This island. It will always hold a very special place in my heart. I truly love it for so many reasons. Cyprus in my heart forever.
How do I love thee? Let’s count the ways…
In March 2020 after fleeing lockdown in Israel we landed in Cyprus. Our thoughts at the time were that we would sit tight for two or three weeks and wait out this crazy Corona thing. Five days later, we went into total lockdown which I always describe as house arrest. We could only leave our house once a day with permission from local Cyprus authorities, which we obtained through an app on our phones. What initially was presented as a ten-day lockdown became two months for us…and even longer for the Cypriot people.
The airport shut down with no flights in or out, and so we hunkered down for a long stay. It was March, still cool in the Mediterranean, but dry and sunny most days. All archeological sites and museums, all beaches, trails and recreational facilities were closed. As well as all shops and restaurants except for a handful of grocery stores and pharmacies.
Lockdown 2020 on Cyprus was definitely not something we had on our travel itinerary, but it became one of the most unique and memorable experiences of our life – putting Cyprus in my heart forever.
2.)Lemon Grove Villas, Argaka
Lucky for us, we were in an Airbnb called Lemon Grove Villas in the tiny village of Argaka. Argaka is on the far northwest corner of the island, about as far as you can get from the international airport city of Larnaca.
Not only was Lemon Grove Villa comfortable and spacious, but it also had one of the absolute best hosts we have had in all of our travels. Maria and Fytos were outstanding and made such an effort to make our unexpectedly long stay, unexpectedly comfortable.
3.)We Shall Return
When we finally left Cyprus after two months, we vowed to return – and we kept that vow, returning 26 months later this past June. We only had a week this time, but we spent the entire week back at our beloved Lemon Grove Villa, getting to see our sweet hosts Maria and Fytos. And this time, thanks to fabulous weather, enjoying the beautiful pool.
4.)Sunshine and Sand
If you have been to Greece, Cyprus feels just like that. But without the crowds or the price tag. Sunny skies, turquoise water, beautiful beaches. It’s surprising Cyprus is not one of the Greek islands, but most Cypriots consider themselves Greek and you will see the Greek flag everywhere. At least on the Greek Cypriot side (south side) of this island.
5.)Ancient History, Recent History
This island is said to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love. The island has been occupied by many civilizations dating back as far as far as the 12th century BC. Given its strategic position in the Mediterranean it’s no wonder so many wanted a piece of it over the millennia. Throughout the 140 mile long by 60 miles wide island you will find a fascinating array of ancient ruins and archeological sites all worth a visit.
More recent history has included a civil war in 1974 when Turkey invaded northern Cyprus, occupying and taking over entire cities including property and homes. Greek Cypriots fled south and Turkish Cypriots fled north, leaving everything behind. Still today Turkey has control of the northern part of the island but it is not recognized by the United Nations. It wasn’t until 2003 that a border crossing was opened. Today you can still see the sad remains of people’s homes and businesses abandoned and bullet ridden along the UN Buffer Zone.
6.)Hiking and Running
We love to run and hike and Cyprus offered beautiful and safe places to do both. In Argaka we ran nearly every day, both during lockdown and in our recent visit. And we also enjoyed several hikes along the ocean, in the mountains and through some glorious slot canyons.
7.)Food Glorious Food
Very similar to Greek food, Cypriot food is abundant with fresh and locally grown produce. Throughout the island and especially in Argaka you will find citrus, olives, nuts, and berries growing next to wheat, barley, watermelons, zucchini and tomatoes. Honey and breads are abundant as are candies and amazing coffee. You can find local wine that is cheap and delicious and recently a surge of craft beer. It is a breadbasket of the Mediterranean. The cuisine includes a lot of fish, lamb, beef and chicken as well as yogurt, feta and amazing halloumi cheese. Oh my goodness. I was in heaven. Learn more about Cypriot foods and cooking in this post In the Cyprus Test Kitchen.
8.) Kind and Hardworking People
And then there are the quiet and kind Cypriots. Some of the hardest working people I have ever met, yet always ready with a shy smile and a welcome.
Cyprus in My Heart Forever
What more could anyone want in a destination? It’s inexpensive, beautiful, delicious and great weather. There is interesting history and architecture, nature and views. Each city offers a wide variety of accommodations and restaurants. If I compare it to Maui it is half the price or less, with fewer tourists and traffic. For Americans it’s a bit difficult to get to, but there are lots of direct flights from London, so that’s typically the best way to get here. But however you get here, just get here.
I am already working on a plan to get back to Cyprus for a long extended visit in 2024. Cyprus, in my heart forever.
When we went to Iceland in June 2021 I thought travel was back. But then the Greek alphabet started to wreak havoc on our travel life. First Delta hit in the summer and then Omicron almost shut us down when we were in Mexico. That Pandamit refused to loose it’s grip. Now, more than two years since it started, we once again are cautiously dipping our toes into travel with a ten week tour. We are ready and The Grand Adventure Continues.
My word of the year for 2022 is caution. And although we always travel with caution, navigating a travel life today requires a great deal more preparation and caution than in the past. Changing rules for testing and entry requirements require constant monitoring. It requires patience. It requires time. And it also requires being a bit of a gambler.
Off We Go
So with all that in mind, we have spent the past several months planning, studying the CDC information and reading the US State Department guidelines. We have put hundreds of hours into our preparation to embark on this tour. The destinations listed below each are chosen for a specific reason – personal and cautionary…and the Grand Adventure continues.
