SNORKEL THE LAGOON!
First off, let’s clarify where and what the “Lagoon” really is! It is the coral reef that surrounds the entire Island! In some places it is 100 yards out until you reach the breakwater waves from the “open ocean”. The reef is what gives the French Polynesian Islands that GORGEOUS shade of turquoise blue! We snorkeled in a few different areas of the Island, and each offered a little something unique, but they ALL offered a spectacular underwater show! It stays shallow for a very long time, and is so easy to float above the coral. I highly recommend you bring your own snorkel gear from home, and take it with you everywhere you travel on the Island!
TIPS: OUR FAVORITE SNORKEL LOCATIONS: Coco Beach (more on that later), “Banc de sable Raies et requins” (Sandbar island with Rays and Sharks), ‘Ōpūnohu Bay, anywhere on the Northern shore (we stayed near Manava Resort), also hear the Lagoonarium is stellar, although we didn’t make it there.
This was my FAVORITE daily activity in Moorea! First of all, there are no TIDES on the Island. Or, if so, very little. Moorea is located right on the fulcrum point of the Pacific Basin, resulting in little to NO tidal movement. What does that mean for YOU? Well, you will not be contending with the pulls of currents or the rising of water! If you’re like me, and enjoy a more relaxing paddle experience, then you’d LOVE kayaking in Moorea ! You can paddle 50m out and still see straight to the bottom of the ocean floor! I would even put the paddle right in my lap and enjoy the stillness of the water! It’s a pretty special experience!
BUY MATCHING TAHITIAN DRESSES
My daughter LOVED the beautiful French Polynesian dresses in the stores! Our favorite shop was “Made in Moorea” in Maharepa. The owner is a lovely woman born and raised in Moorea, and she hand sews all of the products! (Her bedspreads and blankets were gorgeous as well!) It’s a wonderful place for souvenirs. Another boutique we enjoyed was the “Bambou Shop”, where we actually bought the dresses in this photo.
GET AN AUTHENTIC TAHITIAN TATTOO
Well… Mom and Dad can, while the kids enjoy James’ beautiful property! He has a horse, dogs, cats, and roosters! The kids loved our adventure there.
The traditional Tahitian tattoo involves a traditional tool called the tatatau. It involves needles or teeth carved from bone fastened to a wooden stick or bamboo. The name comes from the sound it makes (“tat tat”). James Samuela with MOOREA TATTOO has been creating tattoos for visitors and locals since they were allowed again in 2001. Tattooing was banned by the French Ministry in 1986, making it a forbidden art. Tattoos are a coveted and important part of Tahitian expression and culture.
This was my 11-year-old son’s favorite activity in Mo’orea! My husband is an experienced diver, and was able to accompany our son on his first introductory dive through Mo’orea Blue Diving located on the Manava Resort property. They had a spectacular dive and the dive master, Stephane, stayed with him the entire time pointing out incredible sea life! They offer 30 minute intro dives (up to 6 meters deep) for inexperienced divers, as well as more advanced or multi-tank dives and certification courses. My son is HOOKED!
HIKE TO ‘ĀFAREAITU WATERFALL
The get to this hike, if you are heading south on the main coastal road, you will turn RIGHT just past the Hospital in ‘Āfareaitu, towards the school. You will pass the middle school on your left. Keep going. The dirt road is bumpy, so at any time you need to stop, there are areas you can pull off and park, and continue to walk down the dirt road. We drove to the very end, past the houses, until we came to a gate on our right, and a walking path straight in front of us. This is when we were greeted by “Monsieur Fly” (the dude in the video here). Don’t worry, he is legit. His family owns the property there and he charges 200 cfp ($2) to park your car there. You can trust this. At least WE DID, and he ended up being very friendly! He will tell you, that to the RIGHT is a “difficult” hike but only 15 minutes. The one straight ahead is “easy but 1 hour”. That is the hike to the smaller waterfall (we did not do that one). The path to the right is the hike to the big waterfall, and I would rate it moderate. There are a couple stream crossings, and the brush gets dense in places. WEAR BUG REPELLANT and WATERPROOF SHOES! There is very little elevation gain, and no heights to contend with. You will twist, turn, and adventure your way for about 15- 20 minutes and come to a SPECTACULAR WATERFALL! (Granted we went right after it rained, so it may have been flowing more so than usual) It is also a good swimming hole to take a dip or have a picnic.
