performances are included in the ticket price. They serve good local Polynesian Food too. There are several handicraft demonstrations within the village with shops all selling tourist fare. (http://www.tikivillage.pf)

Accommodations:
Moorea's favourite over water hotel accommodation
Moorea's favourite over water hotel accommodation
The favourite style of accommodation on Moorea is over-water bungalows, where you can peer down from the inside through your glass bottomed hole in the floor to the pale turquoise blue sea below.

1. Inter Continental Beachcomber Resort, Moorea Exclusive From $250 upwards++

2. The Sheraton Lagoon Hotel Moorea; is nestled between Cook's Bay and Oponohu Bay, Exclusive with rooms from $200++

3. Club Bali Hai, Cooks Bay, Moorea, Exclusive at $140 to $200++

4. Moorea Beach Club, Moorea, Deluxe at $80 to $140++

5. Hotel Les Tipaniers, Moorea, Standard at $40 to $80++

6. Moorea Camping, Hauru Point, Moorea, Rooms & Dorms. $20 to $40
Moorea has several camping grounds, particularly popular with the French and also does have some cheap backpacker style accommodation. The best of these are on the west coast of the island.

Nightlife:
Polynesian dancing
Polynesian dancing

Clubs:

No one goes to Moorea for nightclubs, raves or discos. Apparently, the first and last night club shut down more than 20 years ago. What nightlife there is concentrates around the hotels. It really is a very romantic destination; consequently, it’s chosen by many couples wishing just to relax or honeymooners lavishly celebrating their nuptials. Nightly entertainment in the resorts consists of traditional Polynesian dance shows, somewhat tamed from the indecent seductive performances that enticed the first seafarers away from “The Bounty”. Usually the resorts package these shows at least once a week, accompanied by a bbq or Tahitian buffet with a huge $60 to $80 price tag per head to match. Some hotels promise live music to listen or dance to. Check the hotels web-sites before you go as to what is on or promised.


Now, if you really are a relapsed night owl whose nocturnal life is empty without a decent pub crawl followed by a few clubs….. all is not quite lost! Just 40 minutes away by ferry is Papeete, Tahiti’s boisterous and vibrant capital. 100,000 people over there live to party and they really know how to enjoy themselves.

Hangouts:
The view from Belvedere Lookout
The view from Belvedere Lookout
Nightlife in Papeete starts early (some places open in the afternoons) but never really gets going until after 9.00pm. The rhythms pulse and the drinks flow through to 3.00am or later. Tahitians are great lovers of nightlife and the visitor (jet loads arrive daily) is always welcome to join in. Be warned, you need to dig deep in your pockets if you want to party though. Most places, clubs, dance halls and discos have an entrance fee of at least $10 thereafter, reckon on at least $5 for each Hinano beer or if you want cocktails or imported spirits it’s $10 to $15 per shot. On the corner of Pomare Boulevard and Rue Des Ecoles you will find the Mana Rock Café which is a disco style dance venue with bars on several levels and the crowd is truly mixed. There are many bars all within easy walking distance and a pub-crawl around the locals’ bars can be most interesting and great fun. For me the highlight in Papeete’s nightlife is the survival of the atmospheric Dance Halls, with their live music, that reign supreme over the recorded music played in the towns glitzy Disco’s. The locals evidently agree given the Dance Halls popularity.

Over on this wilder side of town, which present day sailors regularly frequent, are the bars and clubs of the Mahu district in downtown Papeete. In the heart of this district is Rue des Ecoles, also the home of Tahiti’s mahus or transvestite ladyboys. In Tahiti if a family has several children and, they are not blessed with a girl child, they will frequently bring up one boy as a girl. I gather that The Piano Bar and the next door Lido Nightclub are the clubs featuring female impersonators, who dress and undress burlesque style to a mixed audience. If that’s what grabs you look no further!

Incidentally, most pubs and clubs in Papeete close on Sundays.

Tahiti also has its own annual Mardi Gras. The next Tahiti Carnival complete with costume parades is due to be held on the 8th February 2005.


Restaurants:
Leaving the beautiful island of Moorea on the ferry for Tahiti.
Leaving the beautiful island of Moorea on the ferry for Tahiti.
Moorea has many excellent restaurants. But if you don’t want to leave your lagoon side, expensive cocoon resort hotel, you can eat in. Additionally, you will find that many hotels have, at least once a week on theme nights, a native Polynesian dancing show complete with fire-eaters:-
• Eating in the Resort Hotels:-

• Fare Nui at the Inter Continental Beachcomber Resort;
• Arii Vahine at Sheraton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa;
• Moorea Pearl Resorts lagoon-side restaurant
• La Perouse at Sofitel Ia Ora

• Hotel Les Tipaniers has an Italian Garden Restaurant, more casual atmosphere. (it’s much cheaper too) (http://www.lestipaniers.com )


• Restaurants around Cook's Bay include:-

• Alfredo's (Italian cuisine) - (my favourite – a really good choice)
• Le Cocotier (French cuisine)
• Le Pecheur (French cuisine)
• Mahogany (Chinese cuisine) .