New York City
Twice we have canceled a week long winter visit to NYC due to the Pandamit. When we decided to try again for a spring visit, it was because we were headed to Boston for a college reunion. But alas, the college reunion was canceled (sigh). So we added the days we were going to be in Boston to the days we had already booked for New York…giving us a nice long stay of eleven days.
We have been to New York at least a half a dozen times, but each time has always been only 2-3 days. Having eleven days gives us time to slowly see the city and all it’s fabulous museums, restaurants, neighborhoods and history. We have a full itinerary and are really looking forward to it. April 21-May 2.
When we first decided to head to the Caribbean after New York the other countries on our itinerary (see below) hadn’t totally opened up. So we decided to head to the turquoise waters of two islands we had never been to before. It’s been a long time since we spent time in the Caribbean and we are looking forward to ten days in Antigua (in an Airbnb with a car) and ten days in Turks & Caicos (a resort with no car). For us it’s incredibly rare that we stay in a resort, so this should be interesting. It’s not a super fancy all-inclusive, but it is nice and we expect it to be very relaxing and within our budget. May 2-May 21
From the Caribbean we fly to Washington DC for a one night stay, where we will also do a Covid test for entry into Morocco. This is also where we will rendezvous with our two adult sons, who are joining us for the Morocco portion of this itinerary. We are off to Morocco to attend a wedding reception of a friend of our family…a party that has been canceled three previous times since the Pandamit hit. Before the wedding in Fes, our family will spend a week touring Morocco. This is my second visit to Morocco and I am really looking forward to seeing this beautiful country again, sharing it with my two adult children and attending a traditional Moroccan wedding. It should be an incredible experience. May 23-May 31.
The West Africa nation of Senegal has been on my list for a long time due to it’s fascinating history, but we have never been able to squeeze it in. But it’s a short flight from Casablanca to Dakar so we will check Senegal off the bucket list. We have a brief visit (five days) and have hired a tour guide for two days to take us to some of the major sites. May 31 – June 5.
From Senegal we are headed to the island of Malta, but to get to Malta requires a flight and an overnight in Paris. Well Paris is always a good idea, right? Fingers crossed for good weather to spend one full day strolling around my favorite arrondissements of the city of lights and eating everything I can. June 5-6
The next three stops on this tour are three places Covid shut us down in, and we have been counting the days until we could return. So we begin with Malta.
We were supposed to spend three weeks on Malta in May of 2020…of course that didn’t happen. It’s a destination I have wanted to visit for years. Full of beauty and history and fascinating geography…if you don’t know much about Malta you would probably recognize it from the role it plays in many movies and TV shows including Game of Thrones. We are staying in the historic town of Valletta in an Airbnb and we will not have a car except for one day when we have a car to see the ancient city of M’dina. I’ve booked a food tour and a one day tour to the island of Gozo. The rest of the time we will explore on foot. June 6-15th
In March of 2020 after only five days of our 17 day itinerary in Israel we fled the country to avoid being put into a two week quarantine. We fled to Cyprus (more on that below) and I cried in the car as we drove to the airport. We had seen some amazing sites in Israel, but no where near all, including Jerusalem and Masada. I had waited to visit Israel since I was a child and learned about it from a Girl Scout leader. My heart was broken.
So let’s try it again. This time we will spend our entire 7 day visit in Jerusalem in an Airbnb. We have a Jerusalem tour one day, another tour to Bethlehem in Palestine one day, and we will rent a car and drive to Masada one day. We also have booked a Shabat dinner with a local family. These are all high on my wishlist. I love the food of this region too, and I can’t wait to eat all of it! June 15 – 22
Dear sweet Cyprus. It holds such a special place in my heart, after we spent two months in lockdown on this gorgeous island. But during that two months we did not see any of the amazing historic sites, enjoy any of it’s stunning beaches or eat in any of it’s amazing restaurants. Covid had everything shut down. We have vowed to return and now we will.
Unfortunately we only have seven days, but we know exactly what we want to see and do, and we can make it happen. Looking forward to staying in the same Airbnb we were trapped in for two months and we can’t wait to see our hosts who were so kind to us. We also hope to see our friend Leza who we met and spent a day with in a cooking class – the only thing we got to do before we went into lockdown.
Cyprus is a fascinating tiny country with a disputed border, fantastic food, ancient history (supposedly the birthplace of Aphrodite), mountains and beaches and so much more. Dear sweet Cyprus. We are coming. June 23-30
Ten Weeks and The Grand Adventure Continues
This itinerary is busy…much busier than we usually pursue. But we are taking a deep breath and tackling it, because life is short and due to the Pandamit we have some catching up to do! We will arrive back in the USA June 30th for the summer months before we go again.
What a blessing it has been to spend two entire months on the glorious island of Mo’orea in the South Pacific. Mo’orea, French Polynesia, has turned out to be a perfect fit for what we look for in long-term travel destinations; laid back but with enough activity and lots of delicious food. So I hope you saw last week’s blog post Seven Things to do on Mo’orea French Polynesia – and today we present Where to Eat on the Island of Mo’orea.
