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THIS WAY TO PARADISE

EXPLORING FRENCH POLYNESIA AND HER ISLANDS

MOOREA

Located in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, 4,000 miles west of Los Angeles, you can find French Polynesia and her islands. An autonomous overseas territory belonging to France, French Polynesia is believed to have formed from a series of underwater volcanic eruptions. Untouched by time these islands offer a true escape to paradise where you’ll be immersed into a rich and vibrant culture. 

Just over an 8-hour flight from any major west coast airport, it’s easy to get to Tahiti. We chose an overnight flight from Los Angeles to Papeete onboard Air Tahiti Nui. Arriving in the very early morning we cleared customs and got a taxi outside of Faa’a International Airport to begin our journey to Moorea. Twenty dollars and ten minutes later we boarded the ferry to Moorea, a rural island paradise.

A thirty minute ferry ride from Tahiti, Moorea is a heart shaped island known for its jagged volcanic mountains, sandy beaches and agriculture. The island is quite large, requiring a car to get around but you’ll quickly find yourself immersed in the laid back vibe surrounded by adventures and lush landscape.

Most hotels will not accommodate early check-in regardless of hotel membership status or credit card perks so I recommend booking the Moorea Tama’s Street Food Tour with Heimata Hall, founder of Tahiti Food Tour. There is no better way to experience the food cultures of the Tahitian, Chinese and French. You’ll want to venture away from your hotel where food is less expensive and delicious and this tour will help you decide where to plan your meals while on the island. 

While visiting Moorea take advantage of the spectacular views and scenery. One of the best ways to experience the thrill of the island is by ATV where you’ll drive through the flora and fauna of Paopao Valley. You’ll be stopping in a pineapple field to cut down coconut to hydrate before continuing onto Le Belvedere lookout, Cook’s Bay, Opunohu Bay and Magic Mountain. 

Back at the hotel, we enjoyed early morning swims off the back of our bungalow in the crystal clear lagoon as the sun rose over the mountains and we were fascinated by the aquamarine life swimming around the coral reefs below our feet. Among the hundreds of species of fish, there is no shortage of spotting butterflyfish, clownfish, the poisonous pufferfish or even black reef tip sharks.

ACTIVITIES 

Tahiti Food Tour: A four to five hour culinary food experience with a pick-up & drop-off at your hotel.  tahitifoodtour.com

ATV Tour: Discover the island's stunning views, lookout points and pineapple farms while having the rush of the wind through your hair. Book with Stephenson (weekends only).  albert-transport.net/tours/atv-tour

Hike: Trois Pinus via Tiki Park, a 3.9 mile moderately challenging loop where you will pass by maraes and take in the vegetation of Opunohu Valley. alltrails.com/french-polynesia/moorea

 

 

STAY 

Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa: The ultimate experience is splurging on the over-water bungalows with direct access to the lagoon where aquamarine life is vibrant. hilton.com/en/hotels/pptmlhh-hilton-moorea-lagoon-resort-and-spa

Sofitel la Ora Moorea Beach Resort: A secluded location on the white sand beach of Temae with incredible panoramic views. sofitel-moorea-kiaora.com

SHOP 

Made in Moorea: Located in downtown Moorea, a boutique store carrying handmade and local clothing and items. instagram.com/madeinmoorea

P. Originals: Known for Tahitian black pearls that are among the world’s rarest varieties. 

p-originals-pearls.com/en/home

BORA BORA 
 

Hop on over to Bora Bora, French Polynesia’s leading lady. It’s a short flight from Moorea on Air Tahiti. Your hotel water taxi will be waiting to transport you across the translucent lagoon to your overwater bungalow. Bora Bora feels worlds away with its famous vibrant turquoise lagoon and white sandy beaches – a place that most of us save as our computer background and dream of going to one day. 

STAY 

Le Bora Bora by Pearl Resorts: Poised on Motu Tevairoa, the resort boasts authentic Polynesian style and architecture with views of Mount Otemanu on the horizon. Save money and experience an overwater bungalow by booking the ‘overwater bungalow’. leborabora.com

ACTIVITIES

Shark and Stingray Snorkel: Unique private day cruise experiences. toaboatborabora.com

Jet Ski: Half-day tour to discover the island on jet skis. atvjetskiadventures.com/en/jet-ski-en

Sunset Cruise: An unforgettable cruise into the golden hour with drinks, hors d'oeuvres and live music onboard Le Bora Bora’s Okeanos Pearl Catamaran. leborabora.com/en-gb/activities/sunset-cruise-okeanos-pearl

You’ll enjoy some fun in the sun while visiting Bora Bora. Water is a way of life and with its calm lagoons most resorts offer a variety of non-motorized water toys such as paddle boards, kayaks, and snorkeling equipment that you can enjoy while hanging beach side. To experience Bora Bora and its crystal clear water firsthand some excursions are not to be missed. 

Bora Bora is one of the few places in the world where you have a guaranteed chance of swimming with sharks. A private boat will take you snorkeling with blacktip reef sharks and stingrays. When you pull up in the boat these social creatures swim around in groups circling from a safe distance. There are too many to count! As they swim in the shallow water you grow accustomed to the exhilarating, but somehow peaceful experience. The next stop is Coral Gardens, a paradise for snorkelers. There’s a rich variety of marine life swimming around the massive corals giving you a show for your money. The giant clams were surprising in iridescent colors of purple, royal blue and teal. It’s hard to believe that these beauties exist.

The captain continued to venture around the island and would occasionally stop and tell us “jump in, hurry, hurry!” He had an eye for spotting marine life including manta rays, spotted eagle rays, sea turtles and the white tip shark. We weren’t quite sure what we were jumping into until we opened our eyes underwater and were face to face with an exotic sea creature. The surprise and exhilaration of swimming close to the marine life make this a must-do adventure.

In the evening find a place to put up your feet and take in the enduring beauty of Bora Bora’s sunsets. Admire the beautiful Mount Otemanu on the horizon as the sun fades into the tranquil waters of the lagoon creating swirls of cotton candy in the sky.  

EAT & DRINK

La Villa Mahana: Owned and operated by Chef Damien Rinaldi Dovio, this romantic restaurant boasts French cuisine with Polynesia flavor. Book well in advance. villamahana.com

Bora Bora Beach Club: Located on Matira Beach this spot guarantees good vibes. borabora-beachclub.com

Manuia Bar: Le Bora Bora’s pool bar where our favorite bartenders, Mona and Manoa, will keep your drinks filled. Stay for the happy hour sunsets and order the chicken egg rolls and Coupe de Bora Bora dessert (another must have). leborabora.com

TO DO

How to Book: We found booking with Costco Travel was the best bang for your money. The packages include airfare, hotels, transportation and dining options. They’re also helpful if any plans go awry. costcotravel.com

Must Pack: GoPro for your underwater adventures, inflatable pool floats to lounge around the lagoon and water shoes. Stonefish is a poisonous fish that dwells in the shallow water of the lagoons and coral. 

Learn the Lingo: Be sure to learn some useful Tahitian words before your trip.

Hello - la Orana (yo-rah-nah)

Welcome - Maeva (mah-yeh-vah)

Thank you - Maururu (mah-roo-roo)

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