Moorea lies just 9 miles NW of Tahiti

West Coast local Restaurants
• Le Pitcairn,
• La Plantation
• Tiki Village for an authentic Polynesian Food.
• Le Bateau is Linareva's Floating Restaurant in a restored ferry - it has atmosphere.
• If you are going around the island stop at Painapo Beach there is a great road-side grill here.

Other recommendations:
Goodbye Tahiti as the sun goes down
Goodbye Tahiti as the sun goes down
Getting there:-

International Flights arrive at neighbouring Papeete on Tahiti: -. The flight time from Europe is around 20 hours – coming from New Zealand you cross the International Date Line and gain a day. Most flights take off and land during the night. Bucket shop deals for Air New Zealand return flights from London Heathrow start at £670. Check the internet websites for carriers from your own location.

From Papeete to Moorea:-
Ferries are inexpensive and start at 6.00am. There are about 20 a day between the two islands. Two slower ferries (Moorea Ferry) take an hour for the 9 mile journey – the faster (Moorea Express) ferries get there in 35 minutes. For tariffs and timetables see http://www.mooreaferry.pf/horairestarifs.htm. Travel to the other smaller and less touristy Society islands of, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa and Maupiti is possible by ferry from Papeete

By Air:- You can take the tiny Air Moorea shuttle flights at around $20 each way or the larger Air Tahiti flights at $25 each way. Air Tahiti’s islands-airpass between all the Society Islands are worth considering if you wish to tour the region.

By Cruise Ship:- A lovely way to see the whole of Polynesia, Bora Bora, Tahiti and Moorea included with other less visited islands is by taking a cruise ship. Search the internet for cheap buys or 50% off deals, that frequently appear – you’ll soon find that you can get a decent shared cabin from around US$60 per person, per day. With all meals included that’s not at all expensive for this part of the world where even cheap shabby hotel rooms can fetch $50 per day.

Time Zone:- 10 hours behind GMT.

Exchange Rate:- Roughly, 100CFP = US$1.00

Visas:- 3 months tourist visas are granted on arrival to most Nationalities.

Language:- French. English is spoken

Useful web sites:-
http://www.french-polynesia.islands-holiday.com
http://www.tahiti-tourisme.com
http://www.tahiti-explorer.com
http://www.tahitiplanet.com


Published on Friday August 13th, 2004


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Sun, Jan 21 2007 - 04:48 PM rating by where2go

OMG! Those are amazing pictures! Detailed and useful report.

Sun, Dec 18 2005 - 06:59 PM rating by jorgesanchez

another one of your many wonderful reports

Sat, Jan 15 2005 - 11:49 PM rating by polytrad

I love what you say about Moorea and you are right to say that Moorea is second to none in French Polynesia.
Many of the American visitors I take on excursions round the island of Tahiti at the close of their cruise on board the Paul Gauguin do insist to say that they longed for visiting Bora Bora which in many cases is reminiscent of historic war memories and American presence during WWII but that eventually they found Moorea even more captivating than Bora Bora.

Bert (Poly)

Tue, Dec 14 2004 - 04:48 PM rating by hially

Hello Britman,

I have been dreaming of going to Moorea since I was 16. I've had opportunities to go between then and now, but haven't yet adventured there. Saving it for a really special romantic getaway in the future. Thanks for the great report. I was wondering when someone other than my Kiwi neighbour would share any experiences about my dream destination.

Wed, Nov 10 2004 - 01:04 AM rating by rangutan

Unusual place and perhaps the best report ever written, nominate it as Report-of-the-Decade!

Sat, Aug 28 2004 - 03:36 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

hii brit,
i am really glad to read this report.its really nice and wonderful place and i never hear about it before.
ravi

Wed, Aug 18 2004 - 11:50 AM rating by bear495

Brit,

As always, I enjoyed the report. You may be on the right track about Moorea being the most beautiful place in the world. At least, it ranks among the most exotic. I hope to travel there some day soon.

Russ

Sat, Aug 14 2004 - 02:35 PM rating by nedkelly

Holy Ned Britman , Thats about the best Physio I ever had. I gotta go there gotta go there gotta go there!!!!! Backpack shmackpack Il do whatever it takes. good effort Britman.

Sat, Aug 14 2004 - 01:31 AM rating by wojtekd

Outstanding report! Reminds me my visit to Moorea. Quality pictures - some like a postcards... I think that the backpackers would like to read more about budget accommodation and how to get around the island. ***** - Thanks and congratulations! Wojtek

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