The Flavors of French Polynesia
A few weeks ago I introduced you to The Flavors of French Polynesia in a blog post as I began to learn and explore this culture and it’s food. Now, two months into our visit we have visited many of the local comfort food spots as well as some finer dining restaurants. For the most part we cooked our own food in our Airbnb, but we ate out about once a week – or sometimes more, as we researched and enjoyed the delicious foods of Mo’orea.
For the purposes of this post I have broken our favorites of where to eat on the island of Mo’orea into two categories; Snack/Roulette/Take Away and Sit Down Table Service. Some of these restaurants straddle these categories and I have mentioned it when they do. There is some incredible food here, the majority focused around seafood. But you can also get a good burger, steak, pizza and pasta as well as Chinese and Japanese. Alas we have not seen a Mexican restaurant.
Tips and Tricks on Where to Eat on the Island of Mo’orea
Many places are only open a few days a week. Most places close after lunch and re-open for dinner. Surprising to us, a lot of restaurants and Snacks closed the entire month of February. Apparently this is vacation month. Do not assume hours on Google, Facebook or even websites are correct. Call to be certain. Most places don’t even have web presence, if they do I have provided a link below or at least a Trip Advisor link. As of this writing, masks are still required indoors and most staff will be masked although it is loosely enforced. Many of the finer dining places will require reservation.
So here is our list of our favorites, from snacks to French Cuisine. Where to eat on the island of Mo’orea.
Snack, Roulette and Take Away
Snack Rotui – we visited Snack Rotui located in Pao Pao originally when we did our food tour with Street Foods of Tahiti. We went back again for lunch. This is the oldest restaurant on the island with outdoor seating but mostly it’s a take-away place. Serving a variety of Asian, French and Polynesian foods.
Kaylakea Moz – one of the best meals we had on the island, this tiny little Roulette (food truck) puts out some incredible, high-quality food. We ate here twice and the tuna was spectacular. Located in Maharepa.
Dimanche Matin – this name means Sunday morning, and indeed this take-away is only open on Sunday morning. It was only about 25 yards down the street from our bungalow, so we picked up a couple things on a couple of Sundays’. The pork (roti and sausage) were excellent as was the Bouchon au Poulet – Chinese dumplings. Located in Teavaro.
Chez Ke’iki – this is one of those places that straddle the categories…is it a food truck? Yes. Is it a sit-down restaurant? Yes. Whatever it is it is delicious, one of the best on the island. During our first few weeks here it was closed, due to the rain. So call before going, but definitely go. Duck, pork, fish, curry it’s all delicious in a beautiful setting. Located in Maharepa.
Magic Mountain Juice – this tiny Snack is at the base of Magic Mountain, a hike we did twice. The nice lady here charges $2 to park and then you can hike up the mountain. On the way back she serves you a free selection of stunning fruit. Both times we also each ordered a fruit smoothie. So delicious after a hot and muggy hike…or anytime. Located in Papeto’ai.
Roulette 64 – this little food truck seems to only be open a few days a week, located at the beach we go to close to our Bungalow called Te’mae. They have a darling little set up with burgers, sandwiches, grilled fish and lots of poke bowl options, which is what I enjoyed. Very reasonably priced.
Allo Pizza – we’ve seen at least five pizza places on the island, but this one is ALWAYS busy so we thought we should check it out. There are some tables, but it is more of Snack than a sit down restaurant and is also great for take-away. Friendly service. We had a honey, goat cheese and bacon pizza that we loved, as well as a tuna and pineapple pizza. The mixed green salad and two beers each rounded out our lunch, which was big enough to cover dinner too for a total of $70. Located in Cooks Bay.
Sit Down Table Service Restaurants
Mo’orea Beach Cafe – one of the more expensive restaurants on the island, but the food was phenomenal. I can say it was one of the best pieces of fish I have ever eaten. Order the Dover Sole. The service was also great and the view can’t be beat. Located in Maharepa.
Snack Mahana – even though this place is called a “snack” it really is a restaurant. It’s all about the seafood here, and we LOVED our food. So glad we went out of our way to this place that is all the way around the other side of the island from where we are staying. My assumption is it started as a “snack” but now has lovely beach side tables with a view. Mahi Mahi and Tuna Tartare were incredible as was watching the black tipped sharks swimming. Located in Tiahura.
Le Lezard Jaune – This highly rated French restaurant is one of those that closes for a month in the winter so the proprietors can take a vacation. So we had to wait until late February to squeeze in a visit. You definitely need a reservation here, and it is so worth it. We had a spectacular meal here. I had Mahi Mahi, my husband had lamb. We shared their version of Poisson Cru which was fantastic and we shared a coconut cake for dessert. Dinner and drinks was about $120. Don’t miss it. Located in Tiahura.
Maheata – this place has tiny little rooms and feels almost like a hostel. But they also have a rustic but lovely restaurant with a waterside view. You can choose to sit on the beach with your toes in the sand or on the covered open air dining room. Lobster was great and affordable. French fries were maybe the best I’ve had ANYWHERE! Located in Pihaena.
Fare La Canadidenne – well I’ve been off burgers BUT we kept hearing this place had great burgers so….and yes they do. Fun little place, very popular, not open every day so be sure to check. We ate lunch there and didn’t need any dinner! Between Teavaro and Maharepa in the tiny neighborhood of Tiaia.