Māuruuru, Monsieur Fly!
TAKE A BOAT TO COCO BEACH
Our Coco Beach days were probably our favorite days spent in Moorea. Coco Beach is a restaurant on Motu Tiahura, a small sandbar Island just off the coast, northwest of Moorea. You NEED to make advanced reservations, especially if you need transportation to the Island. They have a water shuttle that runs every half hour. You can also paddle board, or kayak out to Coco Beach. Once you arrive it is truly paradise! The table is yours for the day, and you can relax, snorkel and explore!
PRO-TIP: WATER SHOES would be helpful here. Along the beach there are lots of broken, sharp coral pieces to walk through to get to the water.
SWIM WITH RAYS
Coco Beach is a great place to see Rays, and even occasional black tipped reef sharks. Another great place is the sandbar just off Tipaniers Hotel. You can rent kayaks or a boat for the day at TIP NAUTIC to get out to the small island/ sandbar where the rays and sharks hang out. They are tame and safe to swim with. That said, you still want to be careful you are not stepping on them, or grabbing their tail. But the locals claim there has never been a negative incident. After lunch, we took a small piece of our raw fish and held it in our hands and the ray swam right to us! I do NOT advise you do this unless you are 100% okay with having a ray literally swim ALL OVER YOU! Billy (the name I gave our ray) was swimming between my legs, up my chest and even ate out of my son’s hand! It was an unbelievable experience!
The other sea life we saw at Coco Beach were TONS of gorgeous tropical fish, a sea snake of some sort, beautiful coral, sea slugs, crabs and “fish lizards” (the name I gave my favorite kind of fish that would burrow in tunnels at the bottom of the sea floor).
ROTUI JUICE FACTORY
A trip to the Rotui Juice Factory is definitely worth the visit! It is a pineapple plantation and factory that produces the Island’s most delicious juice… ROTUI JUICE! You will see it everywhere in stores, But, at this location you can sample the different juices and fermented alcohols they make with their fruit, and they have a wonderful “gift shop” where you can buy ALL THE JUICES and ALCOHOLS you could dream of! They also have tours which I wish we had taken, but we arrived just as they were closing for the day. Even if you just go to the store for tastings and shopping, it is worth it! (The store may have had the best A/C on the Island, which was a welcoming refresh after our day of hiking!)
EAT, DRINK, and MANUIA!
If you are a sushi fan, then you will have NO PROBLEMS in Mo’orea! If you do not like raw fish, do not despair, there are still many choices! However it is good to know before you go, that Mo’orea has NO WHERE NEAR the same amount of resources and choices as we do here in the mainland US. They are a remote island after all. You will see the same offerings on each menu, regardless of where you go. The traditional dishes being Poisson Cru au lait du coco (Raw fish in Coconut milk served salad-style with vegetables), Sashimi (usually served over cabbage or rice), Carpaccio (a thinner sliced sashimi), and Tartare (raw tuna minced finely in sauce or coconut milk served with rice). If you are thinking these all sound like the SAME thing just served different way, then YOU ARE CORRECT! Other choices will be chicken or beef skewers or dishes and/or burgers. But, often times, restaurants or “snacks” would be “out of chicken” or “out of beef”, and that typically meant all the other restaurants would be too! Like I said, they have limited resources! So, you DO have to “go with the flow” a bit, and as long as you are open to alternatives or trying new things, there should be plenty of choice! If worse comes to worse, know that the grocery stores always have delicious, fresh baguettes in the bakery!
As far as drinks, my daughter ALWAYS ordered FANTA, their native soda, and my son loved the Pineapple juice. In restaurants, I suggest ordering “a large water for the table” and they will give you a bottle of flat or sparkling water to share. We also drank from the tap occasionally without issue, but a couple of locals suggested we don’t, so we stayed stocked on bottled water. As far as alcohol, they always had Hinano on the menus, and sometimes TABU, another beer infused with flavor and “tequila”. Some of the restaurants, or the resorts, would have “maitais” or Mojitos on the menu, but I’ll be honest they were not my favorite. I felt like they were trying to cater to the American palette, and missed the mark a bit. I preferred drinking something with their distilled alcohol (sometimes referred to as “rhum”, it is make with fermented pineapple, but is surprisingly not too sweet). Coco Beach had a Ti-Punch that was delectable, made with just lime juice and “local rhum”. Highly recommend!
