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South Pacific

    Island Life  --  Oceania Travel

    Seven Things To Do On Mo’orea, French Polynesia

    South Pacific Paradise

    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.

    The ferry terminal on Mo’orea

    Why Mo’orea?

    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.

    Our host Maea teaching us how to open coconuts
    Our beach side Bungalow

    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.

    The beach we stayed on from the air

    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;

    1. Snorkel

    Snorkleing at Temae Beach
    Snorkleing from the kayak

    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
    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

    Poison Cru
    With our guide Haimata

    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

    Wrapping the Po’e in banana leaves
    Making the Manioc Chips

    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.

    Learning three ways to use tuna

    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

    Tiki Village performance
    The feast at 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

    6. Hiking

    The Airport Hike
    On top of Magic Mountain

    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.

    Three Coconuts Hike
    The Top at Three Coconuts

    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.

    The view from Post Office hike
    Waterfall

    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.

    Ta’ahiamanu Beach
    Toatea Viewpoint

    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.

    Several historic churches around the island
    Shopping options abound

    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.

    Beautiful Mo’orea

    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.

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    See last week’s blog post Bora Bora on a Budget.

    Island Life

    Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One

    Location: French Polynesia

    It’s been a weird and wonderful first week in French Polynesia (our 111th country!) where we will be living on the island of Mo’orea for two months. Getting here was no simple task…with ever changing PanDamit rules, overnight flights, weather woes etc., we were filled with gratitude on arrival. Here is our story – Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One.

    The first picture I took in Mo’orea

    PanDamit Hurdles

    As our departure date loomed and Omicron exploded we found ourselves checking the French Polynesia entry requirements incessantly. We didn’t honestly know if we would actually go. But as we have said before, we are approaching travel in the brave new world like a poker game…some skill, some luck, and some divine intervention. Living the gamble and a few prayers for good measure.

    In November FP changed it’s entry requirements to a 24 hour test from time of departure. Our embarkation point was San Francisco so we had to base our 24 hour test on an 11pm departure from San Francisco. This meant testing in the morning before departing out of Seattle. No easy task. We pinpointed three Rapid Antigen sites and headed to the first one in Port Orchard Washington at 8:30am where we found a three hour wait (outdoors). Ugh. Moving on to Tacoma we lucked out at a site that took us in about 15 min. Only 30 minutes later we had our negative results. Hallelujah.

    Thumbs up for a negative Covid test

    Both our flights were pretty full and we were happy to have our newly acquired N95 masks which feel much more secure and more comfortable than what we have been using (KN95 and regular surgical mask). We dozed but didn’t really sleep very well on the nine hour flight from SF to Tahiti so we were pretty dazed on arrival.

    Arrival

    Despite all our research we weren’t really sure what to expect on arrival. One thing we were grateful for was that we had printed all of our Covid documents, entry documents as well as an email we had with correspondence from the French Polynesian President’s office. Although we had all this on our phones it was quick and easy to show the printed documents as we proceeded through the three step process on arrival;

    Step One – showing our documents from our negative Antigen test 24 hours before departure.

    Step Two – Anyone who had Antigen tests (even if negative) had to have a Rapid PCR on arrival. We knew this and got in that line next. There were about a dozen testers and it went really fast. We expected to pay for this but it was free.

    Step Three – Our research had given us the impression we would need to quarantine for up to three days as we waited for the PCR. But instead, step three was to go through to passport control and into baggage, get the bags and then wait 25 minutes. A sticker on our passport said the time when we would be clear to leave the airport. So after 25 minutes and no red flag positive Covid results we were free to leave.

    Sofitel Hotel near our Bungalow

    From landing to taxi was about one hour and 45 minutes. It was well organized and everyone was nice and helpful. So off we went to Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One.

    On to Mo’orea

    It was POURING down rain. We grabbed a cab for the short ride to the ferry terminal to leave the island of Tahiti and head to Mo’orea. We made the 8:10am ferry but got absolutely drenched running from the terminal to the vessel. The stormy weather gave us rocky seas and I was really nervous given my motion sickness history. But, with mama’s little pill, and staring out at the horizon for the thirty minute crossing I made it. Maeva Mo’orea!

    Arriving at the Mo’orea Ferry Terminal

    Avis Rent a Car right at the Mo’orea Ferry Terminal was convenient and very helpful. So we were in a car within minutes. Then we had two hours to kill before we could check in to our Airbnb. Super jet-lagged driving seemed dangerous. But since the weather was crappy there was really no where to go so we ended up stopping for groceries and then driving all the way around the island.