Restaurant Golden Lake Chinese – if it weren’t for all the people who told us we should eat here, we would have driven right by this nondescript building. My husband isn’t a huge fan of Chinese food, but this was certainly one of the best Chinese meals we have had. And huge. We had the signature dish of Roasted Pork with Coconut Milk and two vegetable sides and this fed us for two dinners. Our only complaint was they needed more staff. Located between Teavaro and Temae near the airport.
Coco Beach – if for no other reason make the time to spend half a day at Coco Beach just for the “castaway” feel of it. This unique restaurant on teeny little island surrounded by a gorgeous turquoise lagoon is right out of Swiss Family Robinson. You must CALL for a reservation. They will pick you up in an open air boat and take you to the island. Your table is yours for the entire day. We started with a tropical drink, then went snorkeling, then back to the restaurant for a delicious lunch. It was a fun day. They could have used a few more servers but we had fun. Parking at the boat dock located in Papeto’ai.
Where to Eat on the Island of Mo’orea
We have enjoyed every aspect of our time here, including the wonderful food and restaurants. Everything is fresh and delicious and I should also point out that EVERYONE is helpful and accommodating. Nothing to complain about as we wrap up our two month visit. We highly recommend this destination and welcome your comments and questions.
Thank you for following along…we are headed back to the USA for six weeks before launching another two plus month adventure. No doubt it too will be delicious as we jump around the Caribbean, Northern Africa and the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile, no travel Friday blog for a couple of weeks, but soon I’ll share our upcoming itinerary we have (almost) nailed down for the rest of 2022. Wait for it!
We would love it if you pinned or shared our post Where to Eat on the Island of Mo’orea. Thank you. Ma’uru’uru.
Now enjoying our sixth week in French Polynesia, we are smitten with the island of Mo’orea. Just a 30 minute ferry crossing from Tahiti and the country’s main city of Papeete, Mo’orea is convenient and has everything we look for in a relaxing destination. We like it way more than Bora Bora and hope to come here again. Here are our favorite seven things to do on Mo’orea French Polynesia.
We originally chose Mo’orea because we found a wonderful Airbnb. Arriving with high hopes it would be as good as the reviews and photos – we were not been disappointed. It’s very comfortable, affordable, waterfront, and a great location. Another bonus is our host Maea is one of the best hosts we have ever had in our 102 Airbnb’s around the world – yes I said 102!! Perhaps it’s time to update this post Our Favorite Airbnb’s Around the World.
Mo’orea might not get the same marketing push that Bora Bora gets, but we think we like it better…at least for us. We enjoy a quiet place with a less touristy vibe. Mo’orea has that, especially during the shoulder season. Authentic ambiance is another thing we look for, and Mo’orea has that too. Our experience here has been incredible.
Seven Things To Do On Mo’orea, French Polynesia
Unless you are staying only for a couple days in a resort (we recommend longer) you need to have a car on Mo’orea. Public transportation is non-existent. There are a few taxis and of course tours, but having your own wheels will make all of the suggestions below accessible. It’s worth the expense.
So here are our seven things to do on Mo’orea, French Polynesia. In no particular order;
There are many snorkel options on the island. Mo’orea is surrounded by a reef that creates a shallow and beautiful lagoon nearly the entire circumference of the island. You can take a snorkel tour in a kayak, small boat, large group tour with lunch or an outrigger. Or you can bring or buy your own snorkel and fins (what we did) and snorkel from any public beach on the island. You will see remarkably beautiful coral of all shapes, sizes and colors. Of course you will see a fascinating collection of sea life including rays, black tip sharks and a rainbow of tropical fish. Want to see more of our favorite Snorkeling Around the World? Click Here.
2. Coco Beach
Coco Beach is a fun day trip, even though we had better snorkeling elsewhere. You need to call ahead for a reservation. A small boat will meet you at the parking area and ferry you over to the tiny island. Then you will be shown to your outdoor table, which is yours for the day. Have a tropical drink, then enjoy the beautiful warm water before feasting on delicious lunch. Last boat back is at 3:30pm. It makes for a wonderful day. Total for our day was $116.
3. Tahiti Street Food Tour
One of the first things we did our first week on the island was to take a tour with Tahiti Food Tours. It’s always a good way to learn about local cuisine. Our tour included stops at 7 local “snacks” (Tahitian Fast Food or Street Food) as well as a distillery. This tour was delicious and opened our eyes to some of the local specialties. Our local guide was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and funny. Cost per person $120USD
4. Food and CookLab Cooking School
Another thing we do in many of our travel destinations is take a cooking class. Thanks to our guide on the food tour (above) we learned about the Food and CookLab, a sustainable and organic cooking school on the island. We took their Polynesian Foods cooking class where we learned to make poisson cru, manioc chips, po’e – a plantain pudding cooked in banana leaf (also a sweet potato version), breadfruit and hibiscus leaf wrapped coconut bread. Cost per person $75USD lunch included.
I enjoyed the class so much I signed up for a second class, presented by a local chef on the island. In this second class we took beautiful local tuna and oyster muscles and created multiple dishes including gravlax, rillettes and fume (smoked fish). $125 USD lunch included as well as doggy bags of delicious fish to take home.
