48 Hours in Mo’orea

After our time in Bora Bora we headed over to another island, Mo’orea, for a quick two night stay. Mo’orea is just a hop, skip and a jump from the main island of Tahiti and can be reached by a very short flight (it’s scheduled for 15 minutes but actually takes slightly more than five) in a teeny tiny plane or a ferry ride from Papeete. In fact, Mo’orea looms large over the skyline in Papeete.

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Mo’orea has a very interesting topograhy. It’s a U-shaped island that has a large peninsula with a mountain (Mount Rotui) jutting out in the middle and creating two bays. It’s beautiful to see from the air.

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Coming directly from Bora Bora, Mo’orea was a little bit of a letdown, because it is in many ways very similar, but in (my opinion at least) a bit less majestic, and things like overwater bungalows and the wonderful snorkeling were less of a novelty than they would have been if we’d only visited Mo’orea or visited it first.

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However, it’s hard for me to fully separate my opinion of Mo’orea from my opinion of our hotel, which was unfortunately a big disappointment, especially for the price paid. If you can only visit one island in French Polynesia, I would recommend Bora Bora, but if you have a week or more to travel in French Polynesia, I think visiting both Bora Bora and Mo’orea is well worth it. (And it’s worth noting that this stuff is very subjective; I know many people who have visited both islands and prefer Mo’orea). That said, although I would definitely choose a different hotel if I could do it over again, I really enjoyed our time in Mo’orea and, in addition to our great jeep tour, found a lot to like about the island.

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Although I was not a big fan of our hotel in general, it was hard to fault its location right near the mouth of Opunohu Bay.

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One day we borrowed paddle boats and paddled further into the bay, where we had beautiful views of Mo’orea’s mountainous terrain.

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One nice thing about Mo’orea as opposed to Bora Bora is that it’s much easier to leave the hotel for meals, because you don’t have to take a boat ride to do so. We took advantage of this and went out to dinner for the only time during our stay in French Polynesia. The restaurant we chose, Te Honu Iti, had lovely views of Cook’s Bay and the food, especially the apple tart with Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream, was heavenly. (I promise I’m not just recommending it because the name means The Little Turtle or because of the cluster of stingrays that hang around nearby, although those things certainly didn’t hurt.)

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The snorkeling was also very nice in Mo’orea. We swam with many kinds of tropical fish and vibrant coral, and I found a pair of moorish idols and enjoyed following them for quite a while as they swam side by side. I told myself they were a husband and wife, which might be true, because they mate for life!

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Like many resorts in French Polynesia, our hotel had a “transit bungalow” which guests could use for clean-up after they have checked out, meaning you can swim and snorkel in the afternoon if you have a late afternoon or evening flight. This ended up being a really great thing, because on my very last snorkel before we left Mo’orea, I saw a stingray! I love stingrays and although I had just spent lots of time up close and personal with them in Bora Bora, this was the first (and, to date, only) time I have ever swum with one in the wild without being part of an organized feeding tour. It was fantastic seeing a ray in a totally natural environment and I swam behind him and communed with him for some time.

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And of course, we spent plenty of time enjoying the beautiful Mo’orea sunsets.

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