    Mo’orea by the Numbers

    Bigger than Praslin in the Seychelles and smaller than Maui, Mo’orea is about the same size as Orcas Island in Washington State. About ten miles by 7 miles. The ring road is about 61 km (38 miles) and encircles the island. A few roads go inland off the ring road but it is the main road for most of the traffic. The area is 134 square kilometers and the population is around 18,000. The highest point is Mont Tohi’e’a is 1207 m (3960 feet). It’s very mountainous!

    Mo’orea has six communes (villages) scattered around the island. We are in the commune of Teavaro, home to about 2000 people.

    French Polynesia is 60% vaccinated and a mask mandate is in effect for indoors, although many people where masks outdoors as well. FP had a huge Covid spike in August which dropped off to zero for early winter, but began a gradual climb again over the holidays. But nowhere near what it was in August. Mo’orea has one hospital and several clinics that service the population, which currently is very light with tourists. We feel quit alone in the tourist category. We feel safer from Covid here than we do at home.

    The island rises right up out of the sea

    Parlez Vous Francais?

    Francais

    French is the official language but most people speak excellent English as well as the local Polynesian language Tahitian. Our Airbnb host, who lives on Tahiti but is here one day a week, speaks excellent English. I know bits and pieces of French but not enough to carry on an intelligent conversation. Of course through all our travels we have learned to use Google translate to read information on packages and signs. Even with Google it took us 20 minutes to figure out how to turn on the washing machine. Oh la la.

    Our bungalow in Teavaro

    Meanwhile our darling little bungalow in the village known as Teavaro is a fabulous space, with a kitchen, large covered porch, tiny pool and beach front. Less than a mile to grocery and restaurants and large public beaches. We feel very comfortable here and our host is wonderful. Merci!

    Tsunamis and Celebrations

    We arrived on January 13th and I celebrated my birthday on January 14th. Still incredibly jet-lagged we enjoyed a quiet birthday at the bungalow, and watched it rain nearly two inches in 24 hours (more on that below). It was an uneventful but nice birthday. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, 1200 miles West a giant volcanic explosion near the island of Tonga created tsunami warnings all around the Pacific. We didn’t learn about this until nearly 12 hours later when we awoke on the 15th and read it in the news.

    Birthday dinner fresh Ahi which is abundant and cheap on the island

    Although Hawaii (due north of us 2600 miles) as well as the West Coast of the USA, Australia, New Zealand and even Japan all went into Tsunami alert, we heard absolutely nothing from the FP government or warning systems. What the heck?

    There were no visible signs of anything unusual on our beach, which is only about 30 feet from our front porch. This experience however prompted us to take a good look around at what our evacuation options are. When we first started traveling we used to do this regularly, but I admit I have gotten a bit lax about it. I still am that girl on an airplane that pinpoints my nearest exit before settling into my seat…but tsunami evacuation route isn’t something I think about…until now.

    The reality is, no matter where we are, or what disaster might present itself, we will be on our own to save ourselves. This is true at home or abroad. A little preparation goes a long way.

    Monsoons and Mosquitoes

    Well we are here in the rainy season. However, everyone we meet, including our host, says this sustained rain is extremely unusual. If you have any doubt about climate change spend a few years traveling around the world. Because EVERYWHERE we have gone over the past five years we have heard these words about the weather, “this is not normal”. Not normal is the new normal from what we can tell. And the incredible amount of rain we have seen since arriving on Mo’orea is not normal. Not much to do about it though, and so we are okay. Hopeful it will clear eventually.

    Wet and rainy birthday

    Meanwhile the rain and floods have brought out the mosquitoes in droves. Mosquitoes generally find me exceptionally tasty anyway, but at the end of week one I am covered in bites. C’est la vie!

    Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One

    After a week of pretty much doing nothing but reading, playing scrabble and watching it rain, we have some plans for the week ahead. We have a reservation to do both a street food tour and a Polynesian dinner and show. With improving weather we also plan to get out to some of the beaches and restaurants. But we have enjoyed a relaxing week and have been perfectly fine just hanging out and doing very little for our Mo’orea Musings – French Polynesia Week One. We may or may not blog each week…time will tell.

    Warm and muggy

    Thank you for joining us in this weird and wonderful week.

    See last week’s annual blog post Fifth Annual World Travel Awards 2021 here.

    Check out our earlier blog My Favorite Islands Around the World here

    And see this week’s top performing pin My Self Care Journey with Noom here

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