5. Tiki Village
If you have been to a luau in Hawaii, Tiki Village is the Polynesian version. The entertainment is different than Hawaii, as of course it focuses on the Tahitian dress, music and lore. The food is cooked in a pit including a whole pig but includes breadfruit, po’e (see above), poisson cru and local fish. The meal also included some international dishes from the French influence including pate, salads and dessert. The sunset view was amazing. Cost $110USD
Airport/Golf Course Hike – Starting from Temae beach you can hike the flat sandy road along the tiny Mo’orea Airport and the Mo’orea Golf Course and back. Round trip about three miles. Easy.
Three Coconuts – Starting at the Belvedere Lookout this ascent is gradual except for the final mile. But the beautiful view is definitely worth it. Wear proper shoes. Total round trip 3.5 miles. Difficult.
Magic Mountain – most of the tours drive up to the view point on Magic Mountain but if you want a good work out then you can walk up. It’s steep but the road is in fairly good condition and the view is spectacular. Park at the fruit stand at the bottom for $2. When you come back have a fruit smoothie. Very nice lady here. Total round trip less than 2 miles but 700+ feet vertical. Moderate.
Waterfall Hike – there wasn’t much water in the waterfall when we visited, but it was a good sweaty work out nonetheless. This was the most junglesque hike we did, beautiful deep jungle as we trekked a sometimes rough trail to the waterfall. To find this hike go just past the hospital in Afareietu and turn into a small road and park near the Veterans Memorial. Walk up the dirt road and keep left, it becomes the trail. 3 miles round trip and moderate.
Post Office – from the right side as you face the tiny yellow post office building at the Temae beach turnoff, there is a hidden trail that takes you up to the radio towers and then scoots up to a peak. This trail is very steep. Bring lots of water. The view is amazing. You can go back down the way you came or continue on the trail through a thickly forested area where the trail is sometimes difficult to find. Watch for flags tied to trees to keep to the trail. Total distance 2 miles if you head back down the way you came up; 4.5 miles if you complete the loop. Very difficult.
Pineapple Fields – From Pao Pao follow the “Route de Ananas” road inland until it becomes dirt. Park and walk staying to the right to the beautiful pineapple fields. Pineapple is a local cash crop Mo’orea is known for. The tiny and sweet little golden fruits are delicious. On this hike you can see the beautiful plants both in flower and in fruit. You can make this hike short (about 1 mile) or longer (above 3 miles). Easy.
7. Drive Around the Island
It’s 30 miles or 48 km around the island on the “main” road. This is bigger than the island of Praslin we stayed on in the Seychelle Islands and smaller than our favorite Hawaiian island of Maui. It definitely makes my list now of my favorite islands around the world.
There are a few side roads, like the one to the Belvedere and to the Pineapple Fields. But mostly it’s the main road. Locals drive pretty fast and crazy and there are bicycles, pedestrians and lots of dogs. But a tour around the island is a must with stops along the way.
This map shows the island and the main road. Starting at the ferry terminal in Vaiare follow the road counter clockwise. Teavara is the village our bungalow is. Continue up the hill to a spectacular viewpoint called Toatea, down the hill to the entrance to one of our favorite beaches Temae (also the location of the Airport Hike above). Continue around through the main town of Maharepa (don’t blink you’ll miss it) and to the first bay called Cook’s Bay. The village of PaoPao has some tiny eateries and a fabulous view of Rotui Mountain. Beautiful spot here includes a historic church. Pao Pao is also where you turn to the Pineapple Route. Continue on you’ll come to another gorgeous beach called Ta’ahiamanu – my favorite beach on the island. Plenty of parking and a great snorkel spot.
Next you’ll arrive at the head of Opunohu Bay. This is where you turn to the Belvedere lookout and hikes as well as Magic Mountain. As you round the Westside of the island it is quieter and more rural. There is a beautiful public beach here at Hauru and this is also the location of Coco Beach (above). Continue further to the location of Tiki Village (above) and a couple more beautiful historic churches at Haapiti.
At Afareaitu is the start of the waterfall hike (above) and is also home to the island’s administrative center and hospital. Finish your circle tour back at Vaiare. Along the way there are plenty of local “snack” shops, food trucks and restaurants as well as a hand full of souvenir shops and pearl shops and locals selling goods and fruit along the roadside. It’s a beautiful drive and a beautiful island. Take your time and enjoy.
Fresh Food Glorious Food
There are some surprisingly good places to eat on this tiny island, and I am putting together a separate blog post about that for next week. So you’re gonna want to check back about that. Meanwhile, check out our latest Tasty Tuesday video on our YouTube channel. Your introduction to Poisson Cru the national dish of Polynesia – we try to eat it everyday. It’s amazing, healthy and very local.
Thanks for following along on our Seven Things to do on Mo’orea, French Polynesia tour. Please come back next week for more about Mo’orea.
Our two month visit to French Polynesia is now into it’s fifth week, and we recently hopped over to Bora Bora for five days. Despite how much we are loving living on the island of Mo’orea, we felt we needed to see what the fuss is all about on Bora Bora. But we travel on a pretty strict budget, so we approached this excursion in a thrifty way. Here are our Bora Bora on a Budget recommendations.
Why We Travel Budget Friendly
Because we have designed a life for ourselves that includes long-term travel, staying on budget is critical. The only way we can sustain long term travel on our retired income is to travel inexpensively. Although it looks attractive to spend a night in a $1200 over the water bungalow, we know through experience and research, we can spend twenty nights in our Airbnb on Mo’orea for the same price.