Grocery stores were small and modest, but had all we needed to stock up for breakfasts and snacks. We noticed all the snacks were CHOCOLATE flavored, CHOCOLATE dipped, CHOCOLATE filled. So, yeah, my kids were in heaven. And the stores had “bakeries”, which were little oven boxes they kept individually wrapped quiches or pastries in. OMG, everything we tried was SO YUM! My favorite morning ritual was running to the SuperU across from our Airbnb and buying one of everything in the bakery!
Belvedere Lookout is located at nearly the center point of the Island and is a great lookout point to see the lay of the land! You can also access many hikes from this area, and we did one! Sadly, we got lost and it ended up being one of the more terrifying (because I am scared of heights) moments of the trip for me. I am dedicating another post to the “Belvedere Lookout Hikes” and will explain how to read their trail signs and maps. It is VERY different than what we are used to. I did not do the proper research before we embarked on a hike that led us miles in the wrong direction. Ultimately, my husband needed to hitch a ride with a ATV tour guide we flagged down to get back to our car. (Insert “slap my head” emoji here) My kids were troopers, but it was a major Mom Blooper, and now, a funny story! But, please! Let my “funny story” be YOUR gain, and read my post on BELVEDERE MOUNTAIN HIKES (and print the information) before you go! Also be warned, you will NOT have service when you are at the lookout so make sure you have notes printed or written before you get there. Bottomline, I’d definitely do it again, but seeing as tho we had some little legs in tow, I would’ve been more prepared (more water, snacks, and picked a trail not as scary for me, or with such an elevation gain for my kiddos).
LEARN TRADITIONAL TAHITIAN PHRASES
To our surprise, there are two languages spoken in Tahiti/ Mo’orea. French, which we knew, and Tahitian! When the Society Islands became a French colony in the late 1800’s, the French missionaries tried to abolish many Indigenous practices. Dancing, tattoos, nudity, religious practices, their native language, and other aspects of Polynesian culture were forbidden and lost for years. It is so special that Tahitian is still spoken and celebrated by the French and Tahitians alike today in Moorea! It was almost a lost language, but the Indigenous people kept their sacred practices alive, and now those practices are thriving and vibrant in Moorea, which creates those unique French Polynesian vibes you can only experience on these Islands!
It is NOT uncommon to see a woman with tribal facial tattoos, or to be very scantily clad in public places. These are aspects of their culture they are proud to express. It is very flattering for people in Moorea to be greeted with a friendly “‘la ora na!” or to thank them with a “Mauruu’ru!”. “Manuia!” is their form of “CHEERS!” and you bid them farewell with an almost sing-songy “Nana!” The locals loved hearing our kids use their language. I highly recommend you try as well!
GO TO THE FRUIT AND FISH MARKETS
At the southernmost base of Cook’s Bay, next to the parking lot of the SuperU grocery store, is an outdoor marketplace where you can always find local vegetables and fruits being sold. On Wednesday mornings, the shrimp boats come in and sell their catch in this area as well! If you are staying on the Island for an extended period of time, I highly recommend purchasing these local product. Not only is it more affordable than eating out, it’s a great place to mingle with the the locals!
EAT AT “SNACKS” vs. RESTAURANTS
When you arrive, you will see signs for both “Restaurants” and “Snacks”. What’s the difference? Well, I’ll tell you what we learned… “Snacks” are sometimes only open for lunch, and are considered more informal. They don’t require reservations, and are a good place to bring kids. The two places pictured here, Coco d’Ile and Lezard Cafe were right next door from one another. Lezard required reservations, and we didn’t get in, so we sauntered next door to Coco, and had a fabulously HUGE meal. Don’t let the name “snack” deter you! We were also confused to see they had VERY SIMILAR menus. The average meal costs $22 at a snack, where the same meal could be $36 in a Restaurant. We gravitated to the “Snacks”, but ate in restaurants as well.
Check out my FAVORITE PLACES TO EAT WITH KIDS IN MO’OREA!