Honeymoon Part I: Moorea

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A view from the Hilton private beach. M is taking his first swim in the clear island waters.

A view from the Hilton private beach. M is taking his first swim in the clear island waters.

Planning a trip to paradise aka French Polynesia? A) I’m jealous, and B) Get ready for the time of your life in one of the most beautiful places on Earth! M and I had a delayed honeymoon to Moorea and Bora Bora and we couldn’t be happier about our destinations. Read on for tips about vacationing in Moorea (a compilation of advice from moi plus my friends who also honeymooned there), with tips for Bora Bora coming soon after!

TL;DR (too long; didn’t read):

  • Go to Moorea first and then Bora Bora in that order so you can do all your outdoorsy activities first and then relax and enjoy Bora Bora afterwards
  • The Hilton and Intercontinental have some of the nicest overwater bungalows and private beaches out of all the ones we saw.
  • Activity options: snorkeling with stingrays and sharks and island picnic on the lagoon tour, jeep safari tour, ATV tour to the top of the mountain, jetskiing, scuba diving lessons, dolphin and whale watching. Book through Albert Tours rather than through your hotel to save money. My personal favorite: the lagoon tour because petting stingrays was SO FUN (they feel like large squishy shiitake mushrooms!) and the island picnic had better food than the Hilton.
  • You don’t really need to exchange any money because every establishment takes credit card (just watch out for foreign transaction fees!). Btw, 1 French Pacific Franc (XPF) = 0.01 US Dollar, so divide everything in the islands by 100 and you’re good to go.
  • Dining options: Best/only “Fine Dining” option in Moorea is Le Mayflower. Other than that, people usually eat in the hotels because it is so dang hard to get anywhere in the island (cabs cost an arm and a leg)
  • Don’t forget to pack: waterproof sunscreen (2 full bottles), bug spray, snacks, waterproof camera (or buy an underwater Go Pro case)

Like many couples, we chose to start with Moorea and end in Bora Bora, which I highly recommend. Moorea is an outdoorsy kind of place where water and land activities are more available and a heck of a lot cheaper than in Bora Bora. I suggest doing all your activities in Moorea and then going to Bora Bora to relax, soak in the resort where you will spend nearly 100% of your time, and just take in the beauty of the island.

I really enjoyed our time in the Hilton overwater bungalow. Our balcony led straight into the lagoon where there were tons of coral, which means lots of tropical fish to snorkel with. The water was shallow enough to stand in, even for little ol’ me at 5′ tall, and you could even see the fish from the surface of the water. All of the snorkeling equipment, as well as paddle boats and canoes, were free to use from the hotel. The service was not bad – they gave us a free bottle of champagne to celebrate – though overall, it was hard to come close to our stay at the St. Regis in Bora Bora (more to come soon!).

The view from the balcony in our overwater bungalow. That water is crystal clear with so many tropical fish inside, perfect for snorkeling.

The view from the balcony in our overwater bungalow. That water is turquoise blue and crystal clear with schools of tropical fish inside. The water is shallow as well, only about 3 feet deep, a great snorkeling experience for beginners.

As far as activities go, we booked through Albert Tours which is an independent tour and transportation company (they also provide transport from the airport to the hotel and back). Their prices are about $20 cheaper per person compared to what the Hilton offered. Their activity options are the lagoon tour, jeep safari tour, ATV tour to the top of the mountain, jetskiing, scuba diving lessons, and dolphin and whale watching. We LOVED the lagoon tour, which is a 6 hour excursion around the lagoon, stopping to snorkel with stingrays and swim with sharks, and a delicious picnic on a private island (motu). The tour guide actually feeds the stingrays and sharks while you are in the water so they’re everywhere, and you can pet the rays to your heart’s content. I had one of my best meals at the picnic on the island, with freshly grilled fish and chicken, poisson cru (Polynesian dish that is like ceviche mixed with coconut milk), fried rice, and pineapple with shredded coconut. I ate so many pineapples that my mouth stung for an hour after! Scroll through the images below to see photos from the tour.

  • Lagoon tour view

    A view of the lagoon during our boat tour

  • Stingrays

    Our tour guide, the stingray whisperer, bringing rays over for us to pet

  • Black fin sharks

    Black fin sharks swimming all around us

  • Lounging

    Warming up on the boat after snorkeling with stingrays and sharks!

  • Picnic lunch

    Dig in! One of the best lunches I had on the islands was a Polynesian picnic on a motu, or private island

  • View

    I will never get tired of looking at this view

Dining options on the island are pretty limited. Most couples eat in the hotels because it is so hard to get anywhere else and cabs are ridiculously expensive. We heard about dinner at the Mayflower Restaurant, which is fancy French/Polynesian fusion cuisine, but taxis cost 50 XPF to get to and from the Hilton to the restaurant.We also tried Restaurant Kaveka but go after 7 pm because at 6 pm the place is overrun with moths. They will literally be flying down your shirt and in your food at first but will magically disappear after an hour. I was not amused and was itchy all throughout dinner. Also, don’t forget to pack a few snacks in case you get hungry in between meals. On average, each meal on the island will cost between $30-60 per person and the portions aren’t always that large. Think of the entire island as an adult Disneyland, where all food and drink cost 2-3x what they normally do in real life.

Also, do not miss:

– Shark feeding in the evening at Toatea Creperie & Bar at the Hilton Moorea. Enjoy a savory or sweet crepe while watching black fin sharks circling the creperie.

– Snorkeling, paddle boating, canoeing around the lagoon using free equipment provided by your hotel

– Visit the pineapple distillery where they let you sample and purchase tropical fruit flavored alcohol

– Rent bikes to sightsee around the island. There’s only one road that goes all the way around, so chances of getting lost are slim to none.

– Swimming and kissing dolphins at the Intercontinental Hotel

A beautiful sunset over the bungalows as we sipped pina coladas during happy hour

A beautiful sunset over the bungalows as we sipped pina coladas in the Hilton restaurant deck during happy hour

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