To some people, a once in a life time visit to an over the water bungalow might be a dream come true, but I would like to convince more people to recognize how traveling in a budget friendly way will give you deep, authentic and meaningful travel experiences. I am living proof of that.
So, if your goal is that Instagram selfie on an over priced over the water bungalow, then this blog is not for you. Otherwise, please read on…
When to Travel
We always try to travel to popular destinations in the low or shoulder season. Our two months in French Polynesia is the low season, also called the rainy season. Although it poured rain for the first four days we were here in mid-January, the weather has been great ever since.
This is also one of the reasons we love Hawaii in September and October; no crowds, great rates and good weather. Off peak travel is the way to go when you are on a budget.
Where to Stay
We researched, for purposes of this blog, costs at a few of the over the water bungalows on Bora Bora. They range from $800 to more than $2000 a night, depending on the resort, the season and the location.
Bora Bora has a nice selection of Airbnbs under $200, and if you stay long term you can even find some closer to $100.
We spent four nights at the Royal Bora Bora, a really nice and comfortable hotel in the Matira Beach area on the south part of the main island. We paid $180 per night (off peak) for this property that included a fantastic private beach, pool and breakfast included. Our room was big and clean and comfortable with a nice lanai that overlooked a garden. And the staff was fantastic. We highly recommend this property, which was also within walking distance to a grocery store and four restaurants.
Things to Do
Touring the island by land requires a vehicle of some kind. Here are some options for your consideration as you think about Bora Bora on a Budget;
Hike to the top of the mountain – our choice. There are several hikes on the island, and depending where you are staying many are accessible from resorts and hotels. We enjoyed our hike and it was free!
Things to Eat
To save money, Airbnb is a great option for the ability to cook your own meals. There are only a handful of grocery stores on the island, the biggest on is a Super U in Vaitape. Other ways to eat on a budget include;
Hotel with Breakfast included – our choice. The Hotel Royal Bora Bora offered an incredible full breakfast every morning included in our room. It kept us full throughout the day and then we went out to dinner in the evening.
Take Out food from Grocery and Gas Station
“Snack” which is French Polynesia Fast Food
Bora Bora on a Budget
Before visiting the beautiful Polynesian islands take some time to consider what is the most important for you, and create a budget to make it happen. Whatever your budget is, Bora Bora is available to you, with a little pre-planning and prioritizing. Bora Bora on a Budget – enjoy the beautiful South Pacific.
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We are loving our long visit to the gorgeous island of Mo’orea in French Polynesia where we are living for two months. As usual we are eating our way through this tropical culture and enjoying every morsel. It’s an eclectic collection of cultures and ingredients, so today we will attempt to pull together our impressions of The Flavors of French Polynesia, and specifically of Mo’orea.
The people known as Polynesians migrated to the Society Islands as long ago as 500 BC from as far away as Malaysia. These same people, who are known to be exceptional navigators, populated the south Pacific islands from Hawaii to Samoa and also New Zealand.
On these voyages the Polynesians had bananas and coconut, as well as taro, yams, plantain, breadfruit and sugarcane. It is thought they also brought pigs, dogs and chickens. They carried with them what would become the flavors of French Polynesia.
The Portuguese explorer Magellan sailed through this area in 1521 and the Dutch in the early 1700’s. But the first European to land on Tahiti was a British Explorer named Samuel Wallis who arrived in 1767 and claimed the island for Great Britain, despite the fact that there was already a monarchy ruling Tahiti.
Shortly after Louis-Antoine de Bougainville arrived and claimed it for France. Tahiti became a French Protectorate in 1840 and in 1880 a French Colony when King Pomare V of Tahiti accepted annexation.
Today it is known as a collectivity of France, comprising over 100 islands in the South Pacific. It holds more autonomy than most French possessions and has a President and Assembly.
Our food exploration on the island of Mo’orea turns up a lot of French influence in the cuisine. Despite the fact less than 9% of the population claims to be French, it is a big influence in the cuisine. In the grocery stores available for purchase are beautiful terrines, foie gras and cheeses as well as bread. Lots of French bread.
There are several French Restaurants on the island. We enjoyed a fabulous meal at the Mo’orea Beach Cafe and hope to visit another French Restaurant on the island in the weeks ahead.
We have visited many nations with a history of French occupation. The cuisine in many of these still reflects the French influence. Everything from Bahn Mi in Vietnam to the Burkina Faso street food of omelet in a baguette.
In the 1860’s the French brought Chinese laborers to the Pacific islands to work in the sugar cane fields. With them of course came their cuisine and food influences. Today the population is made up of about 10% ethnic Chinese.
One food we had was a strange but delicious combination of French and Chinese when we were served Chop Suey noodles inside a French Baguette.
Bao Buns, dumplings and many fried Chinese Foods are popular, especially on Sunday mornings which is always family day.
This week is also the start of the Lunar New Year and there are some local celebrations. In honor we did a favorite Chinese dish at our Airbnb with local Tahitian Shrimp and shared it on our YouTube channel. Check it out here Kung Pao Shrimp,
I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts
Coconuts are a staple here on the island and islanders use every part, both historically and today. The amazing coconut has water, milk, meat as well as strong fiber for cloth and rope. Coconut sugar, coconut flour, coconut oil (known as Copra Oil) all are part of the culture. And the shell becomes a cup or a bowl. It’s a multipurpose and delicious food.
Beyond coconut the island weather creates a thriving environment for tropical fruits of many kinds. We have talked in past blog posts about the abundance of mango and banana around the world, and here on Mo’orea is no different. Also available and commercially produced are the sweetest little pineapples. Everywhere you look there are papaya, passion fruit, limes, breadfruit and plantain. Sometimes we can find starfruit, avocado, custard apple and guava.
This abundance of fruit makes it’s way into many local restaurants as well as into our morning breakfast bowl with yogurt.
The island of Mo’orea has both an Agriculture High School and College. Though pineapple is grown commercially it is not exported. Sugar cane is no longer a cash crop, but due to the resurgence of Rum it is being reinstated. Mo’orea has some commercial production of vanilla.
Today Tahiti exports coconut oil and pearls, with pearls making up the largest export by far and is second in economic impact to the nation to tourism.
Teach a Man to Fish…
Given it’s an island, fish is of course a staple protein. We have been astonished by the inexpensive and delicious red and white ahi. Ahi is served everywhere and is usually the fish enjoyed in the national dish of Tahiti called Poisson Cru. We have eaten Poisson Cru several times now, and have made it ourselves too. Mixing the island favorites of fish, lime and coconut milk with some veg it’s absolutely delicious and served everywhere.
Originally however, Poisson Cru was made with reef fish. Reef fish is still a staple and local fisherman, in small skiff or kayaks fish the reefs every morning for Dorado, Parrot Fish and other small fish that live in the coral. We purchased some small fish right in our front yard and enjoyed cooking them.
Sport fishing is also popular here for Big Eye, Wahoo, Marlin and more.
Mo’orea is home to a shrimp farm, producing some of the best shrimp I have ever eaten. I was surprised to find warm water shrimp this tasty. We used the local shrimp for our Kung Pao Shrimp recipe (see above).
Comfort Foods and Carbs
I try to stay away from bread and sweets most of the time, but both are very popular in the daily diet of locals. One such food is Firi Firi, a local donut. Firi Firi is available in road side stands around the island, usually on Sunday morning when families gather. Personally I thought the coconut sugar fried dough was too greasy.
Something I did really like was a coconut bread we had from the Chinese take out. It was wonderful and is a very popular local treat. On Sundays the Chinese take out is very busy as locals gather their favorites from bao buns to deep fried pork and sweets for family time.
Speaking of bread, the French Polynesia government subsidizes baguettes. Which means they are incredibly cheap and abundantly available six days a week, hot from the oven at a cost of 57 cents (USD). We were told this is to make sure everyone can at least afford bread. And boy do the locals eat up those cheap baguettes.
At the Polynesian Tiki Village Show we attended, our dinner included the local comfort food of Pua’a, a suckling pig cooked underground. Nearly identical to way it’s done in Hawaii. Also in the same pit was cooked breadfruit, coconut bread and plantains.
Street Food Tour
One of the first things we did during our first week in Mo’orea was spend a day with Tahiti Food Tours on a Mo’orea Tama’a Street Food Tour. I love doing these kinds of exploratory tours, to really kick start some knowledge about local cuisine. Our guide Heimata was fabulous and we tasted many different local street foods and the wide variety of different types of outdoor places locals go (see more below about that). Heimata, born on Mo’orea, was the perfect guide to show us the ropes. Some of my favorite things were the local mango sprinkled with plum powder, grilled beef heart, Chinese dumpling, Poisson Cru and homemade ice cream. Our tour also included a stop at the local rum distillery and juice factory.
Local Cooking Class
Heimata also turned us on to the Food and Cook Lab, an organic and locally sourced cooking experience here on Mo’orea. We spent a day with Audrey and Stevenson as well as two American women and a man from France at their beautiful and sustainable kitchens. The class we took was all about using locally sourced foods to make some of the traditional Tahitian dishes. We went out into the garden and dug up manioc root and made manioc chips. They were so delicious. We cooked breadfruit over an open flame and then made amazing Poisson Cru. They taught us to make coconut bread, steamed inside hibiscus leaves. And we also made pumpkin and plantain po’a, which was baked inside banana leaf and is like a pudding. What an amazing experience we had. I liked it so much I have registered for another class coming up to learn about fish!
These experiences above also opened our eyes to some of the different kinds of food and dining establishments available on the island. We learned about several different categories of dining;
Called Snacks locally, these are usually take out areas of restaurants, or very small roadside restaurants. On our food tour we visited a couple. My favorite was Snack Rotui right on the water at the head of Cooks Bay (often called First Bay). Snack Rotui is one of the oldest businesses on the island. The food is prepared across the street in a small kitchen and brought over to the road side “snack” by bicycle. Serving a variety of local specialties from quenelles to egg rolls and fish to chicken. Inexpensive and super yummy. We plan to return.
On another day we visited another Snack that sold mostly juice, smoothies and homemade jams. I bought some pineapple mint jam which I used on chicken and it was delicious.
Known as Roulotte, a French word that describes its mobility, Roulotte’s are everywhere. Not necessarily always “trucks” like we see in the USA, more often trailers. Some of the trailers are set up more permanent with attached covered seating, while others come and go. We noticed Roulottes selling noodles, crepes, whole chicken, pork, steak frits, grilled fish, tacos, and even churros. Our favorite is Kaylakea Moz Food right next door to the Mahana Resort. At Moz we had one grilled tuna and one tuna tartar and both were outstanding. So far the best meal we have enjoyed at this darling little Roulotte and much less expensive than a traditional restaurant.
For lack of a better name we call these small ma and pa roadside tables the Fruit Lady. Usually set up in front of someone’s home, these are likely unlicensed operators selling locally sourced fruit and veg and sometimes Firi Firi. We are trying to buy all our fruit and veg from these vendors and support local as much as we can.
Some of the vendors are at the same spot everyday, while others come and go, particularly the fish vendors who sell out of the back of their car when they have a catch. We have also seen vendors selling Mape, which is a local chestnut and very popular. At one fruit lady stand they also sell lovely leis and flower head pieces.
Of course there are traditional restaurants too, but they seem less frequent. All the resorts have traditional restaurants and there are several beach side ones as well. Because many business close between mid January and mid February, we are holding out to visit a few on our list. We did have an exceptional (but also expensive) French lunch at Mo’orea Beach Cafe on one of our first days. I had one of the best pieces of fish I have every had (Dover sole) cooked to perfection. The service and view was exceptional too.
The Flavors of French Polynesia
We have been on the island of Mo’orea now for three weeks and we have five weeks to go. So we still have lots of time to explore more of the flavors of French Polynesia. Next week we are flying over to Bora Bora for several days. I don’t expect the food to be different, but since we will be staying in a hotel and not in an Airbnb we will be eating out more. So I’ll be in search of the flavors of French Polynesia.
No blog next Friday but I’ll tell you all about Bora Bora the following week.
Thank you for joining me today to learn about the flavors of French Polynesia. We love it when you pin and share our blog. Thank you. Mauruuru!
I was trying to write a blog about the local food for this week, but oh my goodness there is so much excellent food and I am still experimenting and eating my way through! So, instead I will wait and have a foodie post next week. I should be ready by then so be sure not to miss it – the flavors of French Polynesia are wonderful. Meanwhile, this week, we have been happily exploring and settling into our long stay on this remarkable island. And so I give you Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week Two.
Week two provided us exactly the weather we had expected when planning this trip. No more monsoons! Just showers now and then with lots and lots of sunshine in between. We are very happy about all of that. We know we will have more rain, but Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week Two has provided us many opportunities to be active and explore in the warm (and humid) temperatures. We are now into a regular running and hiking schedule. No golf though, as we left our clubs at home this time.
Food and Culture
Week Two we discovered so much about the local food and culture and this is why it needs its own entire blog post. The local influence of French and Chinese to the Polynesian foods has created a wonderful and delicious as well as eclectic cuisine. I’ll tell you more next week. Meanwhile, the local people are incredibly friendly and helpful. On more than one occasion we have had locals drop what they were doing to help us find our way or interpret for us. They are kind and sweet and make us feel very welcome.
Life is pretty simple on Mo’orea. People live in simple homes and live simple lives. I’m sure on Tahiti it’s a bit more citified…but here it’s very laid back and slow.
The culture of these islands is influenced by many factors. The Polynesian people, known as great navigators, migrated to these islands from all over Southeast Asia starting in 500BC. They managed to govern themselves fine, but the French arrived in the 1600’s and took over. C’est le vie. Today French is the official language but English is spoken by many and the native language of Tahitian is spoken by many. There are still about 2 million people who claim Polynesian ethnicity.
This week we took a food tour, a cooking class, ate in a couple of restaurants and went to a Polynesian cultural show and dinner. All of these experiences will get pulled into next week’s post.
Mo’orea is an ancient volcanic island, about ten miles from its larger sister of Tahiti. This beautiful and lush island is very reminiscent of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Kauai is estimated to be about 5 million years old while Mo’orea is closer to 2 million years old. The green mountains rise dramatically out of the incredible turquoise water with spires and peaks and craggy rocks jutting here and there. This makes for difficult but beautiful hiking options.
The coral reef that surrounds the island was described by Darwin as like a picture frame and helped him solidify his theory about atolls. The coral was originally part of the island’s lava flow. Over the millennia it pushed it way out to ring the island and the coral thrived in the environment. It makes a beautiful lagoon around the island and provides safe snorkeling, paddling and swimming opportunities as well as a wonderful home for sea life.
Although Mo’orea is not an active volcano, the recent volcanic explosion and ensuing tsunami in Tonga (1200 miles west) reminds us how our planet is in constant evolution. Following the tsunami we went in search of information regarding the local tsunami procedures and warning systems here on Mo’orea and learned where we are to go in such an emergency. We feel prepared.
There are however a few negatives, but they are hardly enough to mention. But here they are anyway;
Dogs – like many places we have traveled around the world there are ALOT of feral dogs and clearly there is no spay-neuter program in place. It’s sad to see the condition of many of these animals.
Speed – people drive REALLY fast on the two lane road that rings the island and often pass. Yikes. However, over the past couple of years a bike lane has been added on both sides of the ring road all the way around the island. This gives me a safe running lane, although staying alert with the speeding cars is important. Many people use bikes to get around an Motos too, but the bike lane is a nice addition for all of us.
Mosquitos – not the worst place I have been for bug bites (Seychelles Islands wins that award) but the mosquitos have been pretty annoying. Hopefully now that the sun is back, the mosquitoes will go!
Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week Two
We are relaxed and enjoying our new little island life. I promise next week we will have lot of foodie information to share! So I hope you will check back! Merci!
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